As a longtime fine art photography dealer, Janet Sirmon brings over 20 years of experience to Janet Sirmon Fine Art. Specializing in photography from the 19th and 20th century, Janet Sirmon Fine Art is particularly noted for its expertise regarding the Czech photographers of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, as well as the American Social Documentary work of luminaries that include Walker Evans, Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange, and Robert Frank. Although Janet Sirmon Fine Art is well known for these particular specialties, Ms. Sirmon has gone to great lengths to ensure the company she owns is more than capable of working with materials common to all eras of the medium, including everything from daguerreotypes and C-prints as well as everything in between.
Ms. Sirmon, a resident of Los Angeles, California, has earned a reputation for her unique ability in locating and securing the specific pieces sought by clients, and she has a lengthy track record of success in finding a particular photograph for museum curators and serious collectors alike. As a result, Janet Sirmon Fine Art has earned widespread acclaim and is considered a fixture in the fine art community. In order to demonstrate her gratitude and continued commitment to the world of fine art, Ms. Sirmon has endeavored to contribute to this passionate community in any way possible.
A graduate of the renowned Pratt Institute with an MFA in photography and sculpture, Ms. Sirmon also holds an undergraduate degree in economics, which she earned from James Madison University. In the more than 20 years since she completed her MFA at the Pratt Institute, Ms. Sirmon has worked diligently to curate an impressive inventory of fine art and has repeatedly raised Janet Sirmon Fine Art’s standing in the fine art community through her unwavering commitment and unyielding passion for photography and the arts.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
While I was in graduate school I started interning with a gallery in New York City. I worked my way up from intern to gallery manager, then gallery director. After about twelve years, starting my own business was natural thing to do in order to grow.
How do you make money?
We maintain a fairly unique inventory of photographs spanning the entire history of the medium, as well as locating specific photographs that our clients request. We also do collection appraisals for insurance and donation purposes.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
When I founded Janet Sirmon Fine Art, I was well aware of the challenges inherent in this particular industry and put measures in place to ensure the business would be profitable within 24 months. Fortunately, we were well ahead of our 2-year goal, achieving profitability in less than 20 months.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Although I am quite sure that there was some level of subconscious doubt, I trusted enough in my economic background to believe that the concept was sound in every possible way.
How did you get your first customer?
I had already been working in the field for over ten years before establishing Janet Sirmon Fine Art, so I had already built a network of clients. Serious collectors are in it for the long haul.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Many of our areas of focus have a relatively narrow market, so we believe our needs are best served through a set of highly refined targeted marketing strategies.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
There are always several pieces in our inventory that, for one reason or another, I find tough to let go.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I’ve never viewed this as a career or a profession; it is something I am genuinely passionate about. I simply cannot imagine devoting my time to any other pursuit.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Clients often turn to me in the hope of locating a rare or hard-to-find piece, and it is quite thrilling to find and then present the piece to a delighted client.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
There is a lot to look forward to, but I am most excited about exposing a new generation of fine art enthusiasts to some of the exquisite work that does not always find its way into the mainstream.
What business books have inspired you?
Both of Richard Polsky’s books — “I Bought Andy Warhol,” and “I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon)” — helped pique my interest in the business side of the art world.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
We recently acquired a sizable collection of photographs from a Czech artist whose work is rather difficult to find. We’ve already had quite a few inquiries despite the fact that the collection is not yet officially listed in our inventory, which is always good for business.
Do you have any strategies that help you shift from the practical mindset of a business owner to the creative mindset of an artist?
It is indeed difficult to balance my responsibilities, but I find that listening to music, running, or engaging in regular yoga practice is helpful whenever I need to shift my focus one way or the other.