With a freshly renovated 4,500-square-foot space, a new website, and exciting additions to the gallery roster, 2015 is off to a banner start for Josh Otten and Josh Paquette, owners of J. Willott Gallery on El Paseo in Palm Desert.
The pair grew up together in western Maine but took divergent paths as young adults. Paquette pursued photography and fine art studies, while Otten engaged in professional sports and travel. The Two Joshes, as they are affectionately known, crossed paths again in Palm Desert, as one Josh had already fallen under the city’s spell and the other would soon follow.
Now, 2015 marks nine years of J. Willott Gallery’s El Paseo space seeing consistent success and weathering a challenging time in the art market with passion and flair — and not just surviving but actually flourishing.
Otten and Paquette credit this success to a winning, heartfelt formula of integrity, community activism, and personal, detailed involvement at all levels of the business.
“We have always done everything ourselves,” says Paquette. “From first building then twice remodeling the gallery, to marketing, to crating and shipping, to exhibition and off-site installations, artist studio visits, website design, and mopping the floors — you name it.”
And there’s a lot more of that floor to mop these days, as the gallery has just finished an epic remodel and expansion, the better to house its equally expanding stable of artists.
This month, the gallery debuts a brand-new style of work by one of their most recognized artists, Knoxville-based glass sculptor Richard Jolley. Renowned for his figurative and portrait-based work, Jolley’s new subject is the patterned richness of the micro- and macro-universes of particles and the cosmos.
“The gallery’s aesthetic is quite eclectic in terms of the mediums and styles in rotation,” Paquette says. “There’s a certain emphasis on abstraction, but also some compelling narrative and figurative work, as well as an embrace of sculpture and innovative mixed media. We would describe our taste as clean, sophisticated, and very welcoming. We believe in representing artists of superior technical ability. We look for artists who have developed proprietary or unique techniques.”
One such artist is Julie Speidel, who executes impressive work in steel, glass, and enamel. “And we follow closely what museums are collecting and highly value artists who belong to multiple museum collections,” he says.
They’ve recently added Erich Woll’s witty and illusionistic mixed media glass sculptures, Erik Gonzales’ expressive, complex, and lyrically wistful mixed media paintings, and Garo Antreasian’s intelligent, high-modern geometrical abstractions to a growing roster of contemporary artists.
The gallery has just finished a remodel and expansion..
Otten and Paquette find and choose the artists and the work they show as a team — unsurprising, given the closeness of their business collaboration and personal friendship.
“We collaborate on all art selection,” Paquette says. “While at least one of us is always personally affected by the artist, our main concern is our clients. After 18 years of combined experience selling art locally, we have learned a lot about our collectors and their evolving tastes.
One way they’ve gotten to know their collectors and audiences is through a steady commitment to building relationships through dedicated civic and cultural involvement.
“Our most proud involvement in the community comes through our relationship with the Living Desert,” he says. “We host an annual event called Art for Animals for our collectors and their friends. For the event, the Living Desert brings animals into the gallery, we have fine food and wine and an auction, and we donate 100 percent of profits. February will be our fourth year. And of course, we are looking forward to participating in the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair in February as well."