Let The Art Speak

Our usual approach when talking with clients in our gallery about a particular painting is to ‘let the art talk’, i.e., let the art communicate with the visitor.

We give everyone time to look by themselves without interrupting their viewing with a lot of talk. Before people want to know a lot of information, they have to decide whether they like the artwork or not.

The artist statement and the words of the artist are important, but most people want the art to speak to them. I like to read them and talk with the artists, but only after I’ve seen the work.

We give clients a lot of space in our gallery and don’t talk too much, and if they want more information we provide it. Sometimes we ask, ‘Would you like to know more, or ‘Can I show you her resume?’ But not everyone says yes to these questions. Some people tell us, ‘I don’t care, I just know I like it.’

I hate it when I go into another  gallery or an artist studio and the people talks too much. They want to tell me about the technique, the awards the artist has won, the school the artist went too, etc. It’s all important stuff, but I want to tell them, ‘stop talking, I’m trying to look and just understand the work on my own and see what I can see.”  Generally they don’t read my body language and just keep talking, and I go on to the next painting.

I remember my first artist studio visit with a gallerist more than thirty years ago.  The artist said hello and worked off to the side.  The gallerist let me explore on my own. It was perfect. I told the gallerists which paintings I liked and I bought them.  Then, the artist and I talked at length

No one chooses a work only because of technique, or the university the artist attended, or the artist statement. They choose a work because it connects with them emotionally.

It’s easy to see when a particular work connects with someone. They just stare and feel. They enter an almost trance-like state. It’s a beautiful, peaceful sight because we can see the art having such a positive effect on someone.

I really do like to  hear artists talk about their work. I am quite happy to get extra insight into their works. It adds to the enjoyment of the art. Kind of like an augmented reality. But I like to look first.

In our gallery ,we have monthly ArtTalks . At these talks, usually held on Saturday afternoons, our artists talk about their art and the works in the shows. We get a good sized crowd-about 20-30 people who show up, and it’s been a wonderful experience for all. Some of the artists are initially shy talking to the crowd, but they warm up as people ask questions and make comments. The visitors gain valuable insights into our artists’ lives and their work.

Joji Shimamoto

At a recent ArtTalk, photographer Joji Shimamoto, whom I’ve written about before, talked about being a skateboarder. He told us that ‘just carrying a skateboard connects him with people.’ When he goes to Hong Kong, Taiwan, New York, anywhere, he carries his skateboard (and a very small camera) and immediately he’s able to meet other skateboarders who invite him into their world.

He gets to go to people’s homes, as well as parks, restaurants and bars that only locals would know about. He can make friends easily just by carrying the skateboard. People carrying briefcases can’t do the same thing. The skateboard opens doors to his world.

Joji got me thinking how I connect with others when I travel. It’s usually with art. In any city, I seek out the galleries, the museums, the artists, the coffee shops and restaurants where I’m likely to see good work and meet people with similar artists.

Art opens doors. Twenty years ago when I came to Asia, I sought out people in Manila, Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. Some are friends to this day and some are artists that we work with now in the gallery.

I didn’t need to read anything.  Their work spoke to me, and we’re still connected to this day.

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  1. …”They choose a work because it connects with them emotionally.” Truly the essential requirement for buying art, the viewer needs to have a “conversation” with the art. In so doing the feelings will naturally flow from the artist to the buyer.