April 18, 2019

While shopping along West Palm Beach’s Antique Row, it would be hard for a passersby not to notice the eye-catching sculptures and paintings in JF Gallery’s window. From afar, these abstract and brightly colored pieces fill every void. Upon closer inspection, details start to emerge, from their masterful uses of color, to their paint strokes large and small, to the organic spread and drip of spray paint throughout them.

Since 2003, founder Jamnea Finlayson has represented emerging and established contemporary artists to curate an aesthetically motivated collection of artwork. Over time, it has become a go-to for those wishing to fill their homes with graphic abstract expressionism, graffiti art and striking sculptures. And with JF Gallery’s growing online presence, the pieces are now more accessible than ever.

We caught up with Jamnea to find out more about what makes an artist or piece stand out to her, how she’s discovered inspiring artwork in the past, and what impact contemporary art has had on her life, as both a gallerist and an individual.

Jamnea Finlayson

How would you describe the style of art sold at JF Gallery?

My focus is on contemporary art. The work in the gallery is mostly abstract, but it ranges from minimalist line work, to very loose street art inspired expressionist pieces. Early on, I decided that I wasn’t going to represent artists based on market trends; but rather show art of artists whom I respect and love, and whose art I would hang in my own home. That has been my philosophy since I started 16 years ago.

What is your strategy for selecting artists and curating pieces for the gallery?

I stick to artists who work in the styles I’m passionate about. I have been fortunate enough to find a combination of artists whose work are all very different, but still show well together, and maintain a cohesive style in the gallery. The artists are however different enough, that one or two of them will always appeal to a collector coming into the gallery.

“PDP598CT13” by Cecil Touchon. Courtesy of JF Gallery

Can you give some examples of traits in artists’ work that has stood out to you in the past?

One of my artists, Christina Major, works in abstracted portraiture, where she incorporates writing into her paintings. Another artist, Cecil Touchon works with typographical abstraction, where he makes collages of deconstructed text that he then creates paintings of using trompe l’oeil techniques. Wesley Kimler uses layers of paper, charcoal and fluorescent theatre paint to create pieces resembling kites.

Tell us about a major highlight in your career as a gallerist

Back in the day in 1997, I was traveling to New York City to see a Morrissey concert, when I picked up a book on abstract expressionism from a sidewalk vendor. A few pages in, I saw two of the most beautiful paintings I had ever seen. They were by Wesley Kimler. Fast-forward 22 years, I now represent him in the gallery. I still to this day have those two images torn out from that book pinned to my office cork board.

Photo courtesy of Jamnea Finlayson

If you could have any famous painting of your choice in your gallery’s window to represent your aesthetic, which would you choose, and why?

It would have to be a piece by Joan Mitchell or Helen Frankenthaler— two of my favorite female artists. Their work was big, bold and impressive. I happen to love visible brushstrokes and strong coloration in paintings.

“Unfolding Path” by Mirtha Moreno. photo courtesy of JF Gallery.

Describe the art you keep around your home. What made you have to have those pieces?

As a gallerist, I am drawn to abstract contemporary art; But as a collector, I concentrate on street art. I own pieces by Seen, Nils, and Pichi & Avo to name a few. Street art has a completely different connotation from when I was growing up. I thought it was beautiful then, but now to see it in gallery settings with high price tags, I feel it’s finally gotten the merit it deserves. Graffiti artists of today do quality work with more professional materials, and in a wider range of mediums than in the earlier days of the craft.

Your gallery site quotes Pablo Picasso: “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” Can you describe a time when the art in your home or your gallery picked you up during a negative or uninspiring time?

When my mom passed away, I remember throwing myself into my work as a coping mechanism. I did studio visits quite often, and found solace in spending time at artist studios. One was a wonderful studio in north Miami of my Dominican artist, Maximo Caminero. It’s a very visually stimulating space, full of hundreds of pieces dating back 30 years. The work on the walls of the studio always looked full of mystery and excitement. The walls felt full of poetry and personal thoughts.

“Leviathan” by Maximo Caminero. Photo courtesy of JF Gallery

What do you love about DECASO, as a platform for JF Gallery’s pieces?

A large percentage of my business is with interior designers, so I think DECASO is a good fit. Especially since the site is a go-to for designers of all levels. The site is elegant, well curated, and allows for direct contact with us dealers. Our pieces are quite ideal for an e-commerce presence.

What advice would you give to someone who’s on the hunt for a painting that will spice up a room in their home?

I think you have to determine which type of art buyer you are: The one looking to match a piece to their sofa, the one looking for art by a trending artist, or the one looking for that piece that they couldn’t take their eyes off because it brought them joy.

Once you know what you want, and are ok with those desires, the more confident you’ll be in your needs and the better you express them to a gallerist. It helps you avoid miscommunication and unsuccessful shopping engagements. I know that if a buyer is honest with me, I can better help them, and save us both time and effort.