Monday, August 04, 2008

Doing It For Ourselves

Traditionally, art galleries are, like local hairdressers, shuttered on a Monday. MARS Gallery is no different. However, I'm determined not to let PORNO's momentum falter even for a day. I am already planning on a second visit to Melbourne in about ten days to spend time with collectors and corporate curators.
It has taken me a decade to learn the discipline and nuances of selling my art. It has only been in the last three or four years that I've assumed responsibility for it myself rather than hand it off to gallerists, as most artists do. I have been represented by some of the very best in Australia – John Buckley in Melbourne, Ray Hughes in Sydney – but I've never been convinced that a commercial gallery representing a large number of artists can, or will, give its utmost all the time to promoting each artist's work and reputation.
Worse, I suspect that there's an inherent yet unremarked upon conflict of interest: it was starkly apparent at the Melbourne Art Fair that some galleries put a lot more effort into promoting themselves to collectors than the artists whose work they were representing. Indeed, there are gallery proprietors who are inclined to nurture their individual public personae more attentively than those of even their most famous artists.
The largest commercial galleries are also hide-bound traditionalists. They all have web sites – too many of which look like they've been designed for a merchant bank or a stockbroker rather than an art gallery – but very few of them understand Web 2.0 and its networking capabilities. They haven't the foggiest notion of how to use it to identify and develop individualised relationships (and dialogues) with potential and existing buyers. Hell, they feel happy with themselves if they manage to email an invite for an opening to a few hundred people.
Not everyone is comfortable with managing the marketing and sales of their own work. Many prefer to leave it to intermediaries. More fool them. Just as musicians and writers are being forced to consider the rapid, revolutionary changes to publishing and distribution wrought by new media, younger visual artists need to re-evaluate their practices, especially in an environment where a reputation in one market can now be uploaded reasonably quickly to another using the ubiquity, instant access, and multi-tiered communications capability of the web and in which the full value of an individual artist's effort can be returned to them without the deduction of substantial commissions.
You want to talk about artistic freedom? Start there.


Anonymous said...

Are you TRYING to start a fight? :-)LOL I have not seen the Porno show, even though everyone in Melbourne's cloistered art scene has been talking about it, but if anyone needed to be convinced of your guts, this entry should do the job.

I agree with you – artists need to claw back control of their careers from the art business and institutions and the only way to to do that is to become more skilled at using a medium that, after all, can deliver their work and messages to anywhere in the world instantly. I'm not sure as it's so easy but yeah, it IS increasingly essential.

Imagine, I was reading a piece in the NY Times several months ago in which people asked what drove the art business – and the institutional curators ALL claimed that they did! And yet what is a curator without art to curate?

Keep up the good fight, Hazel. We artists might not all be brave enough to join you in it but we're rooting for you.

Amber Baiguerra said...

Great post Hazel, loved reading it, well written.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you!

Georgiana said...

You are an inspiration!

I too have always doubted the gallery system.