Vanity Art Galleries
Four inches of snow plus a quarter inch of ice, and now snow fog have made it a great day to spend catching up on art-related reading, as well as painting-I am waiting for pieces to dry, as well.
Last month saw a very heated debate online about vanity galleries, or the “pay for play” guys. I engaged with a number of artists also about this, most of whom were very negative about the idea.
My problem with this whole concept has always been this: if I, as the artist, foot the bill, where is the incentive to make a show successful for the gallery? Case in point, and this was a traditional gallery: I had an interview years ago at a well-known gallery in Boston. They wanted 60% for my first show, and I would pay for the show cards and part of the advertising. Really? Not likely!
As far as I can see it, any retailer needs to be wise in their selection of merchandise-galleries are no different. As a consignment-style operation, they still need to think that way. Not make money from the artist, first, and worry about sales after.
Bob Keyes wrote a balanced article on what is happening in Maine on December 7th, that I finally read today: http://www.pressherald.com/2014/12/07/new-gallery-draws-competitors-ire-by-charging-artists-for-exposure/ This shows the underlying problem: money.
It is hard enough to be an artist. This concept completely strips away the concept of the gallery-artist relationship, as well. This nurtures saleability, not quality. Gallery directors taught me a great deal, as a student. Part of it was about art, and part of it was about business. I asked a lot of questions back then. I can’t see this happening here.
But, on the flip-side, there are more and more alternative spaces cropping up where an artist can represent his/herself. I have become a huge proponent of these spaces, because they, in so many ways, level the playing field. I am showing, or will be showing, in a variety of “types” of spaces. I also happen to be on the curatorial staff of a very new concept in a museum.
It’s all very different from the days of slide submissions, hand-delivered. Not that there aren’t still traditional galleries. And, good ones. Just not enough of them. And, those of us out here making work need to complain less, and figure out the next batch of walls our art needs to hang on. If not traditional…go to your local library.