Essential Questions: Artist Fatigue

Shawna Moore, Gallery MAR

Shawna Moore, Gallery MAR

Edited by Jane Guthridge, courtesy of Pro Wax Journal. The full article is excerpted below.

Thanks to Shawna Moore for directing us to this piece, which we thought would be helpful for many artists looking to make connections with galleries. And for the record… we have a very low gallery desk!

Those high gallery desks can feel  intimidating. That’s by design. They’re a form of protection for the gallerists who wish to be in the gallery without engaging with each person who comes through the door.

At the 10th International Encaustic Conference, Miles Conrad described a situation he calls “artist fatigue”—the exhaustion art dealers and editors feel after meeting so many artists eager, even desperate, to get their attention. We asked ProWax members to respond. Brian Goslow, managing editor of the New England-based Artscope magazine, gave the most cogent response, which we share here.

“Responding from the standpoint of being the managing editor of Artscope magazine, I can certainly sympathize with those overcome with the feeling of “fatigue” that comes from what seems like an endless parade of requests for coverage. As we head towards our 11th anniversary, there can be up to 100 emails a day to review and consider along with the writing, editing, story planning and social media postings for any given day.

“Much as a gallery has only so many exhibition slots in a given period (or, if they’re in the early stages of business, are looking for a set number of artists for their roster), we have approximately 25 story spots for each issue, covering a two month period and the six New England states. We try to spread the coverage over as many different genres as possible and as many different venues as possible. I suspect the answer of the question how to get our attention is much the same as it would be for a gallery: Take your best shot but don’t overdo it because the more material you “throw” at someone, the more they might be inclined to ‘get to it when I have the time.’

“So you’ve got our attention (or a gallery’s initial attention). How do you hold it? If you’ve got a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page, try to post something on a regular basis that allows those interested in your work to follow its progression, growth, shifts, and your new projects. Going on a residency or having your works shown at a major exhibition or fair? Tell us! Tell everyone! There are times I haven’t had the opportunity to cover an artist I was fond of because they hadn’t had a show, but did get that opportunity as part of a larger overview article. It also shows those galleries you’re trying to attract that you’re serious about your work, career and always striving to grow and find new opportunities.

“On Instagram, it’s important to test which hashtags grab people’s attention; one would expect #encaustic would grab the crowd here but it might also capture the fine-tuned collector for a specific genre that you’ve never heard of; similarly, gallery owners or directors looking to fill roster holes or who are interested or looking for specific kinds of works may also see your work. Much like the buyer who’ll know what he or she wants when they see it, you can’t reach that person if they can’t see your work.”

So Many Artists, So Little Time

Shana Dumont Garr, director, Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, Massachusetts also gives a few ideas:

  • Stay up to date on social media, especially Instagram
  • Be easy to find, with an up-to-date website
  • Be really thoughtful and even sparing about whom you reach out to, and personalize emails and letters
  • I have heard from some artists who get pretty good coverage that sending a paper press packet to journalists gets more responses than a digital press packet.

Dan Addington, artist and owner of Addington Gallery, Chicago says: “know when it’s cool to talk about your work and when it’s not. Talk to me about painting—not your painting—but the work in the gallery, or art history. I might then ask you, “Are you an artist? What kind of art do you make?” By all means respond when the gallerist opens that door. And know how to talk about your work. My conversational firewall is moveable, because I’m also trying to approach collectors on behalf of my artists, and I don’t know initially who’s an artist and who’s a collector.”

Wendy Haas, private dealer, Chicago says: “Be respectful. Don’t corner me and monopolize my attention. You cannot hound your way into a successful dealer relationship. Definitely keep your website current, keep me up to date on your work (press releases, show cards, emails).  In particular, I enjoy seeing exhibition/installation shots—context is very informative. But accept that “no” could easily have nothing at all to do with how much I like your art. Even if we are not formally working together, I value being considered your colleague and want to feel like I can engage with you without pointed expectations. That is far more likely to make me comfortable reaching out to you in the future regarding opportunities with me or anywhere else that might interest you.”

We close with Goslow’s “little secret” and some advice from other colleagues. “I’ve found that posting towards the end of the day, the period when a gallery’s work may be done for the day but it will be open for another hour or two — especially on Sundays — they’ll be browsing Instagram to see what’s new. Where some social media “superstars” can get thousands of “likes” and “hearts,” I’ve come to find galleries and museums will only click that button if they truly like a work. For me, from an editor’s standpoint, it’s a great tool to get professional response to an artist and their work, especially if I feel my positive response might be due to knowing that person or having a familiarity with that work. And if you see a gallery or museum “likes” or “hearts” your work, it can’t hurt to send them a follow up email or note letting them know you noticed . . .  and ask them if you could send them a link to or package of your work as a larger introduction.”

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