Alex Bult grew up around art as the son of well-known Sacramento artist Matt Bult, grandson of famed painter Wayne Thiebaud and the nephew of successful art dealer Paul Thiebaud. But even with that pedigree, the young gallery owner has found it difficult to sell artwork priced at $1,000 or more in the Sacramento region.
It will follow a string of gallery closures around the region in the last six months: Sacramento’s Gallery 2110 at 2110 K St. closed in November, and The Temp Gallery, 1616 Del Paso Blvd. in Sacramento, shut its doors that same month after five years of business. Lodi’s Knowlton Gallery, 115 S. School St., ended a 10-year run on Jan. 15.
While Sacramento’s Second Saturday art walk has grown in popularity, patrons appear to be doing more strolling than buying.
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“Everyone responded really well to the art shows there, and we did make sales,” he said, “but I think the price points were just a little out of reach for this area. We regularly showed art that was $1,000 and ran all the way up to almost $25,000. When we did have shows where we included works that were $300 to $1,000, we ended up selling a lot more of those.”
Although Bult will be closing down the gallery business, he’ll be continuing a month-to-month lease of the space at 1114 21st St. The location seems ideal, the 22-year-old said, to launch his next business: a music label called Milk & Honey. He’s teaming up with his brother, 19-year-old Nick Bult, to start the new enterprise.
“Over the last probably half a year, I’ve been working on setting up a private recording studio in town,” Alex Bult said, “so I’m going to be signing some local artists to that label and put out some music. I also want to put on some shows around Sacramento.”
The Bult brothers are already working with hip-hop artist Harris Rudman, who will be performing Saturday at Ace of Spades, Bult said. That same day, he added, Nick Bult turns 20 years old, so there will be a lot to celebrate.
The brothers, both graduates of C.K. McClatchy High School, have retrofitted part of a South Land Park home into Milk & Honey’s private recording studio, Bult said, and they have other artists in the pipeline.
Bult said the decision to close the gallery business actually happened fairly quickly. He took the month of December to reflect upon the business and ended up concluding that, although sales had gone fairly well, they just weren’t enough to merit signing another long-term lease.
“We had a lot of good shows, and we did make some money,” he said, “but it cost a lot to get the gallery up and running.”
Bult had already planned shows for 2015 but said he spoke to each artist individually, and all understood his rationale for closing the gallery. Still, he said, he’s grateful to have run this business for three years.
“Probably the most fun I had was doing the not-for-sale shows with art out of my grandfather’s and parents’ collections,” Bult said. “It was great to see how people reacted to some of those bigger names in the gallery, even though (the artworks) weren’t for sale and they couldn’t put them in their homes.”
Bult said he’ll also treasure being able to hang shows for his father and for longtime family friend Jeff Myers.
“Jeff had taken a break from painting, sometime before I opened the gallery, and he got back into it when I offered him a show there,” Bult said. “It was cool to see that what I was doing was having an effect on the artists, and he actually did really well with every show we had of his. Those were probably our best-selling months.”
Although the 21st Street space will no longer exclusively be a gallery, Bult said he will probably do some occasional pop-up art shows.
“It will be an event space,” he said, “so we may still have some art shows there for a weekend, like a little auction show, or maybe we’ll have something up for a week. We could also have bands perform there and have fundraisers for different charities.”
Milk & Honey will also use the storefront space to sell recordings, clothing and other merchandise created for its artists or for the label itself, Bult said.
Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.
Alex Bult Gallery
What: Through Saturday, the gallery is showing works by sculptor Sam Hernández in a show titled “Sculptures & Paintings.” Hernández uses tools such as African adzes, Japanese saws, Native American crook knives and high-powered sandblasters to shape his pieces, primarily out of wood. The final show for Alex Bult Gallery will be “Raw, Real & Re-imagined,” featuring works by painter Timothy Mulligan. It will run from Feb. 12 to March 7.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Where: 1114 21st St. in Sacramento
Contact: (916) 476-5540