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Mat Gleason

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What Artists Need to Know About Gallerists Staying Current

Posted: 04/27/2012 12:00 pm

I made the leap from critic to curator, but not from writer to non-writer. My decision to open a contemporary art gallery in Los Angeles was as much a case of cabin fever as it was a love of putting art shows together. There is plenty to write about on this adventure through the inner workings of it all. Please join me...

We had our big opening party on a Saturday, but Wednesday was my first real day at work. After about two hours at the gallery something dawned on me: I would not be getting out much. The gallery is going to take four weekdays. That leaves three days to go out and see anything. The other galleries in town are closed Sunday and Monday and plenty of them are closed on Tuesday as well.

Studio visits? Where will the time come from? Artists should know that gallerists probably don't get out and stay current. Sure, some have directors and assistants, but all too often those same job-creators have other lifestyle priorities than getting their shoes dirty on the studio visit pavement.

For years, I made a game of asking gallerists at Culver City and Bergamot if they had seen a great show at a nearby gallery, one less than a hundred feet from their front doors. Almost never did the gallery director answer in the affirmative. There I was, walking by six neighboring galleries on the same Chinatown row of shops as mine, and I just didn't have the time to take a gander at a one. The game had come for me.

What does it mean for artists that the person who has the power to grant you a career-changing solo show doesn't get out and keep current? Oh, there are always a hundred excuses, most centering on being too busy, but gaps develop -- gallery power brokers are not filling in these information gaps on their own. This means that the art media and the people who have the ears of the gallery leaseholders are their eyeballs, their vetters, their next big gamble.

So here's a lesson for you all: coverage in the art media is doubly important because gallery owners will stop and read an art magazine or surf the art news websites. Gallery owners will listen to the recommendations of their close friends, confidants and collectors. There isn't really any other efficient method out there. Yes, I'll get by with a little help from my friends.

 

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