(The Lack of) Women Artists at MoMA: Saltz on FB, Reprinted on Winkleman

The indefatigable New York and New York critic, Jerry Saltz , is leading a spirited discussion of gender inequality at MoMA. Starting point--for this leg of the discussion, at least--is the report on his Face Book page of his meeting with Ann Temkin, Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the museum. (Not sure if it's kosher to link to FB this way?)

Comrades in struggle: The Guerrilla Girls, left; Saltz
A snippet: "Temkin stated that work by women artists has been rotated into the collection over the course of the last two years, and that the FB protestors and I were not taking this into account. I acknowledged this but said that even with these substitutions and changes the percentage of women artists on these floors did not rise, and that these adjustments weren’t enough. (If you count the works of art, rather than artists, the figure drops to four percent women.) "

With Saltz's permission,
Edward Winkleman has reprinted the critic's report.

This is a discussion worth following, wherever you follow it. If you're on FB, I think you can jump in to comment.


Marketing Mondays: Career Q&A with Jackie Battenfield

As promised, I'm back with a short interview with Jackie Battenfield, whose new book The Artist's Guide, was the subject of a Marketing Mondays post two weeks ago. If you've leafed through the book, or even simply read my report, you know that Jackie is a strong advocate for artists taking control of their careers. Since Jackie interviewed me for her book, I thought I would turn the tables and interview her for my blog.

Jackie signing copies at her book launch at the Cue Art Foundation in New York City on June 18. Pics below are from the same event
JM: Jackie, what has changed most since you started helping artists take control of their careers?
JB: When I first started lecturing there was no Internet. I think that [change] is huge. More than ever before in history, artists can connect with potential audiences. Also, the art world has expanded in that artists are engaged in more media work, video installations, combining media, erasing the boundaries between disciplines. It's all melded.

JM: Yes, but recently the art world has shrunk financially
That has affected artists, but artists are pretty accustomed to living on margins. Not to underestimate how difficult it is to lose part-time job opportunities or a support network, but I'm hoping artists will use this time do the kind of planning they need to do to get through the future ups and downs. My book is about making a living in any economy.

JM: How?
JB: Hopefully every chapter of my book pops one myth after the other. For instance, the idea of supporting yourself only from sales of your work is a myth. Even very successful artists diversify their income, turning it into real estate or investments. Artists with successful gallery careers are teaching or doing freelance work.

JM: You talk a lot about 'multiple income streams.' There's a great little drawing in your book showing a woman on a platform supported by many poles: art sales, teaching, investments, residencies, grants, bartering, freelance.
JB: Multiple income streams ease out the big ups and downs. Very few artists are comfortable with a 24/7 studio practice. It’s very isolating. They have other talents and needs. Turn those into a source of income.

JM: For example?
JB: For example, I love working with other artists, so lecturing on career issues satisfies part of my personality, fulfills part of my income stream and it gives back. My tax preparator is an artist who loves numbers, my yoga teacher is an artist, and many of my friends have turned different skill sets into part-time work.
An animated Jackie and her rapt audience at Cue

JM: You also talk about generosity.
JB: You can give advice and time, and it may not come directly back from that person, but the generosity of spirit comes back. If you know of an opportunity and you don't share the information with others, don't think you'll be the only person who applies. If we model ourselves on generosity, others are more likely to be generous too.

JM: What was your biggest surprise researching the book?
JB: How difficult it was to turn the information I had been teaching for so many years into a readable text. It's one thing to give a talk and make up a one-page handout, quite another to turn it into a whole chapter in a book.

JM: What advice would you offer to artists?
JB: Artists often see No where there is no No. I noticed this when I was running the Rotunda Gallery [in Brooklyn]. An artist would approach me during an opening or on the street and ask me to come up and see their work. I'd say, 'Call me next week and we'll try to set something up,' and nine times out of ten they never followed up. I was pretty shocked at how often artists didn't follow up.

JM: Speaking of No, you've got a great line in the book: "If I'm not being regularly rejected, it means I'm not pursuing opportunities." Would you talk a bit more about rejection?
JB: Rejection isn’t personal. It’s not an indictment of your work. Just because someone likes and respects your work doesn’t mean they want to represent it or curate it into a show. There are a lot of other reasons why the work might not be selected. I don’t mean to say that rejection is not painful, but you have to keep at it. One Yes wipes out a hundred Nos.

Want to read more one on one? Amber Hawk Swanson interviews Jackie for the latest issue of the NYFA Current.


Three Smart Projects

(The discussion is still going strong at The Vanity Galleries post.)
What interests me in general, and for this post specifically, is the way creative people tap their typically broad range of talents. Here, those talents are in service to broadening the arts dialog and offering opportunities to artists and an art-supporting public.
1) Sharon Butler of Two Coats of Paint, is the blogger in residence at PBS's Art 21. She'll be at it for a couple of weeks. Check it out here. A strong visual artist (see below), Butler is also a very good writer who covers a lot of interesting territory. She also Twitters.
2) I hate this economic downturn, but I love that artists can come up with something like 246 Editions, a print project run by artist Matthew Langley. Working out of Virginia, Langley is selling limited-edition digital prints of artists' work at truly affordable prices. "It's really about getting people to understand how living with art is a great thing," says Langley, who considers the income "micro grants for the artists."






Left: Sharon Butler, Scanned Sketchbook, 2009, archival pigment print; right: Steven Alexander, Trans, 2009, archival pigment print. Images courtesy of 246 Editions
"We want to connect people with art," says the blogsite--aka Langley. To that end, the project is offering new editions every week in two sizes: 8.5 x 11 for $20 in an edition of 100; and 11 x 14 for $50 in an edition of 50. (I've already ordered prints by Steven Alexander, Sharon Butler, and Matthew himself, and I have my eye on one by Douglas Witmer, too.)
If you're in town: All the 246 Artists will be showing at Pocket Utopia with an opening on the 16th of July. "It is going to be Austin Thomas's last show at Pocket Utopia," says Langley, "so it will be great (I hope) but bittersweet as well.".
3) Not planning to spend your weekends in the Hamptons? Michael Lyons Wier, of Lyons Wier Gallery in Chelsea, has announced an Art Bazaar at his gallery. A limited-run event, it's ingenious and generous (there's a $20 entry fee, but entry is first-come-first served), and looks to be an opportunity for both artists and art collectors. "We are excited about thinking outside of our 'white' box , says Lyons Wier.
Read on (info verbatim from the e-mail message), but get the specifics from the gallery website before schlepping your stuff over:
Art Bazaar
Starting: Saturday, July 4th, 10:00 am
Dates: July 4th thru Aug 16th (Weekends only )
Hours: Saturdays & Sundays 10:00am-8:00 pm
Address: 175 Seventh Ave @ 20th St.

The Art Bazaar is an open call to all artists on Saturdays and Sundays, beginning July 4th thru August 16th, who wish to display and sell their artwork at Lyons Wier Gallery. The gallery doors will open at 8:00 am for artists to install their work and the Art Bazaar will open to the public at 10:00 am. Artists will be admitted on a "first come, first serve" basis, and admittance will cease once the gallery is full. Participating artists will be fully responsible for setting their prices and for hanging and selling their work during this two-day period. Each artist will be allocated an area to exhibit and must be present during the entire time.

There is no price structure, no visual filter for inclusion and no politics for entrance other than a willingness to show up, step-up and sell the work. At the end of the seven-weekend period of the Art Bazaar, the top selling artist will be awarded a solo exhibition at Lyons Wier Gallery in 2010.


Summer Guest House at Marcia Wood Gallery

Summer Guest House, at Marcia Wood Gallery, Atlanta
Installation view: Summer Wheat, Excerpt from a Prison Letter, 2008, sculpted and sewn wax and oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches; Betsy Cain, shop, 2009, reflective tape on stop sign, 24 x 24 inches; four of my paintrings from the Silk Road and Vicolo series; Mary O' Horo, Dust and Wave, 2009, ink and acrylic on panel, 6 x 24 inches

June 26 - August 1, 2009
Opening Reception Friday June 26, 7 - 10 pm
This evening is also in conjunction with the Castleberry Hill Artstroll

Summer Guest House is an eclectic gathering of artists mixing it up at a summer happening. Marcia Wood Gallery artists have invited regional artists as their guests to exhibit work in this delightful visual conflation.

Guest Artists are Betsy Cain, Lisa Clague, Lorie Corbus, Mary Farmer, Julio Garcia, Scott Griffin, Rocky Horton, Lance Ledbetter, Mia Merlin, Mary O'Horo, Shana Robbins, Rocio Rodriguez, Ben Steele, Summer Wheat and Cosmo Whyte.

Host Artists are Frances Barth, Amber Boardman, Philip Carpenter, Monica Cook, Mary Engel, Jason Fulford, Marcus Kenney, Alan Loehle, Joanne Mattera, Chris Scarborough and Pamela Sunstrum.
The opening on Friday, June 26, during the Castleberry Art Stroll. Click here for a link to my exhibition page, which shows images of my work and that of my guests, or go right to the gallery site, where you can see a sampling of everyone's.


Three Blog Questions (Help!)

1) Is there a way to save my blog to my hard drive, or to get it onto a flash drive, in the format it's in? .
2) What do I do when I've reached my blog limit? (I'm at about 68% now)
3) If I decide to go go a different site, how to I take all my blog posts with me?


Marketing Mondays: The Follow Up

(The discussion is still going strong at The Vanity Galleries post.)


In the Comments section of the Marketing Mondays on Defining Success (two weeks ago), artist Henry Bateman offered this anecdote: "Being introduced to the director/curator of a class 'A' gallery and have her say 'So you're Henry Bateman!' Is that success? The question is being asked by my bank balance."

I responded:
Tell your bank account to shut up for a spell and enjoy the moment. Then follow up.

Today we talk about the follow up. I don’t know Henry, so I hope he doesn’t mind that I use our exchange as a jumping off point. His situation is a good one, because he has an opportunity to pursue the interest shown him.

If I were Henry, here's what I might do:

. Send a postcard to the director/curator saying that I enjoyed meeting her, and that as an artist it's always gratifying to have someone in her position be aware of my work. I'd invite her for a studio visit. Need I mention that the postcard would have an image of my work on the front and the URL to my website?
. Alternatively, an e-mail saying the same thing, with a live link to my website.
. . . What I wouldn’t do: Tell her I think I'm perfect for her gallery and that she should give me a show. Or ask her to give me a show. I would not call her.
. I'd invite her to my next solo show if it's local. A note on the invitation, or a note with the invitation is sufficient. If I had a catalog for the show I'd definitely send it, along with the invitation. I might acknowledge a shared esthetic sensibility, if that were the case.
. If the show is going to a distant gallery, I’d invite her for a studio preview before I send it off. (In fact, if you have a good local following, why not have a "send off" party before the work leaves your studio? Sure, you’re exhausted from the effort of getting the show finished, but since you’re already running on fumes at that point, why not go the extra mile.)
. . . What I wouldn’t do: Overwhelm her with a package with all the images, the resume, the statement. Since she's already aware of me and my work, an update with links is sufficient
. If she responds positively, I'd prepare a small packet of materials for her, something she can hold onto (ideally) and dip into when she's conceptualizing a show. Dealers and curators may not tell you this, but they often watch an artist from a distance to see where that person is showing, what kind of critical response the work gets, what the buzz in the art community is about the artist. Curators, especially, hold onto catalogs and postcards
. If there's absolutely no response to any of this from the director/curator, I'd probably keep her on my mailing list and leave it at that
. . . What I wouldn't do: Interest or no, I would not hound her. She's busy, I'm busy. She's now more aware of me than ever because of the recent exchange and my followup. Mailing list followup is all I would do from here on out until I receive a followup from her.
. And of course I'd visit the gallery regularly. You want a relationship with a gallery? Show up. Relate! Dealers don't operate in a vacuum. They appreciate knowing their creative efforts are appreciated. If you like the show, say so. Say why. Don't offer a dissertation, just a few smart and kind words.
. . . What I wouldn’t do: I would not interrupt a dealer is s/he's busy. And I definitely would not go into the dealer's office to initiate a conversation.
Artists: How do you follow up?
Dealers and Curators: What kind of follow up do you prefer? Or not prefer?
Everyone: Just to put this whole discussion into perspective, read This Summer, Some Galleries Are Sweating, by Dorothy Spears in the June 19 issue of The New York Times.
(And speaking of following up, next week I'll have a short interview with Jackie Battenfield, author The Artist's Guide, the book I reviewed last week, along with some pics from the book party at Cue.) .


The Collecting Life

(The discussion is still going strong at The Vanity Galleries post.)
Dorothy and Herb Vogel in the kitchen of their one-bedroom New York City apartment, surrounded by a tiny fraction of their collection
I am in love with two elderly collectors! I’m talking about Herb and Dorothy Vogel, subjects of a touching and inspiring documentary, Herb & Dorothy, by Megumi Sasaki. A postal worker and librarian respectively, now both retired, they spent every free moment looking at art and every spare dollar buying it.

Focusing on unknown artists at the beginning of their careers, the Vogels amassed on a shoestring a world-class collection of Minimal and Conceptual Art that is a snapshot of the New York art world in the 60s and 70s. Their criteria: “It had to be affordable and it had to fit into the apartment,” says Dorothy in the film.

Herb, left, and Dorothy, far right, in the studio of Pat Steir (back to camera)

Recently they donated their collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. It went intact, some 4000-plus works. The Vogels had a pretty good eye. The “unknowns” turned out to be the likes of Eva Hesse, Lynda Benglis, Richard Tuttle, Robert and Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Chuck Close, Donald Judd, Christo and Jeanne Claude, and Pat Steir—many of whom pay homage to the Vogels in the film, some quite humorously.

Those are the facts. But it is the story of the Vogels themselves—told through interviews, photographs, archival footage of them traipsing through SoHo, and of more current scenes of them with the artists—that is the heart and soul of this film. To tell you more is to take away the pleasure of seeing that story unfold.

I have two suggestions: Go see the movie. Start buying art.

Above: Dorothy and Herb at the national gallery of Art, viewing their names recently added to the Donor Wall

Below: The collectors in Central Park a couple of years ago at the opening of the Christo and Jeanne Claude installation, The Gates.

View the trailer here



Witmer, Patterson at Painting Center

These Painting Center shows are down (April 22-May 23), but I didn’t want them to pass unnoticed at JMAB. Douglas Witmer 's Field and Stream, a group of small easel-size paintings was in the small Project Room. Field and Sream is the name of a hunting and fishing magazine (not sure if it's still published), so I assume Witmer's reference is to his terrain of solid color placed over an aqueous background of foggy and mutable gray. The balance of materiality and ephemerality, geometric and atmospheric, is just right.

Above: Douglas Witmer installation; below: an individual work. Sorry, neither the gallery website nor the artist's website gives specifics, and I don't have them in my notes, but the work looks to be oil on linen

In the larger gallery up front, Carrie Patterson 's work was part of a three-artist show called Placing Color. I responded to Patterson's aproach to painting: numerous discrete canvases that appear to be built into one, and indeed her references are architectural.

Carrie Patterson, from the group show Placing Color. This work: 18 ft. St. Francis Xavier, 2008, acrylic on linen, 75 x 32 x 2 inches

I also liked the visual conversation that took place between her work and Witmer's, particularly those broad strokes of color asserting themselves over the whisper of unprimed or lightly stained canvas. Read more here.


Marketing Mondays: "The Artist's Guide" and Other Books

Click here for Don Voisine at McKenzie Fine Art
Talk about timely. Just as the art world is shaken to its foundations by the economic downturn, along comes The Artist's Guide: How To Make A Living Doing What You Love by Jackie Battenfield. I'm not being flip. Even though galleries are downsizing or shutting their doors, artists are still making art and still need to find a place for themselves. This book explains the art world (to the extent that something as multifaceted, international, freeform and unencumbered by "rules" can be explained) and offers clear and useful steps to setting goals and achieving them--information that until recently most artists never learned in art school.

Let me say up front that Jackie and I have seen our professional paths cross and weave into a fabric of mutual respect and friendship. We have taught together. We have shown together. She even interviewed me for this book. We both teach the business of art (she at Columbia University; I at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. )

But I can be totally objective when I say that this is one well-timed and well-written book. For mid-career artists especially, it's important to know that things have changed from when you were in art school. If you’re operating on the ideas and assumptions you formed 20 (or 30) years ago, you may be trying to navigate the contemporary art world in a Datsun—or an Edsel. Jackie gives you a capacious new Mercedes loaded with business information, marketing advice and
encouragement for a 21st century approach to your career. If you’re a recent graduate, she expands on the information you received—or should have received—in your last semester.

Jackie is writing from her experience as a successful exhibiting artist, lecturer and teacher, and gallery director (she founded the Rotunda Gallery, a non-profit Brooklyn institution). Her information is therefore not theoretical but steeped in firsthand knowledge. Sidebar quotes--she calls them "Reality Checks"-- from artists, dealers, critics and curators underscore the relevance of the material. One of my favorites comes from Camilo Alvarez, principal of Samson Projects in Boston, who makes an art world distinction: "A gallerist will send a collector the artist's bio, whereas a dealer sends them the invoice.")

There are exercises and lists to get you revved up, or to shift you into the next-higher gear, but I have to say that it's the guidance and observations I like best. "Much of my advice is not secret information," writes Jackie. But it's rare to find it compiled so well. Here's some of what I like:

. "What you reveal reflects a delicate balance between expressing your ideas and providing just enough information for viewers so they can start their own process of engagement. Your artist statement is specific and poetic at the same time. . . It takes a lot of messy writing . . . to get less than one page or even a paragraph of a finished statement." (pps. 49-50)

. "Promoting your work requires that you be assertive. It does not mean you are impolite, disrespectful or inappropriately aggressive. At an opening, it's the difference between saying a few words about the show to the curator and imploring them to visit your studio. . . You need to untangle promotion from your feelings of self worth and proceed as if it is another part of your artistic practice."(p. 99)

. "Money is the ten-ton elephant in the studio that most of us would like to ignore. . . While you’re in school, the connection between art and money is suspended. . .Eventually reality intervenes. "(pps. 159-160)

. "Constantly asking for money is called 'begging"; purposefully asking for support is an 'empowered request.'" (p. 197).

. . . While you're in this section, be sure to read artist Jody Lee 's story of how she funded her studio by lining up patrons to support her studio.

. "In every project you need to consider how to pay yourself. This is an artist's fee. . . . A funder expects to see this expense on your budget, so don’t eliminate it thinking they will reward your selfless commitment. Instead, they will see it as a sign that you do not think of yourself as professional." (p. 227)

. "A cardinal rule to follow is that whenever a work of art leaves your hands, it must have a paper trail. (p. 262)

. "You may make the art by yourself, but you'll need a community for advice and support." (p. 311)

. "If I'm not being regularly rejected, it means I'm not pursuing opportunities." (p. 327)

. "Every day you have the opportunity to make the art world a more generous place." (p. 340)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Two more current or recent volumes to round out your bookshelf:

. Art/Work: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career by Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber, published this year. One author is a gallery director, the other is a lawyer. A peek into the pages of the book via the Amazon website shows a layout similar to Jackie's that features the authors' text bookended by related and supporting quotes from artists, dealers, curators. It appears to cover all the current issues, from Art Fairs to Courtesy Discounts to the nuts and bolts of preparing, pricing and promoting yourself and your work.

. I'd Rather be in the Studio: The Artist's No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion by Alyson B. Stanfield, published in 2007, offers solid, well-organized advice from a Midwest-based professional who has been a museum curator and business coach. The focus here is squarely on promoting your career, not on the larger topic of the career itself.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Now over to you:
. What career books are on your bookshelf?
. What career books would you recommend?
. Is there any career advice you've read that has been extremely helpful--or egregiously unhelpful?


Don Voisine at McKenzie Fine Art

The view to your left as you enter the gallery: Parisian Heiress, 2008, 32 x 32 inches; Veer, 2008, 32 x 60 inches; High Time, 2008, 44 x 44 inches, all oil on wood
Aside from Marketing Mondays, which I'm committed to producing every week, I've been a bit preoccupied with a commission. Now I'm back! I'm also late; the exhibitions I'm going to show you this week are over. But the work is still fresh and fabulous, and if you need to see something in person, I'll bet the galleries have a few works in the back room.
Let's start with Don Voisine at McKenzie Fine Art. A few words come to mind: abstract, geometric, reductive, taut, tense, spatial, flat, constructivist, compressed.
Main gallery with Inauguration, center, and Veer, 2008, right
Below: Inauguration, 2009, oil on wood, 60 x 60 inches. The band colors were inspired by the color of the dress Michelle Obama wore on Inauguration Day. This image from the gallery's website

Compressed is the big one for me. Bands of color typically push into a large black "x" shape from top and bottom. Thus contained, the compositions seem perfectly poised at the moment before something happens, a sensation that's heightened by subtleties in the color/surface of the paint. A rectangle of shiny in a field of matte, for instance, suggests barely perceptible internal shifts, while one forceful diagonal laid crosswise atop another suggests the possibility of much greater tectonic movement.

Against this perimeter compression, the hard-edge X pushes back, so the entire field is active with positive and negative space, push and pull. An X is always riveting--it's the nature of the shape--but while you're glued to your viewing spot, your eyes are constantly moving. That play of matte and gloss is especially activating, underscored by tiny chromatic variations in the black. So there you are in a visual tug of war with the floor, the wall, the physical presence of the painting and the space within it. That's quite a workout for such "minimal" work.

The corner straight ahead of you when you enter the gallery. Specifics below

Above: Radiant Rhythm, 2009, 24 x 24 inches; below: Weave, 2009, 16 x 26 inches, both oil on wood

More reading:

. Brooklyn Rail interview of the artist by Ben La Rocco and Craig Olson
. Steven Alexander's insightful review of Voisine's show, here (I didn't realize he also talked about compression, but the work does evoke that sensation--and compatible minds arrived at the same conclusion)


Marketing Mondays: Defining "Success"

I had lunch at the Empire Diner in Chelsea recently with Stephanie Sachs, a New York-born artist now living in Hawaii. She was in town to visit the galleries and museums.

There are not a lot of gallery opportunities on Maui, says Stephanie—save for the tourist venues with the whale paintings—so she has found an alternative way to show and sell her work. Once a week she sets up her paintings in a designated exhibition area of the lobby of a five-star hotel on the toniest part of the island. She shares this space with several other artists. "We are are responsible for carting our displays, for sales, for shipping and for customer service. The hotel takes a percentage that is less than a gallery."


Stephanie Sachs, Yes It's Plaid, oil on wood, 20 x 16 inches

Stephanie's clients are sophisticated travelers, not unfamiliar with galleries and museums. She doesn't hear the dreaded "How long did it take to make this?" but a range of questions about the work itself. Sales are brisk.

Annual gross: "The high five figures."

The art world paradigm makes no room for this kind of success. The classic route is to make art, find a gallery to represent you, get into the Whitney Biennial, onto the cover of Art in America, have a sellout show every couple of years in New York, have your dealer take you to the art fairs and get you into museum shows and collections, see your work go for big buckaroos at auction, which allows your primary dealer to ramp up your prices, and enjoy life at the top. (The reality for the other 99.999% is, of course, a soul-sucking job that leaves little time for artmaking in a studio that costs 10 times more than you can really afford. And in this economic climate even life at the top has sunk like a soufflé.)

So Stephanie's entrepreneurial model is looking pretty good. And did I mention she lives in Maui?

Here's another example: A few years ago the Boston Globe Sunday magazine did a lifestyle feature on two artists, a wife and husband, both painters, who live in a farmhouse close to the tip of Cape Cod. They integrate artmaking with raising two kids in a back-to-the-land lifestyle that includes growing their own vegetables, preserving their harvest, and cooking gourmet meals from their own produce. They paint in a barn-turned studio—she downstairs, he upstairs in the loft— and in the summer they open the studio every morning to visitors, many of whom are return collectors. (I visited; it's idyllic.)

These folks are not likely to make it onto the cover of Art in America or into a major show at MoMA. But then, how many of us will? (AiA publishes 10 issues a year. That's 10 artists who might be so recognized. In a decade, 100. In a century, 1000 artists. Hell, that many artists get churned out each year from, say, three or four art schools. As for the MoMA solo, you do the math--and if you're a woman, you can probably count on the fingers of one hand.)

So the post today is to get us all to think about the definition of "success."

Is the art-world paragidm the only viable option?
. If you're making art you love in your studio and selling it in your summer gallery on Cape Cod or Ogunquit or Santa Fe—and enjoying it— isn’t that success?
. If you’re selling to relatively well-off collectors on vacation in Maui, who happily call to commission more work, isn’t that success?
. If you teach all year and show every couple of years in a co-op gallery, get reviewed by the local press occasionally, and have a rich full art life and a personal life, isn’t that success?

I admit that these are not the opportunities I've spent my career in pursuit of. But sometimes I do wonder, when I'm closing in on the 15th or 16th hour of another long work day, if I've been missing something.

Consider this an open forum.


Streetside Geometry


The construction wall at 10th Avenue near 23rd is endlessly interesting. I showed pictures of it a while back when it was in a Clyford Still mode. Now this:

I'll be back later this week with images from Don Voisine at McKenzie Fine Art, Donna Sharrett at Pavel Zoubok, and John Salvest at Morgan Lehman. Yes, I'm late with everything I saw in May, but something got in the way. What was it? Oh, right. Life.


Marketing Mondays: How Long Do You Leave Your Work With a Gallery?

Lisa P. writes in with these questions: How long should you leave the work in a gallery if it is not selling? Six months? A year? Can you ask for it to be shipped somewhere besides your studio?

This is a timely question because sales these days are slow. On the one hand, a dealer may want to hold onto the work in the hopes of selling it (collectors in this economy may be taking longer than usual to commit to a purchase). On the other, the dealer may not want to retain inventory that has no likelihood of selling any time soon.

.Your work: Should it stay or go?

I think a year is reasonable. It gives dealers ample time, and a fair window, to sell through a show. After that, I find that an artist's work (OK, my work) tends to disappear into the back of the stacks as newer work comes in. I'd prefer to retrieve the older work and send something new. Or, something I've been doing recently: Moving the work around so that each dealer gets a few new pieces along with work that's "new" to them but not necessarily new in the world. (My feeling: Solo shows get new work; general inventory doesn’t have to be hot off the griddle.)

Check the terms of your consignment form. You don't need a contract, but you and the dealer should each have a signed sheet that lists what work you have consigned to the gallery and when. It's useful in so many ways: so that the gallery knows what's on hand, so that you know, so that sales can be tracked by both of you. And in case of the unthinkable (fire, flood, theft), there's a paper trail for insurance. This form typically lists the duration a gallery expects to retain the work.

. If the consignment doesn’t specify length of consignment, open a discussion: Ask what terms the gallery prefers, and let your preference be known. Then you can add that to the consignment, or agree verbally, after which you would send a letter (not an e-mail) stating the agreed-upon terms. Keep a copy for yourself. This is not a legal document so much as it is a clarification of the terms you have agreed upon, so that when the time comes to pick up the work or have it sent back, everyone is literally on the same page.

. If you don’t have a consignment form, generate one yourself and ask the dealer to sign it. (Some dealers just aren't good with paperwork. Rather then being offended that you have generated a form, they should welcome it. That's been my experience, anyway.) Include the terms of retention that you and the dealer have discussed. This might be a legal document; but I'm not a lawyer so don’t take my word for it. At the very least it spells out what work of yours the gallery holds and the length the gallery will hold it. I prefer a list that includes thumbnail images; it's much easier to identify the work.

In this economy, some dealers are holding onto work just not to have to spend the money to send it back. That's a bad idea; not only is the work going nowhere saleswise, it's literally going nowhere. If the dealer really can't afford to send the work back, I'd prefer s/he send it back on my Fed Ex account with the idea that when times get better, the gallery will pay for both-way shipping, or reimburse. The economy may not be great, but sales are still being made. I'd rather pay to move my work to where the sales are. It's not unreasonable to ask Dealer A to send work directly to Dealer B. And if Gallery B is keen to get some "new" work, see if you can have the shipment put on their account. As for commissions, while I feel for the galleries that are struggling, I don't believe Gallery A should expect a commission on work sent to Gallery B unless the two galleries have been in discussion about the sale of particular piece.

Those of you who have been at this for a while: What do you think is a reasonable retention time? And, dealers, please weigh in here (anonymously if you prefer), noting especially how the situation has changed as a result of this economy.