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  • Writer's pictureTiffany Walker


I think it is safe to say that society is at a pivotal point of change, and no one really knows what the schematics are to look like. With the severe loss of illusion that has come with this new decade, escapism is on the rise in all forms. Whether it is traditional canvas art, music, video games, or the growing obsession with fantasy films, people are searching for a new type of hope and existence.

What is interesting is how in these times, when government has failed us, people instinctively turn to art for release, guidance, and most importantly, an outlet to create a new blueprint for social evolution and reform.

Gallerists James Bacchi and Annette Schutz of ArtHaus Gallery located in San Francisco, California are well aware of the magnitude of the role artists play in society, and have created a gallery like none other.

Voted SF GATE’s Best Art Gallery in the Bay Area in 2010, ArtHaus Gallery creates an intimacy in its unique layout that allows the collector to experience an artist’s work more vividly than in traditional museums. And the owners, Schutz and Bacchi, are on the forefront of a new era of art collecting and a social change that only art can forge.

James and Annette formed ArtHaus in 1996 after working together a few years for other high-end galleries in the San Francisco area. As Annette describes it, they realized they had a “magical business sense” together where they both cared about the collector and the artist, and it showed in the amount of art sold.

As they continued to synergistically work together over several years, playing to each of their strengths, cohesively fusing their similar beliefs and passion in the work they were doing, there came a point when they realized working for another gallery owner was limiting their vision for art. And from that mutual respect of each other and the artistic community, ArtHaus Gallery emerged as a salon style, by-appointment-only gallery out of James’ apartment.

Within a month they were listed as a destination gallery in a San Francisco review and they were off and running. In due course, Bacchi and Schutz moved ArtHaus to their current, larger location in the South Market (SoMa) district, considered the museum hub of San Francisco, where they have continued to work tirelessly; cultivating relationships, finding cutting edge artists, and solidifying their name in the art community.

James and Annette are well respected and have a growing following for good reason. It is not just the 30 years of being in the art world, but the spirit, passion, and integrity in which they do business.

Although you may find James and Annette almost telepathically linked, able to practically finish each other’s sentences, they have very distinct characters and experiences they bring to the table that enables their synergistic partnership.

For James, he originally was in PR in Cambridge, Massachusetts and says he entered the art world “through the back door,” by way of a client needing a connection to a curator in New York. Being that he was an art collector himself, he was able to give guidance and then some. That PR client was the keystone to James immersing himself in the NY art scene and ultimately transitioning out of PR and into becoming a gallery co-owner at the age of 29 with the opening of On The Wall Gallery in 1985, and subsequently Jagendorf-Bacchi Gallery.

Ten years later and living on a new coast, Bacchi finds himself with the same passion he had for art since day one, though the playing field has changed. Being that he came into the art scene in the ‘80s, literally the height of an era of art that still has yet to be matched, he has seen it all. He remembers how in the ‘80s in New York, art was entwined with the club scene, making it ubiquitous and accessible. He continues saying how art collecting used to be a rite of passage, indicating one was established and successful. Now, in this age, collecting art has become not as valued as gadgets and technology. But, James can’t deny there is still a need for art and keeps on. He is a straight shooter about the art he likes--and doesn’t. And his 30 years of art experience has afforded him wisdom, as well as a calm and collected demeanor that will put you at ease.

Annette Schutz, brings a traditional art background to the partnership, and is the Yin to James Bacchi’s Yang. She has a Bachelor in Fine Arts with a focus in the intricate art of printmaking, and found she had a natural panache for connecting artists and collectors early on.

She had the idea in college to create an art exchange with nearby colleges, and created a way for artists to expand their audience, as well as, giving the community a chance to connect with new art. Schutz continued these efforts after college becoming an art consultant, which then led her into the work she does with James. With her 25 years of experience, she too has a calm demeanor like James. “We come from the same place—a similar philosophy about life and how we see the world….and we laugh a lot.” They have been working together so long that they intuitively know each other, and have basically created their own language between them.

An intriguing thing about their connection is how they know they have a great artist on their hands. Annette says there is this “visceral” quality to the experience of seeing great art. She becomes more detailed, saying how there must be a “technical brilliance, where the artist has pushed their medium to the limits.” James, in his collected voice says, “I don’t know. I just can see it--I just look at something and immediately just find the value in it. I can immediately sense the artist who has a total commitment to what they are doing as opposed to someone that is just dabbling, or trying to make a stab at something. There is some sort of purity [in the art.]” Bacchi continues to say: “The most difficult thing an artist can develop is a style and voice that becomes so uniquely theirs that when you look at [the artist’s] work it doesn’t remind you of another artist…You see that so rarely.”

Together, Schutz and Bacchi have made Arthaus Gallery a safe house for brilliant artists to cultivate their art, and a place for the average person to find their inner collector. As Annette will tell you, “[we have a] dedicated passion to support the process of extraordinary talent.” They take pride in knowing they have close, long-term working relationships with their artists, which include the ones that opened ArtHaus 15 years ago and were with James from his gallery days in New York.

But they don't take for granted all that they've learned throughout the years, and how they instinctively know the experience a consumer must have in viewing works of art that best ensures a true depth of connection to the art and artist that effectively leads to a life-long art buyer emerging from a crowd of "window shoppers."

So, although they do have many established, long-term relationships with artists, they still only show so many at a time, with some guest artists included. “It’s not about the volume,” Schutz comments, “it is about caring.” They want to keep their gallery in a boutique format because they realize there is no way a perspective buyer can connect with the art if there are 50 artists displayed at one time. Bacchi continues, “Art is totally personal and all about the connection.”

With that in mind, and with the inherent design of the building ArtHaus resides, James and Annette cleverly create masterful quarterly art shows where they partner artists that accent each other and allow a person to experience art on multiple levels, practically living in the art. James feels that one should be “blown away by the art.” He truly wants collectors to have the feeling he had when first seeing a given piece of work. “Then it is not about ‘selling it,’ it is more about sharing your experience with other collectors.”

I think James’ statement truly defines what make he and Annette different from other gallerists. They want the collector to connect with the art that is meant for them, whatever that may be. And both James and Annette are hands-on with the collector from the initial discussion of what the collector’s style is, to where they want the piece to go in their home, to the actual installation.

Bacchi and Schutz know they have a gift for listening, and with their combined intuition they are able to truly cater to the collector out of the 700 works of art they have accumulated from their various artists over the years. It is almost as if they are like police composite sketch-artists the way they piece together what a client is envisioning for their home. Sometimes the art hasn’t even been created yet, but once an artist comes in with a new work and it is a fit, Bacchi and Schutz let the collector know they have what they’re looking for.

James Bacchi and Annette Schutz of ArtHaus Gallery are a different breed of gallerists who actually believe in the power of art. They formed a gallery that enables them to share contemporary art on a different level, allowing a more one-on-one connection, and making art more accessible for everyone. And in this age, when we are searching for what this decade is to look like, they are housing the artists that are the voice of unspoken unrest, and the artists that are able to visually bridge the gap of social change. Watch out, art is back.

Originally published in DStripped MagazineOriginally published in DStripped Magazine

DStripped Magazine: ArtHaus Gallery, San Francisco

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