No artists = No galleries!
Can you imagine? NO art on the walls. No sculptures on pedestals. No installation work or videos on display in an art gallery?
As a conceptual idea, OK. It could signify the death of art. Again! On various levels...suggesting various ideas...but that's not where I'm going with this. And even with much art being virtual, another possible implication that art (as we know it) is dead, I'm not going there, either.
Taking this out of the conceptual realm, I have noticed a dynamic between some artists and galleries that suggests there is a deep pathology that needs surgery, or at least, "meds" in order to stave off some sort of art gallery tragedy! As they close one after the other, now may be the time to think about what we can do to improve conditions and make them artist-friendly.
Artists have other choices, so I hope the galleries will listen up! Most artists I know do prefer to show in galleries, at least, sometimes!
I just don't get why some galleries persist in treating artists as if they are secondary and not the reason for a gallery's existence! Here is my partial list of the "how comes" that artists (and galleries) can consider:
1. Why are artists made to quake in their boots when they approach some galleries?
2. Why don't all gallerists divulge the names of buyers to the artists?
3. Why don't all galleries consult with and/or respect the wishes of artists on how their work is displayed?
4. Why do some galleries discount from the artist's portion of the sale, too and not from the gallery commission?
5. Why do some galleries not publicize the exhibitions and promote artists they show?
6. Why do some galleries ask artists to pay for photography and publicity on top of the commissions?
7. Why are some galleries not run as other businesses are, keeping regular hours, etc.?
8. Why do some galleries delay paying their artists when work is sold?
9. Why don't artists get paid interest on monies galleries have held back over 30 days?
We have established that anyone can open a gallery with no training in art or even business, so maybe we can address a couple of other questions:
1. Should galleries be rated on the care and handling of the art and artists they show ?
2. Should there be a system to rate galleries such as the Better Business Bureau or something like Angie's List or the equivalent of Rate Your Professor/teacher sites for college professors? Artists could then anonymously give galleries a thumbs up or down. Services such as these would forewarn other artists if their brethren didn't get paid for sold work, were not treated well in general, had work damaged or stolen and other atrocities that have been reported in the press and shared word-of-mouth.
One game some galleries play is the same one that some mothers tell their children. If you miss one train (boyfriend/girlfriend) another one always comes along. Just wait. Galleries know that there will always be artists willing to put up with, and be grateful for, gallery exposure, so if one artist stomps out in anger and feeling mistreated, another artist is waiting to be next!OH NO! Bad behaving artists?
This had to come up next! Difficult artists give gallerists and curators the blues. They should also be outed, although as we all know, difficult artists often get rewarded, not restrained. The "talent" is enough to make excuses for bad behavior and the audiences are mesmerized by behavior outside the so-called norm. That's why we fixate on these reality show folks and other train wrecks (don't want to get sued so I won't name names...) that we can't keep our eyes off...actors, politicians, golfers and others who misbehave mesmerize us!
Professionally run, artist-friendly galleries should be rewarded! And there are a lot of those; Parish Gallery in D.C. is one. Nicole Gallery in Chicago is one. Homewood Studios in Minneapolis is one, Woman Made Gallery in Chicago is one, and there are many others! I hear Packer Schopf is one and Ann Nathan, too. I know Robert Henry Adams, now closed, was one. June Kelly is one.
Collectors, you have the power to change this bad behavior as well. I know the artists tell people about the bad behavior. So supporting the "good" galleries to buy could help; artists look for representation at the good galleries and respectfully speak out when a gallery treats you or your work badly! Sometimes the ONLY education people running these places get is from their artists!
I wish I had a top ten artist-friendly galleries in every US city, if not globally. I found this post on Art business.com that explains the ideal gallery and artist/gallery relationship. If you're not getting this you may be getting the short end of the stick!