Estevan Maestas is an art dealer who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We connected on social media and I noticed that he’d started an elegant, online gallery https://www.contemporarycollectivegallery.com/. I wanted to find out why – in such a crowded marketplace – he decided to do this. I got the answer to that and also learned that the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce should hire this guy immediately. Here’s our cool chat …
“… I'm very open to working with artists who work in various styles and who bring a unique touch and distinct quality to their practices. As an online platform, I think it's important to have a stylistic diversity of works in the gallery that may connect with a much wider range of collectors ...”
MICHAEL: Hello Estevan, Great to chat with you. Let me start with the most obvious question. What is Contemporary Collective Gallery? Why did you start it?
ESTEVAN: Hi Michael, thanks for having me! Contemporary Collective Gallery is an online gallery that I founded in 2015, focusing primarily on representing emerging, international contemporary artists working in various styles and mediums, leveraging the power of social media to build exposure.
The gallery was initially started as a way to provide a professional platform via web and social media to showcase my brother, Gabriel Maestas’ works. At the time, he didn't quite have the experience in generating his own exposure or getting his work out in front of traditional galleries, so I took it upon myself, with technology and social media at my fingertips, to create that gateway. Soon after that, through connecting on Instagram, I started gaining interest from other emerging creatives and decided to expand the gallery and bring in new talent.
MICHAEL: Apart from your brother, did you have your own connection to art? I mean, you could have decided to do something else like go to law school or something. Why contemporary art?
ESTEVAN: Growing up in Northern New Mexico, near Santa Fe, one of the nation’s leading art hubs, I was introduced to art at a young age, frequenting museums and galleries within Santa Fe and Taos.
MICHAEL: That sounds like my childhood in New York.
ESTEVAN: I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but hadn't really given much thought as to what I wanted to do as a profession, though I knew I wanted to do something that would allow me to be my own boss. I attended school for business briefly, but soon came to realize that it wasn't an environment that I cared for. After a year of school, I decided to leave and start working on establishing the gallery.
So I guess you could say, my early exposure to the arts and what I took away from business school further led me to forge my own path in the art world.
MICHAEL: Very nice. Sadly, I have yet to visit Santa Fe. It strikes me as obviously a very strong, very well-to-do, perhaps somewhat closed, art community. Sort of like an extended, upscale, art club with lots of wine and cheese! Hmm. What's it really like?
ESTEVAN: I highly recommend that you visit Santa Fe; everyone should at least once in their lives. It is a city not only rich in the arts, but in history and culture and yet coming from a deeply historic and traditional culture, it has blossomed into a diverse melting pot of people who in turn have brought their own ideas, traditions, and flavors to the city.
In terms of the perceptions some may have of the art community in Santa Fe, I have to say it is a very inviting environment. You could casually walk around the plaza, Canyon Road or the Railyard Arts District and feel completely welcomed and comfortable in every setting.
Though there's no mistake that Santa Fe has indeed grown into an upscale community both in the arts and elsewhere, efforts have been made to maintain the heritage and local communities within the city preserving its cultural identity. I'd have to say it's an all around open and welcoming place with wine, cheese and tapas for all!
MICHAEL: This is a very interesting time for art and certainly brick and mortar as well as online galleries. There's more competition than ever for even 60 seconds of people's attention and there are so many distractions. Given that, how are you managing to promote and market CCG? What's working for you and what are your biggest challenges?
ESTEVAN: There is definitely a ton of competition in this space though there is still plenty of room to carve out our own little niche.
Being a newer online platform, social media, namely, Instagram plays a major role in marketing for the gallery. Instagram with its largely-established, global art community is a great, free platform to share content and visually engage with and develop a vast audience of art lovers, collectors, and artists.
I've seen more online platforms popping up within the last couple of years on Instagram, be it galleries or “art blogs” providing the opportunity to showcase emerging artists to a global audience. These platforms could very well be seen as competition though I also see it as an opportunity to cross-network and collaborate with one another.
I've had the opportunity to connect with some great groups on occasion and have seen decent success in bringing new eyes to the gallery. Last year, I also connected with a gallery management software company called ArtCloud which extensively manages the entire backend operations of the gallery. Their art marketplace network which I've integrated into my website connects with other galleries, collectors and artists on the platform providing another great avenue to market works to a targeted audience.
I think the only real challenge the gallery has faced as a newer online platform, in a sea of many, is building credibility, providing assurance to potential collectors who might be willing to spend thousands of dollars on a painting that we are in fact a legitimate, reputable gallery. This is something we are continually working on, though, and with time and persistence we are surely overcoming this challenge.
MICHAEL: Does your gallery have an aesthetic or genre that you prefer? How do you decide on which artists to represent?
ESTEVAN: I've never made it a point to focus on a particular genre for the gallery. I'm very open to working with artists who work in various styles and who bring a unique touch and distinct quality to their practices. As an online platform, I think it's important to have a stylistic diversity of works in the gallery that may connect with a much wider range of collectors.
ESTEVAN: When it comes to the selection of artists for the gallery, first and foremost, their work has to connect with me. If I can see the work as something that I would add to my personal collection, then I would definitely consider for the gallery. Another factor in the selection process is whether or not I feel that my platform is the right one to showcase their works. It really just comes down to how well I connect with the work and the artist.
MICHAEL: Finally Estevan, most people on the face of the earth will never visit an art gallery (brick and mortar or online) let alone actually buy art. So what's the point? Why should people care about art when they can buy a new iPhone or pour all of their attention into other things? Art isn't curing cancer, so what's the point?
ESTEVAN: That is the million dollar question ... to some, art is everything and to others, it is nothing. Art doesn't make the world go round, but it is an extremely important outlet of expression that is vital in all facets of life. There is no one answer as to what the point of art is as it is all relative, really.
MICHAEL: Very cool. Thanks Estevan. Nice chat.
ESTEVAN: Thanks for the chat, Michael. It was a pleasure!
Check out Estevan’s gallery at https://www.contemporarycollectivegallery.com/.