Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Happy Birthday to Us – We’re Five Today

We simply can’t believe that it’s been five short years since, after sharing a bottle of wine at a local French restaurant and shaking hands (we barely knew each other!), we opened our little blue door…and life hasn’t quite been the same since.

Anis Cafe & Bistro

Anis Restaurant in Buckhead. Where it all started…we shared a bottle of wine at lunch and decided to go into business together. Were we nuts?

In that crazy time, we've laughed, cried, thrown occasional temper tantrums, high-fived and basically loved every minute of it. Most of all, we've learned one big lesson: to happily run a business, you really have to follow your heart.

The event got us chatting about the zillions of highs (and a few not-so-highs) that have marked our one-twentieth of a century in this adorable cottage that now feels so much like home.

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The Highs:

  • Being the delighted recipients of our artists’ endless inspiration and talent. It doesn’t get any better than seeing a painting for the first time and having a mini-swoon.


Rubicon, by Doug Foltz, pretty much had us all swooning when we first saw it.

  • Being named Best New Gallery in 2006 by Atlanta Magazine

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  • The countless openings we’ve had at the gallery…and the fun times we Huffingtons have had after the doors have closed, everyone has left and we get to have a party rehash.

Doug Foltz Solo 009

And, speaking of Doug Foltz, here we are mugging with him last May

  • Singing the French classic “Oh, Champs Elysees” at our first Bastille Day fete and exhibit – the wine was flowing, the music was jamming, the art was breathtaking and we all had a blast with French artist, Pascal Bouterin. We were happily caught up in a joie de vivre moment – priceless!


That’s Pascal on the drums and the rest of his cute band (the Huffingtons are in the corner singing at the top of our voices)

  • The Hanging Mojo State of Mind: we’ve hung and rehung (and rehung some more) over the years and we’ve learned one thing: we have to have the hanging mojo going. Once we get it, it’s loads of fun and we love the Aha moment when it all comes together and the gallery is shining.

Ann and Scurry

Ann (and Scurry) have the hanging mojo going.

  • There’s nothing better than offering some direction to an artist – and then having new work sell out two days later

  • The French Connection: thanks to our Madame, we all get to have a taste of our French fix.


Cataloguing new paintings…at Les Murets with a nice rose to keep us company. Surely this doesn’t count as work, does it?

Dinner on terrace

  • We love seeing our babies hanging beautifully on new walls and having happy clients (see next item)

  • We get a gallery high when our clients (and artists!) are delighted enough to email us their appreciation

And…believe us, just because not every moment has been a glowing one…here are the Not So Highs:

  • Theft at the gallery: one of our precious little Nepos is stolen out from under our noses at an opening – and we are bereft with sadness and simple disbelief (however, we have to say that the front page, below the fold, on the right hand side of the Atlanta Journal Constitution was not unwelcome!)

4.5 x 9 The Red Sail on wood m & G 001

  • Two days after we opened the gallery, one of the Huffingtons (nameless here) was cleaning out her wallet. Somehow, at least five rather sizeable checks (our very first sales!) got tossed in the trash, never to be seen again. We made some red-faced calls the next day to explain the debacle and that Huffington never took checks home in her wallet again.

  • About two years ago we were feeling especially professional, savvy and smart. A nice looking, well-dressed and smart-talking advertising gentleman paid us a visit at the gallery and sold us (hook, line and sinker) for some publication he was financing. We excitedly wrote a rather sizeable check on the spot…and then never heard from him ever again. That episode is loving called The Scam Artist. Ouch.

  • Not so long ago, the gallery was the location for a very fancy girls night out Christmas party. Champagne was flowing, the music was thumping, the food was gorgeous – and you should have seen the guests. Halfway through the party, we are tugged aside only to be told that the toilet was completely plugged up and spewing all over the floor. Imagine the sight of a couple determined and high-heeled ladies trying to plunge the darn thing! After frantic plunging, we admitted defeat and put a sign on the door that said: “If You Have to Go, You Have to Go.” Not our finest hostessing hour.

  • And this one still happens every once in a while and continues to break our heart: we fall in love with a specific painting because of its very essence, its magnificent texture, its sublime composition and palette, its very perfection…and it hangs on the wall for days, weeks and even months without even one comment of admiration. Why does that happen? How can we so misread our clientele? If anyone has the answer, let us know. It breaks our heart and we take it so personally.

  • Our final low is really a high: when the painting we’ve all lusted after in a very personal way (as in “wow, I could really see that in my bedroom/over the mantel/in the living room) sells before we could put a red dot on it.

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This one got away from Meg

And, lessons we learned in our five short years:

  • Always take the high road (even if it means a financial or emotional hit)

  • Realize that no mistake is so gigantic that it can’t be fixed (usually by taking the high road)

  • Treat your clients with the utmost respect and kindness (and always make good on your promises)

  • Follow your heart – always.

  • Have fun

  • Believe in yourself

Finally, we have to admit that after five years, the Huff and the Harrington have officially become Huffingtons. We had a rather important meeting at the gallery the other day and we both showed up looking like this – simultaneously black, white and pink with virtually matching Hermes carres.

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And take a look at our business card. Since we’ve basically morphed into a Huffington, we thought we’d just share a business card. It sure makes life easy.

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To all of you who have supported us and believed in us over the last five years, we sincerely thank you. And to our wonderful Linda, Sarah and Sam, without whom gallery life would be dull and flat, our most heartfelt mercies.


Meg, Ann, Linda and Sarah…


and Sam

And finally, to the long-suffering Huffington Husbands…merci with our all hearts.

Here’s to the next five years!

Ta ta.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Home runs that make our day

Les Romantiques a NY 8x8

Pascal Bouterin, Les Romantiques a New York

We try not to pester. We’ll send our artists little reminders, like, “Do you have anything new you’d like to share with us?” or “What’s cooking on your easel?” We try to prod gently and urge them to send us images. We ask them if they’d like us to stop by their studios, hoping they’ll take it as a hint that we are dying for new work. We write them about their inspirations, or tell them about all the people who’ve been asking about their work (always true). But we never quite know what to expect and always hold our breath for more.

Sometimes we get it. And sometimes we don’t. And sometimes, the reality exceeds even our wildest hopes and wishes … which is just what happened yesterday.

First, our dear Pascal Bouterin wrote to say that he had a few paintings he wanted to share. There was no precise timing or details, so we just politely waited for his move. Imagine our immense surprise and delight when Pascal’s lovely friend Ashley brought over a dozen new paintings, all of which (we kid you not) made us swoon and salivate. Pascal is a very talented artist whose unique style has captivated so many of us that he has an immense following in Atlanta. But even with Pascal, as with virtually every artist, we’ve been known to turn down a couple of painting in the bunch. Except not this time! We loved every one of them and grabbed the whole batch. And we started selling them even before they went in to inventory, some still in their plastic sleeves.

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Pascal Bouterin, Ville

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Pascal Bouterin, Personnages sur Bleu

Lexington Avenue 8 x 5

Pascal Bouterin, Lexington Avenue, Watercolor

A couple of hours later, our brand new – and already popular – artist, Judy Cox sent us some new images of the work she’s been doing. Again, there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch. We were so excited because we so quickly sold her previous black and white series that we have been clamoring for more, without trying to be too persistent. This new work shows the artist’s great strength at composition and texture, as well as her understanding of balance, color and depth. Selfishly, we want them in the gallery and hope they won’t sell for a while so that we can all enjoy them, and, as is important with abstract work especially, get to know them better on several levels.




And then the icing on the cake. The email came in around 11 p.m. last night, and it was Nancy Franke, responding to another plea on our part for more work – especially a couple of bigger pieces. Nancy is on such a remarkable run right now, selling her work at a very rapid clip, and having such a strong following among collectors as well as fellow artists. Again, there was the collective “ooohh … “ when we viewed her new work, followed by the ever dignified email, “You knocked it out of the park!!” These paintings need no further commentary and speak for themselves. Quite simply, they are magnificent.

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Nancy Franke, Don’t Ask, 36 x 36

For me 12 x 12 $950

Nancy Franke, For Me, 12 x 12

Dianne's Flowers, 16 x 12

Nancy Franke, Dianne’s Flowers, 16 x 12

And so, another day in the life of a gallery owner. The kind of day that feels like Christmas, three times over. The kind of day that makes us thank our lucky stars that we are in this business, which really doesn’t even feel like a business sometimes because it is all about love. The kind of day that makes us just want to sit back, smile, and say “thank you” to the wonderful artists whose work is so beautiful that it can bring tears to our eyes. It’s the kind of day that makes us value the beauty of art for its unpredictable, unexpected and ephemeral quality. You can’t preorder it, can’t demand it, can’t duplicate it and you certainly can’t expect it. And so when it happens, and it hits that magical mark ... and the ball goes sailing out of the park ... it’s the most wonderful day in the world.



Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Artist’s Inspiration: MY AHA MOMENT IN PARIS – Nancy Franke

I was inspired by the light…

clip_image002Joaquin Sorolla, Sewing the Sail, 8 x 10’, 1896

My most inspiring moment took place three years ago, when my husband and I were in Paris for my birthday. En route, I read “Happenings in Paris” in Sky Magazine, and realized that there was a Sargent/Sorolla show at the Petit Palais! I did not know of it beforehand, but realized I would have gone to Paris just to see it! The paintings were hung beautifully, and it was easy to walk up and really see them. The sun-shot Sorolla pieces were astounding to me. I have always admired the bravura brushwork and sheer skill of John Singer Sargent (though I liked his watercolors best at this exhibit), and the same for Sorolla, but, as hung together in this show, the Sorolla pieces were breathtaking! The paintings were HUGE, and shimmered. I dragged my husband back to see this exhibit 4 times! Below are a few samples, which show why so many current painters are inspired by these men (see work of Dan McCaw, Giner Bueno and others).

Joaquin Sorolla, Two Sisters, 1909


John Singer Sargent, Breakfast in the Loggia, 1910


Sorolla, The Pink Robe, 1916


Sorolla, Bathtime in Valencia, 1910


John Singer Sargent, Venetian Canal, Watercolor, 1916


John Singer Sargent, Palmettos, Watercolor, 1913



Mark your calendars for these upcoming workshops with Nancy!

One‐Day Workshop in the Gallery

Wishful Thinking, 10 x 8, $ 575 Sunday, April 10th, 9:00 – 4:00

Focus on seeing mass and form, rather than line and detail. We will paint from simple set ups to catch the essence of the subject in paint. Loosen up, use a limited palette and bigger brushes…Nancy will demo and then students will do 2 – 3 studies, concentrating on simplifying and saying more with less. It will be fun and informative too! Cost is $ 150, and the class is limited to 12 students. Students should bring portable easels and tray tables if needed. There will be a one‐hour lunch break from 12 – 1:00. Bottled water and snacks will be furnished.



A One-Day Workshop in the Gallery


SATURDAY, JUNE 11th, 9:00 – 4:00

This workshop will focus on simplifying and stating something universal; we will not be doing portraiture. Nancy will demo, and then students will do 1 – 2 studies from photos (bring several from which to choose). We’ll use a limited palette, bigger brushes and catch some magic in paint! Bring portable easels and tray tables if desired. There will be a lunch break from 12:00 – 1:00. Water and snacks will be furnished. Cost is $150, and class is limited to 12 participants.

Don’t miss out on these wonderful (and rare) opportunities to paint with Nancy in the gallery!


Stay tuned for more installments in our “Artist’s Inspiration” series about other Huff Harrington artists. Is there anyone in particular you’d like to learn more about? Let us know!



Thursday, February 3, 2011

Merci, Air France.


I was a little afraid of Flying Air France again this time. Not because I’m afraid of flying but because I was afraid of being let down by my favorite airline. As I have mentioned before, I have had a long standing love affair with Air France. I travel to France frequently (on business, for pleasure and for gallery trips), and part of the excitement and pleasure for each trip always starts with Air France. There’s that little glass of champagne that is served even to those in steerage class. There’s the tasty shrimp and capers appetizer, the succulent chicken with lemon basmati rice and sautéed veggies, the cheese, the bread, the chocolate desserts, and of course, the wine. There’s even a “digestif” if you really need someone to hit you over the head to sleep. And for a Francophile like me, there’s a great selection of movies, some of which don’t even star Gerard Depardieu. And best of all, there’s my favorite radio station, RFM, playing pretty much the same music that we play at the gallery, so I feel completely at home.

In the past ten years, I have traveled on Air France so much that I know all their safety instructions by heart, I can sing the airport chime on key, and I recognize many of the flight attendants. I have loved my relationship with Air France, and up until now, it has been reciprocal. So when something bad happened recently, which included a huge lapse in their otherwise stellar customer service, I couldn’t help but take it personally. How could they do this? How could they let me down so hard? And worse yet, how could they not respond to me?

Back in early December there was a glitch in their computer system, which left me stranded overnight at JFK (where I hung out overnight in Terminal 4 – not the finest hotel on the block), missing my flight to Paris and foregoing some important business appointments. But for me, that wasn’t the bad part. After all, we know what the airlines are going through and we especially know the hardships they suffered this winter with all the weather cancellations.

The part that irked me was that I wrote over six letters, by email, fax, snail mail and even registered mail, to complain about the incident and to ask for an apology and mileage compensation . I wasn’t asking for anything unreasonable. And what I was asking for would have cost Air France nothing. But it would have made a huge difference to me.

At the gallery, we try to take customer service very seriously. We absolutely hate it if someone feels wronged. We’ll try to bend over backwards to make it right, going to great lengths at times to “take the high road” and keep our customers happy. Not that we’re any different than any other reputable gallery or retailer. Because for the most part, that is the American way. We know that if our customers are happy, they’ll spread the word and come back. It is second nature to us and we wouldn’t dream of doing it differently.

Yesterday was the first trip I’ve taken with Air France since we had our little rift. I was secretly hoping that my name would ring all kinds of bells and that Air France would welcome me back with open arms (and perhaps upgrade me to Business). But that didn’t happen. It was clear that the computer didn’t know anything about me. It put me in the back of the plane, charged me for my extra luggage (as a notoriously light packer, this particularly irked me – but that’s what happens when you renovate a Parisian apartment with American wallpaper … someone’s got to carry it! ) and it acted like it never knew me.

But here’s where it got interesting: Although the Air France brass didn’t respond to me and the computer didn’t recognize me, the people at the airport did. One of them acknowledged me as a frequent flyer, and adjusted my seat to my favorite place on the plane. The other one somehow forgot to charge me for my extra luggage. (I hope they won’t get in to trouble!) And of course, as always, the plane crew couldn’t have been nicer.

I felt a little vindicated despite Air France Corporate’s lack of response and it reminded me that for every big or small corporation, it’s the personal relationships that make all the difference. As soon as I arrived in Paris, I even wrote this blog geared towards the Air France employees, and ended it with: “Thank you! You were so kind to me and I hope that your employers can learn from you. That every day good customer service is actually at the local level, and you have the power to make a big difference. “

And then I couldn’t have scripted this one any better ...

I returned to my cozy hotel room in Paris, turned out the light and started to go to sleep, when the phone rang. Can you guess who it was? Air France! They were responding to my letter and they did what I had wanted someone to do all along, the one thing that really mattered to me, the hope that I was holding out for: They read my dossier. They apologized. They said that it was their fault and they were nice to me!

What a difference that little phone call made. Our love affair is restored and so is my faith in customer service, at every level.