05/18/2004: "Is getting gallery representation vital for serious artists?"
I was looking online yesterday to find free artist registries and I came across Artist Registry of American Fine Artists. Their policy on who they would add to this registry includes the following from the FAQ:
"As we were developing the site, one of the things I had to decide was what types of artists I would accept. Since I am not an art expert, and do not feel it is my place to judge others art, I decided that only those who have art in physical galleries would be accepted. Simply because MOST galleries critique an artists work before deciding whether to represent them. THEY are the experts, and if a gallery has critiqued an artists work and found it suitable for representation then I will include them in my website."
Now, this does not include any online galleries, only physical ones. I've been debating for awhile the pros and cons of attempting to get gallery representation. Awhile ago I read this article from ArtBusiness.com called Should Independent Artists Seek Gallery Representation?. One of the pros is that you're generally guaranteed one solo exhibit a year, however, I've been able to get that without having a gallery. One of the downsides is the commissions. Most galleries get 40-60%, which is huge. Plus there are a lot of other pros and cons listed in the article.
Then yesterday I got a great email from a student who gave me some additional advice on painting on wood, which was excellent, and he mentioned he stumbled across my site while searching for a "working artist" to use for his senior project. I think he must have found the link to my site from a great website for working artists put out by San Francisco artist Anna Conti. Her name comes up near the top of the list using a Google search for "working artist". (Mind you, he didnít ask me to be his example, but was only writing to give me some more info about painting on wood, which Iíll post later for anyone interested.)
It got me thinking on whether or not I would be considered a working artist. I mean, I paint everyday, usually for several hours and as I mentioned before, I usually have a solo exhibit every year. I always sell paintings and now I'm taking on more commissioned work. I even have a license for my art business...but I don't come anywhere even remotely close to making a living as an artist. In fact, I've been operating in the red. So, I have to have a ďreal jobĒ which makes a lot of folks relegate you to the halls of ďitís great you have a hobby youíre so passionate aboutĒ. Blah!
I donít know if itís the prestige factor or what, but part of me really wants to try and get gallery representation. There arenít that many options in Alaska for the type of work that I do, and the very few galleries who do take contemporary non-Alaskana type work, arenít accepting applications for new artists. Even if they were, I feel like I havenít been working with the intention of getting a gallery so I havenít been doing some of the things I probably should have been doing all along, like entering juried shows etc.
It depresses me to think that it could be years and years of doing that kind of crap that I really have no interest in, just to be considered a ďrealĒ artist. I keep thinking that there has to be a better way. I also wonder if itís acceptable to go outside your own state to get representation. That would suck because shipping from Alaska is really expensive.
Anyway, Iím just thinking out loud, but Iíd love to hear from anyone who has struggled with whether or not to get representation and why they ultimately decided one way or another. And if you DID get representation, any tips you might have for those of us thinking of taking the leap.