This Post is by Lori Woodward Simons, Regular contributing writer for
FineArtViews. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I've had the pleasure of working with a handful of commercial galleries since the mid 90's, and while the majority of my experiences with them were positive, a couple of gallery situations were less than desirable. Before I begin talking about what disturbed me about these working relationships, I'd like to commend the gallerists who "do it right" by promoting their artists while paying monies due in a timely manner, holding shows and paying for the wine and cheese (sometimes even caviar), and treating artists like partners instead of inferior employees.
Are Gallerist's Critiques Helpful or Do They Irritate You?
For this particular blog post, I want to focus on a questions for artists out there who've worked with commercial galleries... how do you feel about having the gallerist critique the work you deliver? Is it helpful or does it irritate you? What about the gallery dealer who gives you a list of things to include in your painting - so that it will sell? And finally, how do you feel about "themed shows"... you know, where the gallery says, we're having a show that features "Summer" or "Food"?
While I don't mind a fair critique every once in a while, I've worked with one galleriest who critiques every work I hand him - to the Nth degree, requiring that I change these things before handing the work over for display. Sometimes he points out all the things wrong with the painting and then rejects it. Honestly, I would prefer that he just say no to the ones he doesn't like without explanation. I do regularly get critiques from artists and colleagues whose opinions I respect, so I'm not saying I don't like critiques in general.
For the most part, the gallerists I've worked with simply take what they like or think will sell and reject the ones they don't want - without explanation as to why. I'm not insulted when they reject paintings because they know what their clients want. Many times, I can take those "rejected" paintings to another gallery where they are received and consequently sold. Just because one dealer says no to taking a painting, doesn't mean it's a bad painting.
This is Not a Complaint Session
So let me get back to the main question: How do you feel about having the gallery owner tell you what to paint and how to paint it?
Yes, this is a slightly controversial question, and I'm not looking for a complaint session. Please don't mention any gallery names - I don't want to be sued or hurt the business of any gallery.
It's hard enough for them these days to keep their doors open. This post isn't about ditching gallery dealers - it's about how you feel when they advise you as to how and what to paint.
Some of you may actually find a critique from the gallerist helpful - or perhaps you like themed shows because they help you to know what to paint. I'm not suggesting that these things are always a negative. That's why I'm wanting to hear your thoughts. I had one gallery dealer in Tucson who did give me helpful feedback, but it was about tweeking a thing or two in my paintings. So, there are no hard and fast rules or experiences.