As a gallery owner, the most common question I’m asked ‘How do you find your artists?’
Here’s my answer:
We find the artists the same way a company finds great employees, the same way a person finds their partner, the same way I choose a restaurant for a special occasion. And for you dog lovers, the same way you chose your furry family member.
I want the best one I can possibly find. I want to be blown away. I want to see something that effects me emotionally. I want to see something I have never seen before. In the words of Rilke,
Let me be with those who know secret things or else alone.
I want only the best. I’d rather show nothing than show something that doesn’t move me.
My advice to young artists is always the same: get your work out there and exhibit anywhere you can—hotels, coffee shops, restaurants. Enter every competition open to you, create a website, sell via the Internet and get your work seen. It’s got to be out there. Get on Facebook–yes Facebook matters.
Gallerists like me, as well as collectors and potential clients, go to these shows and they can easily look at your site.
Like a recruiter, we track down the artists we want.
Do you remember when you were dating? The ones who liked you were not necessarily the ones you liked.
Artists need to make it easy for people to see their work—and I don’t mean dropping by a gallery with a portfolio or sending unsolicited emails. I can’t remember ever choosing an artist who sent an email with a large attachment. I get too many of these and don’t recommend this strategy as a way of getting representation.
As I said, I go to shows—a lot of them—or look at the websites and catalogues if I can’t go in person.
But the visits to all of these shows, and reviewing web sites, catalogues and portfolios, is only part of the story.
We actually find some of our artists by accident when we see their work in a bar or a club, and this is always a great pleasure. It’s like a surprise birthday present or an inheritance you weren’t expecting. I consider finding a new artist by accident one of my greatest pleasures—up there with how coffee fans must feel about finding the perfect espresso.
When my partner and I find an artist we like, we track them down like a headhunter does with great talent, schedule a meeting and a portfolio review. We’re looking for a good fit with what we do in the gallery.
Then when we finally meet with an artist, we focus on the work, understanding more about what he or she is communicating, and learning more about the goals and the dreams of the artist.
We also look at his or her resume and the range of work. The most important is the work itself, but the personality of the artist matters. We choose to meet with the artist because we like the work, but we also want to know if the personality is a good fit with ours.
If the work is great, but it looks like the relationship will be high maintenance, we’ll most likely pass.
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