A subscriber who wishes to remain anonymous wrote, “Recently, I put four of my paintings into a new gallery that takes anything and everything. Two months later, my artwork was put in a closet. If I want to stay there, my only option is to rent a wall for about $155 a month. Contract signed, month-to-month, this way my artwork will remain hanging no matter how many artists they bring in. What good is having art in a gallery if it’s put in a closet?”
Thanks, Anonymous. Renting wall space is a great way for a gallery to make money without having to sell art. With anything and everything accepted, diminishing standards hurt everyone. Still, some view these “vanity galleries” as a sign of democratic times — leaving it for the public to decide what’s hot. Others smell the exploitation of artists willing to pay for wall space, sometimes at any cost. If it’s a wall you’re after, you have choices: websites, art fairs, on social media, in community groups, with consultants, designers, even at the auction houses. If you’re going to pay rent, why not shop around? Here are a few ideas:
Build a professional website and keep it up-to-date.
Enter an art fair or community exhibition that’ll get your work in front of potential collectors.
Pay attention to what the artist-run spaces are doing.
Donate to a selected charity event or join a public art campaign.
Take a trip and take your paints.
Use the best materials.
Invest in a workshop, given by a working pro.
Grant yourself the time and space to get better and better — you may soon find you’re out of the closet.
PS: “Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.” (Napoleon Bonaparte)
Esoterica: The commercial gallery model, while in flux, aspires to do business as a choosey curator of quality, consistent work presented and supported by professional art dealers actively working to build your following. If successful, most earn a hefty commission unrivalled by any other economic commodity. In return, the best galleries cultivate society’s future treasures and shape the meaningful collections of tomorrow. The best dealers are enthusiastic purveyors of the cultural gifts unfolding in their lifetimes — bolstering passion and performing duties that leave artists free to create.
Though his work has sold at the local artist’s league and the vanity gallery, our anonymous subscriber reports it difficult to find desirable representation and believes it may have something to do with being self-taught and lacking awards. “What’s an artist to do with no formal education in the field?” he asks. “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted,” said Albert Einstein. As lifers, we’re obliged to look not at our credentials but at our paintings, and inquire into their infinite improvability. How to make them uniquely ours and impossible to pass up? “The details are details. They make the product. The connections, the connections, the connections. It will in the end be these details that give the product its life,” said Charles Eames. “Good merchandise, even hidden, soon finds buyers.” (Plautus)
Henri Rousseau’s painting, Tiger in a Tropical Storm was rejected by jurers at the Academie de peinture et de sculpture, so he entered it at the Salon de Independants under a different name — Surprised!