As the saying goes, some of the best things come in small packages. In the case of Carmel’s Winfield Gallery, that idiom could be adapted to read: big things are hidden behind small storefronts. That’s hinted at by the whimsical ceramic sculptures by longtime Winfield artist Karen Shapiro displayed in the gallery’s tiny window. Who can resist going in to find out what’s up with that giant “Fukidol” pill?
After passing the Lepe Cellars wine tasting bar, the space opens into a high-ceilinged, light-filled gallery that showcases paintings, sculptures and ceramics from dozens of artists, hand-curated by gallery owner Chris Winfield.
“I follow my heart and what interests me,” the engaging art entrepreneur says. That heart has led him to feature “several hundred” artists over the 30 years he’s been in the business of selling creativity.
One is Carmel Valley painter David Ligare.
“I’ve shown in New York, San Francisco and London for 50 years and felt I didn’t really need to be represented in Carmel,” Ligare says. “But I met Chris and thought what he was doing was interesting. That was 12 years ago, and it’s worked out very well.”
Originally from St. Louis, Chris is the son of Rodney Winfield, a renowned stained-glass artist who created the famous “Space Window” that contains a piece of basalt moon rock for the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
“I grew up helping him in his studio in St. Louis, including working on the Space Window,” Winfield says. He studied painting at Washington University and still paints, showing the work in his gallery, along with that of his wife Andrea Johnson.
Upon Winfield’s arrived in Carmel in 1989, he notes, “I didn’t see the kinds of galleries here that were in Cape Cod or in other parts of the country I had traveled to.” Seeing an opening in the market, he founded the Viewpoint Gallery at the Crossroads Shopping Center.
“I had lots of ceramics, jewelry—hand crafts-oriented work.” He subsequently moved the gallery to Carmel-by-the-Sea, and eventually to its present location on the east side of Dolores between Ocean and 7th.
Winfield is a natural salesman, but in a warm and engaging way. And he works extremely hard at his chosen profession. “I’m here six days a week, and on the phone for seven,” he says. “This is a business you have to watch like a hawk.”
In addition to hard work, Winfield’s lively sense of humor and deep well of creativity have buoyed his business through times good and bad.
“I didn’t have a business background, so I made stuff up,” he says. “Anyone can sell art, but being a successful dealer means networking, partnerships and forming solid, bonding relationships with artists and clients.”
As an artist himself, he feels a deep sense of loyalty to those kindred spirits he represents. “You have to promote your artists’ careers,” he says.
The genres of art have evolved over the
30-plus years Winfield has been in business. Over the years, sculpture, ceramics, paintings, watercolors, glass art and photography have all been featured. However, he says, “Right now, I’m leaning more and more toward sculpture and paintings.”
Recently, Winfield was able to procure a large-scale bronze by Francisco Zuniga. Hearing him relate the story of how the huge—and heavy—piece was maneuvered through that narrow frontage into its place of honor is alone worth a trip to the gallery. But there are plenty of other reasons. The well-managed space contains dozens and dozens of works that captivate the eye at every turn.
In response to our new pandemic reality, Winfield has responded by becoming more proactive in his use of technology.
“He’s been really smart in the way that he approaches the gallery and in how he uses the internet,” says Ligare. “He has a wonderful mental Rolodex of clients and he knows what each is interested in and might be on the lookout for. He’s really on it all the time. He’s an exceptionally good and professional art salesman.”
Most importantly, the key to Chris Winfield’s success in his 30 years as a gallery owner lies in his personality and his playful sense of humor.
“Humor has been a big part of what we do here,” he says. “There’s always a playful quality along with the serious stuff.”
It’s also his passion and love of people that drives the business. “I truly enjoy interacting with artists and clients,” he says.
More information and a list of currently represented artists is at winfieldgallery.com.