Saturday, December 19, 2009

Art Is Love

I left home at dawn on Friday to deliver an enamel painting to a collector in Bondi, east of Sydney. With the painting double wrapped in Cell-Aire and bubble wrap, and wedged between a duvet and pillows in the back of my van, my assistant and I drove across the city through heavy pre-Christmas, using an iPhone as a GPS.
We carried the five-foot wide work into the collector's house then waited for the picture hanger. I hadn't seen the collector for a year. He made fresh coffee and we sat outside to watch the rain fall onto an unexpectedly green garden.
When the picture hanger arrived, we unwrapped the work together. The collector had to explain to him, three times, that I was the artist. The hanger thought that I was an art dealer and my mute assistant – to whom I had been giving instructions – the artist. When he finally 'got' it, he looked surprised.
As the hanger measured the wall, the collector gazed happily at the painting. I wanted to freeze that moment. The collector and I decided on the final position for the work as the hanger and my assistant held the painting up to the wall.
Before I left, the collector walked me through the rest of the house. An intimate watercolour of mine – commissioned by his wife, as a gift for him – hung on the wall in the main bedroom. A smaller enamel, which I will deliver next week, will be hung at the top of the stairs.
It occurred to me that had I persisted in the traditional gallery system, neither the collector nor I would have met like this. The gallery would have sent a staffer – if they had bothered to send anyone at all. And they, not I, would have gotten to see the work in its new environment and experience (and take credit for) the collector's happiness.
I got back to my studio in the early afternoon to an email from Menzies Art Brands. Having auctioned two of my works, last week, they'd forwarded me (at his request) the email address of the collector who bought Buck. I wrote to thank him for his support of my work and to send him a link to a study Polaroid for his painting.
Later, I called an overseas collector to discuss the details of recently commissioned paintings. We've corresponded and spoken about it regularly for the last two weeks. I also emailed several other collectors about delivery dates. A set of photographs arrived, showing the personal accessories of a high-powered female stockbroker who had asked me to try incorporate a selection into her commission.
Today, my assistant is wrapping coffee-table books which feature my work. I have signed them in hot pink ink tonight and they'll be sent on Monday to collectors who don't yet have a copy. When I am done writing this blog, I'll sprawl across the studio daybed to address postcards wishing everyone in my address book a Happy New Year. (If you'd like to receive one, please send me your snail mail address).
Keeping in touch with collectors and supporters of my work takes time. And yet making their ownership of my work a richer, more enjoyable experience is important to me and justifies my decision not to sell my art through a gallery.
It's about so much more than just 'servicing clients' and 'taking care of business'. I make more personal connections with my collectors and are able to give them a deeper appreciation of my art and ideas. I get to see what happens to my work after it leaves my studio – and witness my collectors' first experience of it.
What surprises me most, as I get to know the people most interested in my work, is just how much they care about it. It gives the lie to a former art dealer's comment that fine art is simply an elite form of interior decoration.


t210 said...

Have you worked with Charles Saatchi?

Princess Rashid said...

Making that personal connection with the client is what its all about I think.

Good for you and your audience. Hazel you manage to inspire, educate and enlighten all at once. Thanks for sharing this post and Have a KICK ASS NEW YEAR!


andrea said...

I love posts like this. I need to "re-tool" my thinking about the way the art world functions and this helps a lot. If you have any interesting stories about how you connected with certain collecters (that you haven't already told -- I should check out your archives one day) they'd also make great blog posts.

Anonymous said...

wow, you are in great shape Hazel!!! I am off to my health club more inspired this afternoon to work harder.


Ellie Brown said...

This is very wise and something that I blog about a lot myself. People need to understand how to make personal connections and break out of the gallery model we feel that we are supposed to follow.

Brian Kliewer said...

I had a show with a gallery and friends had left a message for me in the guest book. If I had not pressed the issue after being told about it, I never would have known anything about it at all.

Though I still show with galleries, that particular gallery no longer represents my work. This sort of thing does make one wonder just what gallery owners are thinking.

JT Harding said...

I agree! The personal contact you get with colectors allows you and them to have a richer and more persona experience. I wrote about the same experience on my blog if you care to read.

Have a nice holiday!

DMD said...

I like how you change the images out sometimes.

Hazel Dooney said...

DMD, It's because I can't make up my mind which one I like – or, sometimes, because I realise that I've used it before. LOL

Daniel said...


As the individual who purchased 'Buck' I'm honoured to have received a mention in your blog and was even more honoured to receive an e-mail from you!

Thanks again for the link to the polaroid,

Wishing you all the best,


JenXer said...

When someone buys a piece of my art, I love being able to see the look on their face that says "this is now mine, and I will enjoy it for a long time." I would hate having to miss that because a gallerist took me out of the equation.

Woodward Simons said...

Hazel, you're setting the trend for artists to take their affairs into their own hands, and I really love that you're sharing the experience with us.

As an artist who has left galleries and is selling on my own, your work is a reminder and an encouragement for me to continue and not be seduced by gallery sales again.

Mark Yearwood said...

I am in some galleries, but I am selling more on my own. I love it when patrons come to the studio and actually visit while picking up art.
Last week we were invited to dinner by a couple who purchased paintings.
You don't get that personal touch with a gallery.

Anonymous said...

Its so true - my ex-gallery didn't allow the artist to go see the work installed. We suspect cos they didn't want the artist to actually know what the new owner paid for it. Dodgy bastards.
But you know what its about with some galleries.. taking the credit. Whether or not this particular gallery ripped off the artists (which they sometimes did, resoundingly), it was a matter of taking credit for the art, ownership, power trip, bullshit.
But, thank goodness, not all galleries are like that! Are they?

NSABOB said...

Have an art life by any means necessary.

Personal relationships with collectors are rare and important.

See me gy google
Bob Ragland

Natasha said...

so rewarding. I love being able to connect with them personally. especially when the collectors understand your work. Love the conversations I've been able to have with them, because I'm dealing with them personally and not through some gallery.

David Sandum said...

Great entry and facinating read. As for now I mostly work alone through the grind. No hanger or many collectors calling. But in one way I think, "perhaps that's not so bad." I love your work and wish all the best.