Studio Materials 2

Studio Materials 2

Monday, May 23, 2011

The View From Both Sides: The Reconnaissance Mission

The Reconnaissance Mission

In my first article on artist/gallery relationships, I discussed whether you are the type of artist who would benefit from gallery representation and then what type of galleries might be appropriate for your work. Now, let’s look at specific strategies for obtaining the right relationship for you.

I already touched on the concept that a good attitude makes the difference between success or failure with galleries, and I would like to further stress that adopting a positive and proactive attitude will indeed guide you in whatever situation that arises in your new relationship.

Let’s begin with the notion that although you may conduct business as partners, any gallery owner/director you choose to exhibit with ultimately works for you, not the other way around. You are hiring someone to sell your creations and therefore you will be looking for certain characteristics in your new employee that will aid you in advancing your sales and overall exposure. Wow! Take a moment to let that sink in before we proceed!

Gallery Shopping: First Impressions Matter

With your newly adopted sense of empowerment, approaching a gallery should feel more like completing a task. Not filled with emotion and doubt, you are merely walking through a process toward your goal. Don’t hold a defensive stance toward gallery employees, but, instead, go on the offense. Take yourself out on a fact-finding errand, a reconnaissance mission if you will. Visit potential galleries as a business owner conducting interviews for an open position in the company. Be open and unbiased, giving these potential new employees the opportunity to pass or fail.
Take note of how you are greeted and how the staff interacts with you and other clients. If you are ignored, or if there is a general lack of enthusiasm, clearly this may not be a business that promotes good sales. Worse still, if there lingers an attitude of superiority among the staff toward the clientele, consider moving on to the next gallery. Nothing is more detrimental to the art world in general than a gallery owner/director who acts condescendingly toward the public or the artists. If, however, you are greeted warmly and asked whether you need help, you may have found the type of place you are looking for. Tell them you are just looking for now, and continue on your mission.

The Nitty Gritty

Now, take note if the overall gallery space is pleasing, and if every piece of work displayed be reasonably viewed.  Some galleries have minimal space and cram too many pieces into inadequate areas for viewing. Keep in mind, however, the concept that may lie behind an exhibition on display. For example, a local gallery recently hung their holiday show salon style (floor to ceiling). The layout was appropriate for the show and the customers enjoyed and appreciated the art “wallpaper” tremendously.

Is the gallery clean? This seems trivial, but a dirty gallery may reflect badly on your work if you are sending your clients there.

Genre Displayed:
Is the subject matter and style of artwork exhibited similar to your own? Would your work compliment the collection offered or would it look hopelessly out of place? Does there seem to be a theme to what is offered or is there a lack of continuity, a random selection of pieces that don’t seem to have any relationship to one another? (You may also want to keep this particular question in mind for your future gallery interview.)

Artwork Quality:
How does your work compare with the level of work represented in this gallery? If you don’t think you measure up, please don’t despair. Now is the time to put your ego aside and be honest, open minded and businesslike. The director may see potential in your work and may give you the opportunity to exhibit and learn from other artists. Stepping into gallery representation at a lower level can be strong motivation for improvement. Remember, a good attitude is the difference between success and failure. If you are comfortable with the other work on display, then this may be a good venue for you. If you, however, have many years of gallery representation under your belt, perhaps it’s time for the challenge of a gallery upgrade. Approach a gallery where you know the work displayed makes you feel a bit inadequate, stimulating yourself to push ahead of your new colleagues.
Appropriate Pricing:
Walk around the gallery and take note of the prices of the pieces you admire or those somewhat related to your own. Are your prices comparable? Is your work priced too low? Keeping in mind the specific marketing region, subject matter, medium, artist recognition, and current economic conditions, it is no wonder that this is a sensitive
subject for artists, and a potentially dicey one for gallery owners. A good strategy may be to offer your work somewhere in the lower median range of prices already established. It is a safe place to start out and small adjustments can be made later depending on how the work is received by the clients. Remember, though,  that once you enter this arena, your pricing needs to stay consistent, regardless of whether your work is sold through a gallery, a juried art exhibition, or from your home.

Reveal your True Colors: Second Impressions Matter

You’ve now gone through your checklist and feel you have selected a good venue to display your work. It is now time to introduce yourself to the gallery director as an artist looking for representation. How does he/she react to this news? This is a very important moment for your potential employee. You’ll want a director who is receptive to your introduction and honest with you about the potential for setting up an appointment to view your work.

In the next segment of this series, I’ll discuss what preparations to make for the next phase of this interview including questions you’ll have for your potential new employee, what materials you’ll have conveniently brought with you, and what reasonable expectations to have.

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