40 Prominent People | Stuart Johnson

Stuart Johnson
Owner of Settlers West Galleries • Tucson, AZ

Stuart Johnson

Distinction: Johnson not only represents top artists and hosts major annual shows but is also a partner in the highly successful Coeur d’Alene Art Auction.
When did your gallery open? In 1971.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the art world during your career? Western art has shifted from being primarily a regional interest to enjoying an expanded worldwide market.
What trends do you see in your market? The museum shows have gained a great deal of popularity among both artists and collectors. To remain successful, a gallery needs to present innovative shows and offer services and counsel that museums are not able to provide.
What prompted you to start the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction? The auction began with the assumption that we could build a better mousetrap! Auctions have been going on for a long, long time but we felt that with our contacts and expertise we could bring to the marketplace the very best in the genre we represent.
How have collectors’ tastes changed over the years? Without question, collectors have become more discerning and knowledgeable.
How has Southwest Art magazine contributed to the careers of your artists? Most major artists have had their initial public introduction in the pages of Southwest Art. Over the years there have always been follow-up articles as careers flourished. The statement “Have you seen the recent article in Southwest Art about….” has been heard in galleries for 40 years.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? Settlers West has been a successful part of many artists’ career growth as well as the industry as a whole. Much of the credit for this growth goes to my staff, which seldom complains, always achieves, and continues to laugh at my corny jokes. More personally, my wife Melody runs our print division, entertains collectors, and is a great listener and advisor about all that happens at Settlers West. Without her and our daughter, Kristina, success would be empty.
What’s the strangest story or funniest moment that’s happened in your gallery? One day Bob Kuhn got stuck at the gallery because his old Ford Taurus overheated while climbing the road nearby. As he was walking in, my whippet Traveler ran out and, when Bob reached down to grab him, took a little nip out of Bob’s painting hand. Being a good sport, Bob’s only comment was something to do with “biting the hand that feeds you!”

Featured in “40 Prominent People” in May 2011.