40 Prominent People | Jack A. Morris Jr.

Jack A. Morris Jr.
Owner of Morris & Whiteside Galleries • Hilton Head Island, SC

Jack Morris

Distinction: For more than 30 years, Morris has been a prominent dealer in the world of western art.
When did the gallery open? I opened Morris Fine Arts in 1980 in Scottsdale, AZ. In 1983 I joined a partnership with [former Texas governor] John B. Connally and Tony Altermann with galleries in Houston and Dallas. Altermann and I expanded into Santa Fe in 1994, and also in 1994 I opened Morris & Whiteside Galleries in Hilton Head Island, SC.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the art world during your career? The gallery world seems to be more competitive. Once only dealers attended auctions to purchase inventory. Today collectors and dealers compete at auction on the same playing field.
What trends do you see in your market? There is a trend in the contemporary western art market toward commercial museum sales. Major, non-profit museums are producing for-profit sales in direct competition with private galleries.
How have collectors’ tastes changed over the years? Collectors seem to be much more discriminating today than in the early 1980s. Two or three recessions over the past thirty years have taught collectors how to seek value in their selections.
How were you involved in Southwest Art magazine in its early days? My involvement with Southwest Art was as an equity partner in its ownership between 1983 and 1988. I joined Randy Best, Connally, and a group of other investors in Somerset House Corporation, which purchased Southwest Art in 1983.
How has Southwest Art magazine contributed to the careers of your artists? Over the entire span of Southwest Art, the magazine has produced excellent feature stories on artists we’ve been privileged to represent. During the 1980s, in particular, when we advertised in the magazine we would usually get an immediate response, phone calls from collectors.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? As a licensed auctioneer, I’ve been fortunate to produce fine art auctions in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and South Carolina. Most recently I have been the founding partner in the Scottsdale Art Auction and Charleston Art Auction. I believe that I have a good working relationship with artists, other dealers, and a broad cross-section of collectors from New York to California.
What’s the strangest story or funniest moment that’s happened in your gallery? There are so many. But I guess the most memorable was: I met my wife Luanna because she was working in a dress boutique next door to the gallery in Houston. Another event that comes to mind is associated with Southwest Art, not the gallery. In about 1985 or ’86, Playboy was doing Playmates of Houston. There was a girl working for Southwest Art who was photographed in the window of the office of Clay Hall, the magazine’s publisher at the time. She was in silhouette; she wasn’t nude. It’s interesting that Southwest Art made an issue of Playboy!
What do you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years? I have been blessed with a passion for my profession. I find excitement in looking forward to each new painting or bronze that arrives at the gallery and then finding a collector to give it a home. Over the next 10 years I plan to learn how to better utilize the maze of electronic communication opportunities available to us.

Featured in “40 Prominent People” in May 2011.