Saturday, July 19, 2008

Gallery Protocol

We went to the 'Gallery Relationships: Waving, Not Drowning' workshop at Artsource this morning.

Amongst other themes, the beast of all beasts snuck in - that being gallery protocol.

Paola put forth the proposition that all galleries have different do's and don'ts (one example being simply DON'T) but essentially it should be universally approached in a professional manner similar to a job interview. It might not be so romantic but it will be appreciated more.

These aren't comprehensive but rather personal thoughts and stuff I've gathered over the years.

  • Study your market thoroughly. Look for galleries that fit your concerns, media and interests. A sculpture gallery is highly unlikely to show photography
  • Visit the gallery's exhibitions and get on their mailing list. Be aware of what is going on and - most importantly - be interested in the gallery
  • Timing. Be aware when a gallerist might be particularly hectic (fairs, etc) and avoid bothering them at a bad time where possible
  • Network. Meet and discuss the arts (not just your work) as often as possible
  • Present both your work and self professionally and tidy with neat edges
  • Have a typed resume with applicable contact details as well as educational, exhibition, commission, awards and publication histories
  • Be exact! Spell check everything and check your facts
  • Really make the effort to sit down and write about your work. This doesn't need to be a formal essay but it will help you clarify thoughts and ideas. It's especially helpful should you be interviewed in the future
  • Consider employing a writer to pen 1000-1500 words about your work in a critical review. Whilst this might be a relatively expensive exercise, it will also be helpful going forward. In consultation with the writer, you could also submit this to various magazines
  • Read & Look. Be aware of what is going on around you
  • Photograph your work (or have it photographed) so that it is clear from distraction and presented in the best possible light
  • Only ever show your best work. Edit hard and ask for advice if necessary (PA)
  • Be very selective with where and whom you present your work
  • Develop a thorough and comprehensive mailing list with notes. Try wherever possible to target addresses as exactly as possible... ie. to a specific person and their position.
  • Consider purchasing a mailing list (if available) but check it thoroughly so as not to double up or be caught out by someone else's errors
  • Make sure you check your mailing list every time you use it. People move around a lot in the arts
  • Print some 5 x 7" or 10 x 8" prints of your work and include these in a mail out. A CD/DVD involves effort to access whereas a print is immediate. However, include a CD with images as well for the gallery to file
  • If sending a media release consider including some small images on the same page as the release itself (RS)
  • Develop multiple media releases for varying outlets. Study the outlet and reword to fit their demographic
  • Include a self-addressed envelope if you want the material back

  • Cold call EVER with work under your arm. Keep it casual on initial contact and try to set up a formal appointment
  • Blanket market. Target your mail outs instead to those who might be interested in your work
  • Email huge files in obscure formats
  • Enter every award or group show. This is messy, time consuming and most importantly can put your work in ill-fitting context
  • Take it personally. It is after all an industry with supply, demand, politics and - in some ways - corruption.

Many more but a good start.

Admittedly I suffer from a lack of confidence that inhibits a bombastic follow-up to an initial contact. In the back of my head there is this fear that if I push for some form of response, that response is likely to be bad. Irrelevant of how confident I am (or aren't) about any particular series of work, the thought niggles.

A general theme of awareness was broached which is how we have always looked at the process of exhibiting - ie. having the names in circulation.

It's however difficult to know if this approach is naive. How do you get heard above the din or more importantly above those who are more in your face about their own work? It shouldn't be such a competitive environment but it is by default in such a village as Perth.

Edward Winkleman also wrote an interesting update on this very polymorphic (anyone spot a new fav. word?) theme.

Just as a disclaimer: I don't have gallery representation or an ongoing relationship with a gallery. These are personal thoughts that represent what I feel to be professional practice. Ultimately the true protocols might be as obscure as don't talk to a Gallerist on Wednesdays when it's raining.

All enough to make you twitch really!

Read more on Artreview.

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