Good help–found it!

Good help–found it!

Here is a hearty, albeit overdue, welcome to Alla Prima’s new Project Assistant, Jamie Holmberg.

A South Dakotan and an art lover through and through, Jamie was raised in Mitchell, South Dakota where she spent many childhood days at the Dakota Discovery Museum where her mother worked. There she was surrounded by the artwork of South Dakota greats such as Charles Hargens, Harvey Dunn and Oscar Howe. This ingrained a lifelong love for museum environments and art history within her.

Jamie earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of South Dakota in 2012 with an emphasis in darkroom photography. While earning her degree, she worked with the photographic archives collection at the University of South Dakota Libraries and, during summers, at the Dakota Discovery museum. 

She topped off her University days by diving into the world of private art galleries and commercial framing for a number of years.

She loves to see the world through travel and the lens of her camera. Among her most memorable overseas adventures was an encounter with her favorite painting at the Louvre, The Raft of the Medusaby Theodore Gericault. This iconic work of Romanticism took her breath away.

When she isn’t busy as Alla Prima’s Project Assistant, serving clients at an area Scandinavian interiors store, or pursuing photography and travel, she finds her Zen with yoga and her cat, Basil.

So glad to have her on board!

Tribute to an Old Fart

Tribute to an Old Fart



Photo: Back cover of Carl Grupp’s ‘Figments, Fragments, and Pigments, Oh My.’ Published in conjunction with Scurfpea Publishing in 2014. 

A prominent southeast South Dakota artist passed away recently. The ripples of his artistic and personal influence as a teacher go farther than anyone could measure. Although we hadn’t talked to one another for some time, I considered him a friend and mentor.

A friend because he always took my phone calls, welcomed me into his home time after time, allowed me to take him on an afternoon road trip once (regaling me with stories of past antics with colleagues and his spontaneous, bellowing laughter propelling us through the McDonald’s drive through), and entrusted me to ransack his entire home in search of a missing cat once (which I never did find). Also, because he simply and quite genuinely told me he considered me a friend. I was not special—Carl Grupp had many, many friends.

He was also a professional mentor as I began my career as an appraiser who wanted to learn as much about printmaking as I could. He let me tap into his institutional and regional memory so I could understand the late 20th century art history of southeast South Dakota. As a small businessperson, I was honored he allowed me to offer his work for sale under an earlier iteration of my small business, Midwest Fine Art Exchange. In my time as a museum director, he gave me a “trust me” card by welcoming my staff into his home to curate an exhibition examining him as a collector.

Since hearing about Carl’s death, this post, a small tribute to him, has been rolling around in my head and I needed to get it out.

I am sad that Carl, the genuine, raw, humble and absolutely-no-airs-about-him man, is gone.

Whether you knew Carl personally or not, you might be interested to read a few things about this larger-than-life soul:

  • In an under-the-radar announcement in 2018, he donated much of his remaining artwork to the permanent collection at Eide Dalrymple Gallery (known as the Carl Grupp Collection in his honor), solidifying Augustana University as the nucleus of his legacy.
  • In the 1970s, Carl was approached by Associated American Artists, a gallery headquartered in NYC, and was asked to participate in its decades-long mission to make fine art more accessible to the middle class. He created at least one lithographic edition in partnership with AAA, a unique honor he shared with the likes of Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood.  

  • He worked with a local publisher to publish a book called “Figments, Fragments and Pigments, Oh My.” It is a collection of his personal and professional memories that takes you on a raucous ride from his first visit to a strip club in 1956 to a raw and deeply personal explanation of his seminal work, Diogenes’ Dream.
  • Grupp is one of few “listed” artists from South Dakota. In an appraiser’s world, this means his art has a documented resale market and pops up in international auction databases as having sold at some level. It means that there is a nuanced market for his work and it has begun taking on a life of its own, beyond his sales to immediate collectors.

  • He established one of the best undergraduate printmaking programs you’ll find. Along with it, he grew a permanent collection with his students’ interests at heart. Truly a consummate teacher and mentor, he brought great works of fine printmaking to his small South Dakota campus to enrich his students’ experience. His collection continues to grow to this day.
  • Motivated by respect for Carl and the art department Carl grew for decades, one of his former students purchased the old Augustana art building and had it moved to the outskirts of Sioux Falls. For a time (and perhaps yet today), the building was used as a private residence which allowed this former student to live within the halls hallowed by Grupp and his mentors-turned-colleagues, Palmer Eide and Ogden Dalrymple.
  • His work is in the permanent collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Walker Art Center, the Chicago Art Institute, the American Embassy in London, and countless South Dakota collections—both private and institutional.
  • Carl was an animal lover–from his own beloved pets over the years to the flying, furry and finned animals that appear throughout his oeuvre. To know Carl is to know that the self-proclaimed “large fat man with a gruff voice” had an especially soft heart for non-humans.  

There is much more to Carl, of course. You can read my old “salesy” art dealer write-up about his career on askART, but, as with any artist, you’ll get to know him best by looking at his work. Better yet, talk to his friends and his students. That’s where he is.   

Here’s to the Old Fart.


Photo snapped from the catalog of his 2004 state-touring retrospective exhibition, “The Wonder of Life.” This photo of Carl appears on a page with reflections on his work by Jim Cambronne, a former student and established artist whom Carl often talked about when I visited him.
An Appraiser’s Tips for Artists

An Appraiser’s Tips for Artists

A follow up to Alla Prima’s Rules for Buying Original Art . . . An Appraiser’s Tips for Artists.

1. Be consistent in your published pricing whether you sell through a gallery, at an art fair or through your website. Your credibility will suffer if you don’t.

See how a former South Dakota artist, Bryan Holland, now in St. Peter, MN, features work from his studio for sale alongside artwork available in a gallery on his website. This consistency and collaboration with his gallery is good business. (Picking on Bryan because I recently appraised some of his work.)

2. Don’t judge art buyers by their appearance. I have walked through seven-figure properties full of kitsch and the next day seen impressive, high value original art in trailer homes.

3. You’re known by the company that you keep. Be aware of your “comparables”—that is, artists with a similar style and subject matter at a similar level in their career who sell in a similar geographic market. Appraisers use a spectrum of data to value artwork—whether you like it or not, it will include your own work as well as that of comparable artists or artworks the appraiser deems relevant.

4. Be judicious about giving your artwork away. Sales data from fundraising auctions can’t be used to determine the Fair Market Value of your work. Plus, you can’t deduct the Fair Market Value of your artwork from your taxes when you donate—the IRS only allows you to deduct the cost of your materials.

James Whistler’s Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1 (1871) popularly referred to as “Whistler’s Mother” is considered by many to be the most significant American artwork that resides outside the US. It’s also a REALLY big painting–right about 5 feet on each side. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons.)

5. Title your artwork. If you don’t, someone else will and you might not like it. I have inventoried many an artwork as “Unknown: Pink Abstract” [you fill in the blank of the dominant color].  It doesn’t have to be fancy. Whistler’s most famous painting (now known popularly as “Whistler’s Mother”) is actually titled Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1.  Not an exciting title, but a tremendous painting.

6. Sign it. SOMEWHERE . . . on the actual work (the back is fine—just be sure it is on the artwork, not the stretcher bar or framing). Don’t open the door for someone else to take credit for your work. People take unsigned hand-created work and add signatures to it to make a buck. It’s not cool, but it happens.  (Ever hear of disbarred attorney and convicted felon Ken Walton? Yikes.)

7. Photograph and inventory your art before it goes to a new home. It doesn’t need to be professional photography—use your cell phone.  If you’re like Jackson Pollock, you’re lucky enough to have someone do this for you. His wife, Lee Krasner, was fastidious tracking and recording his work which is one reason he is the art historic behemoth he is today. Plus, this leaves a fantastic digital trail for your kids and grandkids when you stop creating.

An Appraiser’s Rules for Buying Original Art

An Appraiser’s Rules for Buying Original Art

When it comes to buying art for your home or business, here are some rules to get started: 

 1. Buy art you love.


I bought the piece above for a variety of reasons–it is visually interesting with its casual and spontaneous tone, the colors are fresh, light and lovely (they don’t translate well in the photo–especially with the glare, sorry), it was created by an artist who is a force in the local art nonprofit scene, and it came beautifully matted with a hand-built frame.

Maybe this means it makes you think. You like the colors. You respect the artist. It reminds you of someone or some place you love. Art is generally a very illiquid asset; unless you have a high level of comfort navigating the art market, don’t buy it for investment purposes. Buy it because it moves you somehow.


  1. Keep a paper trail. 

Start a file on your art–keep the artist’s or gallery’s business card and a receipt for your purchase in it. Add receipts for framing, brochures from gallery shows the artist is in, news articles about him/her, notes you have exchanged, etc. This paper trail helps establish the “provenance” or history of ownership of your art. This comes in handy if you opt to sell or donate it down the road.


  1. Make sure it is signed—or otherwise documented.

Although artists signing their artwork is a relatively modern phenomenon in art history (dating back to the Renaissance), it is now commonplace and often expected, as it helps with identification and serves as testimony to the original, hand-created nature of the art. If you have a choice between signed and unsigned work by an artist—go for the signed. The location of the signature (back, front, along the wrapped canvas, etc.) isn’t as important as its presence somewhere. If the artist deliberately chooses not to sign an artwork, respect his/her decision. Ask for a letter of authenticity instead.


  1. Take care of it.

Display it somewhere out of direct sunlight and unusual humidity or dryness (if it is in the sunlight, get it under UV protected glass). Unless you’re striving for museum standards, most art is comfortable with the same indoor climate as we are—68-75 degrees, humidity in the 40-55% range. Also, be sure it is accounted for in the personal property coverage of your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance. If something happens to it, you want to be able to replace it with another piece of original art—not a poster from Amazon.

When it is time to update values for insurance or you think your art is a candidate for donation to a museum, call for an appraisal.