Saturday, May 25, 2013

What not to do in an Art Gallery

After eight years, today is the final day I will sit in my gallery minding a show of work by one of the artists I have been representing. As I have been hinting for months I am making some serious changes, no longer representing other artists but concentrating on my own painting and drawing, and I couldn't be happier. I keep catching a gleeful grin in the mirror.

This is me waving goodbye at the door. The reflection in the hall stand mirror is my manikin Frida holding her palette, and there is a tiny Martin Edge self -portrait at bottom right.

As this is the last day I will be captive here and at the whims of the general public, I thought I would have a bit of fun with some do's and don'ts of gallery visiting.

I have divided these into two categories. The first is

Comments made by gallery visitors

1. "I would buy one but the one I want has a red sold spot" ( Said regarding a show of 60 plus works only one of which is sold)
2. "I really love that one and I will come back with my husband/wife/partner/cat/mailman on the weekend to see if they like it too..."
3. "I really love that but have absolutely no room on my walls."
4. "I could maybe get my artistic son/daughter/cousin to do something similar."
5. "What a great SPACE this is...Wow"
6. "Gee what a great view from the back deck, you should serve coffee..."

If I had a dollar for every time I heard these...

Helpful List of Do's and Don'ts.

1. Don't step two feet inside a gallery and ask "So how's it going?" What sort of answer do you want?

a)"Yes it's going great guns I am making a fortune"? ( a lie)
b)"It's a bit quiet" ( a half truth but I don't mind as it gives me time to paint)

If I answer with the latter remark, that does not automatically entitle you to then launch into...

"You know what you should do..."

Advice offered ranges from

"Have you tried to head-hunt X, Y, Z?"

"You should be showing A,B,C type of work."

"You should sell books"

"You should not sell books"

and of course

" Gee you know what? I think you should serve coffee on the back deck"

2. Don't come to every Opening for eight years, make a beeline for the bar, stay on the back deck all night without even a pretence of looking at the work.

3. Don't stand in front of a painting, and state loudly
"That's way too cheap", unless you personally intend to a) buy the work, and b) would like to pay more for it.

Believe it or not Gallery Directors have given some of the above considerations a bit of thought.

A few other classic comments I would like to share.

Visitor:   "You've painted the walls in here"
Me:   "No I haven't"
Visitor:   "Yes you have"
Me:   "No I haven't"
Visitor:   "Well you have since I've been here last!" (defensively)
Me:   "When was that?"
Visitor:   "About two years ago!" (more defensively)
Me:   "I haven't repainted the walls since I opened eight years ago"
Visitor:   "Are you sure?"

And a real classic was the lady who stood on the back deck overlooking our Sculpture Garden and told me it was a "common area put in by the Brisbane City Council".
When I said
"No it is our garden"
She assured me
"No dear, the council have put it in. See all those little paths? They go to all the neighbouring houses"..

I am really warming to my theme here. I have a few pet hates...(nothing to lose now...)

4. If you are an artist and you want me to see your work. Make an appointment.  Don't expect me to look at tiny images on phones that you take forever to locate.

5. Don't tell long stories about your grandmother/uncle/cousin who paints or who once did a painting that was "really good".
6. Don't describe in words a painting you/your child/your mother once did in school. Even if it had "sort of like a tree, with a kind of dolphin, and was kind of blue but maybe green" and was "really good".

7. Don't get out your phone to find said painting. "It's here somewhere...flick, flick, ... just can't find it".

8. Don't get the gallery director all excited by asking for measurements of a work unless you are at least 20% serious.

9. Don't listen to gallery director's introduction about who the artists are, what the work is about and then come out with "So is this all your work?"

10. Don't advise me to sell coffee!

While most gallery visitors are genuine art lovers and I am here poking fun, I hope you at least have a sense of the frustrations, the customer fatigue and the time wasted. I also think most people who are giving advice are genuinely well meaning in most cases but it  is condescending in the extreme.

My pet hate of all is the schools/kindies etc who send in a delegate to ask for a a donation for their school fete. People who have never set foot in the gallery before, not looked at anything, expect to walk out with a painting under their arm for free, under the dubious misapprehension that the "publicity" will be "good for the artist." My standard reply is to ask if they are also asking  dentists and lawyers to donate of few weeks of their time also or is it just the artists who are the lucky ones? I would conservatively estimate to one such request each week.

I would now like to end on a more positive note. There have been some great visitors and supporters (usually other artists) and some great conversations about art have been had, but now it is time to pull up the drawbridge and actually do some painting.

No comments:

Post a Comment