What is that orange building with the interesting yellow awnings over on Railfan Road in the Baca Street area of the Santa Fe Railyard? Since the spring of 2012, there have usually been one or two examples of outdoor sculpture in front of the building, visible to drivers on Cerrillos Road. But the signage is approaching invisibility, limited to three small placards on the three front doors, labeled “Level,” “Rising Sun,” and “Martial Arts Training Center.”
Henry Muchmore’s Level Fine Art Services and Rose and John Utton’s Rising Sun Fine Art Storage are companion businesses. Canace Monteil’s martial arts business, Forward Moving Shotokan Karate, has the westernmost suite in the old warehouse, which was redone by Rose Utton. “It was all one space, an 11,700-square-foot warehouse. I have heard it was once a 7Up bottling plant,” Utton said. “It was a lot of work, not just creating the various spaces for these three businesses, but we redid everything inside, including all the walls in order to add insulation.”
The branchlike yellow awnings on the facade were designed by architect Tom Easterson-Bond of WoodMetalConcrete Architecture. “We can tell people we’re the orange building with yellow awnings, and you cannot miss us,” Utton said. “We wanted to be in context but also bring the project to a happy place.”
Level Fine Art Services works with galleries, museums, and collectors to coordinate exhibition movements. It also organizes and inventories artworks and antiques for estate distribution and storage. “A lot of what I do is taking galleries to art fairs,” Muchmore said. He stood in the company’s front viewing room amid boxes destined for transportation to the Metro Show in New York City.
Alexis Jagger, his operations manager, said the company helps client galleries with art fairs just about every month. In January, Level organized, packed, crated, and transported artworks to the Art Los Angeles Contemporary show. Among the other big shows are the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair, the San Francisco Fine Art Fair, Art Santa Fe, Expo Chicago, and Art Basel Miami Beach.
Level’s clients have included Charlotte Jackson Fine Art, David Richard Gallery, Zane Bennett Contemporary Art, James Kelly Contemporary, and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
“When a gallery has an art fair, we move it and install it and then bring it back, intact,” Jagger said. “Also, when people buy works of art, we do transportation and install it at their homes. And we have a symbiotic relationship with Rising Sun. We do all the moving for them.”
Level also builds pedestals for works of sculpture. “The gallery typically gives us the dimensions and weight of the piece and a very specific idea about what they want. They’re usually white or black.”
Muchmore has his own woodworking shop and works with a metal fabricator. “We do pretty much everything that needs to be done to get art moved and installed,” he said. “We’re going to Dallas this weekend to move a 9,000-pound marble sculpture.” Level also works directly with artists to fabricate base structures for artwork.
Micaela Butts, a director at Rising Sun Art Storage, said the firm works hand in hand with Level. Rising Sun operates 19 large storage units, custom-built to the needs of galleries, collectors, or individuals who manage collections. “We have a climate-controlled space, with air conditioning, heating, and humidity systems to keep conditions stable for the artwork,” she said. The tenants hold the code for the keypad locks on their units.
One important client is Charlotte Jackson Fine Art, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in February and counted more than 9,000 visitors entering the front door last year. The Uttons are also landlords of Charlotte Jackson Fine Art and its neighbors Tai Gallery, James Kelly Contemporary, David Richard Gallery, and William Siegal Galleries.
“We have always had off-site storage, even with this bigger space since we moved over from our longtime gallery on Marcy Street,” Charlotte Jackson said. “We were storing somewhere else, but Rose Utton is just amazing. She is very supportive of all of us in the Railyard. Tai and Jim and I are all in the old Sears warehouse, and when Rose took over the lease, the architect Devendra Contractor redid the building, but he and Rose were very sensitive to its history. They left the guts, so we have the old beams. People love it when they come in.
“Rose is a real friend of RAD, the Railyard Art District. When she and I talked about the storage idea, I said I’ll sign up. Most of us in the Railyard are using it. It’s climate-controlled, with state-of-the-art security. And Level is there. I had been using them for several years before they opened [on Railfan]. We all use Henry because he does the trucks to all the art fairs for us and he installs for us. It was a marriage made in heaven when the two of them got together in the same building.”
The front viewing room at Level is one of Jackson’s favorite features. “If I have something in storage and I have someone interested and I don’t want to move it over here, I can call and they’ll set it all up for the client to go view it.” Muchmore is proud of the fact that works of art have been sold at his facility.
Jackson said she isn’t going to do Art Basel Miami Beach in 2013, but her own big show, Art Santa Fe, happens in July. “I hire Level, and they do all my drayage. They handle all the art moving and installation. It’s really kind of a family thing, if you will.” ◀