Artist Guide to Galleries
by Ryan Mario
The art world has been plagued by an air of elitism for the longest time, so much that the reservations of entering it without prior experience in its dealings can be felt by emerging artists and collectors. Needless to say, the misconception that art is meant for those who are financially and socially a cut above the rest has also left the general public’s perception towards the industry in vacillation between admiration and rejection. Such misconceptions of the art world have left many in question on the accessibility of creative services and collaborative opportunities in the business, especially fresh artists who entered the art market on unstable footing.
The pages of the 1967 edition of Artforum contained a three-part essay bearing the title “Inside the White Cube”, one that was quickly adopted to tag the then new mode of exhibition which dominated museums and commercial galleries. Coined by Brian O’Doherty, the term “white cube” has become recurrent as a fine-art lexicon and a reiteration that museums and galleries are still staple institutes for art dealership. Furthermore, major international art fairs have also grown to be gallery-centric, whereby participation as an individual artist is not permissible. Seemingly intimidating, the status of these establishments may impede new artists from approaching them for exhibition opportunities. Even so, playing the right cards beyond artwork presentation may potentially earn applicants some recognition points from the curators.
Art-making is a profession. Scoring that exhibition in a commercial gallery can be likened to securing a desired job position in the corporate world. Just as how one would research on a company’s goals and vision, the same should be applied when sending in an application to be represented by a gallery. The ability to research works of art, or the market itself, is considerably useful and will set the applicant apart from the rest. Moreover, galleries receive a lot of approaches from artists. Spoiled for choice, these galleries are more inclined to work with those whose artworks are aligned with their theme and philosophy.
Portfolios should be critically considered as a sales deck. Aside from the mandatory artworks as validation for technical mastery, other aspects of an artist portfolio should also be clinically constructed, especially since commercial galleries of today are placing more emphasis on the presentation of the artist’s personal biography and artwork write-ups. Information within bios should be concise and skewed towards artistic practices like the choice of mediums, stylistic approach, and conceptual analysis.
High resolution photographs of artworks need to be appropriately cropped and compiled to facilitate the ease of referencing for the galleries. A number of photo-editing software is readily available online to assist with the required adjustments of images. Finally, artwork details are ideally labelled in the format sequence of title, artist’s name, artwork medium, year, and price.
Something that often falls short of attention in artistic collaborations in a contract. Be it a gallery showing, commission, consignment, or licensing deal, a contract helps distinguish everyone’s responsibilities. It pays to be clear and detailed in laying out the appropriate involvements of each party within the project timelines, along with the retention of artwork ownership and copyright limitations.
A section for costs and payment is almost always an included necessity within the terms and conditions of a contract. It should be duly noted that the average market percentage for artwork consignment between the two entities is a 50%. Of course, the fees are mostly negotiable, so long as both entities tactfully reach a consensus with the goal to secure a long-lasting and healthy partnership. While the proceeds of any sale shall be held in trust for the benefit of the artist by the gallery, it should also be sent to the artist within a reasonable period, usually at the discretion of the gallery, unless stated otherwise within the contract.
Approaching a gallery as an artist for collaborations requires more than a showcase of artistic skills. It is prudent for artists to set themselves apart from the rest by tackling the nuances in personal and artistic presentations. By taking calculated steps in adapting to the shifting prerequisites of each gallery, only then will these artists be deemed to be the most receptive to changes and make working with them a breeze, thus securing the partnership in this rat race for creatives.