| PUBLISHER/ARTIST AGENT/GALLERY OWNER |
James Thorn, co-owner of Exclusive Collections Galleries with his wife Ruth-Ann of 23 plus years, often reflects on his circuitous route into the world of fine art. The oldest of ten, he quips, “My mother and father enjoyed each other’s company, hence, all the children were born within an 18 year time period. I was, in essence, the proverbial third parent. My parents are of hardworking solid blue collar stock from the Midwest. I was a B and C student. I worked from the age of ten. A paper route, cutting grass, bailing hay, landscaping, picking tomatoes and strawberries, anything I could do to earn a buck. Family, community, and patriotism were preached and demonstrated consistently.” He states that his formative years enhanced his career path as a 22 year Marine Corps Veteran. Joining the United States Marine Corps at the age of 17, his career path involved leadership roles in the Philippines, Okinawa, Japan, Southeast and Southwest Asia. A combat veteran, James accredits lessons learned in service to his country as his benchmark for conduct as a business leader. “In the Marine Corps, the most important leadership traits are that of setting the example by demonstrated integrity, fidelity, esprit, and to be technically and tactically proficient; these are character traits of the finest leaders.”
Stationed at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii in 1988, his young bride Ruth-Ann was presented with an opportunity to work in a prominent art gallery in Waikiki. James encouraged Ruth-Ann to pursue her new career path.
Within a three year period, Ruth-Ann became a successful art consultant. Both James and Ruth-Ann fell in love with the art business. In 1988, James went to the prestigious New York Art Expo with Ruth-Ann and her company on military leave. He found himself taking charge of “the civilians” at the Expo in setting up the many booths for the show. When the Expo opened, he simply “hung around and started selling art work.” A new passion was formed. Ruth-Ann jokes, “James has seen too many black and white movies. He likes things in order. Now he works with artists!”
Growing up with little means, James embraced the art world as a way of entering into a world only dreamed of by many. He shares how the past 20 years in the art business has been more than an opportunity to meet and represent some of the most famous masters of our time. He has had the privilege to place these wonderful artists in the collections of heads of state, politicians, movie stars, sports icons, and wonderful art collectors around the world. James Thorn has been honored to form lasting relationships with many of his collectors.
How does one man accomplish 22 years in Marine Corps and a career of 20 plus years in the art business? These intersecting timelines can be best explained in this way: “After Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Ruth-Ann and I were stationed at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, just north of San Diego, CA. In 1992, I encouraged Ruth-Ann to open her own art gallery. For four years, we were the “Art Gallery without an Art Gallery.” We would load up our artwork in a rented U-haul or Ryder truck and conduct outside art shows with our portable walls and lighting system at trade shows, hotels, cultural events, art fairs, interior design expos, etc. I was a Marine Monday through Friday, and Friday night I became an “art dealer’ through Sunday evening. Come Monday morning, I assumed the role as a Marine again. At first, I really just wanted to support my lovely wife in her pursuits. Later, I became consumed with the art world.”
| ||“We took our entire life savings and opened our first gallery in 1995. We had just enough in our savings for one month’s rent if we fell flat on our face. It was a huge step of faith. We felt, ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. ‘Make no small plans’, one of my favorite quotes.” |
“We have always endeavored to take the high road and to conduct ourselves with integrity. Although at times I have been labeled as an idealist, I believe that there is always a right way and a wrong way to do things and conduct oneself. I spent 22 years of my life learning how to destroy things more effectively and efficiently. Now I embrace the support of the creative realm.”
James is known and respected internationally as an “art dealer trainer”. He has written many articles of inspiration and training for Art World News and Art Business News, two of the major periodicals for the fine art world over the years. He feels that his Marine Corps leadership training has greatly assisted him in his efforts along with Ruth-Ann to create a vertically integrated organization respected internationally.
James has the roles of CFO, CEO and COO for Exclusive Collections Art Galleries’ four locations and their corporate office in San Diego. He also can be found in the galleries interacting with collectors, hanging the galleries for artist shows and events, as well as coordinating the myriad of support elements associated with four high profile galleries representing living and emerging masters.
James feels that his greatest contribution to their organization and its growth has been simply his support of Ruth-Ann’s creative genius. “I have had the privilege to work with some of the most talented and committed people the country has to offer as a Marine. Ruth-Ann has been my soul mate and my best friend for over two decades. One thing I know, Ruth-Ann is visionary. I am best in my support role to her. She points the direction; I keep the troops in line. Units, organizations, corporations, and businesses work best when folks are doing what they are best at. My job is to keep everyone focused on the goal. That goal is, “To be the Finest of Fine Art Galleries.”
James states, “Our hard work has been blessed and we enjoy an impeccable reputation in the art world. As a former “knuckle draggin’ Marine”, I am, to a fault, relentless in my pursuit of excellence for our galleries and the level of service I expect of each and every member of our organization. My feeling is quite simply this: our collectors deserve the best, so we are going to give them our best!”
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