Sunday, August 19, 2007

How Galleries Choose Artists to Show

Panel Discussion sponsored by the Greater Denton Arts Council. June 14, 2007

Nancy Whitenack from Conduit Gallery, Dallas, Texas
Marty Walker from Marty Walker Gallery, Dallas, Texas
Burt Finger from Photographs Do Not Bend, Dallas, Texas

The GDAC hosted an exhibition of emerging artists that are represented by galleries in Dallas (Denton is about 35 miles north of Dallas). They also hosted this panel and invited arts groups and art students from the area universities. I took notes and wanted to share them with you.

Nancy Whitenack:
Her gallery features two major spaces and a small "project room" where they show artists that they don't represent.
She sees the gallery/artist relationship as a journey.
She watches the artist change and brings the public around to the changes.
She picks artists instinctually.
She does studio visits and views juried shows.
She responds to work that she immediately resonates with and connects with - she has to love the work.
She tries not to overlap other types of work - not have two or more artists that do the same thing.
She likes work that examines a story in a different way.

Marty Walker:
Suggests that you take time to visit the gallery or website to see what the work looks like before you approach a gallery.
She sees several variables - she must like the work - the resume and exhibition history is important but not the final decision. She's willing to take a chance on an artist.

Burt Finger:
He looks for an artist that will add something to the gallery.
He thinks about his clients, not just what he loves.
Suggests that you do research on a gallery before you approach it.
He prefers artists who have work in major museums and who have a monograph.

What is the role of an alternative space?
Alternative spaces are important - Some recent grads are not necessarily ready for a commercial gallery. They're great for creating a community of artists and are important for experimental work (there were several artists present who are on the board of the 500X, a prominent alternative space in Dallas). But all of the gallery directors said that if they believe in an artist, they would be willing to show experimental work.

How should an artist approach a gallery?
If you're local, go to the openings and meet the gallery director.
Build up a relationship first.
Make a personal connection.
If you have work in a local show, ask them to visit to see your work.
Participate in major local juried shows (in this area it's the Contemporary, the MAC, Art House, Art in the Metroplex, TVAA, etc.)
Show work in non-art spaces to begin with - coffee shops, etc.

What makes you want to visit an artist's studio?
The artist has to be serious.
It helps to have built up a relationship.

What about exclusive contracts?
Marty Walker and Nancy Whitenack said that their contracts are usually just locally exclusive (if you show with them you don't show at another competing gallery in Dallas).
Burt Finger said that he prefers his artists to be exclusive to his gallery.

Other thoughts:
Most galleries will send out packets with info on their artists to museums and collections.
They all said that they didn't have any bias against self-taught artists.
If energy is happening in your studio then everything else will fall into place.
Don't expect to produce part-time effort and expect full time results.
Artist's recommendations are very important. They place a great deal of importance on recommendations from other artists.

Now playing: Red House Painters - Another Song For A Blue Guitar
via FoxyTunes


Tracy Helgeson said...

Deanna, this was a very helpful post. It's good to know that gallery directors have different approach but yet there are similarities.

Although I have to say that although I often hear the tip about forming a relationship first with a gallery before showing them your work, I have never gotten representation or a show by doing that. It would be very impractical based on where I live and so most of my opportunities have come from my sending packets out.

PaMdora said...

Thank you for this post! I was friends with Marty Walker about 20 years, but we lost touch. Because of your post, I found her website and emailed her and now we're back int touch. This is so great -- thanks again!