Method Art Gallery Closing, Citing "Collapsed Art Market" in Scottsdale

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"You may have heard the rumors and they are true." So begins a statement recently posted on the Method Art website by owner and photographer Davin Lavikka, who says he is closing the gallery at the end of June in part because Scottsdale's art market has collapsed.

But he’s not leaving the downtown Scottsdale art scene. Instead, he’ll open Method Art Studio in a smaller space on North Marshall Way this fall. He’ll no longer have gallery space or represent artists, but Bob Price and Jeanne Ladewig-Goodman, two of the artists he’s long represented, will follow him to the new location, which he describes as a hub for artists to self-market their own work.

It’s the latest of several location changes he’s undertaken while negotiating the shifting landscape in the small patch of Scottsdale where Thursday night art walks were once an integral part of the city’s arts and cultural offerings. Nowadays, he says, collectors send their representatives rather than hitting galleries in person. Or they find and buy art online.

Two key players, Lisa Sette Gallery and Bentley Gallery, moved from Scottsdale to Phoenix a while ago, signaling a big shift in where people are going for gallery time. Lavikka says he's keeping a Scottsdale presence for two reasons. He's got a robust photography clientele in the area, and the two artists who'll be sharing the studio space like the idea of staying in the area.

Method Art Studio will be located at 4151 North Marshall Way, which Lavikka says is empty because the business that once used it has twice downsized to a smaller footprint. His future studio is located just across the street from the space Sette vacated last year.

Lavikka says he’s tried creative solutions, including inviting performers to activate a courtyard adjacent to his current gallery space and arranging for a caravan of food trucks to gather nearby on Thursday nights. The foot traffic is there, he says, but not the buyers. Instead, he’s got regulars who merely come by for complimentary wine during art walks, and a whole lot of people content to snap pictures of art rather than taking it home with them.

He’s frustrated by several of the players, too. Lavikka says that instead of working together to promote the downtown Scottsdale arts scene in creative ways, most gallery owners have an isolationist mentality, retreating to their own spaces rather than banding together to promote the local arts scene.

The landlords aren’t helping, he says. Lavikka believes they’re overcharging and suggests the city should be doing more to assure gallery spaces are affordable for local artists.

Whatever the cause, we spotted two vacant spaces just walking a few blocks up the west side of North Marshall Way from Indian School towards Method Art this week. One is the former home of Sette's gallery, which moved in June of 2014 from Scottsdale to midtown Phoenix. The other most recently housed a business that's not art related.

Art One, a gallery space along North Marshall Way that specializes in representing student artists, has a sign posted in the window, which alerts passersby to a summer sale undertaken “for the sake of space and survival.”

Lavikka thinks North Marshall Way is getting the short shrift, suggesting that art marketers are focusing instead on Main Street galleries, which include Gebert Contemporary and Tilt Gallery. He’s convinced the city is fueling interest in big revenue generators in North Scottsdale, such as the Barrett-Jackson car auction, rather than touting offerings in other parts of Scottsdale.

But he’s got a long list of other concerns as well. Lavikka wonders whether free Scottsdale trolleys have been rerouted to focus on transporting tourists to sporting venues rather than the downtown arts scene, and whether an endless parade of tented art fairs may be doing more to drive business away from galleries than towards them.

Still, the biggest culprit in Lavikka’s mind seems to be modern-day culture, which has says reached a saturation point in terms of visual imagery. Art is everywhere, he says, thanks to public art, festivals, and social media. The once singular experience of going to a gallery to see art has been replaced, he says, by quick fixes via digital devices. Those who once bought paintings they loved are now content, he says, to simply take a painting’s picture and admire it on their smartphone. Or they settle for owning mass-produced wall hangings sold at big box stores.

Ironically, however, it’s the very change he hopes to capitalize on once the new Method Art Studio opens. They’ll drive sales through a new website, he says, and Lavikka is already suggesting that people check out his Lavikka Photography channel on YouTube. The message posted on his current website closes as follows: "See you on the flip side!"

Lavikka is offering online discounts of 20 percent (using coupon code giveme20) for everything in the gallery's inventory through Saturday, June 27. He's holding a closing reception for Method Art from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, June 4, during Scottsdale ArtWalk. The event will include drumming by Japanese folk artist Ken Koshio with his Koshio Gumi percussion ensemble, and Lavikka's own performance piece he tells us will start around 7:30 p.m. Find more information on the Method Art website

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