Discerning art lovers inevitably find their way to Dawson Cole Fine Art on El Paseo. Located just a few steps west of Sage Lane, the gallery focuses on contemporary figurative artwork and represents a compelling roster of museum-quality artists.
Patrons will find a fascinating and sophisticated mix of artists, like Herb Williams, whose colorful and intricate sculptures, crafted entirely of crayons, are always worth viewing. Or Hunt Slonem, an abstract expressionist known for his endearing oil paintings of bunnies, birds, and butterflies. And of course, eloquent interpretations of the human form by sculptor Richard MacDonald also grace the gallery.
Dawson Cole Fine Art proprietors Rich and Ariane MacDonald have a special connection to the famed sculptor, as they are his son and daughter-in-law, respectively. However, as Rich describes, it was the couple’s shared passion for art that informed their career path. Here, he speaks about gallery life and why they chose to open one on El Paseo a decade ago.
What led you to open Dawson Cole Fine Art?
My wife and I met at UCLA, where we were both art history majors. We joined my dad’s company in the mid-90s and learned the business from the ground up. Later, we managed his gallery in Laguna Beach. In 2010, we purchased the Laguna Gallery from him, and that’s when we started expanding.
How did you grow the business?
We increased our online presence and, of course, began to bring on more artists. Today, we represent approximately 20 artists whose works we feature at our three locations: Laguna Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and as of 2013, our gallery on El Paseo in Palm Desert.
What are some of Dawson Cole Fine Arts’ guiding principles?
We think of ourselves as facilitators. Whether patrons in our galleries are looking at a Richard MacDonald sculpture, a Jian Wang still life, a landscape by California impressionist Jim Lamb, or any of the pieces by artists we represent, we try to have them understand who the artist is and why he or she created the piece they’re interested in. We never want anyone to feel pressured. We give them the time and space to make up their own minds.
How do you help patrons select pieces?
When people really feel connected to a piece both visually and emotionally, that connection deepens once they learn more about it. Once they get a better sense of where the artist is coming from, many times they decide to bring the piece into their home.
What makes you decide to represent an artist?
If a talented artist’s creations feed their soul similar to how my dad’s artwork feeds his, and it is their desire to make it available for people to acquire, we’re usually on the same page. We can help them with marketing and presentation, but it’s really important that they’re coming from the right place with their artwork because it makes the partnership more viable. It makes it richer, more fun, and ultimately, more successful.
What prompted you to open an El Paseo location?
When it’s slower during the winter months in Laguna or Carmel, it’s the season in the desert. Opening a gallery in Palm Desert completes the year for us. We can move inventory around and do different shows and go where our clients often are already.
Can you sum up Dawson Cole Fine Art’s philosophy?
It’s essential we believe in the artists we represent and the art they create. We love being able to sell works of art that we feel represent the highest quality available to collectors.