After six years as a private dealer, Steve Vail opened a 1,500-square-foot art gallery last month in the historic Teachout Building in the East Village. Photo by Duane Tinkey
After six years as a private dealer, Steve Vail opened a 1,500-square-foot art gallery last month in the historic Teachout Building in the East Village. Photo by Duane Tinkey

Steven Vail Fine Arts hosted its inaugural exhibition on Valentine's Day at its new location in the historic Teachout Building in the East Village.

The gallery, which is run by Steve Vail, showcases European artwork; however, Vail said he is probably best known for pieces that represent a movement in mid-20th-century America called abstract expressionism. The space encloses 1,500 square feet and shows the work of only a few artists at a time, Vail said.

"What I really can do for a collection isn't really represented necessarily here," he said. "This is sort of a step up for me from being a private dealer, so I'm just keeping it small and simple. The galleries I had (in the past) were nearly twice the square footage of this one."

Vail operated a gallery on Southwest Fifth Street as well as on the 18th floor of the Financial Center in Des Moines, but closed those locations and started Foster & Vail Fine Arts in Connecticut with a former art history professor from the University of Iowa. For the past six years, Vail has been a private dealer and has focused his attention on larger cities, but has seen a recent surge in the appreciation of art in Des Moines.

"Recently, I've learned that a lot has changed (in Des Moines)," he said. "The last two people who have walked in were both from Los Angeles, and both had very serious backgrounds in art; that never would have happened 10 years ago. And while most of my business is still outside of the state, I think that will change."

Vail said he has received a lot of interest from Des Moines residents who aren't necessarily art aficionados, and he attributes that, in part, to the weakening economy.

"The art price index, as far as appreciation, has beat that of the Dow (Jones industrial average), Nasdaq (composite index) and the (Standard & Poor's) 500," he said. "So people who ordinarily would dismiss (purchasing art) as being frivolous are taking it very seriously. So actually, a lot of these problems with the economy have helped my business; it makes people comfortable in taking a leap, and the pieces here aren't going to break most people's budgets."