So this last weekend I attended the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live convention, which is a medium sized convention located in Kansas City, MO. It's about three years old and spun off of the juried annual Spectrum Fantastic Art. I went mostly to lurk around, see some kickass art, meet amazing artists and run a workshop called "Demystifying the Gallery World".
The gallery world isn't all that mystical, really. It's just a business. Granted, it can be volatile, unpredictable, baffling, but it's really not all that much from any other business in that there are protocols, contracts, agreements and mostly, relationships. Curator, artist, visitor, collector...
I only had 30 minutes to cover an insane amount of information, so I tried my best to hit as many points as I could, using simple slide shows to bullet point. As requested, I am going to list my slides here, in all their glory.
(Want to See the Actual Workshop? Here it is!)
Developing a show with your curator
- Working relationship (key word: “relationship”)
- Size of show, size of work(s)
- Theme or series
- Curatorial vision
- Communication! Keep it open, even if there is a problem
Contracted obligations for You and the Curator/Gallery
- Written agreement stating terms of show
- Average retail gallery commission: 40 – 50%
- Exclusivity clause?
- Artist usually pays for shipping fees to/from gallery
- Amendments must be discussed, written and signed by both parties to be legal
- Insurance, security, damage or loss of art
- Marketing obligations, if any
Managing the workload between Confirmation and Delivery
- Mindful of deadlines vs your own work ethic
- “Buffer days”/”work days”/”potential sick days”/”FAIL days”
- Last month is devoted to press releases, marketing, documentation, cataloging
- Unlike some publishing scenarios, gallery openings are “hard openings”!
Preparing to document your work: Photography, Statement
- WIP photos are great, especially for a unique process
- Traditional 2D: good lighting, clear images, true colors (ie, get a professional if you need to)
- 3D: multiple angles, detail shots (video is okay too)
- DON’T: use cell phone, photograph a piece under glass (unless you have no choice), or overly Photoshop an image
- OIL, metallics, and high gloss mediums: mindful of reflections, blowout, moiré
- Statement: reflect the theme of your piece/show. Be heartfelt (visitors can read through bullcrap). First person statements are best. If your medium is unique, you may need to explain what it is or why you used it
- DON’T: copy from your website
Framing and DisplayDO:
- Ask about weight/size limitations, as well as wall hanging options and amount of wall space
- Wall space: ask about “usable” vs “total” wall space
- 3D: Ask about types displays, surface type, if pieces can be anchored, height of displays
- Use framing material that is archival – if it is not, alert gallery owner
- Ask about frame options on the gallery end, if you are shipping. Many galleries have inhouse framing or framers that are economical.
- Use chipped, broken, scuffed frames
- Use glass if you plan to ship the piece. Use plexi or matte acrylic
- Use a cheap frame (that clearly looks cheap) for expensive pieces. Customers complain about that.
- Use odd colors for mats or frames, they’re a harder sell. Use neutral colors such as white, cream, gray, black, beige.
- Use toothed hardware. It tends to come out. Use appropriate d-rings, wire.
Shipping your workWhen packing 2D art:
- Ask gallery if they have packing material requirements (such as “no peanuts”)
- Don’t pack glass if at all possible
- Use foamcore, hardboard or rigid material to protect front of piece
- Don’t tape anything directly to your piece or frame
- Paper corners, bubble wrap, paper on corners
- Don’t overpack a box. Also, make sure pieces will not shift in transit
- Don’t use packing tubes for original art
- Insure your package!
- Crate larger pieces (have one built or buy one at places like Uline)
- “box in a box”, floated
- Complex pieces should be broken down into smaller pieces, boxed individually
- Send along assembly information and images, including a repair kit
- Insure your package!
Pricing your work
- Materials, time as a factor (adjust if you tend to work slow or fast)
- Take in consideration commission rate
- Market value: speak to gallery owner about local retail averages vs global averages (example: Grand Rapids may have a higher price point than Anchorage for art)
- You may need to make some adjustment to your pricing (or piece choice) to reflect your new locale
- Don’t undervalue: your humble $300 price point for your detailed oil painting may say “there is something wrong with this” or “I’m not worth collecting” to a collector. You don’t want to brand yourself as naïve or desperate.
- Don’t flux: Collectors get very frustrated with art that’s re-priced from show to show or month to month. If a piece isn’t moving at a current price, RESEARCH WHY. The results may surprise you. Never drop a price…
Market your show: marketing, opening receptions, and review
- Branding the Art and Show: from Objects to Experience
- Social media/Mailing Lists/Preview Lists
- Press Releases and advertising
- Opening and Closing receptions
- Press and collector parties
- Reviews: the Good, the Bad, and the Nothing At All