Ari Goldman of Choice Fine Art

    We Spoke to Ari Goldman of Choice Fine Art

    As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ari Goldman.

    Ari Goldman is a graduate of NYU and the Founder and President of Choice Fine Art. Working alongside Stan Lee for over a decade, Ari is an expert in vintage animation art and has been the premier dealer in the space for over 26 years. Under the Choice Fine Art umbrella, Ari’s passion for blending pop culture with the refinement can be seen in SDCC fan favorite Choice Collectibles and in his new contemporary art gallery Choice Contemporary opening in Brentwood April 2022.

    You can learn more about Choice Fine Art at: and the Choice Contemporary gallery at: and connect on Instagram at:

    Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

    Since I was young I’ve always had a passion and love for art. Growing up my parents would take me to the local museums, but I wouldn’t say it was something that was necessarily passed down to me. I’ve always just had an innate respect, interest, and admiration for it.

    While I was studying for my Bachelors in Political Science at NYU I began taking art courses and took courses in art around the world as a student and graduate student. I’ve always been committed to growing my appreciation and knowledge of art.

    In fact, it was while studying at NYU that I first became a collector. I was walking past a gallery window in New York City and I saw a unique piece of Disney art from a short called ‘Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip’ — something in that piece really spoke to me and looking back it was a pivotal moment in my journey as a career art dealer and ultimately led me to founding Choice Fine Art.

    Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

    The thing that really surprised me when I first started was when selling things to established dealers who were a lot older than I, in established businesses would always delay paying me. I started with very little capital (six thousand dollars), so the buy and sell velocity was vital to grow. Getting paid in order to go and re-buy art was obviously pivotal. In the early nineties, there was no PayPal and I certainly didn’t have a credit card processing system. It came to a point where I used to send self addressed stamped envelopes with the invoice to remove excuses and enable faster payment.

    Back then people would help themselves to unagreed upon terms, “Oh, I’ll pay you in a month”’ I would react with, “Wait a second, we didn’t agree you could pay in a month,’” I was selling to galleries at the time and while they were making full mark-ups, I was only making about 20% and then had to wait for the payment. It was a perpetual problem because even though I owned the art, I had no leverage.

    I learned that as much as you might trust people, it’s important to establish terms up front and that the direct to consumer contact, the final mile, is critical to own.

    Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

    I’m very fortunate that I had a great role model in my father Martin growing up. To this day he is one of the driving forces in my life by which I measure my success as an individual. He’s a survior of the Holocaust and has built a truly remarkable life, business, and family that continually inspires me to take on and try new things both in life and with my company.

    So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

    Things at Choice are steady given the trying circumstances of the last couple of years. We’ve embarked on some ambitious projects that we’re extremely optimistic about, like Choice Contemporary Gallery, and are managing to do so with an amazing pivot to digital sales, necessitated by the tragedy of COVID-19.

    I remain humbled by what transpired around the globe as a result COVID and by recent geo-politcal events such as Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine. I learned anything can happen so I remain ever so cautious and conservative with everything we commit to as a company. We have to remain mindful of the unpredictability of life.

    Additionally, I’ve been blessed to work with wonderful mentors and colleagues, such as Stan Lee and our team members at Choice. I think a key to building resilience is having a really comprehensive “business team” who share the vision and goals as we expand. The culture of Choice Fine Art is firmly rooted in and influenced by shared vision and ideals. Working with and doing business with really extraordinary people are vital ingredients in the recipe of success.

    Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

    When I started building my business, I was still at NYU. American Express offered students who signed up for a card, flight travel vouchers across the country for $89. As a college student with a new business, that was a great bonus and made travel possible for me. The major studios who produced animation such as Disney and Warner Brothers are in LA, so I had to get to LA for inventory. Thanks American Express and United airlines!

    Needless to say I went through my $89 vouchers pretty quickly and in order to keep going back to LA I had to get more. So I got creative and faxed my class syllabus to AMEX asking them for more. Believe it or not they sent me more! I did so several times over the coming years through graduate school. It was really instrumental in the beginning and a lesson on how creativity and use of available resources can help grow a business. Also an amazing lesson in marketing, as I still use American Express and United exclusively at Choice.

    What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

    The Choice Fine Art brand, through Choice Collectibles, and the new Brentwood gallery Choice Contemporary, takes the beauty and refinement of art and makes it welcoming and accessible to everyone. Whether it be through the fun and excitement of pop-culture icons from Marvel, Disney, and DC to curating one of a kind exhibitions of contemporary art such as RISK in a welcoming neighborhood gallery, I believe Choice stands out because we strive to be part of collectors everyday life in an unintimidating, receptive way. Since we include pop culture icons, I also believe that we evoke deep rooted nostalgia.

    Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

    The “burnout” I face is because I have broad shoulders and tend not to say no. That being said, I don’t label what I face as “burnout”, but rather that sometimes it feels like a lot. Reframing it away from being overwhelmed allows me space to assess what the highest priority is that needs most immediate attention.

    Also, what I’ve been doing effectively for the last two or three years that I would highly recommend is saying no to any non liquid non core investments. That has helped to limit the amount of bandwidth soaking distractions on my list.

    However, my best bit of advice as an entrepreneur and diversified investor is: always get out of the house. If you’re feeling overburdened or overwhelmed, the worst thing to do is to stay at home — even if you’re addressing the things on your list that need to get done. I always find that by getting out, going for a walk, whatever it is, helps put everything back into perspective.

    None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

    My father, Martin Goldman. I mentioned this a bit early, but for my entire life and still to this day, he really is a motivational force. I love making him proud, I know if i’m doing things right that’s the confirmation. He is a Holocaust survivor and he came to America, not speaking a word of English, but speaking five other languages — I speak a grand total of one.

    During the war, he was displaced because of the Nazis. His family ended up in Siberia in a refugee camp. He learned to speak Polish, Russian, Hebrew, German, and Yiddish. His work ethic, generosity, reputation and vision are only a few characteristics that have helped me throughout my life.

    After the war he came to America at thirteen, not speaking the language, but learned english and was the salutatorian of his class in high school. Later he opened a discount department store C.H. Martin, which he still fully owns and operates to this day. I’ve been incredibly inspired and driven by him and his story.

    How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

    That’s a good question, but before I answer I want to just backtrack, I don’t consider myself to be that successful. I’m flattered, but I see and interact with really successful people and I don’t consider myself that. I think a measure of real and true success, aside from the obvious which is financial, is being happy, kind, and a good, rock solid citizen of humanity as my sister Charlene would say.

    I believe it all starts with your interactions with people, friends, family, colleagues, everyone.The super successful people that I admire don’t just make money, they make enough money to make, “A dent in the universe” as Steve Jobs would say. They do so with their money and or time and energy. I aspire to do the same.

    Warren Buffet is an amazing person to look at. He’s giving 90 plus percent of his wealth and has inspired dozens of billionaires to do the same. Another great example is what Bill and Melinda Gates accomplished with the Gates Foundation; eradicating polio? How Incredible. Now that’s truly making a dent. So when I think about success, being able to do things like this and making that kind of impact is success in my eyes. I have not achieved that yet, but what I have achieved is a career that enables some flexibility to be a big part in the lives of family and friends in a supportive, present way. Most especially my wife and two daughters. In Judaism, you’re supposed to do 613 good deeds a year, some everyday and some at least once a year– they’re called mitzvahs. I went to Jewish day school until I was 18 and that definitely impacted my idea of what being giving and giving back looks like. This reminds me that success is measured by a variety of things.

    What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

    1. Don’t think that somebody else has got a better business idea than you. Early on I made a lot of investments with people that were lost. I thought they had a better way of making money than me; they didn’t. Have confidence in yourself.
    2. Pay for the help you need. I think for too long, I tried to always get a kind of bargain on the people that worked with me. It was never a reflection of people, but I would say, “Okay, I’m willing to pay X for this person.” And really had I paid Y for the right person it would’ve helped exponentially build the business.
    3. You can look back, but don’t stare. Don’t reflect too much or agonize over things that didn’t work, or money that was lost because you can’t change history. If you agonize over the past, you’re taking up useful creative bandwidth. You can only focus on one thing at a time and using your bandwidth to focus on the past is not productive. Learn from the experience, don’t dwell.
    4. As an investor, don’t make too many fast money investments. I mentioned before how I invested in entrepreneurs that I thought had better business ideas than me. The other mistake as an investor was investing in unvetted stories about companies that were going to, “Change the world,” or revolutionize industries with a new disruptive technology which inevitably turned out to be zero. Had I listened to somebody who said to me, “Ari, just buy the S&P 500,” or, “Just buy the high-quality names,” which are the stocks I invest in now, that would’ve been a life changer.
    5. When you hire talented people, be mindful to allow them to grow. Let the line out. I think a typical characteristic of an entrepreneur is to have their hands in everything and be afraid to relinquish control because the belief is, “Nobody can do it as well as I can.” is a huge mistake. Even if you’re right (and you’re never always right!) one person is not a team, and everyone needs a team to grow.

    Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?

    It’s essential to cultivate a work culture around the shared vision and values of your company. Surrounding yourself with a complete team as your business expands is one of the keys to riding out the highs and lows of being a founder or an entrepreneur.

    You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

    In terms of creativity, the person on earth who I would most like to meet is unequivocally Paul McCartney. What a dream to collaborate on anything at all with Paul McCartney.

    I’ve always wanted to meet him. He is amazing. The way he’s lived his life is exemplary. He’s a charitable guy, his humility is otherworldly, his accomplishments and impact is global, and his devotion to his family and wife is truly admirable.

    And of course, Elon Musk. I would love to meet Elon Musk. He’s doing and has done such incredible things; I’m not sure there is a person on earth who has accomplished more to help clean the environment. Then there are a few other things like space travel and so on. When he moved StarLink, his own satellite network, over Ukraine to ensure the Ukrainias could have uninterrupted internet access, it almost brought tears to my eyes. I really respect what he’s doing and it would be such a thrill to meet and collaborate with him.

    How can our readers further follow your work online?

    Answer: You can learn more about Choice Fine Art at: and on Instagram at: and The Choice Contemporary Gallery at and on Instagram at: .