The Seattle art scene has changed dramatically over the past 18 years, but one thing has remained constant since the late 1990s: the presence of Winston Wächter Fine Art, located a block away from the Space Needle. Stacey Winston-Levitan—who holds down the West Coast garrison while her partner, Christine Wächter-Campbell, manages the gallery’s Chelsea space—has seen it all change before her eyes.
“Seattle has always been a very innovative city,” says the art dealer who moved there from New York in 1997. “But in the last five years, Amazon has taken over the city. It’s been interesting to see the growth and the development. It’s Boeing and Starbucks, Costco—Alibaba is opening their largest American office here. So it’s gone from being a homogenous city to a city where a lot of people from all over the world are coming—to engineer and write code and work in the technology sector.”
Winston-Levitan came up in New York during the early days of the art market, first as a receptionist for Mary Boone during the Basquiat period. “I remember his paintings were $8,500, which was literally half my salary at the time,” she recalls. Then, Winston-Levitan became a consultant whose Eye on Art newsletter earned a formidable following with burgeoning Wall Street collectors. She laughs at the irony that she’s now catering to tech clients. “I remember trading a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph for an Apple computer with one of my clients. He still laughs about it to this day.”
Back then, Winston-Levitan’s task was to help Wall Street types wrap their heads around art, and she sees some of the same challenges in educating tech industry people who have the capital to become collectors. “It just takes a lot of cultivation,” she says. “Perhaps the tech industry people are the Wall Street people of the 21st century,” she ponders. There’s a lot of opportunity, but it’s not immediate. A lot of people who have shown interest, but it’s not quick. It takes a lot of education. We do lunches and cocktails and outreach to the community.”
Winston-Levitan credits Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen and his company Vulcan Inc. for kickstarting that interest when they inaugurated the Seattle Art Fair last year. At the fair, she sold out of tech-friendly pieces by New York-based artist Dustin Yellin. “It’s wonderful for the city and the community,” she says. “We had 19,000 people that came through. A lot of collectors have opened up their home, and they’ve planned a really wonderful program in the city.”
It looks to be a busy summer for Winston Wächter Fine Art. In addition to the gallery’s marquee summer show, “Water”—featuring photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto, Richard Misrach and Harry Callahan—during this year’s fair, the gallery will present work by London-based sculptor Annie Morris, hyperrealist painter Zaria Forman and post-minimalist artist Miya Ando.