Sunday, October 26, 2008

Who Woulda Thunk It?

Ten years ago if you'd have told me I'd be running a gallery space in the future I never would have thought it possible. Even more importantly I never would have wanted to! Anyone who knows me even casually or has been reading this blog for awhile would probably tell you that I'm definitely an extrovert, but in reality, I live mostly in my own head and damn it I like it there. I like being alone, I enjoy my quiet time in the studio, and I can get down right mean when interrupted. Specifically for this reason, I really saw interaction with the public as a necessary evil that allowed me to sell my work. Now on the other hand I'm beginning to enjoy it.
I can't go as far as to say that I love it, but in many ways it has really helped me to better understand how others see my work---which is especially important to me now that I am a foreigner in a new culture. The French approach my work in totally different ways than Americans. The experience of having this gallery space has made me realise that my art means completely different things in France. (duh?) And I've really enjoyed hearing all of these other interpretations and ideas about my work. I think it's even helped me make better work.
And then, on the other hand running any type of space that's open to the public teaches you many lessons. And so, just for kicks I thought I'd share a few of them with you here:

1. Presentation is Everything. Some of the coolest gallery spaces I've ever seen in my life have been tiny one room spaces. But their presentation was flawless, lighting was good, and their printed materials were well designed and professional. I've kept that in mind when remodeling the space and trying to give it a gentle face lift. I'm nowhere near flawless, but I always try to tell myself that even on a very small budget the presentation must be as tight as possible.

2. People are Terrified of Art Galleries. The gallery space is located in a very busy touristic pedestrian area, yet we don't get that many walk-ins. Most of the people that come to see us have already made an appointment to either buy or to chat. At first I thought that people just weren't interested in local art or art in general, but little by little I started to understand that people would stand outside and look in through the window for a few minutes before they built up enough courage to actually come in. Art galleries are scary places for non-artists. People assume they won't understand what's on the walls and they can't possibly afford to buy it, so why bother looking? I'm not sure what I can do about this. I mean, my prices are a bit scary for the average person. But dammit, that's just how much they cost!

3. Drunk and/or Crazy People Love Art. At times, sitting in the gallery I feel like a fish in a fish bowl. People walk buy, look in the window, gawk at me a bit , then either come in or keep walking. Unfortunately the drunks and the crazies always come in. At least 3 or 4 times within the last 6 months I have thanked my lucky starts that my years of living in Crown Heights and Bedstuy Brooklyn have prepared me to calmly yet firmly handle these lovely moments. My first day working alone a very stinky man wandered in and asked me for money because the Russian mafia had stolen his credit cards. And just last month a group of not so sober football hooligans from the bar across the street wandered in to tell me my paintings were too expensive. Good times!

4. Things Fall Apart. Ever since moving into the space I've been trying to improve it bit by bit. But sooner or later you just come to realise you can't do everything---either because you don't have the time or you don't have the cash. If you let it, the cost of "improvements" will easily put you in the poor house. I've learned that unless it's going to immediately help my can wait just a little bit longer. I'd rather spend the money on more paint for my canvases than for one extra coat of paint on the walls.

5. People Are Weird. About 2 months ago a lady walked in and started looking around. Before I had a chance to walk over and introduce myself she flat out asked me "Do you have anything that looks like a Picasso?" (OK, she didn't say Picasso, but I can't remember for the life of me the artist she requested. But you get my point.) I was totally caught off guard. So without any laughter or pretension (Although I wanted to laugh and then toss her out the window.) I explained to her that we were two artists that shared this space and that we each had our own unique styles and that every work in the space was an original work for sale. "Oh." she replied.

I still don't know quite what to make of this incident. Did she really think we made Picasso copies? Did she think we were a poster shop? I dunno. Frankly I'm still baffled.


Travel said...

People are strange and inspiring.


raynaae said...

ha!! maybe she was hoping you could refer her to a Picasso distributor.

Anonymous said...

Hope to visit your gallery one of these days!

OMYWORD! said...

Congrats on your new gallery. I've been following your blog for a while, because I love your humor and I LOVE your art.

I used to manage an art gallery in Arizona, so I know how powerful that imaginary block is at the door. I have even felt that way myself, fearful of walking in and having somebody follow me around and push the art on me, instead of letting me wander and absorb the beauty. I am also fearful that they will somehow "smell" the fact that I am low on funds, and therefore snub me. As a gallery manager, I would put at least one affordable and beautiful item in the window, with price visible. Tacky, I know, but it relaxed some people. I also made sure that I projected a really friendly big smile at the people who hesitate at the door, and I would say, "Please come in and take your time and enjoy gazing at the art. It's beautiful and it will make your day better to look at it!" Then I would leave them alone, to do just that. I'd be available for questions, and if they spent a long time at one piece, I would tell them a lovely story about the artist or the piece, and then continue to leave them alone.

Not sure if any of that will work for you, but it helped me.

Cheers and good luck and many art sales to you!

Madame K said...

travel-- I totally agree!

Raynaae--Yeah---weeks later, I'm still at a loss. WTF dude?

Lola- Whenever you get a chance, come on down!

omyword---that was SO SO helpful. I love the idea about the reasonably priced thing in the window. Also, I'm usually at a loss for what to do when they tend to linger on a work, so I'm totally gonna steal your story schtick...which is just totally perfect since all my paintings have a strong narrative element. Yippee!