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Author Topic: Getting into a gallery  (Read 2801 times)
Chairman Bill
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« on: April 23, 2011, 03:38:50 AM »
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My wife pointed out a photography exhibition at a local venue, advertised in the local newspaper. I Googled the three photographers named, & found the work of two of them. The photographs on one of the sites was of fine art paintings (he seems to take photos as a secondary activity), but the other was a professional 'tog. His work was singularly unexciting. Composition was nothing special, in fact in some case absolutely appalling. They were correctly exposed in a 'leave it to matrix metering to sort it out' kind of way. Subject matter was uninteresting in most cases. It had nothing to say. Yet its got gallery space.

I was reading a magazine yesterday, and a photographers work interested me. Nothing fantastic about it, but not bad stuff. He's exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, which sort of suggests to me that his work has been recognised as being particularly good. Checking his website, his portraits are indeed very good. But then, I've got some equally good ones, and I'd quite like to see them in the National Portrait Gallery too.

So, my question is, how do people get very ordinary (at best) photos into galleries, and how do I get my work noticed & invited to any of the good ones?
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LKaven
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« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2011, 05:55:09 AM »
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Putting aside for the moment bad taste on the owner's part, I wonder if they paid a premium to get the space. 

I remember back when you had to be actually very good to play at the Village Vanguard.  Today, if you have $10,000 to give them, your chances are a lot better. 
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ckimmerle
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« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2011, 08:05:35 AM »
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As unfair as it may seem, it sounds as if you've got some dues to pay (metaphorically speaking, that is). For the most part, though there are some exceptions, the more prestigious galleries/museums will only accept photographers who've had exhibits at smaller venues. Such experience shows not only that your work has been accepted and appreciated by others in the art world, but that you're dedicated and mature about your art.

Have you had exhibits in the past? If so, great. If not, why not? Start at local shops, restaurants, galleries, etc. Some of these venues may seem rather "low end" and you may consider them beneath you, but any place in you can get your work in front of people is a good place.

One thing that is not often understood by photographers (all artists, in fact) seeking exhibition credentials is that it's really themselves who will be on display. The wall art is simply a means of communicating who they are. That means that it's going to take more than a few great images to get a prestigious exhibit. It's going to take a complete and cohesive body of work. In addition, the photographer must also be able to speak confidently and personally about his/her vision, motivation, inspiration, purpose, etc. that went into making the photographs. In essence, an exhibit requires a very high level of vulnerability, scrutiny and thought. That is not something that is acceptable to everyone.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2011, 08:07:37 AM by ckimmerle » Logged

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes." Marcel Proust

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« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2011, 09:07:23 AM »
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I'd quite like to see them in the National Portrait Gallery too.


I think you should ask yourself was it purely creative talent that got the artist to exhibit a body of their work at that Gallery or was it an image(s) of a show of historically significant people, such as politicians, popular stars, CEOs, etc..?

As for the topic of gaining acceptance into galleries I have no idea I've run the numbers a couple of times and have never seen a reasonable arrangement (an arrangement that wasn't &^%$!# ridiculous)  so I'm very jaded and agree with LKaven  you get what you pay for
« Last Edit: April 23, 2011, 09:13:41 AM by lightstand » Logged
RSL
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« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2011, 09:47:39 AM »
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In addition, the photographer must also be able to speak confidently and personally about his/her vision, motivation, inspiration, purpose, etc. that went into making the photographs. In essence, an exhibit requires a very high level of vulnerability, scrutiny and thought. That is not something that is acceptable to everyone.

Chuck, Your post is right on the money, but I have to laugh at this part even though it's true. When I go to a gallery display I always read the "artist's statements. and they're always much funnier than the comics. Pretentiousness reigns supreme. I exit laughing, go home and reread the first part of Brooks Jensen's Letting Go of the Camera, and start laughing all over again. It would be refreshing to read an artist's statement that deals with the art rather than the artist's world view and immature illusions.
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fredjeang
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« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2011, 10:04:58 AM »
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A good gallery is booked, generally for a year or more.
Keep in mind that serious galleries receive thousand of books every week, they of course never check them.

The very best galleries will contact you, not the other way. How? because they know who you are and at one point they want you.
It means that you have to be in the circuit for some time in much more humble spaces, generally starting with collectives.

You make yourself a name and a reputation step by step. Reasonably think about 9-10 years to reach that.

If you are really good*, a serious gallerie might contact you.
*really good here means that a gallerie is a business institution and therefore do not expect fairness. They want to sell and make money. If the gallerie is good you will make a lot of money too.

Social contacts are a part but only a part. I know very famous photographers in a genre with impressive contact list that have hard time to enter a serious art gallery.
There is a legend on that. They have hard time despite they relations simply because the gallerie has a clientèle focused in a certain style and if you do not belong
to their customer's demand, relations or not, you will not enter. The commercial circuit is not the same at all from the art one. There is almost no bridges.

Nobody can't enter this or that gallerie in Madrid for example, even if your relations are enormous, even if you get married to the lady in charge. If your name is Robert Longo you will have a welcome place even if you are an unbearable person to deal with.

Sometimes, if a young* artist (in fine arts for example) is really good, teachers inform the galleries that there is a promissed "star". They keep an eye on the person, how she-he grows.
*young in art does not specially mean young in age. You can be 50 and being young in the circuit.

It is exactly like formula 1 car race.  You don't enter a F1 team, they call you when they estimate you will make them earn a lot of money and prestige.

Start from the bottom in collectives with zero expectations. Do not target the big ones even if you estimate that your work is good. They have to estimate that (not the artist) based on their own criterias. If you call a big gallery not being "ready", you gain a bad reputation and it is even harder to come back later. Just exhibit where you can.

« Last Edit: April 23, 2011, 10:26:00 AM by fredjeang » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2011, 10:20:14 AM »
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There is a legend on that. They have hard time despite they relations simply because the gallerie has a clientèle focused in a certain style and if you do not belong to their customer's demand, relations or not, you will not enter. The commercial circuit is not the same at all from the art one. There is almost no bridges.

Fred, Everything you said is true, but I'd like to emphasize this point. As I've said before, my wife owned a gallery for ten years, so I'm familiar with at least some of the problems a gallery owner faces. If a gallery rejects your great work don't take it personally. The gallery has to make a buck to stay in business, and to do that it has to carry what it can sell. The gallery owner may love your work, but if he knows it won't appeal to his clientele he's going to have to reject it. Display space is too precious to allow the owner to go with his heart.
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fredjeang
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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2011, 10:22:54 AM »
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Fred, Everything you said is true, but I'd like to emphasize this point. As I've said before, my wife owned a gallery for ten years, so I'm familiar with at least some of the problems a gallery owner faces. If a gallery rejects your great work don't take it personally. The gallery has to make a buck to stay in business, and to do that it has to carry what it can sell. The gallery owner may love your work, but if he knows it won't appeal to his clientele he's going to have to reject it. Display space is too precious to allow the owner to go with his heart.

Totally agree Russ. That is what is happening and I fairly understand the gallerist dilema. They have to sell and they have a clientele despite they might love your work. They would probably guide the artist to this other space they know that matches with your style.
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Rob C
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« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2011, 02:43:44 PM »
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I have always been amused by the 'artist's statement' bit on websites - with some few exceptions - and so since I've been asked to join a local group of mixed-discipline artists here, and a group ding-dong is set for August to run over several venues, and the theme is to be mythology, I was rather pleased. I need but raid my cupboard of old hats and there I am: Aphrodite. The only costs will be frames. The b/w prints already exist.

I intend to open with this 'statement' and have the next image a conch shell and then a few wet-skinned ladies to follow. I may not be asked again or even get the space, but I need to do someting to kill the boredom. That's more important than a show for me.





The Birth of Venus


Always a pale child, Sandro Botticelli would spend hours of the day in solitary walks by the fabled shore, chatting quietly with the mermaids who, taking pity upon the poor kid, would allow themselves to be seen. Nonetheless, sirens to a fish, they would temper their discourse with anecdotes about heroes and other mythical creatures until poor little Sandro, head throbbing, could take no more, and would scurry back to the relative silence of his broken home.

This continued until his fourth birthday when, heavy with a cold, he was confined to quarters. Bored, he wandered around the house until he came upon the wooden ladder to the flat roof, an area forbidden him because of the difficulties a small child might face attempting to challenge the perils of such a thing.

Anyway, since nobody was around and his mother was entertaining some soldiers in the garden, he took the opportunity of going where he had never gone before: up and ever higher, at least to the open trapdoor to the roof. Now, you must understand that for a four-year-old, wooden ladders do indeed represent a formidable obstacle. With great care, he climbed until his head just reached the level of the floor outside.

At that point he almost fell right back down. There, her feet framing his ears, lay Aunt Maria, snoring and sunbathing naked as a frog, in perfect simulation of the Vitruvian Man in his more athletic mode. At four, such things are inclined to leave an indelible mark upon one’s mind.

And so it was with Botticelli. From then onwards, he saw everything in terms of shells, a condition that stayed with him until the end and gave rise to his most renowned oeuvre: the Birth of Venus. The mermaids saw little of him after that.


© Rob Campbell, 2011

I shall have a Spanish translation too... Equally, I may just as easily forget the whole thing and go walking by the shore myself.

Rob C
 
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2011, 04:47:26 PM »
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Fred, Everything you said is true, but I'd like to emphasize this point. As I've said before, my wife owned a gallery for ten years, so I'm familiar with at least some of the problems a gallery owner faces. If a gallery rejects your great work don't take it personally. The gallery has to make a buck to stay in business, and to do that it has to carry what it can sell. The gallery owner may love your work, but if he knows it won't appeal to his clientele he's going to have to reject it. Display space is too precious to allow the owner to go with his heart.


Bill,

In addition, I have learned something valuable over the years exhibiting (or being rejected). Making sense out of the why some work hangs in a gallery or museum will make you crazy and frustrated. But.....because I don't like something hanging in a gallery doesn't mean its not any good. There are just too many varied and perfectly valid POVs out there. If I don't like it-thats all it means. It has no greater significance beyond my personal opinion. The curator or gallery owner's opinion about the worth of it is just as valid. So I say let it go, get a thick skin and promote your own work.

I went online and could not find the show you are talking about. Otherwise I might have some personal insight.
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Thanks,
Kirk

Kirk Gittings
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Rocco Penny
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« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2011, 08:52:19 PM »
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Rob,
I said I'd mostly listen;
that is beautiful.
Also wasn't sandi's obsession that of the face?-
in fact just one face?
the face he loved but couldn't have nor escape from-
painting that same face forever. well you know the story
Man that dude was something
finally got buried at her feet
dang
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michswiss
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« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2011, 09:46:54 PM »
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I'm not sure how much I can add o this discussion, but I gotta say, there's an imperative and almost an obsession that occurs once you need to have your work seen.  It'll drag itself away and out of you.  It's then that you'll start to seek outlets.  Oddly enough, I think doing your own printing can be a disadvantage.  The good printers see a ton of images and will also likely know many of the galleries and curators as well as their preferences.  They are a great networking resource.

One of the hardest things I've been dealing with though is the "Artist's Statement."  As the artist, it all feels so pompous and pretentious.  But, pretty much to a tee, every time I've put my work in front of a curator or acquisition editor they eventually ask why.  Why those shots, why this particular collection.  Being able to answer that question in advance will get you a long way toward starting a dialogue with a gallery with an eye to a show.

I'm just starting to network in Melbourne.  I'm lucky that there is an active photography community here as well as many interested and interesting galleries.  What I've found is that while most are curated, they are also normally rented spaces paid for by the artist once accepted.  The fees don't seem too extravagant once you consider the marketing, promotion and other services provided.
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ckimmerle
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« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2011, 11:49:32 PM »
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When I go to a gallery display I always read the "artist's statements. and they're always much funnier than the comics.

No arguments there. For the most part, they're written so pompously confusing as to be meaningless. Sadly, though, some of the gallery owners LOVE that obtuse mumbo-jumbo.

For those of you seeking help with your artists statement, the late, great Bill Jay has some pointers:
http://www.billjayonphotography.com/MadonnaMadeMeDoIt.pdf
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"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes." Marcel Proust

Chuck Kimmerle
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Rob C
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« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2011, 02:57:16 AM »
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" Oddly enough, I think doing your own printing can be a disadvantage.  The good printers see a ton of images and will also likely know many of the galleries and curators as well as their preferences.  They are a great networking resource."

Thereby the first argument with self, Jennifer.
 
How can any artist possibly allow another pair of hands produce the final result, the bit that's seen? It's similar to taking the best man on your honeymoon. I guess there are situations where this holds its own logic, but hardly in the plastic arts. (I like that term, plastic arts: first came across it in this new group I've joined - a half-step from one of these 'artist's statements we are on about.)

Actually, I suspect that the reasons for being accepted or rejected (or both at the same time) might vary depending on whether the venue is a small town or a large city. I suspect that in the smaller place it might depend on how plugged in the artist might be, whereas in the big smoke a different sort of connection is required - more in the line of existing fame/noteriety over a wide range of news media.

I see no problem with a gallery's need for material it can sell; seems to me to be the best reason for having a show in the first place, otherwise, why not keep the art at home and just enjoy the making of it? Frankly, showing your work to people outwith the same discipline isn't very bright an idea if you seek valuable comment or appreciation: they simply don't know and will feel obliged to be kind, regardless of what the work might really do to them, if it does anything at all. I do believe that it is possible to be absolutely neutral about some things. Were it not so, one would have to keep off the highway or at least confine driving to the night. Oh those 50s!

Rob C

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Rob C
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« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2011, 03:08:53 AM »
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No arguments there. For the most part, they're written so pompously confusing as to be meaningless. Sadly, though, some of the gallery owners LOVE that obtuse mumbo-jumbo.

For those of you seeking help with your artists statement, the late, great Bill Jay has some pointers:
http://www.billjayonphotography.com/MadonnaMadeMeDoIt.pdf



Enjoyed that, Chuck!

Rob C
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stamper
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« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2011, 04:49:34 AM »
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In the last couple of days in Britain David Cameron has proclaimed it is who you know that gets you places and he thinks this is the norm. On the other hand Nick Clegg stated that it should be what you know. Bill I think you will have to follow Cameron on this one? Wink Grin For the benefit of the non Brits these are the two muppets who are running the show, politically, in Britain. Cry
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Rob C
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« Reply #16 on: April 24, 2011, 08:49:51 AM »
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In the last couple of days in Britain David Cameron has proclaimed it is who you know that gets you places and he thinks this is the norm. On the other hand Nick Clegg stated that it should be what you know. Bill I think you will have to follow Cameron on this one? Wink Grin For the benefit of the non Brits these are the two muppets who are running the show, politically, in Britain. Cry


Yes, but they are the only two muppets we have capable of constructing an intelligible sentence.

Rob C
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RSL
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« Reply #17 on: April 24, 2011, 08:58:00 AM »
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How can any artist possibly allow another pair of hands produce the final result, the bit that's seen? It's similar to taking the best man on your honeymoon. I guess there are situations where this holds its own logic, but hardly in the plastic arts. (I like that term, plastic arts: first came across it in this new group I've joined - a half-step from one of these 'artist's statements we are on about.)

Rob, That's the old Ansel Adams dictum: "The negative is the score. The print is the performance." As I've said before, ("baloney!" since this is a family forum) You make the picture when you trip the shutter. The objective of post-processing, whether it's for a monitor, a projector, or a print, is faithfully to carry out what's in the negative or the file. HCB isn't the only photographer who depended on a good professional printer to make his prints. Jennifer is a street photographer. I partially can buy into AA's argument in the case of landscape, since in most cases there isn't much there anyway, but it doesn't make any sense at all in street photography where the capture is the picture.

Quote
I see no problem with a gallery's need for material it can sell; seems to me to be the best reason for having a show in the first place, otherwise, why not keep the art at home and just enjoy the making of it.

There's one thing I probably should have added to my blurb about a gallery's need to make a buck: When you start a new gallery you need, at first, to experiment in order to find out what your market is. This is especially true in a smaller community where there isn't an established art market. And even after you've established your market you need to try new things from time to time. That's always a gamble, but if you don't do it your gallery's arteries gradually will harden and your market will begin to move on. My advice to anybody looking for a gallery for the first time is try to find a gallery that's just getting started. Even with an established gallery it's still worth a try, especially if your stuff departs a little, but not too far, from the kind of thing the gallery's showing.
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stamper
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« Reply #18 on: April 24, 2011, 09:04:15 AM »
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Yes, but they are the only two muppets we have capable of constructing an intelligible sentence.

Rob C

Unfortunately they have the wrong answers.  Wink
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Rob C
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« Reply #19 on: April 24, 2011, 10:17:08 AM »
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Unfortunately they have the wrong answers.  Wink


More likely they are being asked the wrong questions, questions to which there are no answers. There are always more of them in life than the other kinds; trust me, the grey hairs tell their own tale.


Here's another example of right thing, wrong setting:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHfdJyOb5qY&featur=related

From the '58 Newport Jazz festival it features CB who was only allowed there because they couldn't break a contractual arrangement. Now, several things can be deduced form the film, if you get the chance to catch it again: some jazz musos appear to have a terrible superiority complex that puts them right in with some photographers; as far as I could tell, only the drum, bass and a clarinet were gracious enough to acknowledge the guy yet, from memory that I believe accurate, at the end of Sweet Little Sixteen he got the biggest and longest ovation of any of the other performances.

How beautiful to watch the intensity and innocence on the faces of the young blue-jean babies dancing... alter Jimmy Dean and Sandra Dees. Them wuz indeed the days, cameras or not, and Bert Stern was huge.

Rob C

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