This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY, artnet, WorldNetDaily (WND) and Art Fag City. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 20,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Art gallery representation can be a difficult beast to 'take down'. The goal of this FineArtViews series, Art Gallery Representation: Some factors to consider, is to help you, the artist, in the 'hunt' for representation. As stated in the first edition, I have compiled feedback from over a dozen gallery owners and artists concerning specific factors that artists should consider when seeking representation. I have covered several factors with this series: distance, art pricing and materials. In this edition I will tackle another important factor – that being, experience.
The factor to consider: Experience
I realize that experience is a controversial factor when thinking of the gallery world. I know that some readers may take issue with the role of experience in this context – and that some may end up insulted by the topic. This topic can easily 'strike nerves' with some artists (it has already caused a few clashes on previous editions of this series). That said, experience IS an important factor to consider when seeking gallery representation. All I ask is that you place your ego aside long enough to consider the following information and how it may apply to your situation.
Like it or not, your experience may impact your search for art gallery representation. When I say 'experience' I'm thinking in terms of exhibit and sales history. Pointblank, you may be an extremely experienced artist studio-wise – BUT that does not mean that you are on the same professional level, gallery-wise, compared to the gallery represented artist who has experienced a lengthy exhibit / sales history. Again, I base my opinion on feedback I've complied from over a dozen gallery owners and gallery represented artists.
Art galleries tend to target specific groups of artists based on exhibit / sales experience. This 'targeting' often leads to specific labels being used within the context of marketing (sometimes behind closed doors). In other words, these labels can be the foundation for the business model of an art gallery. For example, some galleries desire 'emerging artists' while others seek out 'mid-career artists' – I have even seen 'later career artists' used. Keep in mind that in this context the gallery is thinking in terms of exhibit / sales history... NOT the length of time an artist has focused on his or her art.
The labels mentioned above are often applied based on exhibit history (though obviously they can be defined in different ways depending on the situation). In other words, gallery-wise the artist who has painted for 30+ years may still be considered 'emerging' if he or she has never been represented by an art gallery. He or she lacks exhibit experience – which may mean that he or she has little to no sales history. Needless to say, the use of these labels can become complicated – and offensive depending on how they are interpreted by the artist. Unfortunately, loose categorization has long been a staple of the gallery world.
The experience factor is a 'double-edged sword' in that you, the artist, may be too experienced for the art gallery you are interested in. Pointblank, the prices you are able to demand due to a lengthy exhibit / sales history – a career that has spurred appreciating monetary value for your artwork -- may price you out of the market embraced by art galleries that focus on inexperienced artists. Note: This has a lot to do with some of the issues I discussed concerning art pricing.
The art dealer group, with a few exceptions, agreed that exhibit / sales experience is a consideration when deciding on an artist for representation. Two of the dealers stated that exhibit / sales experience is not an issue – BUT their galleries don't have a solidified direction based on experience in this context. The others focus on artists based on experience – some intentionally seek out less experienced artists (exhibit-wise) while others focus on artists who have a solid exhibit history. Every dealer in the group stressed that their choice – based on the experience factor – represents what they know their audience desires. In other words, the choice is nothing personal against specific groups of artists... the choice is a business choice.
One art dealer put it this way, "I know that my buyers prefer artists who are still establishing a name for themselves. Our gallery would suffer financially if I added experienced artists to the roster. That is not what my buyers are looking for.". He added, "This gallery is not the place for artists who have had a long history of exhibiting.". Another dealer offered his thoughts, stating, "It would not be fair to me or the artist if I formed a partnership knowing that her inexperience goes against the grain of what our collectors expect.". He added, "Our collectors expect artists who have reached a certain level of success, been reviewed or featured by press. The less experienced artist would not thrive here. It would be detrimental to her confidence.".
This is what I want to stress: I know that experience (in this context) is a 'hot button' topic for many artists. Furthermore, I realize that the experience factor may seem unfair to some readers – I can already 'see' the "my art is just as good" comments. Again, this article is about exhibit / sales experience... NOT studio experience. That said, my intention is to save you time. When researching an art gallery with representation in mind... take note of where the represented artists are at exhibit-wise. You can often tell if experience is a factor based on the exhibit history of the represented artists. If it is a factor... you may want to narrow your search -- keep hunting.
Take care, Stay true,