There are many clear actions that artists can (and should) take to lay the foundation for selling their work—from networking at art events and communicating regularly with potential buyers, to landing a gallery show and publicizing these exhibitions. Closing the deal, however, can sometimes be a more opaque process. Occasionally, fate steps in.
For proof, look no further than this story involving one of CHF’s Accelerator Fellows. Last October, Gonzalo Fuenmayor had a gallery show in his native Colombia, an event that he publicized via email. Among the email’s recipients was CHF Director Elizabeth Hulings, who forwarded it to her friend and now colleague Lucia Fanjul. (Lucia joined this year’s Accelerator team as a Personal Project Manager, and mentors several of the Fellows in our program.) Lucia’s husband, Juan Pablo Mejía, is also from Colombia and travels there frequently on business, which is why Elizabeth thought that he might be interested in attending Gonzalo’s opening.
When Lucia clicked through and began looking at images of Gonzalo’s work, she was struck by one piece in particular. The charcoal drawing in question depicts McDonald’s famed golden arches, but in place of the fast-food giant’s name is the word “Macondo,” the mythical town that’s at the heart of the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, the magical-realism classic by Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez.
“I saw the picture, and I fell in love with it,” says Lucia. “It captured my life.” As a child, she split her time between Argentina, where her father lived, and her mother’s home in the US, before finally moving to New York permanently at the age of 17. “Gonzalo’s piece was this perfect combination of McDonald’s USA—the idea of what this country is for anyone who lives outside of it—and Macondo, the made-up Latin American city where the things that occur cannot be explained in any logical way. When I was a kid, I used to dream of going to McDonald’s for birthday parties, but I’m still a little bit Macondo as well. You can’t take those Latin American roots away from me. I identify with both.”
Unable to get the piece out of her mind, she went back online few days later to look at it again. “It’s very rare for me to feel this way,” she says. “I may like a particular work of art, or think that it’s pretty, but this was different. I had a physical reaction to it.” At around the same time, Juan Pablo got her a pair of earrings as an anniversary gift, but Lucia soon came up with an alternate plan. “I showed him Gonzalo’s piece, and I said, ‘You’re going to Colombia next week for work. Can you return the earrings, and get me this instead?’”
When her husband looked at the website, he realized that he’d met Gonzalo about 17 years earlier, back when the latter was roommates with one of Juan Pablo’s coworkers in New York. Though he didn’t know Gonzalo well, he remembers thinking “this guy is going to make it big.” Long story short: the earrings were returned to the store, and Macondo returned from Bogotá with Juan Pablo.
Until I reached out to Gonzalo for this article, he was unaware of the CHF link that had led to this sale. “What a small world!” he replied. “I feel grateful and blessed to be part of this chain of magical connections, and I thank Elizabeth Hulings for setting it in motion.”
While this story validates the many steps that Gonzalo took to get his art in front of collectors, it also speaks to the power of art. “I don’t know what he had in mind when he drew Macondo,” says Lucia, “but he created something that moved me without even knowing me. I look at that picture now, and I think, ‘That’s me.’” Proving that art, like life, is both process and poetry at once—with a little bit of magic thrown in for good measure. I think Gabriel García Márquez would approve.
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