Cross Gate Gallery Discusses Recent Charity Challenge and Adapting to Social Distancing

James Ardis
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How are fine art dealers adjusting in the age of social distancing? Auction Daily had the opportunity to discuss this with Bill Meng, Gallery Director of Cross Gate Gallery. The Kentucky-based gallery recently hosted an all-online charity challenge and are preparing for other events later this year.

Tom Fool, Morning Workout at Belmont Park, 1953 by Richard Stone Reeves. Photo from Cross Gate Gallery.
Tom Fool, Morning Workout at Belmont Park, 1953 by Richard Stone Reeves. Photo from Cross Gate Gallery.

Auction Daily: How long has Cross Gate Gallery been in business, and what are your specialties? 

Bill Meng, Gallery Director of Cross Gate Gallery: We have been in business since 1974, so 46 years now. We have always focused on fine sporting art as our core, along with some other areas such as contemporary British figurative painters like those who are members of the New English Art Club. Given our location here in Lexington, Kentucky, our sporting area tends to focus mainly on equine works, but we do also show others in the traditional sporting sense such as hunting, fishing, wildlife, shooting, etc. We also carry works when we can by more historical Kentucky artists.

Auction Daily: The current pandemic has changed so much regarding how we interact with each other and do business. How has Cross Gate Gallery had to adapt, both in terms of selling and procuring items? 

Meng: It has been a new era for us in regards to this pandemic. One of the most important things for us is actually getting the work in front of people. They have to be able to see it to buy it. We have tried to hit social media harder and find a balance with some good emails to our client list. At the same time, we have been hurt by not being able to do our annual exhibition in Florida and several others for the future we are still planning for, but for now remain in limbo. That is one reason why we put together this auction, to get the ball rolling on something different and to try to showcase works to our clients that they may not otherwise see.

Louvre, Paris Hot and Sizzly by Thomas Coates. Photo from Cross Gate Gallery.
Louvre, Paris Hot and Sizzly by Thomas Coates. Photo from Cross Gate Gallery.

Auction Daily: Tell us a bit more about the recent Cross Gate Gallery Charity Challenge. What were some of the stand out lots? 

Meng: We conceived this in order to try and put works in front of our clients as they are not able to come into the gallery. Also, gallery space can be limited, as you can imagine, so we were able to pull out pieces our clients may not see otherwise. We knew that charities are also hurting right now, and many have had to cancel their main fundraising events, so we wanted to help them. We were able to do that by raising more than $100,000 for them as 50% of the hammer prices went to various charities. A few lots were earmarked specifically for 100% of the hammer price to go to a specific charity. 

We covered a range of areas with the lots, though, given our inventory, it was more sporting focused. We had a good Peter Howell, he is the official artist for the 2020 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, a Larry Wheeler of the Kentucky River Palisades, along with an Emilio Grau Sala work and several works by Thomas Coates, past president of the New English Art Club.

Headed Home by Peter Howell. Photo from Cross Gate Gallery.
Headed Home by Peter Howell. Photo from Cross Gate Gallery.

Auction Daily: Which business practices that you developed due to the COVID-19 situation will remain once social distancing and other public health guidelines are lifted? Which ones will you be happy to say “goodbye” to?

Meng: Business-wise, we have not been able to have people in the gallery, which, as I mentioned before, greatly hurts us in allowing people to see the work. That will also be the one we’d be happiest to say goodbye to. At the same time, though, we might have not focused as much on the internet as we should have in this day and age. We traditionally have done a lot of traveling exhibitions, which, while fun, are not available to us now. So in the future, I would say we will be leaning heavier online.

Auction Daily: Tell our readers what they have to look forward to from Cross Gate Gallery for the rest of the year. We’re particularly interested in the Sporting Art Auction in November. 

Meng: As of now we’re gathering material for our auction in November. I’ve gotten in two great 19th century American sporting pieces that I love and would be cover pieces themselves any other year and haven’t even gotten in the bulk of works yet.  So I’m excited about those two. We’re still full steam ahead, going to have the auction. The Breeders’ Cup is also in Lexington this year at Keeneland, our partner, and that brings in about 80,000 people who will be seeing the works in person. The Sporting Art Auction is our biggest event of the year, so it does become our primary focus.

Those interested in learning more about Cross Gate Gallery can visit their website, view their recent acquisitions, and follow them on Facebook.

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