It’s always come up, from time to time, but I’ve been noticing it more in the last few months, that people want to know what galleries I’m showing at. Years ago, it was uncommon – I would tell people I was an artist, and they would ask about the art: “What style of art do you do?” … “What medium do you work in?” … “What is your art about?” … that sort of thing (which I almost never had a good answer for, either) but now when I tell people I’m an artist, a larger and larger share have a first question of “What galleries do you show at?” I’ve even begun to get it at the Phoenix First Fridays Art Walk, where I am a street vendor. People see me standing in front of my art, hear me talking about my art, watch me trying to sell my art, and ask what galleries they can see it in. If my work was in a gallery, don’t you think I’d be there, rather than standing in the road, competing with myself?
My website, wretchedcreature.com, is my gallery, I say. I do most of my sales online, I say, and a fair amount through the First Fridays Art Walk.
Then, about half the time, they want to talk about what other local artists I know, show with, and/or work with.
I don’t know this stuff. I don’t know how one gets one’s art into a gallery. I don’t know how an artist would select galleries they wished to show in; what are the criteria to judge it on? I don’t know how galleries decide what artists to show; what criteria are they judging artists on? On this latter count, I can make some guesses:
Past shows, prizes/grants/fellowships won, fine arts degrees held, notability/name-recognition, market value of work, and what other galleries are showing the work. To which, right now, I can answer: None, none, none, none, none, none*, and none. (*well, very low, compared to every price I’ve seen in an established gallery)
I’m aware that galleries expect to, like most retailers, pay the creator 50% of the list price for works sold. Same as books. Same reason I’m in no hurry to get my books sold through book stores. Same reason I don’t really try to drive sales even to Amazon.com. Please, buy from me in person or through modernevil.com or wretchedcreature.com. I’ll hand it directly to you, personally. If it’s a book, I’ll sign it to you. (The art’s already signed.) Theoretically, the benefit of having the art in the gallery is that then they’ll market it for you, I guess, since it’s in their self-interest to sell it so they can get their 50%. The more they sell, the more money they make. Theoretically they have a client list of people who they know buy art, who they can contact to try to sell my art. Theoretically they have open hours when someone can just walk in off the street and see my art, who wouldn’t have otherwise seen it. I’m just not sold on the concept.
Then again, I’m not sold on the concept of money, either. Which I can see, intellectually, is the point. Right now, with no galleries showing my work, few people see it, fewer buy it, and I don’t make a lot of sales – but when I do sell, I get the full sales price to cover my expenses (and maybe even make a profit). If I had my work in galleries, more people would see it, theoretically more people would buy it, and while the gallery would take 50% right off the top of every sale, the higher volume would (theoretically) end up giving me more money. Except if I were selling a higher volume of work, the overhead expenses would be equally higher, and profit would be more difficult to achieve. In fact, I’d be doing the same creative work for less money, and I would be less likely to have personal contact/relationships with the people buying my art.
That’s not taking into account that a gallery would almost certainly want me to raise my prices. On one hand, this would increase how much I was earning from each piece (perhaps even reaching into the realm of a reasonable hourly wage, even after expenses and the gallery’s 50% and the government’s chunk). On the other hand, it would price my work out of the realm of possibility of the people who have, historically, always been the fondest of my work – young people. I don’t know.
…my thoughts went off track there, and I wasn’t writing it, and I’m not going to write it all out, but it ended with “I wish I could just kill myself,” so you know this isn’t good…
…earlier tonight I was thinking of maybe looking into finding out what I’d have to do to get my art into galleries, but … This, I don’t need. In the last two weeks I’ve figured out how to get my family into a stable financial position; I’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to see exactly what the numbers come out to, but everything looks to be 150% better than the last year, which was certainly survivable. (And that’s without any pressure on me to make more than $1 this year.) I feel I’m in a good place with my writing, with 4+ books queued up to be written (books I like the idea of writing, which is important to me) this year and months before I run out of already-written stuff for the podcast. I’ve just started something that could lead to a whole series of interesting and thematically linked paintings – something I’ve never really done much of, in the past, but have wanted to try. You probably saw my new year / old decade post; I’m in a generally good place, doing what I want to be doing.
Things that lead to suicidal thoughts, I do not need. F_ck that. I don’t need it.
I may make a post about what happened in my mind in the “…” up there. It’s not an unoriginal line of thought, and may be more the source of the problem than this galleries garbage, so it’s worth investigating. But not right now. Not tonight. And I know I didn’t touch on the issue of validation or prestige associated with being shown, partially because I was side-tracked by my own brain, and partially because I don’t much care about either. Another time, another train of thought, but not now. I don’t need this right now.