Pondering The Artist Life
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Shopping For a Gallery
When artists shop for a gallery, they should avoid acting or looking like an artist, but take on the mood of a collector... why, you say? A few reasons: First, you'll want to know how attentive the gallery staff is to those who walk in the door. Secondly, you'll be able to assess how much they know about the artists whose work they carry. If the staff suspects you are an artist, you may be written off and even ignored (bad sign - as many artists are also avid collectors).
So, how does one avoid looking like an artist?
Over the years, I've gotten to know a few passionate art collectors who are not artists, and I've observed that they do not look at paintings in the same manner as artists do. When artists enter a gallery (usually in groups) - they all look at art in exactly the same way: Each artist covers the perimeter of the gallery, looking at each and every painting, then looking at the price, and additionally they get their noses up close to see how it is painted. Then they start to talk about how it is painted. Even if you never verbally mention anything about technique, this type of viewing will automatically give you away.
The typical non-artist collector walks in the gallery, smiles at the gallery personnel, and then surveys the entire gallery at once with glances in every direction. When something catches their eye, he or she will proceed toward the piece for a closer look, but mind you, not a CLOSE look. Collectors typically are not interested in every artwork on the wall or the prices of the paintings they're not interested in. OK... so when a collector moves in for a closer look, I mean about 5 feet away. If the painting is large, he or she may stand 10 feet away. That person is trying to get a feel for how it feels to live with a painting and perhaps how it appeals to them emotionally. If the painting strikes an emotional chord, they'll look at the price tag. Some will look at the price tag a bit sooner because there's no sense of falling in love with something that he or she can't afford.
Now, back to you... that artist. DO NOT let the gallery know you are an artist at this time. For me it helps to visit galleries with my husband (we are collectors) or a non-artist friend who doesn't know diddly about how to paint, but loves art. If there are works that interest you, or better yet, if you happen to know one of the artists the gallery carries personally... ask about that artist. See if they're doing a good job of promoting their artists. Incidentally, I visited a New England gallery with one friend who was showing there. Her paintings were sitting out but on the floor against the wall. There was no proof that they had been hung before we arrived. I did not let on to the gallery owner that I was an artist. I noticed another painting (by another artist friend of mine) ? it was leaning on the stair railway, and sideways! What kind of representation is that? Well... I'd not want to work with that particular gallery.
To sum it up: take a day trip with a non-artist, art loving friend to a gallery district, have a wonderful lunch, and play it like a collector.
Lori Woodward Simons
Topics: Art Marketing | Working with Galleries