I have been ruminating on this topic for sometime, and what has prevented me from broaching the topic is not my continued interest, but how to approach it without shooting myself in the foot. As an Artist myself who enjoys a reputation for continually exhibiting, there are gallery owners who may find my criticisms somewhat objectionable.
Once upon a time a gallery owner/art dealer would take responsibility for representing their Artists both on the wall and off. They were business people who would take a keen interest in which Artists they would take under there wing. Once you were selected there would be a contract settled on which would allow the gallery to take a commission on sales. However the relationship wouldn’t just end there. The Artist and the dealer had a close relationship which would include studio visits to discuss the direction of new work. The dealer had a clientele whom would also be included in the dealer’s regular business and social circles. Yes once upon a time gallery owners actually worked for the Artist because they were motivated by the commission arrangement.
Well folks things have changed. Now galleries are walls that we rent. There is at times more to it than just that, but more often than not what you get for what is often more than $1,000.00/week are the walls, and an ad in one or more free local tabloids next to the escort ads. They may even send out emails to their contact list. It is with regret that I inform you – that is where the relationship ends. Almost never will you get a prepaid reception. Never expect them to market you beyond your exhibit. If you want any marketing done over and above it is on your tab, invite cards included. Unless the Artist is actually sitting the exhibit it is rare that whoever is attending will even feign interest in potential purchasers who walk in the door. There are also a number of other trivial matters that I think go to a lack of professional standards, but I won’t rant forever.
In conclusion I think that we as Artist have got too either bite the bullet and learn how to be our own marketing agents, or start making the gallery owners aware that our interest in exhibiting is an extension of our career as Artists, and to that end gallery owners should start taking more responsibility for marketing the Art on the walls.