“Dealing direct: do artists really need galleries?”
“Successful artists, as well as some smart youngsters, are in no rush to secure big-league representation”
This article (Cristina Ruiz, The Art Newspaper, April 9, 2014) starts off with the example of one mega-artist (who employs 45 staff) on the ‘pro’ side, and ends with quotes from an art adviser, curator, and collector on the ‘con’ side.
This headline-lede-article grouping frustrates for raising an interesting question but answering with the status quo ‘no.’ It reinforces the tired assumptions that artists are powerless without galleries, and that commercial galleries are the primary means whereby artists advance. It reassures dealers—not to worry, dealers’ jobs are safe—while telling artists (again) that the market system works fine, and it can only be bypassed by the most exceptional.
I should have known better (I think it’s safe to say that The Art Newspaper views “the art world” as the same thing as “the art market”), but I wanted to read how artists proceed without commercial gallery representation (unrealized project idea!). Most of us artists do so already; I’d wager 90% of us work this way. Yet too often professional development advice to artists focuses on garnering gallery representation, as if artists’ agency is solely a matter of glomming on to more powerful people.
*Unrealized Project #2: I was also hoping for frank talk about why artists might not want representation.* Recently I heard a veteran artist tell emerging artists about a blue chip gallery’s dodgy financial practices, and how we should keep our expectations for transparency extremely low. Why? I’d love to read a gallerist’s explanation in print (Unrealized Project #3). Why should galleries hide even very basic bookkeeping from their suppliers? What exempts these businesses from standard business practices? Why can’t the commercial art industry adhere to norms like cutting checks promptly or issuing statements?
**Unrealized Project #4: Write an article to go with the headline, “Do galleries need artists?”