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Working With Galleries

Working With Galleries

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Published by Jane Brumfield
Based on a talk for Treasure Valley Arts Alliance
Based on a talk for Treasure Valley Arts Alliance

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Jane Brumfield on Mar 13, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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What They Don’t Tell You in Art SchoolWorking with Galleries
To some degree, touching on the commercial side of the art world while you are stilldeveloping as an artist in Art School is not considered good practice. But in truth someguidance in this area of professional practice would benefit most students.It is true that a high profile gallery might pick up an artist, or that an artist might fit a nicheshowing in museum or funded spaces and be successful in getting grant funding. A smallgroup of artists may be able to support themselves through their work early on. This iswhat we all hope for when we leave Art School and are not prepared for the harsh realitiesof what happens if we are not ‘discovered’ at their degree show. We may have anunrealistic perception of the art world based is on a construct of limited personalexperience and informed by stereotypical depictions in film and television.The cool loft space teaming with hip young radicals or the minimal white cube does exist,but galleries are generally not high profit businesses. Even those that operate at thehighest end of the market and have high turnovers, often have incredibly high overheadsto match. The vast majority of galleries live subsistent existences in less than perfectvenues. And, for most artists, it is a struggle to earn a living from their art practice aloneand they often have to take on other jobs to support their work. It takes discipline,commitment and professionalism to succeed as an artist.
Working with a gallery is a partnership. Before you entre into any partnership you need tohave a clear sense of your own identity, know something about your possible collaboratorand understand your individual and shared aims. There are many kinds of galleries withdiffering approaches, remits, organizational structure, and to some degree, differentaudiences. One kind is no more important than another, as each has their place in creatinga strong cultural environment. It is important to recognize which best suites both yourwork and way of working.Publicly funded spaces and art museums are not-for-profit venues, usually with a clearcultural and educational remit. They can host work that might not otherwise be madeavailable to the community in which they are situated, exposing their audience to thebroadest experience their budget will allow.This kind of funding structure allows them to show exhibitions based on thematic orcultural concerns that will create dialogue, rather than having to focus on generating sales.They are financially dependent on the community they serve, whether funded throughgrants or membership fees and contributions. Exhibiting at this kind of Museum Art Galleryis a sign of recognition. The work is not going to be for sale, however the artist mightbenefit from the museum buying a piece for its collection, or get an exhibiting orcommissioning fee.Museum Gallery curators are going to want show the work of artists that have made asignificant contribution to the culture of their locality or within the wider context of arthistory, or contemporary arts practice. Generally the program will be developed through a
research process and it is going to be rare that an unsolicited submission will result in anexhibition. With the exception of open juried shows or the occasional curated project, it isunlikely that most artists will show with this kind of Museum Gallery until their career isalready very established.University galleries also provide shows that will inform, create critical dialogue anddevelop the professional practice. They also provide a platform to exhibit the studentsthesis exhibitions.The most direct way an artist can show their work is to open their own gallery or join anexisting cooperative.The benefits of owning your own gallery are:
You have complete control of how your work is shown.
You get to keep the entire selling price.
Your work can be permanently on display.The drawbacks are:
You have overheads to cover whether you sell any work or not.
You have to staff it.
There are administrative tasks that you will have to take on, such as permits, planningand marketing. These things might take more of your studio time than you are happywith.

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