Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Western Art Gallery Closing Doors to Go Virtual
Tom Bassett represents such Western artists as George Carlson, whose horse sculpture is called “Mane.”
Friday, September 25, 2020


There’s nothing like a pandemic to put things into perspective. And a flood on top of that.

After showing Western Art at Wood River Fine Arts on Ketchum’s East Avenue for nearly eight years, Tom Bassett and his wife Sandy Gregorak are closing the doors and moving their business 100 percent online.

For the rest of this month the gallery will be open by appointment only. Starting October 1 all of the art will be available virtually at www.woodriverfinearts.com.

Wood River Fine Arts will be moving from The Courtyard in Ketchum to online.

Bassett says he took his work computer home to East Fork during the lockdown precipitated by the pandemic in March. When he and his wife returned to their storefront at the end of May they had opened for just one weekend before a leak flooded the space.

None of the paintings or sculptures were damaged, but repair work forced them to shut down for a month and a half.

The gallery reopened on July 27 and by that time Bassett said he’d had a lot of time to reflect on what brick and mortar did for him and how it actually related to the business.

He said the couple he and his wife first partnered with back in 2012 based their business model on walk-ins, whereas “I walked in with 24 years of clients I worked with and still do.”

On left, sculptor Rich Loffler shows Tom Bassett small models or maquettes of a herd of cows that will be one and a quarter life size.

Bassett managed the Claggett/Rey Gallery in Vail for decades before moving to the Wood River Valley and taking on full ownership of the Ketchum gallery in 2013.

Since, he has focused on building his client list and website. Bassett is counting on both to make the virtual gallery a success as they say goodbye to paying a large fixed cost.

“Going into the winter with the uncertainty of what’s happening nationally, I thought it was too great a risk to commit to a set lease,” he said.

The plan is to continue storing pieces in the same place in Ketchum and to offer occasional shows, receptions, and workshops with artists at a client’s local office.

Tom Bassett and Sandy Gregorak hope their new schedule will allow for more recreation.

“We represent about 20 artists… people I know, people Sandy and I have collected… They’re known and have a following in the Western Art world,” he said.

Bassett estimates about half of their inventory comes from the artists’ studios. One artist lives in Connecticut, but most are closer in Idaho, Colorado and California. He visits them regularly to see what they’re working on.

The other half of the inventory comes from exhibitions at the National Museum of Wildlife in Jackson Hole, Masters of the American West at the Autry Museum in Los Angeles, the Coors show in Denver, the Prix de West and Traditional Cowboy Arts Association show in Oklahoma City.

Bassett represents established artists, such as George Carlson and John Moyers, who both sculpt and paint. And he particularly enjoys the long-term relationship he has built up with Canadian Rich Loffler in Saskatchewan.

Bassett described how Loffler sculpted five cows “from life” in 11 days, and made smaller models called maquettes to test how the herd will look when it is completed in one and a quarter life size. The artist is now molding, casting and bronzing the pieces. When the sculpture is installed in a private collection in Canada this spring, the whole process will have taken close to three years.

“The problem is when it’s right there you tend to work seven days a week,” he said of working in a bricks and mortar gallery.

He’s hopeful running a virtual gallery will give him a chance to have a more open schedule where he and Gregorak can ride bikes, ski Baldy and do a little backcountry skiing.

“I’ve asked myself: Am I working to live, or living to work?” he added.

That said, he wouldn’t be adverse to reinvest in a gallery space when everything is not so up in the air.


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