Saturday, October 19, 2013

ART BIZ | Vito DeVito, East Hampton

Vito DeVito (L) and John Tepper Marlin, before a
 DeVito painting. Photo by Alice Tepper Marlin.
I go to a lot of art exhibits at Ashawagh Hall in downtown Springs, East Hampton, where Old Stone Highway meets Springs Fireplace Road.

Good reason: Ashawagh Hall has some good exhibits and I track them.

Real reason: I pass by Ashawagh (Indian name for a crossroad) Hall several times a day when I am here.

This evening Alice and I popped in on a one-man show by Vito DeVito, a New York City native who lives in Sagaponack except for summers when he is in Norway, Maine. I like one-man shows. Only one artist to interview if I am blogging, and I get to know the person.

DeVito is not just an artist. He is an artist-entrepreneur. The reason most artists are "struggling" financially, even "starving"–is that they don't understand some key commercial aspects of their business. The worst of all situations is where artists are (in the words of Catholic doctrine) "invincibly ignorant"–they don't want to know what steps they could take to be commercially successful because it would compromise their artistic creativity. Quietum non movere.

Vito DeVito is an artist that I can't visualize being unsuccessful. He exudes self-confidence and busy-ness and customer engagement. In addition:
  •  His art comes out of his own passion for creative work and his own love of nature. It's clear in everything he does. His fish and duck paintings look right when in motion and when still.
  • He paints nature against recognizable local backdrops -- a big plus when it comes to making a sale.
  • His backdrops are in the Town of East Hampton and for the past 25 years also in Maine, where he and his family have spent their summers. 
  • Like Picasso, he reinvents himself so that he has different things to sell. He is a sculptor -- I love his group of birds -- as well as a painter. He has been trying out etchings -- not all as glamorous as his paintings -- and in BFF (his dog) he has tried to glam up the etchings by hand-coloring the dog's collar in red. I would like to see more of the hand-colored etchings.
  • He sends out his framing to DeVito Framers in another room of his house. If it is raining he doesn't take the day off, he gets to work in his framing studio.
  • The giclees of his paintings are done by DeVito Facsimiles Ltd. His Artist's Proofs have low numbers and one gets a sense of confidence from him that he handles the numbering rigorously so that collectors don't have to worry about a flood of new giclees or prints. 
  • He knows how to sell to people most likely to buy, for the homes or offices of the well-to-do. Not many nudes in the exhibition -- I only saw one, called "Illicit Love" (not as good a painting, I thought, as his ducks). Corporate and family buyers prefer scenes of hunting, fishing, landscape, scenes from nature. He is in a lot of corporate collections.
  • He knows about stratifying his market. He has made a bronze sculpture for $6,000, oils for around $3,000, giclees for $500, etchings for less than that. There is something for everyone.
  • He has found a way to get paid up front, commissioned on demand, not only for portraits but for hunting scenes and ducks and fish. He works with hunting-and-fishing magazines and nonprofit organizations that ask him for specific animals or scenes and then they sell limited-edition lithographs or giclees.
  • For most of the past 19 years he has received annual commissions from Duck Unlimited to do a Duck-of-the-Year. His work is in the collections of celebrities like Alec Baldwin, Billy Joel, Christie Brinkley, Mario Cuomo, John Zuccotti and Alfonse D'Amato. 
"The Power Below" painted for the Safari Club International.  
Photo by JT Marlin.
Here's an example of how Vito DeVito leverages his art. Those animals in the oil painting at left are thundering towards us. They appear to be wildebeeste in front of Mt. Kilimanjaro, so this is a recognizable scene in Kenya or Tanzania. The price tag on this is about  $3,000.

This is a strong painting, definitely conveying a threat as the beasts head toward you. A good macho painting for an executive's office. It says: "Lead, follow, or get out of the way!" It is also nicely framed. But should you need that $3,000 to put toward your daughter's tuition, DeVito has an option for you.

"The Power Below", numbered giclée. Photo by JT Marlin.
For one-sixth of the cost of the original oil painting, you can get a numbered and framed giclée of the painting. It's even hard to tell the difference between the giclee and the painting from an distance of a few feet.

Customer is happy. Artist is happier. Best he can get for an oil (based on posted prices) is about $5,000. But if he sells out a series of 100 giclées at $500 each, he can make $50,000. With the help of associations and  magazines, it is also easier to sell prints than original art work.

Vito DeVito is a 1975 graduate of Seton Hall University, which would place his 60th birthday in the near vicinity. He has a wife Laurie, a daughter Emma Ann and a son Drew. More about him at www.vitodevito.com. Contact him to order something at vitodevito@optonline.net.