Art fair season is upon us- the jet set, the name-dropping, the price-rising, the suspense, the champagne, the parties, the networking, the CELEBRITIES. Amongst the glamour, the VIPS, Eva&Adele, and the Press, there is a little army of Nobodies circling the booths like moths the light...Artists Anonymous.
Because you are nobody until you are somebody, and you can’t become somebody while you are nobody. A sticky conundrum. You are certainly nobody until you have a gallery -with at least one art fair participation a year, even if it is the local market. This a system that might still become obsolete in our time, but for now the big question remains:
How do I get a gallery?
In art and psychoanalysis it helps to see/think things in reverse so this is a list of things that will most definitely not help you find a gallery. Getting out of denial is after all the first step to recovery.
Address Gallerists at Art Fairs
Last year in Art Cologne a girl approached my gallerist and asked her if she would like to download some pictures of her work from the memory stick she had in her hands. The silence stretched for what felt like ages. I have seen other, more successful marketing strategies at fairs--buttons, cards, stickers, stamps, condoms. ALL end up in the rubbish. Save your breath and your money. Money being the operative word. You can headlock a gallerist and tattoo your work into his forehead, but all he can see during an art fair is $$$$. The gallerists have paid their asses to get that booth, get out of their faces and let them do their job.
Walk into a Gallery with your Portfolio
This has as many chances of working as knocking on someone’s door, opening your trousers and saying- “Hello. I got this”. (on second thought … I would give that a 3 out of 10 chances of working).
a. The army of gallerinas or gallerinos will look at you as if you are last year's Jimmy Choos ( or last in Berlin : last year's Birckenstocks)
b. The look the gallerist, if he is around, will give you could freeze over Cyprus.
c. Your portfolio will end up in the trash.
d. Your portfolio WILL end up in the trash.
Guaranteed. Don’t even start printing.
Ps: There is tiny category of people who CAN pull that move off, with the right, very young unestablished gallerist. I believe the work has to be the original though. But don’t get ideas.
Email the "Dear Gallery" Shit Out of Them
There is one little phrase in almost every gallery's page “no unsolicited proposals”. In plain English this means "Don’t Even Think About It, You Skunk". Spamming is not only a weird word, it is also illegal. Worse thing is, they will save your email address and start sending you invites for their freaking shows (which still don't include you).
Hang Out with a Gallerist Every Night
I am not saying this is a bad thing, it is actually a cool thing. Especially as most of them tend to pay. But do not expect it to mean anything. A lot of gallerists are very young. They like to hang out, drink, dance, and flirt. Old gallerists like to hang too. (No, this is not the time to show them your portfolio either). The fact that you got yourself a pal-erist does not mean they will show your work. Fact is, it probably means they will NOT show your work, as they are bound to have looked it up already out of curiosity and, if it was a fit, they would have told you by now. So...cheers!
Be an Online Suck up
This is a 2015 addition to this post: Regardless of which side of the social media continent you fall into; East or West. Sucking up to Simchowitz or Saltz or any gallery you like, or me for that matter will not help you become more "visible" in no way what so ever. It will help you become more stupid. Be original, develop and express your own thoughts. On your own goddamn page!
Be an Assistant to a Big Artist
Be the B to his A, the Watson to his Sherlock Holmes, the Santzo Panza to his … No. You should stock up on techniques and contacts and get out of there as soon as you can. Two years top. A lot of Big artists complain about their assistants leaving them after they have taught them everything. I will probably do the same at some point, but I feel this is the natural way of things. You can’t be number 2 (or number 5 or 6 ) forever and it will definitely not get your work shown because you are always the one holding somebody else’s.
Be an Assistant to a Gallery
An equally awkward situation. While you will get some contacts, you will get them from the wrong side of the tracks, and this will be hard to shake off later. Plus, you will get bitter and hate art, artists, and yourself. A bit like working in an ice-cream + waffle place over the summer. Or getting to work at the kitchen of your favourite restaurant and seeing how the food is really made.
Sleep with a Gallerist
Now ladies, this is a tricky one. Having sex with a gallerist will probably not get you a show, unless there was a show coming your way anyway. But NOT sleeping with a gallerist will not really help either. In fact, it might get you written off. I am not advocating prostitution of course, I am just saying the odds in this one are fuck-fuck. Different situation with gallerinas. I would give that a 8/10 chance to get you, boy toy, what you want, maybe not a show, but a little something. Women are after all more…let’s say emotionally reliable. In fact, you do not even need to go very far, just flirting is usually enough. What can I say, we are THAT giving. There are, of course, a lot of artists- gallerists couples, the artist showing at the same or another gallery- love conquers all.
All these things will really NOT work. Here a few things that do.