Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Interview with a Gallery Owner, cont'd.

"Luxor" - 6 x 6" acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas.
Copyright 2007 Maggie Stiefvater.
$200 - available through Chasen Galleries.

This is the second half of the interview with Andrew Chasen of Chasen Galleries -- this half is for artists.


1. Traditionally artists have been told to approach galleries with informational packets and portfolios, but of course the internet and sheer number of artists out there has changed things. How do you find most of the artists that you represent?

Artists contact us via the internet as well as through US Mail. The internet has truly simplified the process and I prefer receiving initial photos via email. If there is question about actual quality, then I may ask to see the artwork in person. I have also sought artists I have read about.

2. What is the biggest mistake you see emerging artists make when approaching you? Is there anything in particular that screams "don't take me!"?

I think the biggest mistake emerging artists make is to not have enough of their artwork for me to judge. Another error is to have too many different styles or techniques to choose from.
Too big an ego is also a turn-off. When an artist guarantees me their artwork will sell, I am scared off. I do not care how successful an artist has been selling their work. What matters to me is how effective I feel we can be in selling their artwork.

3. On the flip side, what makes an artist attractive to a gallery?

Showing me a concise yet appropriate body of quality artwork makes me take notice. Something new and different is always intriguing.

4. How many pieces should an artist have before looking at gallery representation? Framed? Unframed? Is "gallery wrapped" canvas the new black?

The number of pieces an artist has depends on how many galleries they want to approach. I will take on a new artist who has at least 5 or 6 pieces I can display. Art buyers want a choice, they want to see what the artist can do. They want to see consistency in style and technique and they want to see variety of imagery.
I prefer framed artwork for the gallery, however, it has been my experience that most artists are unwilling to spend enough on the framing. Artwork in unattractive frames makes the artwork look cheap. If you won't spend the money on good looking frames, then consider the gallery wrap. A gallery wrap gives the art buyer the choice of framing the painting or leaving it as it is with no further expense. The gallery wrap, while appropriate for some artwork, is not necessarily the look that a very traditional client will appreciate.

5. Do you think the gallery scene has changed in the last five years? Ten years? Do you think it will change substantially in the near future?

The gallery scene is definitely changing. While limited editions (giclees and serigraphs) on canvas have been extremely popular, the trend now is toward original paintings. The art industry,not unlike other industries, goes through cycles. The print buyers of the last several years and newer collectors now want moderately priced original paintings.

6. What should an artist expect from a gallery, marketing and sales wise? And conversely, what does a gallery expect from an artist? Is there a period of time after which you decide to drop a non-selling artist?

An artist should expect the gallery to present and display their artwork in a professional, expert manner. The gallery should be able to speak easily and convincingly about the artist and their background. The gallery expects the artist to provide artwork on a continual basis as needed. If the flow is disrupted, it is possible to lose the momentum the gallery has worked so hard to develop.

7. Tell me about medium. Oil has traditionally been king of the hill. Do galleries prefer oil? What about more "fragile" media that have to go behind glass: pastel, colored pencil, watercolor?
Oils and acrylics are treated almost equally. Some purists only will buy an oil, but that is rare. I have avoided other media on paper. My preference is artwork without glass so as to avoid and, therefore, eliminate any difficulty with glare.

8. Artist-Gallery contracts – good thing? Bad thing? Necessary thing?

Any business relationship should have a reliable source of information in case of dispute. Hence, the artist-gallery contract. Although I have rarely had to refer to a contract due to a dispute with an artist, it is a safety precaution nonetheless.

9. If an artist markets themself well, what's the advantage to the artist of having gallery representation? In other words, what can galleries offer an artist for the commission they extract?

For an artist to make major marketing impact, they need gallery representation to enable exposure to a wider audience. They need to deal with reputable, established gallerists. How long have they been in business? What is the gallery reputation? Ask around. Ask artists who have exhibited in the gallery.

10. I see a lot of big name artists with multiple galleries representing them. How many galleries should an artist have, anyway?

There is always the danger of having too many galleries represent an artist. If an artist cannot keep up with the demand (not necessarily a desirable problem), then it is time to begin reassessing which galleries are working best. It may also be a time to consider raising prices. There is also the danger of diluting the artist's work by seeing it everywhere. It can kill the demand for the work. Thomas Kinkade is a good example of this marketing over-saturation. How many Kinkade galleries are still around?!!

11. Describe your perfect artist. How many pieces, what sort of style, what sort of behavior they exhibit – what does this perfect artist do to make your life as a gallery owner easier?

My "ideal" artist would have a style with broad appeal (does anyone really know what that might be??), and should be eager to provide us with new, updated work when necessary. The artist should also be open to suggestions from the gallery and its clientele. An artist who can speak with clients and promote their own artwork in a gallery show setting is always a plus. Buyers like to meet the artist and learn more about the artwork and the methods. An artist who provides marketing materials is also extremely helpful to the gallery by providing information for their collectors and prospective buyers.

12. And finally, every artist has a dream gallery they'd love to represent them one day. Do you have a dream artist that you would love to represent?

It would be my dream to represent the work of Wayne Thiebaud. I have always loved his work. My clientele, however, may not appreciate his prices!


H Malott said...

Wonderful interview Maggie! Very informative. Thanks for sharing.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

You're welcome, Heidi!