Sunday, April 20, 2008

Artist-Gallery Relationship

There's a fascinating discussion on the Edward Winkleman blog about the artist-gallery relationship. Edward runs a gallery in Chelsea and bought out his partner last year. Subsequently he revamped it to match his own vision, which meant letting several artists go. One of them recently wrote about it in her own blog, and Edward followed up with his own perspective. This is not a bitter, screaming, Dr. Phil-style divorce show. Rather, both blogs are open and honest and respectful of each other.

Why can't our politicians do the same thing?
(Answer: they're not open, honest, nor respectful, and a bitter, screaming Dr. Phil-style show is good theater.)

This artist-gallery discussion hit home with me because I recently pulled out of a gallery. I joined it a year ago with rather high hopes. The owner had a good eye for art ... I say that not because he liked my work, but because when he talked about my work or that of others, he could pick up on things that the piece was saying or not saying, and when my work was off base, he'd tell me. However, he also began telling me a bit too specifically what it was that he wanted me to produce. My paintings are my own explorations, and if they're made to somebody else's order, they're not MY paintings. I faced a choice: paint what he told me to paint and stay with him and possibly sell some, or leave. I left.

It wasn't a completely negative experience, though. I learned a good bit about the art marketplace, and I learned some things about improving my chances of selling artwork without selling out. And in my discussions with him about my art, I learned something about myself, too.

But now I've got to spend some time and energy finding a way to make my art habit self-sustaining at least. I think it's a given that an artist needs a good gallery, preferably more than one, to be taken seriously. But I also think that I need to explore other options, like grants or working with businesses, NGO's, or other organizations for specific projects. My best works are paintings like Lament, Warrior, and You Don't Understand, pieces that are very moving but certainly will never, ever, decorate anybody's living-room wall. Yes, I've gotten started on this road, but have nothing to report yet.

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