SELL OR SHOW?

Robert Genn

March 23, 2006

 

Yesterday I received a note from Florida painter Carol Cain:
"I'm in a dilemma. I'd like to enter a regional contest with my
best and latest, but at the same time I would like to sell the
same paintings at the gallery that I exhibit in. Which would be
more important to you?"

Thanks, Carol. A lot of this decision has to do with the
geographic area you live in, the nature of the juried exhibit,
and your relationship with your dealer. In some areas
competitive juried exhibitions can be prestigious affairs that
benefit an artist's career. Dealers may encourage this sort of
exposure--it surprises me that in Florida you can't do both at
the same time. But maybe the exhibition operators stipulated
"no sold paintings." Beyond that, the golden rule is to always
try to be hung in good company. It's often possible to check to
see what kind of artwork, and what volume, is being entered
before you commit. In other words, try to make an executive
decision.
 
Compared to delivering works to a commercial gallery, entering
juried shows can be loaded with rigamarole. They often want you
to frame, pay fees, fill out forms, deliver and take away at
specific times, as well as endure the possible ignominy of
rejection. Many accomplished artists and "Highly Sensitive
Persons" don't like juried shows because they interfere with
normal creative flow. Some artists just don't have the time.
You also need to keep in mind that your brilliance may be
neutralized by the close proximity of competitors. While
undiscovered artists can suddenly be pulled from the crowd and
appreciated by a wider public at juried shows--and even get a
boost to their careers--artists can also get the stigma of "not
good enough for a gallery." Again, each geographic area has its
own attitudes.   

You're lucky that you have a choice. Many artists don't. If
push comes to shove, I'd side with the dealers. They go to work
for you every day. They are guardians of your values. They
share your magic with others. Dealer-artist loyalty is one of
the fun things in life--and while the cards may be slightly
stacked on the dealer's side, those angels make it possible for
artists to go thither and yon and do their thing. A dealer must
be a fair-minded believer. An artist, as well as keeping a keen
eye on quality, must be a worker. When the symbiosis works,
it's a partnership of the highest order. It's worth honouring.

Best regards,

Robert
 
PS: "It takes a long time and great expense to build up the
name of an artist and if one of his paintings suddenly appears
at a low price at an exhibition especially, then the build up
may be endangered." (Max Stern, art dealer)

Esoterica: As it is with artists, there's no one right way to
be an art dealer. Some educate, others intimidate, still others
supplicate. One of my favourite dealers is a totally committed,
art-loving person who has the unusual habit of uncontrollable
wiggling when she gets excited about the work she is showing.
Customers seem to pick up on this energy and frequently express
themselves with their wallets. It's an extreme case of body
language. She doesn't say much--she just wiggles. If she had
coins around her waist, they would jingle. To see it happening
is to realize that art dealing is an art in itself.