Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday's Aside : Invitation Greening Pros and Cons

Tuesday's Aside, a weekly post in which I will do my damnedest to answer your questions. In order to keep each Tuesday's thread on topic, I'll ask that you post any additional questions on the original thread (even though it will fall off the main page, I'll be emailed each time a new comment is added there and so, thus, will be monitoring continuously).

Carol wrote:
I’ve begun to hear from galleries (Von Lintel and Team recently) that they will be “saving paper” by replacing the traditional post card exhibition announcement with email. As a critic, I get tons of emails from galleries, many I've not heard of nor been to, and never open any of them. To me, they're not much better than spam. I do, however, look at each and every card I get in the mail—-cards with images, that is. And I often save them for months or even years.

Then as an artist, I’m concerned that once a gallery establishes this as a policy, will it then become an expense that gets passed on to us? And will there be a reliable database available if we do want to send cards?

This is how I go about choosing which galleries I visit: I make a stack of all the announcement cards that look interesting, go through the ads in Art in America and Artforum, then print out the ArtCal list of galleries by neighborhood and address and highlight what I find. I also do research from the ArtCal list as well.

Another thing I appreciate is when galleries include thumbnail images of each piece next to the entry in the checklist. Like announcement cards, they serve as a reference I’m likely to keep for a long time.

As a gallery owner, what are your thoughts?
Perhaps if more galleries understood that sending critics a card with an image played such a big role in getting the critic to come see their exhibition this would become a non-issue (i.e., galleries would just print up cards), but I think there are several interesting issues in Carol's comments/questions, and I'd like to separate them out. (For the record, our gallery does both, printed cards and email announcements...but then I'm a media whore, so....)

First is that most galleries I know end up throwing away thousands of invitations each year because printers generally only offer their services in units of 1000 or 500 at best. If a gallery's mailing list then is 4,200 people, say, and to send that many they have to print up 5000 cards, after the stack of 100 they archive and the 100 or so visitors take away during the exhibition, they still have 600 cards per exhibition that end up being landfill. Multiply that by 8 exhibitions a year and 300 galleries in Chelsea alone and you begin to understand that even if "saving paper" is only a euphemism for "saving money" there is actually a good deal of waste going on (the math tells us perhaps as many as 1,440,000 cards get thrown away each year in Chelsea).

Also, there's definitely a Paperless Nation movement underfoot. Banks, utilities, airlines, newspapers, you name it, everyone is encouraging their customers to use the Internet instead of relying on print. Whether it actually is out of concern for the environment or an easy way for them to save money is probably besides the point. Once businessmen realize they can cut that corner, it will be difficult to get them to turn back.

But ours is a visual industry. We trade in images. I will confess to spending more time with cold-sent print invitations than with cold-sent emails (by cold-sent, I mean someone whose mailing list I didn't sign up for or someone sending me an announcement because they sought me out, rather than the other way around). A card is much easier. An image in an email might be an attachment or take forever to load. With a printed card, I flip it over and voilà! Of course so much depends upon the quality of the image (both in printing and in original creation), but that's another matter.

But Carol wisely thinks through to the future issues that galleries going paperless might consider first: "Then as an artist, I’m concerned that once a gallery establishes this as a policy, will it then become an expense that gets passed on to us?"

I think that would probably be a yes. If an artist wanted printed invites and the gallery's policy was not to produce them, then many a dealer would argue that that falls under the artist's individual promotion efforts. Of course, it could become just another exhibition negotiation, but if the gallery has a set budget per exhibition, getting them to shell out for cards might mean cutting back on something else.

But Carol's second question is more to the point on what galleries should keep in mind, IMHO: "And will there be a reliable database available if we do want to send cards?"

Most likely not. Galleries update their mailing lists when the post office returns a card with an address correction or a client, realizing they've stopped getting them or having moved, contacts the gallery to update the records. If you're known to be emailing announcements only, who would bother to contact you with a change of address? It takes years to build up a quality mailing list. The expense of printing and mailing cards might be a small price to pay to ensure yours is as up-to-date as possible.

Finally, Carol notes:
"Another thing I appreciate is when galleries include thumbnail images of each piece next to the entry in the checklist." I loved that the first time I saw it as well and promptly stole it (we do it for 95% of our exhibitions). I should acknowledge that I first saw that on a checklist from our friend Jeff Gleich's gallery in Paris, g-module. It takes a bit more time to set up, but a lot less than walking a critic writing about the exhibition back through the show on the phone, hoping your explanations are making sense.

Thanks for the question Carol. Others' opinions on the fate of printed announcement cards?

Labels: Tuesday's Aside


OpenID ericgelber said...

"thumbnail images of each piece next to the entry in the checklist"

In my opinion this is the most important thing for a critic.

6/17/2008 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Staff Brandl said...

I love those images too. Especially when I do a "painting installation" as I call them, when it is an installation but has various saleable elements, I have found that the thumbnail images are even fine without titles and help a lot.

I enjoy getting emails with images (I usually have a powerful computer and great server, so it all loads quickly). Especially if it is more personal, like the ones I get from Tony Fitzpatrick.

6/17/2008 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

The power of a postcard is such that even if it arrives face down in a stack of mail, you turn it over. Even if you don't know what it's for or whom it's from, you turn it over. We don't do that with e-mail.

Curators file them, going back six months or a year later to see what's added up. Many shows have been put together as a result of the critical mass.

And who can possibly calculate the subliminal effect that a postcard tacked to a bulletin board or propped up on a shelf next to a computer, will have on a critic, curator, collector?

The Post Office doesn't make it easier, with the pick, pick, pick of its constant one-cent increases, but it would be the proverbial penny wise and pound foolish for galleries to give up this method of advertising and communication.

As for the extras, none should have to go into a landfill. Give them to your artists. We'll put them to good use use, from promotional packets to "tiling" a hallway.

6/17/2008 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

As for the extras, none should have to go into a landfill. Give them to your artists.

I offer our artists as many as they would like and generally, either out of modesty or not wanting to haul them away, they decline.

Perhaps I should be more clear about their fate, but...

6/17/2008 09:51:00 AM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

Besides the checklist with color thumbnails putting up an enlargeable image of each work of art in the show on the gallery website is also very useful for critics. The images should be clear and detailed. No matter how many notes I take at a show and no matter how long I stay to look at it, I always like to refer to images when writing a review. For instance, I am currently writing a review of a painting show in which the artist paints realistic detailed images of their studios and public bathrooms. The digital images the gallery sent me do not hold up well when I enlarge them in order to study the numerous details found in each painting. They pixelate and I can't figure out what I am looking at. This makes the writing process more difficult. Of course if I took better notes the digital images wouldn't have mattered as much.

6/17/2008 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take your camera with you to the show so you can photograph the images you think you will write about. Most websites limit the dpi of images.

For the most part, I delete emails, except for the galleries/artists I find interesting. But when I go in to see a show and really like the work, I also like to take the card with me to keep the viewing experience fresh. My dealer has a collection of announcements from shows in LA from the 50s and 60s. The historic value is also overlooked in the movement to paperless.

6/17/2008 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger ec said...

Love and treasure cards, so will pay to print cards if needed but in general do not have to.
Treasure holding things in my hands -including the newspaper.
Also the images are good.
Emails? Slow downloads are exasperating.
Card-wise, I've got a box of them with every season from about 1994 it refreshes memory and tracks the history of various artists and galleries in unexpected and interesting ways.
Yet the overage Ed speaks of from printer discounts IS problematic. Personally it's nice for Ed to dispose of the extra. Collage and bookmarks go so far...

6/17/2008 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

I'm the troller who goes to every single gallery and needs the press release and post cards just to remember where the heck I've been. I figure galleries have them there because they are waiting for someone like me to walk in the door, and I'm counting on them always being there - it is frustrating when they are not.

6/17/2008 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Ellen said...

I do enjoy receiving printed postcards,and it sounds as if they serve a purpose not yet met by email announcements. I think, however, that if galleries want to save paper, and other landfill items, they should consider looking at artists' work as email attachments or web sites, or delivered electronically, rather than insisting on slides, cds, paper resumes etc. That is, if it is about saving the environment, and not money. The money saved would be the artists'.

6/17/2008 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Carol Diehl said...

Thanks, Ed! I hope the other galleries are paying attention.

And if they want more proof, they can look back to the show Ronald Feldman Gallery did in 2006 "Notes and Itineraries, 1976-2004", which included critic Kim Levin's collection of announcement cards.


6/17/2008 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Cary Tijerina said...

As a gallery director, I am inundated with mailers and emails constantly. Many artists don't seem to research their lists enough to notice that we show photography and we are not probably not interested in their paintings etc. There are only two entities, one gallery and one artist, that I receive mailers from and actually pay attention. Both of these are consistently inventive and exciting with both format and content. It's wonderful because instead of feeling like I am getting junk mail I feel as id I am being given a little present. I look forward to seeing their next show/body of work. This is what galleries and artists need to shoot for. Well-targeted mailings to people who appreciate what you are selling. Otherwise you are just pretending that you are "marketing" but really just wasting money.

6/17/2008 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

You're welcome Carol. Thanks for the great question.

Ellen wrote:

I think, however, that if galleries want to save paper, and other landfill items, they should consider looking at artists' work as email attachments or web sites, or delivered electronically, rather than insisting on slides, cds, paper resumes etc. That is, if it is about saving the environment, and not money. The money saved would be the artists'.

This could (possibly should) be its own thread, but I don't actually know of any galleries that still request slides. Does anyone?

For a mailed submission (and I personally do prefer emailed submissions...although I should note that at the moment, we're not reviewing submissions), because an artist feels that works best for their work, I encourage only printing out three images and putting the rest on a disc. A printed bio is handy, but I'm happy to look at that on the disc as well if the images are compelling enough to want to know more. Not printing out anything at all puts the artist at a disadvantge, IMO, because I often put disc only packages aside to view later when I have time to deal with CDs, but give printed images immediate attention.

I appreciate that the artists save money by not using slides or printing all their images, but when you're at the point that the gallery is demanding this or that format (i.e., meaning hopefully they're interested enough to communicate their preferences) you don't want to skimp or begrudge them the money, in my opinion. You're investing in yourself.

6/17/2008 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger David said...

The "going green" thing is definitely a euphemism for cutting costs in this case. You could help the environment more by just showing thin paintings. There's nothing wrong with cutting costs, but why not just be up front about it?

When I have a show I do both postcards and e-mailings. People seem to like getting the cards, and often keep them around for years. The e-mails are good as reminders, but they don't have much shelf life.

It's not worth putting much effort into getting critics to your show here in Los Angeles, because the LA Times doesn't print many reviews. I focus on collectors. The best way to get press for your show here in California is to have a celebrity attached.

6/17/2008 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where do you attach the celebrity? On the front of the piece? Is glue better than staples?

6/17/2008 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous cjagers said...


Galleries don't request slides in general, but many universities, grant foundations, and competitions do. However, even these are beginning to convert to online systems to manage this process like SlideRoom.com - whereas galleries seem content with email. Email is fine as long as submissions are trickling in. But if you host a big event or consistently receive large numbers of submissions, an online management system makes more sense.

6/17/2008 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

I can't imagine not having postcards for a gallery show. I will often pick up postcards and hold onto them for years, but emailed images get put into a 'random photos' folder and never looked at again. Also, if someone is thinking of buying a painting of mine, I have often found that having the image around is what nudges them over the edge.

However, postcards printed with a vacuous non-image are another matter. Even if you're doing a large group show, PICK AN IMAGE of some actual art and put it on the postcard. Generic postcards with a list of names are truly a waste of paper. Even when I'm in one of those group shows, I don't send those cards to my mailing list.

6/17/2008 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous cjagers said...

Pretty Lady, Good point!

I have noticed that the piece on the postcard almost always has a red-dot by it when I go to the show. Printed matter helps something looks special.

Plus, a postcard is has great screen resolution, is portable, and easy to store.

I think someone just needs a good business idea for how to help galleries deal with the access. All you MFA's out there without money, start thinking!

6/17/2008 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous cjagers said...

Correction ... I meant "excess."

6/17/2008 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

David, where do you attach the celebrity? On the front of the piece? Is glue better than staples?

ML, I prefer to use rope, but you have to keep it hidden until you get close to them. Usually best to put the celebrities right in front of the paintings, because then a lot of people will at least be looking in the direction of your work.

Besides abducting them, another way to get celebrities to your openings is to post bail for them.

6/17/2008 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

I agree that this is an important topic to consider environmentally. And like many of the other readers, I too prefer postcards or some other physical advert. I am always haunted by the sheer amount of excess cards I have around after an exhibition and often have resorted to blindly tossing them out with the trash. But, I am now interested in researching for a much more green friendly option. Postcards printed on recycled paper with environmentally freindly inks and coatings that can easily be recycled afterwards. There must be some printers out there that offer this, though I personally have yet to look into it. I imagine they will be a bit more costly but with the growing demand for this, perhaps costs will soon come down.

I remember coming across a landscape designer whose business cards were designed to be biodegradable and embedded with seeds so, rather than just thrown them out, they could be planted and flowers would grow from it, gimmicky, but opens the door to some creative possibilities.

Anyone familiar with any green printers that make a recyclable postcard?

6/17/2008 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Walker said...

I think we're as likely to lose postcards as we are books due to the internet. Or painting due to photography for that matter. But really, all it will take is a small handful of collectors (or maybe even just one) that refuse to come to a show based solely on a mass e-mail, and suddenly the expense is worth it for the gallery.

Personally, I'm with David in that it annoys me that galleries are claiming to be "greener" when they're simply cutting costs. Being disingenuous is so unappealing, especially when it's that transparent.

6/17/2008 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Ellen said...

My point wasn't about begrudging a gallery money spent on submission materials, but rather questioning whether or not eliminating the postcards was about landfills or galleries saving money. It would seem that online delivery systems, rather than CDs (and slides, though I realize this is fading fast) would be one way of eliminating garbage. CDs and written materials inevitably get trashed, and looking at an image on a CD is identical to looking at it transmitted. Don't worry, I'm not sending you anything. I should also note that I'm not invested in any of these systems, but the environmental benefits are undeniable.

6/17/2008 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


I'm not worried. That note wasn't for you in particular, just something I've been meaning to say for some time and realized your comment provided an opportunity.

We agree that online delivery methods are the way to go. I encourage students to put images online via a blog or other free channel and do all their approaching galleries work electronically.

I'm sorry if I misunderstood what you meant by :

That is, if it is about saving the environment, and not money. The money saved would be the artists'.

It seemed to imply that galleries were probably not truly interested in being green but only saving their own money...that when it only amounted to saving others' money, they weren't as precious about the environment.

I thought that idea was a bit unfair to gallerists, who tend to be pretty freakin' liberal by most measures.

If that's not what you meant, then we're all clear I think.

6/17/2008 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

In five years, sending a printed card will be like giving a vinyl record to a teenager today.

I would add that eventually out of the 5000 cards printed, eventually %99.9 end up in a landfill at the hands of the recipient. Multiply that by 8 exhibitions a year and 300 galleries in Chelsea alone = 11,988,000, although I would have thought the gallery left overs would have been recycled.

Add the energy to make the paper, produce the ink. deliver them, the production and use of solvents to clean the printing press etc. etc...

yes the past was great and we should always do things the way they have always been done, regardless of the consequences.

let us worship Zarathustra
just the way we usta
I'm a Zarathustra boosta!
And that's good enough for me!

Let us worship Aphrodite
she’s beautiful but flighty
she doesn’t wear a nightie
but she’s good enough for me


6/17/2008 04:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe then galleries should print a limited number and send them only to collectors who prefer paper. The remainder can be sold to people coming into the gallery. I wouldn't have problem paying 25 cents for a card of an image I like. The small amount would cover part of the printing expense and is a good sign the card won't immediately get tossed into the trash. It could even be an honor system and the gallery could even advetise they are donating the money to a good cause......

6/17/2008 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger concrete phone said...

the e-model is probably the new model which will take over from the traditional postcard, but here I do get some interesting ones: a recent pink fluffy one sits on my table as I work. I tend to stroke it!
Shinsuke Aso the head honcho of SAPC, a postcard company, does good art cards too!
Perhaps inventive and lucrative is the way to go! Art is not waste!

6/17/2008 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

i am not accepting post cards at this time. thank you for your consideration.

6/18/2008 02:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Ellen said...

I don't know if you're still reading this thread, but I want you to know that I didn't intend to attack gallerists. But gallerists are business people, and I do think that most business people will try to make what they think are sound business decisions. If they see postcards disappearing, and realize that they can save money and work by eliminating them, I believe that's the prime motivating factor, and the green issue is a nice byproduct and good spin.

I brought up the CD/paper submission issue because I think that having a policy banning that kind of mail (until a certain level of interest is reached) would be a purely "green" act. But because it's a bit inconvenient, and there's no monetary incentive, well...

Anyway, just a point of view. I truly enjoy the blog.

6/18/2008 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger w said...

I take extra postcards from my shows (and others), draw on them and mail them out. I've done around 2000 so far - here's where I'm starting to archive them:


6/18/2008 09:53:00 AM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

"Take your camera with you to the show so you can photograph the images you think you will write about."

A simple solution ml but it won't work for me for two reasons: I usually don't know what I am going to write about until I am through gallery hopping and some time has passed, I don't have the time or energy to take pictures of every exhibition I visit when I am gallery hopping. I tend to see a lot of stuff in one day.

6/18/2008 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Also, you will occasionally get yelled at for taking photos.

I'm like Eric: I look over the Website as I'm writing the review. It helps jog my memory. I don't take notes or carry a camera because I can't do more than one thing at a time; if I'm writing or taking pictures, then I'm not looking at the art. I just don't have enough brain cells to go around.

6/18/2008 01:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

For me the holy grail of every exhibitions is the checklist, or the published catalog (if it exists).

I don't mind if it is in PDF, as I have a good printer. I can pay for my paper, I have no interest in wasting a gallery's ressources. Thumbnails is an extra luxury,
but I much prefer the checklist without than no checklist at all.

Only the checklist (or catalog) provides the mnemonic beef, all the rest is fla-fla.


Cedric C

6/21/2008 12:28:00 AM  

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