Once upon a time the main goal for any artist who went to art school was to find gallery representation.
Many artists are by-passing galleries these days.
The artists who skipped art school seem to have a natural entrepreneurial gift that some of the art school artists don't. My friend Marva Jolly has had sales in her Mudpeoples studio for years, some people leaving with 4 or 5 ceramic art works every time she has one of her open studios. She shows in galleries, too!
More and more these days ALL artists are trying new ways to sell their art. Some prefer studio sales where they can control everything and keep all their profits. Of course they must pay for the studio space. Artists are showing in boutiques and restaurants, not new, but some artists who now do so are new to this trend. I recently exhibited two sculptures at Eye Emporium, an eye wear store on North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago that has a very cool exhibition space. Tony Fitzpatrick, a noted Chicago artist followed my 3-person exhibition titled "The Dolls of J" and artist Wesley Kimler's art works graced the walls of the gallery even while the other exhibition I was a part of was up! Wesley's largescale drawings and paintings are magnificent. He and Tony can, and have shown in very important art venues and they also exhibited at Eye Emporium, a place that features artists as a secondary purpose for their space. You get it? This is a significant change!
Artists have shown their work in art fairs for a long time; the profits are better if they sell, although it is hard work to sit and wait for customers, gather all the equipment such as tents and tables, and transport and set up for a weekend that could be unpredictable. They pay the sometimes hefty entry fees and oh, hope no one gives them a bad check!
So times (and methods) of displaying and selling art are changing.
I think it is time for the gallery system to change, too, rearranging the balance of power so the artists get more say (input), and in some cases, more respect, and perhaps a bigger cut of the sales. . .The galleries hold the power, if you are an artist who craves the gallery system. The gallery is the "decider" and gets to choose their artists and not vice versa. Even in those "pay to play" galleries, aka cooperative galleries, where monthly fees ensure your spot to exhibit, artists may not fare too well monetarily. I know artists who put up with worse treatment than they ever would, in any other situation, to be represented by a gallery, almost any gallery! And don't I understand that!
What is the alternative? If artists simply promote and sell their own work it becomes hard to establish pedigree. Somehow, no matter how wonderful the work is we still require "stamps of approval" from art critics, feature writers, collectors and yes, gallerists!Here I am (2nd from right) with some of my friends at Eye Emporium, who are also beautiful dolls. (l to r, close up of "A Girl Like Me" doll, Lilian, Madeline, me and Carolyn. Wesley Kimler's work is behind us on the wall.
Let me stop here to ask some questions:
Is there a vetting system for gallery owners? I know there are local and national organizations of art dealers. If a gallery is not a member, who oversees commercial galleries to ensure they run fair establishments, requires them to pay artists on time and establishes general protocol and responsibilities for the gallery owners?And if they are a member, do these organizations check for problems?
Do gallery owners need the equivalent to the M.F.A., or any proof of professional training that is often a requirement for "serious" visual artists? I found this when I searched "gallery owners + training".
Can anybody open a gallery?
Does anybody open a gallery?
Will artists flock to anybody's gallery?