Having the eye to take great photographs is one thing, but having the eye for buying photography that will last for decades is something entirely different. The renowned Fahey Klein Gallery in Los Angeles appears to have mastered this talent, regularly showing some of the greatest photographers in the world — namely Man Ray to Henri Cartier-Bresson to Herb Ritts to Peter Beard — in intimate but ample space. Beyond the photographers who are already gallery renowned, they have been involved in the creation of over 80 books on photography, from the packaging to the concept—working with a writer and designer on each one. The gallery is as much about developing new artists as it is about showcasing the established ones.
We sat down with co-founder David Fahey, to find out more about how the gallery operates and what a first-time photography buyer should know before making a purchase.
What does the Fahey / Klein Gallery do differently from all the other photography galleries out there?
The primary thing we try to focus on is having a very diverse, broad-based list of photographers who represent all genres. From classic 20th Century works to documentary photojournalism to fashion photographs to contemporary works. We don’t want to be about just one thing. Even when we have a show that features one type of photography, we will hang a variety of different photos in our offices or backrooms for people to see and purchase. In the art business, a good number of sales are done out of the back room.
What should a first-time buyer or art or photography know before purchasing a piece from a gallery?
The first thing they should know is a bit about the artist they are buying and what that artist has done in the past. Research them, plug into the artists career, make relationships with museum curators and gallery owners so that you can keep track of what that artist is doing. Have patience and really know that you are buying. But at the same time, don’t buy for investment, buy based upon what you like.
How is the Fahey/Klein Gallery different than most photography galleries out there?
I’d say our gallery is different in that we use our back rooms for sales. We have 3 offices, a big presentation room and a back room. In all spaces we put photos on the walls. When you see a show you see two artists in the back rooms and then all types of other things in the other rooms that are meant to surprising and different.
Which makes the whole experience multi-dimensional?
To an extent, sure. Mainly, I don’t want people thinking we are only about one thing. We try to change things up constantly and we change them with every show. You try to sell from your back room—in truth most sales occur in the back room in the art business.
Should photography collectors buy photographs outside of a gallery?
Of course, but it’s a bit more “buyer beware” type of situation. To really be sure you’re getting what you’re paying for, you will have to know something about how the photograph was printed and be able to ensure the archival stability of the print is in place and the print is of the highest quality. You can acquire this information through museum curators and gallery owners as well. Or you can read about it and really study the art of photography, which is what I would recommend.