From time to time, artists ask us about what they can do to build a good relationship with the gallery, about details of what kinds of things they should bear in mind or expect. Sometimes these are emerging artists who are only just beginning to enter into this sort of professional relationship and are trying to work out the rules, but at other times the question comes from established artists who simply want to make sure they’re working on a secure footing. They know that every gallery is different and want to know about anything that might be outside their previous experience. It’s a question we always appreciate, whoever it comes from, as it shows that an artist is thinking about how they and we should act and is taking the opportunity of representation and promoting their art seriously. It’s also a good question, worth thinking about, since it is something that can enhance an artist’s relationship with their gallery, their audience and their art.
One of the most common reservations is about how much biographical information we’re interested in seeing from any particular artist. The answer is, a lot. Really. Please don’t be embarrassed about it, don’t wonder if any details about your life that aren’t specifically related to the techniques you use in your work could possibly be relevant. (Obviously, we’re very interested in those too!) Getting to know you as an artist includes getting to know you as a person, and we want to do both. Answer any questions your gallery asks you about yourself fully and frankly (though of course don’t share any information that you feel to be personal and ‘not for public consumption’). Naturally, your gallery usually won’t use all of that information, but some of it may well contribute to your PR over time, and your art promotion generally, and that which doesn’t is still an important part of your relationship with the gallery itself.
There is a similar point to be made about your work. Yes, your gallery will value the work for itself, and will try to present it in the best and most appropriate way possible. But sometimes a more intimate detail about a piece, if there is one, can really add to what is there. Perhaps you didn’t intend to paint that day, but you were struck by something you saw and just had to get out the easel. Maybe you went on a ten mile hike just to find that image. Possibly the finished piece brings together disparate parts of your life or thoughts. You may not always realize it, but knowing this and experiencing it contributes to the way you view and interact with your work. In the same way, things like this can increase the richness of a viewer’s experience of a particular piece. Share it with your gallery and trust them to use the knowledge if it will benefit the presentation of your work and in promoting your art.
Quality is vital, not only in terms of the artwork itself but in terms of the images you produce of it. Promoting art requires good images of that art. If your gallery has, or indeed if you separately belong to, an online gallery such as Agora Gallery’s Art-Mine, it is vital to appreciate that what viewers are faced with is not the work itself, with all its attendant detail and presence. It’s an image of the work. That means that the image has to be as good as possible – high resolution, and taken in such a way that accounts for things like light, shadows, reflection and so on. If you’re a photographer, then treat it as a project in its own right. If you’re not, then either try to find out a bit about photography, or perhaps consult a photographer. It’s important to have really good images of your work, or it will be at risk of appearing at a serious disadvantage.
Speed can occasionally also be an important factor. It probably won’t happen often, but it may occur that someone is interested in your work – to buy, to lease, to use in an illustration, in a magazine, whatever it might be – but that their interest is relatively short-lived. That is to say, if they can’t get an answer soon, they won’t be interested in one at all. Similarly it may happen that the gallery suddenly needs to get hold of you regarding an exhibition, or a particular piece of work. In scenario like this, it is crucial that your gallery be able to contact you if they need to. Make sure your gallery has a reliable phone number or email address that you are bound to check frequently.
One last question that sometimes comes up is about an artist’s work itself. An artist might want to know if there is anything they should be changing about their work. Now, this is a very delicate matter. Of course, it is a reasonable question to be asking, but bear in mind that the gallery would not have expressed interest in your work originally if they did not like what you were already doing. Equally, changing times, growth as an artist, and alterations in the market may mean that a slight change in direction is indicated. If you do ask – and there is no obligation to do so – remember that any advice you get is always, whether this is said explicitly or not, understood to be secondary to the primary necessity of being true to yourself and your art. Also bear in mind that such suggestions are guidelines rather than commands, and that a compromise between the suggestion and your impulses (if they differ) is worth exploring. And if the response is ‘no, please don’t change anything except as natural development, we love the work you do’, that isn’t because the gallery hasn’t paid enough attention or given it enough thought. It is because they have a deep appreciation for what you do and have no desire to interfere with your artistic ability and process.
The above are simply things to bear in mind as a professional artist. In the meantime, keep the questions – and comments – coming!
- 05/11/2013 - 05/31/2013
Stephen Tobin: the natural instincts of nature – a solo exhibition
- 05/11/2013 - 05/31/2013
Exhibition: Out From Down Under & Beyond; The Odyssey of Color
- 05/11/2013 - 05/31/2013