Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Antics of an Art Salesman

with 3 comments

Total Black: $128.71
Total Red: $230,272.86

Well, so far I’ve sold three pieces of art.  That’s roughly a thousand dollars in commission already.  And we still have two more days to go.

DiagonalThis is an image of the first piece I sold: “Diagonal” by Charles Seplowin.  Last week a man walked into the space, asked about Seplowin’s work, and decided on the spot to take it. He was getting it as a birthday gift.  Unfortunately, we’re not able to take credit cards, so we couldn’t finish the transaction at that moment: he didn’t have a check on him (and I only just found out the snags with trying to take cards; we would have had to go through PayPal, he would have had to set up an account, etc.).  As I was working out these kinks, another seller cleaned the Plexiglas, wrapped the item, and put it on the side with his name on it.  When he returned, she sold him a second piece: both for $1,400 ($2,800) total! I was thrilled just to have sold my first piece of art, but even more so that he bought a second piece.

These past few days have been full of adventure. Yesterday I delivered this six foot longUs painting, “Us” by Elanit Kayne, to an apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I carried the painting by foot from the gallery space on 43rd Street and 3rd Avenue up to 70th Street and Broadway. Getting around Central Park was akin to an obstacle course. You don’t realize the dangers posed by fire hydrants, dogs, cigarettes, and curbs until you walk a six-foot long by four-foot high painting through the streets of Manhattan. And the wind was no friend blowing me and the canvas in all directions. I felt like I had a mast carrying me along. I’m sure I looked like a site too: a man in business casual clothes carrying a long canvas loosely covered by a white bed sheet. Once I arrived at the building, the doorman took one look and instructed me to use the service entrance. Naturally, I took affront to that and responded that the buyers had asked me to deliver it. I explained that I’d never been there either.  One of the doormen offered to take it up to the buyer’s penthouse apartment.  I then had to walk the roughly two and a half miles back to the contract attorney job. It’s not often that attorneys sweat on the job, unless they’re in trouble.  I was wetter than Bernie Madoff sweating in the shower (that’s pretty wet).

About thirty minutes or so before work ended at 10pm that same night, another of the sellers sent me a text message letting me know that they were still in the gallery space and asking me to come by.  One of the sellers had sold $11,000 worth of artwork a few hours earlier to a couple who just happened to stop by the space.  That was wonderful, but also a bit frustrating, news.  As art sellers, we’re on commission: twenty percent of whatever we sell.  The theory was, in part, that we’d bring people into the space and sell the art.  That’s not exactly how it’s played out though—despite our best efforts. IRafael Rodrigueznstead, it’s been more a roll of the dice. For example, this morning a woman telephoned me to ask about this piece by Rafael Rodriguez. She had seen the work the day prior. The price was listed at $3,500 but she wanted some flexibility. Taking the lead from the other seller who made out like a bandit the night before, I suggested that perhaps the artist would be ok with $2,500. She immediately said she’d take it at that price. Five minutes later, after speaking with the artist, we had a deal. Two hours later, she was back home with this amazing piece of art in her home.  Two hours later I was back in my home, but for other reasons.

As I was looking through our makeshift storage closet for materials to cover the work for transport, I had a little accident. One of the art pieces is suspended from trusses erected in the gallery space. It’s a series of five wooden pieces and behind all five pieces runs a strip of fishing wire to stabilize them. It’s pretty low, so I had to crouch to get under it and back into the storage area.  There I am in my black suit, crouching low to the ground and limboing my way along.  As I repeated the process to get back out, I crouched low to the floor again . . . but this time I heard this loud tearing sound.  My suit pants ripped.  Right up the crotch.  From stem to stern. This wasn’t a slight tear.  If I had gone commando that day, everything would have been aired out in that moment.  So I tied my suit jacket around my waist because I needed to finalize the sale. I hope it wasn’t me because the woman seemed in too much of a hurry to get out of the space. She practically shoved the painting in the taxi, hurrying away. My backside was to the wall when my pants split so no one saw anything. But she might have caught a glimpse or two as I tried to figure out how to hide it and before I used my jacket.  I did get a laugh out of it though. Imagine someone’s pants splitting from crack to crotch, with no hope of repair.  I too would want to get away as fast as possible.

It’s been an amazing experience and it’s not over yet.

3 Responses

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  1. congratulations!


    October 8, 2009 at 14:19

  2. Just stumbled onto your blog today and thought I would say hello and thank you. As an unemployed 2009 law graduate waiting for the NY bar results, I really appreciate your honesty and positive outlook on your situation. I just received a rejection letter for a callback I had on Monday and have been feeling pretty dejected, but your blog has reminded me to keep my head up and keep on moving. Thanks again! 🙂


    October 8, 2009 at 21:43

  3. Please do. Keep your head up and keep moving forward, HJ. I know how difficult and painful the rejections can be. I received plenty myself. But maybe use this time to figure out what it is you want to do with your law degree. Three years out, I can say that maybe the layoff was a blessing in disguise. ‘Course I’m still not employed, but there’s other ways to earn income. Fingers crossed for your bar results!

    Laid-off Lawyer

    October 11, 2009 at 00:04

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