CGN Interview Series: Thomas Masters, Thomas Masters Gallery

Each week CGN interviews a local art dealer to discuss the ins and outs of running a gallery in the city of Chicago. This week we caught up with Thomas Masters, owner of Thomas Masters Gallery.


Age: 63

Current Position: Artist/Owner of Thomas Masters Gallery

Hometown: Chicago

Previous Occupations: Musician & Vocalist


5 favorites from the past week

Restaurant: Alinea

Shop: Eataly

Read: Fire and Fury

Neighborhood: Uptown, West Loop and Fort Greene

Music: Soundtrack from the Series "Sense8"


CGN: Tell us about your background and how Thomas Masters Gallery came to be? 

I was living in New York and, like so many Artists, struggling to make things work. I read an interview with David Byrne in Rolling Stone Magazine where Byrne was asked about the Taking Heads central message; "take control of your life, your art…."   It really struck me that I needed to do exactly that.  So, after moving back to Chicago, I began to organize my life as an Artist and began the first steps towards opening TMG.  It was 1993 when I opened.


CGN: Give us a day in the life!

I usually wake at six and read in Italian for an hour. At 9:00 AM, it's a 40 minute walk to the gallery and my studio.  I usually paint and/or make music for about two hours and then open the gallery. Clients, collectors, designers and artists fill the rest of my day.


CGN: Most exciting sale you ever had?  

Well, there have been quite a few great ones over the years. Most recently I was able sell, with the help of William Lieberman, a Deborah Butterfield horse.

The whole process was really exciting; going to her studio and ranch in Montana, meeting a wonderful, world class Artist and a woman of amazing talent.  Before that it was selling the sculpture of Magdalena Abakanowicz.

Once again, world class artist and an amazing woman.


CGN: Share some successes as well as challenges this year. 

Each year is different.  Last year we were challenged by a major re-construction of our building and the two buildings on either side of us.  When the year ended, I realized we had one of our best years ever.  Somehow the madness of it all focused us.  Lemons and lemonade.


CGN: What do you want to tell a young person considering this business?

Go for it.  Be smart.  Follow your instinct. Listen to others in the business, but not too much.


CGN: What do you look for in an artwork? What speaks to you?

Something that moves me and at the same time I can imagine our collectors being moved too.


CGN: Favorite cultural pursuit outside of the art world? 

I will answer this with the words of Ai Wei Wei;  "Everything is Art, everything is political."


CGN: What should we expect to see from Thomas Masters Gallery in 2018? 

We have some great shows and some really fantastic mixed-media performances coming to the gallery.  For the past few years we have expanded our gallery to include international consulting.  This year we will be building relationships in Italy, France, Poland, Great Britan, Brazil, and Portugal.


Thomas Masters is the owner of Thomas Masters Gallery in the Near North Side of Chicago. For more information about the gallery please visit: Thomas Masters Gallery