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June 7, 2012

The Artists and the Gallery By Silvana Diaz

The Artists and the Gallery
Silvana Diaz

      All artists aspire for successful exhibitions. This desire is no less fervent for the gallery owner. Mounting an exhibition can be directed into three stages: the pre-exhibition, exhibition proper, and post exhibition.
However, before all these get started, there is the matter of getting accepted in a gallery. There are two ways to ensure this: either to be invited by a gallery, or by presenting a proposal to a gallery. A proposal includes a portfolio, and a concept of what you want to do for the exhibit. This may include actual works, which are representative of the works to be exhibited. Acceptance pre-supposes that the artist's artistic, aesthetic, and creative direction are in line with the vision of the gallery.
During the pre-exhibition, an agreement is drawn up. This agreement is not intended to undermine the artist's rights nor the gallery's, but rather to protect and make clear the division of duties and responsibilities between the gallery and the artist. An agreement should contain the following:

1) Exhibition details:
-title of exhibition
-inclusive date of exhibition
-name of artist and gallery and and/or their respective representatives
2) Division of activity and cost
3) Pre-exhibition requirements
4) Schedule of submission of artworks
5) Promotional materials
6) Publicity
7) Documentation
8) Terms of Consignment, and
9) Withdrawal of works
Details under each area may vary from gallery to gallery. While the artist is now preparing for the exhibit, the gallery in the meantime has started its marketing mechanism. Calls are made, follow ups done, projects solicited, the press people invited--all to create some consciousness and hopefully get some pre-selling done.
During the exhibition proper, an artist is expected to devote his time for any business that may arise during this phase. These include the following but not exclusively limited to (a) interviews by the media; (b) meeting with clients; and (c) collateral Activities (e.g. demonstrations).
At this stage, marketing the exhibit is in full swing. The time devoted by the artist to the exhibition should also contribute to the overall marketing scheme of things. Needless to say, this symbiotic relationship is what keeps the arts scene on its toes. This can spell the survival of both the artist and the gallery.
After the exhibit, there is the matter of post-exhibit or post-production, if you will. In the post-exhibition, the following steps are undertaken: (a) egress (release of works/handling/transportation); (b) documentation; and (c) payments.
Egress is the physical dismantling and packaging of an exhibit. The remaining works are either returned to the artist, or put on consignment. Documents to be processed include Certificate of Authentication, financial reports, press coverages, etc. Payment means the list of all expenses and income are clarified, listed, and verified. Cheques are issued to the parties involved.
Again, as mentioned earlier, all these undertakings may vary from gallery to gallery.
Through all these, it is hoped that an exhibit gets the attention it deserves, the sale it merits, and the public awareness it is worthy of.
What a gallery expects from an artist?
Pricing has often been a serious problem between galleries and artists. For first-time exhibitors, or even for old-timers, pricing can be very tricky. It is good to consult a gallery because they would have a feel of the market and thus can give you a sound advice.
There is also the matter of selling from your atelier. First and foremost, as gallery operators, we expect you to sell a piece to a gallery at the same price as when you sell from your atelier. It cannot be overemphasized that lowering your price in your atelier office, lowers your market value. Such prices can become public knowledge in the Philippine art scene, which we all know is very small, and thus affect the integrity of your prices all together. This kind of incident can cause embarrassment on both you and the gallery. Repairing such problems can prove to be very difficult. We all want to sell, but only on the value of what an art work is really worth.
Aside from pricing and selling, we also expect that material knowledge is something that comes as second nature to the artist. This knowledge should secure the clients a long-lasting piece of art work. It is something that you learn in school or in the course of your work, and we expect you to know these technicalities by heart. This is the only way we can ensure that your works become part of the cultural heritage we aspire to be included in. It is imperative that all materials used are divulged as well, for conservation and preservation purposes.
As a general rule, artists should have a folio that is always ready for perusal at any given time. This portfolio should contain: (a) bio-data; (b) press coverages; and (c) actual photo of works.
The portfolio helps secure clients for commissioned works, and gives presentation of one's credentials a more professional look.
If these expectations are met, we are well on our way to professionalizing our ranks. The more bohemian of you may think its structure, but its structure that gets the job done.
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Reference/s:
From the NCCA-published handbook for visual artists Paleta 5, a project of the NCCA Committee on Visual Arts.
For inquiries on the book, contact Public Affairs at 527-2192 local 612 or email address paid@ncca.gov.ph/info@ncca.gov.ph.
About the Author:
Silvana Diaz was a member of the NCCA Committee on Visual Arts (2002) and owns the gallery Galleria Duemila.

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