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Meet Jack Rutberg – By VoyageLA

Mar 3, 2024

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jack Rutberg. 

Jack, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
My evolution as an art dealer took an illogical course. Having no background or formal education in the arts, my interest evolved by frequent visits to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in my late teens. It was a place to spend time alone and engage in impressive works of art, and then there were those works that completely confounded me, for which I had no interest but I kept going back to see. Perhaps I was hoping that they would somehow reveal more with each visit. I can’t really say they did, but familiarity had its benefits. Looking back, that experience was a sort of seed planting and a life lesson. In terms of art and aesthetics, initial impressions can betray us, and I often say that you “get” wallpaper with a snap of the fingers but most great art can reveals itself over time.

In my early twenties, I found myself in a store that was having an art auction. I was there to buy an advertised garbage can for $1.50 for my first apartment. I don’t recall if I actually bought the garbage can, but I sat down watching the auction and went home with nine etchings, lithographs and woodcuts, spending the huge sum of $350. Now, what the heck IS an etching, a lithograph or a woodcut? So I got a book on the history of prints. It opened a new exotic world that brought together what I might have thought were disparate realms – ancient and modern histories, philosophy, literature, music and artists.

Over a very short period of time, my interest in art and my good fortune of meeting an inspiring art dealer blossomed into a hobby that got out of control. I was cajoled into tiptoeing into the arts by assisting this art dealer, and six months later gave my first lecture in a museum. The rest is history as Jack Rutberg Fine Arts in L.A., and now in Pasadena, celebrates its 43rd year. In that time, we have been a source for beginning and established collectors, museums, scholars, etc. The joy of sharing has never ceased and continues to drive my thrill in making people aware that significant museum-quality works can be acquired at virtually every level…from a few hundred to millions of dollars. That surprises most people.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Nothing in the arts can be a smooth road. Artists struggle to establish unique visions and as an art dealer, I’ve often been committed to artists’ whose integrity and vision transcends easy commercial marketing. The dividends in doing so are formidable, as passion and joy are so much a part of the engagement. At least, they should be.

Fashion and money complicate the equation, as that drives the media. The art world too often thrives on that. The primary coverage in the media is about multi-million dollar art sales, which only represents the “point of the pyramid”. There’s a much bigger structure to consider other than the “point”, and too many people are unaware of the treasures there to be acquired. The

upshot is that a large, interested but unknowing audience is denied the opportunity to desire and own works of art that can enrich and charge our home environments. Without the development of a new generation of art collectors, who will be the cultural patrons of the future?

Specific struggles may be too numerous to mention, but so many fulfilling endeavors and accomplishments make them nearly irrelevant. Passion and belief in purpose trump it all.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
As a dealer of fine art, Jack Rutberg Fine Arts has presented museum-quality exhibitions of modern and contemporary art that span the 20th & 21st centuries.

The broad range of museum-collected artists presented by my gallery stands apart in the rich cultural fabric of Los Angeles. Among the longest-established galleries in the west coast, and now located in Pasadena, California, the gallery has expanded the l.A. gallery scene, continuing to offer paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings.

A frequent lender to museums and a source for scholars, beginning or established collectors, the gallery is particularly unique in the personal manner in which we have operated for decades. The gallery has always functioned in a personal manner. To underscore “personal”, the gallery has never had a sales staff, and I have had a direct engagement with every work of art acquired from the gallery.

A frequently-invited guest speaker at museums and colleges, I’ve often been a guest on local and national radio and television programs and profiled in numerous publications.

While I have received a number of citations for my contribution to the arts, I take particular pleasure in having just received the first-lifetime achievement award from the newly formed American chapter of the International Association of Art, whose original charter was established by UNESCO. What makes this particularly notable is that the award was from artists – none affiliated with my gallery. Apparently, my joy of sharing took root.

What was your favorite childhood memory?
I had a loving childhood and nearly all that I recall are my favorite memories. We had little, and thought we had it all.

As a small boy in Brussels, Belgium, I recall riding on my father’s bicycle, sitting on one side of the handlebars while my brother sat on the other side.