Managing Partner of Trailside Galleries • Scottsdale, AZ & Jackson, WY
Distinction: One of the first major art galleries in the West, Trailside has been a leader in western American art for nearly 50 years. This is Leshe’s 34th year with the gallery.
When did your gallery open? Trailside Galleries opened in 1963 in Jackson, WY. It has helped create enthusiasm for quality western art by representing many of the most important names in the field and introducing fresh talent to collectors.
What is the significance of the gallery’s name? Dick Flood founded Trailside Galleries. Before he opened it, he often exchanged letters with his good friend and artist Joe DeYoung discussing his plans. Joe loved the name of Charlie Russell’s studio, which was called Trails End. Joe and Dick tossed around several variations on that theme, finally choosing Trail Side.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the art world during your career? What has changed in recent years is the number of museums entering the market, competing with galleries for the limited amount of top-quality artwork available. In addition, many galleries have had to deal with the loss of top-quality secondary artwork that is being sold through auctions.
What trends do you see in your market? We are seeing more active collection of wildlife art and sporting art.
How have collectors’ tastes changed over the years? Many younger collectors are interested in more contemporary styles of western art, not necessarily the photorealism or traditional cowboy and Indian paintings.
What prompted you to start the Jackson Hole Art Auction? Two great galleries, each bringing a different strength: work by Taos founders and important deceased artists from Gerald Peters Gallery and top contemporary art and major clients from Trailside. It was an opportunity to unite our tremendous knowledge and experience.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? Staying in business in tough times would be my thought of the moment. But probably what brings me the most satisfaction is knowing how instrumental the gallery has been in developing many an artist’s career.
What’s the strangest story or funniest moment that’s happened in your gallery? Several years ago our Scottsdale gallery was broken into and three paintings were stolen. Two years later, early in the morning as the staff was arriving for work, one of the paintings (without its frame) was found rolled up sitting on the ground by the back door. Either the thief was remorseful or didn’t feel that the stolen painting complemented his collection of stolen art. We have always wondered why it was returned.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years? Finding a truly talented artist whose work is unique and exceptional in every way and who would be loyal to the gallery throughout his career. Seeing several of my young artists gain national recognition and have them thank the gallery for helping them get there—that would be very nice.
Featured in “40 Prominent People” in May 2011.