Ten Prominent People | Sue Simpson Gallagher

Owner of Simpson Gallagher Gallery • Cody, WY

By Bonnie Gangelhoff

What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the art world during your career? The Internet. Now everyone has access to art and information for which, in the old days, you had to contact museums, galleries, and art professionals. There is also increased competition with museum shows and artists’ websites. The art world is now a much larger place.

How have collectors’ tastes changed over the years? Collectors’ tastes haven’t changed as much as they have become more discriminating.

What is the strangest story or funniest moment that’s happened in your gallery? It was 1994, the first year of the gallery. A man came to see if I could, through my father—who was a U.S. Senator at the time—get him a television appearance because he could lift himself off a desk with his fingertips.

What attracts you to western art? I am a Wyoming girl. I spent a lot of my childhood visiting the Buffalo Bill Historical Center where [Albert] Bierstadts, [Thomas] Morans, and [Alfred Jacob] Millers captured my imagination and reflected my deep love of the West. My family has collected and created art of the West for generations. My parents are self-educated art historians. Western art speaks to me of my personal history and the place I love best.

How have you contributed to the understanding of western art? I believe that landscape is the most western of western art because, before there were animals and people, there was the land. I started a plein-air painting gallery before it was back in vogue. I also think that we have helped push the definition of western art by encompassing different styles and subjects by artists who are not necessarily western in the traditional sense. I am most proud to have played a part in the success of so many of the artists we represent and to have found good homes for their art.

What do you look for in the artists you represent? Daringness rooted in fundamentals. The gallery has always represented real students of art, artists who are not content to produce a commodity but are sharing pieces of their souls. We also represent people whom we admire and trust and who are true friends. The artist-gallery relationship is complex. Artists consign their work to us with the hope that we can sell it and that we will pay them and pay them on time, always treating their work with respect. Then we hope that the artists will prioritize us and give us their best work. I have always believed that we and the artists are each other’s bosses; we work for each other.

What do you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years? I hope to be able to pare down to the essentials: to have more important shows, to work more with museums, to sell good work, to be able to continue doing what I love—raising my two beautiful children and having an active presence in the gallery.

Featured in May 2012.