Opening my email last night after a long day in the studio and thought, this is what a gallery should not be.
You have mail! rang out my computer;
Geode Gallery announcing the opening dates for the Dinnerware Show should be changed to May 12th. Huh? May 12th is a Wednesday. I questioned May 12th and have heard nothing back.
Diving into cyberspace to google the Tremont Art Walk.... May 14th. Did Geode email back, Nope.
This is a HUGE problem as there are artists scheduled from out of town, other venues already scheduled, dinners planned and letters sent declaring the opening as May 7th. Can we spell retraction? How does one reel in viral invitations?
While chewing and stewing on what a gallery is and is not I thought I would write down a few thoughts on this...........
Dear Gallery Owner, Director, Overseeer,
The holy trinity of the art world;
Customer, Gallery, Artist……….
I am writing to you as you do not hear me when we verbally communicate and I detest confrontation. I know what is possible and what is impossible in my studio and when I tell you what I currently have available in my studio and you respond;
"I don't want those pots". The conversation should end there. And may I interject; I love that response as it shows me, you know your market and you are not hurting my feelings, one iota.
Instead you might feel it your duty to whip me into a frenzy to tell me the Christmas Show is coming and then the Valentine Show and, and, and .......... “Sandy, why can’t you just make pots with little doo-flizzies on them or a frog or blue flower or better yet, pots like Marvella Smarty Pants?”
My idea of working and producing a body of work is; Acting........ NOT Re-acting to your ideas or shows. I would rather have your honest re-action from my action...... can you follow me here? Please hear me, I am not going there, take yourself but please leave me at loading dock. If I have enough heads up time I will work with you; two weeks is not enough time to produce a show. Reaction from me? Please, my kid just got a new tattoo & dyed her blonde hair black, pierced her bottom lip and declared she wants to teach kindergarden, not even that, got much of a reaction.
I'm over 50 and my husband made coffee before I got out of bed this morning, now there is a reaction!
The facts as I see them:
If you are consignment;
I bring you work, my best work (not seconds).
(or come to the studio & pick it up. )
You…….. make sure the door is open on time, turn on the lights, paste a smile on your face and sell pots. At the end of the month or in a timely fashion you send me a check, that will not bounce and a scrap of paper with the inventory numbers or name of what sold so I can mark it off my master sheet.
You keep your customers informed of what is coming and going in your gallery; openings, new work, new artists….. anything to get people through the door. Let your customers know you have a valued relationship with said artist; they are one lucky patron purchasing said bauble from your mighty fine gallery.
How lucky they are to be purchasing a valued piece of art. Maybe even a little artist bio card tucked into the bag with your gallery information.
Perhaps toss in the word; “Sustainable”. Buy local art from local gallery to local clientele. (there’s that holy trinity again)
If you are hosting an exhibition;
Pitch the idea to the artists. Brainstorm over the feedback then take some time to write up the title, dates, commission fees and loose ends. Then and only then send it out to your artists. Once you get a roster of players via the jury process or invitation start putting press releases together.
What is enough time? For a local venue in the early part of the year, 2-3 months is just enough time for me to get all my pistons firing and produce enough work for an exciting show.
All in all exhibition shows are consignment. The gallery gets a pretty good inventory of art for the time determined by the artist and the gallery. End of show I pick up my unsold work and a check, you will hopefully have another new featured artist rolling in behind. Keeps things fresh and something for the public to come back and see.
To sum it up if the artist is going to pay the gallery 40-50% commission rates the gallery needs to:
1. Keep the gallery open at posted times.
2. Keep the gallery clean. If I can write my name in the $2500 glass
bowl........ I'm not gonna write my name but some smart ass remark, because I'm an ar-teest.
3. Try to be happy or at least greet a customer when they walk through the front door. I'm not going to buy a $2500 bowl from some who looks like they just rolled out of bed and are still in their jammies and forgot to comb their hair. If your hanging a show, that's different!
4. If they ask questions, answer in an intelligent, educated way.
5. Pay your artists in a timely fashion with valid checks.
6. Double check your calendar before setting anything in stone.
7. If you want me to bring food, fixtures and help with the show amend my commission fee.
8. Educate your patrons about your artists! We need them and we need you!
9. Kilns fail, chemicals can change, glazes can fail, mines shut down, we make stuff with materials that come out of the ground and change periodically. Bear with us as sometimes it's challenging for us too.
10. Keep communication lines open. If you screwed something up I would appreciate a phone call as I don’t always read my email hourly.
11. Advertise and use the internet! Facebook, twitter, webpages, blogs, linked. Have you seen etsy.com or Akar.com? They are your new competition. Cyber galleries are here and big!
12. Please love what you do and the artists you represent. If it’s a drag to open the door, close it and go do something you love.