Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tuesday's Aside : Studio Visit Strategies

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).

Ollie wrote:
Are there protocols you could suggest with regard to inviting a gallerist or curator to my studio for a studio visit. Is it inappropriate for me to do the asking?

As a somewhat known artist smack in the middle of “emerging” and mid-career I have always found this incredibly awkward even when I am reasonably certain that the invitee is familiar with my work. However, I am now beginning to think I have nothing to lose.

You must be asked to do studio visits all the time. Does this bother you and does your response depend upon your knowledge and possible interest in the artist’s work or do you consider it the equivalent of a cold call or someone sending you slides, only more presumptuous.
My initial reaction to this topic is that the same best practices apply here as for finding a gallery to work with. It's become part of my standard shtick lecture to note that the single best way to get gallery representation is to make artwork so compelling the art world beats a path to your door. If that's not working out for you, though, then consider what I feel is the second best way (and from there I go into the recommendations I outlined here).

Those recommendations boil down to three points:
  1. Research your market (Learn which galleries are more likely to be interested in your work. It's flat wrong to assume they all will. Doing this will also prevent you from being artificially discouraged. By that I mean specifically, the response from a gallery which doesn't exhibit the kind of work you make may not be a valid indication of the interest in the work you make to so many other galleries, so why subject yourself to that rejection?)
  2. Make initial contact in a casual way. That is, don't introduce yourself by announcing you want the gallery to show your work. (Although I don't say this, per se, in my talks, the main reason to avoid making your initial contact all about what you want is it can convey you'll be perhaps difficult to work with...that you're desperate and self-centered. The second reason is that by being more casual and perhaps even generous with your appreciation of the space/person you're approaching [and if you can't honestly be generous, why are you approaching them anyway?] you will stand out from many other artists who seem desperate when you get to step three.)
  3. Finally, when the time seems right, combine something personable with a direct request to show your work. (The same thinking applies here as in step 2. If you make it all about you, you'll seem desperate. The truth of the matter is, all else being equal [meaning the person you're approaching knows nothing more about you than the fact that you're yet another artist who wants a piece of their limited time], so much of getting a gallerist/curator/collector to relax their defense mechanisms [and believe me they need them, because they're approached constantly] is to demonstrate you understand their time is valuable.)
OK, but that's specific to interest in representation. In many respects a studio visit is much more casual. In one respect, though, it's still a large thing to ask...and that respect is time/travel. I was recently asked at a talk if an artist can expect New York curators/dealers to visit their studio in Coney Island. I answered, honestly, that yes, anywhere in the 5 boroughs is reasonable, but the further you are from where the curator/dealer lives/works, the more consideration you might extend to make it easier for them. I outlined several studio visit "best practices" a while back. I babble on for quite some time there, but to this present point, I suggested:
[Be] sure to consider the environment of your studio when arranging your visits (likewise, respect for the visitor's schedule is an important consideration, because not showing it pretty much damns your chances of developing a good relationship from the get-go). If you don't have air conditioning, or if your work is better seen in daylight, or if the neighborhood is a bit scary after dark, do take those things into consideration and let your visitor know when the optimal time of day is or what to expect if that's not convenient. Sometimes there's nothing you can do about the conditions, but surprises like boiling studios, glaring reflections from windows, or being harassed on the way to or from a visit impact the visitor's impressions, right or wrong, of your work. Just be aware of it.

Suggestions: I've had artists offer to meet me in their car at a subway station or arrange early morning visits if they don't have AC. Comfort is a consideration. Neglecting it pretty much guarantees your visitor won't give your work their full attention. Also, if it's hot or visitors must climb a number of flights to get to your studio, have a cold beverage ready and let them relax a few moments if they show signs they might need to. Again, you want their full attention when the discussion turns to your work.

[is it "done" to blockquote yourself?"]
But I'm jumping ahead. Ollie's question was specific to requesting the studio visit: "does your response depend upon your knowledge and possible interest in the artist’s work ...."

Yes, my response heavily depends on my knowledge and possible interest in the artist's work. It also depends, quite honestly, on how much I like that artist. I have done studio visits with artists whose work I assumed I wouldn't like (because of limited exposure) simply because they were great to talk with in the gallery/parties, etc., and on a few occasions I have been very happily surprised with what I found in their studio. I know some folks get upset when I seem to be suggesting it's all about networking or that they should suck up to the dealer/curator, but the truth is if I don't like you personally, I'll be much less willing to visit your studio even if I know the work is good. As a producer friend of mine notes that they say in Hollywood about high-maintenance actors, regardless of how talented: "Life is too Short." I'm sorry if that's not the answer folks want to hear...I'm just being truthful.

Being even more truthful, my interest will definitely increase if I know the artist's work is widely respected. This translates into the practical advice: strike while the iron is hot. If you want a dealer or curator to visit your studio, approach them right after your work was highlighted positively in a review of a group exhibition, or you received an award, or some other high-profile event that they will have noticed. It's tricky as to whether directing them to your good news will backfire or not...depends on how you do it.

I'd expect you'll have more luck with an extreme approach, actually. Either don't mention it (the cool, modest [fingers crossed they noticed] approach) or play it up (the, "Since my NYTimes review, there's been steady interest in coming over to my studio, but I was hoping you could come over first" approach). Which will work best for you will honestly depend upon your personality. I've seen the play it up approach fail miserably, even though it seems the better, more direct of the two. It can take a good dose of convincing charm to pull it off. Whatever you do, avoid the middle approach..."Well, I got this review...and, well I was thinking perhaps because of that you might want to come over...."

Ollie concludes by asking "do you consider it the equivalent of a cold call or someone sending you slides, only more presumptuous."

It truly depends. I don't consider it all presumptuous of the artists I consider friendly. This may be different for other dealers/curators, but I will go visit a studio just because I like the artist, regardless of whether I know I like the work. (I tend not to waste someone's time if I know there's no way I'll ever show the work, unless they're direct about just wanting some feedback...which happens...and again, I'll do if I like the artist.)

But what if there's no time to befriend the dealer/curator. What then?

Here's the tough love answer: I do consider it the equivalent of a cold call to ask a dealer or curator you don't know to visit your studio. I generally have to reserve three hours for the average studio visit (including travel time), and, well, do the math on that when you know dozens of artists might invite me in any given month. I try to have four visits with artists I don't know well a month as it is, and that's hard for me these days (in fact, I'm not doing any more for the rest of the summer because of a pending deadline). I used to do a lot more. And so the cold call response is highly likely.

But, as you say, what have you got to lose? The worst anyone will say is "no." All the advice above may not change that, either.



Anonymous J@simpleposie said...

Good post,(as usual)but the emphasis on AC is over the top!

7/01/2008 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I didn't mean for it to be an "emphasis," but rather an easy example of the importance of considering timing/conditions (for the sake of the visitor and your goals of having them over). Other examples might be having a band in the studio next door, or a factory next door pumping out noise, or a studio mate who uses materials that smell terrible or anything that will distract the visitor from devoting their full attention to your work. All I'm recommending is that you avoid timing studio visits to correspond with these things as best you can.

These are sometimes realities for studios, I know, but what's the point of getting someone over to your studio if all they can think about while they're there is how soon they can leave?

7/01/2008 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous J@simpleposie said...

These are studio realities, of course - realities of which all parties should be aware. In so far as the artist has ensured the comfort and safety of the guest - the studio visitor has got to be game!

7/01/2008 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you ever given an artist a show based solely on slides/cd sent to you by an artist who does not know anyone you know? Even if the artist does the research about the gallery and does appropriate work, do cold calls work?

7/01/2008 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

realities of which all parties should be aware...the studio visitor has got to be game!

It's not a matter of being game or not, though...it's a matter of being able to focus on the work. If your visitor can't focus, what are you going to do? Argue that they should "be game"?

Remember, we're talking here about non-urgent studio visits. For those important ones before a show or for a dealer desperate to sign an artist...comfort may be less critical. But that's mostly because the dealer/curator already knows the work.

If they are visiting for the first time (i.e., don't know the work), anything that distracts them is working against you.

All advice is worth what you paid for it, though. I'm not selling anything here.

7/01/2008 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Have you ever given an artist a show based solely on slides/cd sent to you by an artist who does not know anyone you know?


7/01/2008 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

I was once filmed in my apartment for a pilot TV series, and when the film crew arrived I sat them down and gave them tea and homemade carrot cake, as a matter of course. They were astonished and thrilled; apparently, it had not occurred to a single other filmee to treat them with basic hospitality. You can bet that they took special care with my video.

I treat curators and potential collectors the same way. Hospitality is not schmoozing, it's just the decent way to behave.

7/01/2008 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Fiona Ross said...

Amen to that, Pretty Lady!

7/01/2008 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Hospitality is not schmoozing, it's just the decent way to behave.

I would agree. It may seem counterintuitive because of what an artist hopes to get from a potentially powerful visitor, but the artist is always the "host" in a studio visit.

I don't expect tea or carrot cake, but I do appreciate when someone asks, "how was your trip?" "Can I take your bag?" "Would you like a chair?" etc. Yes, it's a business meeting, but in the most cut-throat of business situations, as well, the host can benefit greatly, as Pretty Lady illustrated, from a bit of hospitality.

7/01/2008 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous J@simpleposie said...

If a visitor, despite my best efforts to make them feel welcome and comfortable in my studio, is still distracted - I certainly wouldn't argue that they should be more game. On the other hand, I might not think they were such a good studio visitor in the final analysis.

I'm not arguing with you in principle. I'm not arguing at all, actually. I'm just saying, studio visits tend to pull everybody out of their comfort zone and that's not necessarily a bad thing. A good studio visitor will be interested in the artist's working environment.

7/01/2008 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

A good studio visitor will be interested in the artist's working environment.

I would agree with that. Although I'm assuming they'll be interested because the environment informs the work, not because it seems an unfortunate place to spend time. :-)

studio visits tend to pull everybody out of their comfort zone

There's a big difference though between being uncomfortable because you're being challenged with new ideas and the space is essentially a work shop and being uncomfortable because you're sweating bullets or you can't hear the artist over the noise coming in.

7/01/2008 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous ollie said...

Thank you for answering my question. Oddly enough, I was thinking about the visit in a hot studio problem just last week while sweltering through another L.A. heatwave. I came to the conclusion that if I can't stand it, I should not expect a visitor to.

Your "tough love" response confirms what I have always felt to be the case, that a cold call invitation is unlikely to be successful, however, as my inclination is to be overly scrupulous I began to wonder if I was being silly.

I believe my work is widely(?) respected, but it is rigorous rather than flashy, and the scale is modest. In a town with a large number of art schools there are always new, young artists to visit. I suppose the solution is to maintain the art world relationships I have made in the past, continue to make good work then stand back and wait for the trickle to my door.

7/01/2008 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous cjagers said...


Thanks for your honesty and clear explanations. I think this is good advice on multiple fronts, not just studio visits.

7/01/2008 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty Lady, what a good reminder for people to simply act kindly. I do the same thing for almost anyone who comes to my house: plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters, curators, gallerists, etc. And I don't do it because I want them to give me some kind of extra service, I do it because:

a.) it's how I was raised; and
b.) that's how I would like to be treated.

Good manners and genuine kindness are often in short supply, hence the astonishment of your visitors.

7/01/2008 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

For some reason I’ve recently been bombarded with requests for studio visits (I try to make a couple a week). Although I write a bit, I always consider these artist to artist occasions, so Ed’s scenarios (DEALER to artist) aren’t so formal. I’m less concerned with comfort and safety (danger is my middle name) than I am with authenticity and reality, so dirt, sweating and noise are all part of it.

Unfortunately the whole practice of studio visits has become outmoded. I’d like to see more visits and intercourse, and less Kabuki dancing around the act. Even if it’s just another artist visiting it’s good practice, and you never know when someone will recommend your work to a curator or dealer whose looking for a specific thing.

“ but the truth is if I don't like you personally, I'll be much less willing to visit your studio even if I know the work is good.” Now I know why you’ve ignored my pleas for the last seven years Ed.

7/01/2008 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger J. Thomas said...

I agree enormously that studio visits are vital to the practice of artists, critics, curators, etc. Having a discourse with the work in the room helps a lot. Plus, when some other party asks for recommendations for artists, you will recall the work of the artist whose work you spent an hour looking at/talking about in their studio, vs. some artist whose work you've seen in digital images.

I have a question for you on the other end, Ed - as a curator or dealer, what are the best practices for contacting and establishing studio visits with artists? Oftentimes they may have expectations from you, but maybe you are genuinely interested in the work and just want to learn more. Possibly for future opportunities, but potentially not. How to see the work without giving the impression that something concrete may come of it?

7/01/2008 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I suppose the solution is to maintain the art world relationships I have made in the past, continue to make good work then stand back and wait for the trickle to my door.

Those two ideas conflict in my mind, though, Ollie. I can't imagine you've made the art world relationships you have already by waiting for the trickle to your door. Just keep building new relationships the same way you have been.

I’m less concerned with comfort and safety (danger is my middle name) than I am with authenticity and reality, so dirt, sweating and noise are all part of it.

I'll leap from that idea to make another point.

A studio visit with a "professional" (dealer, critic, collector) may only be possible for them if they come straight from the office (meaning they're dressed for the office). So sweat and dirt (when you're in a suit or high heels [or in my case, possibly both ;-)...just kidding]) is actually a bit too authentic.

It's one thing once you've established a relationship to expect a repeat visitor to understand you can't clean up each time they want to stop in, but if the visitor is important enough to you that you're worried about the best approach to inviting them, I'd recommend treating their visit more formally.

That means, clean off a chair they can sit on without getting paint or dirt all over them, clear away a place for their coat or bag, be careful to alert them to anywhere they might be in danger of picking up paint or dirt, etc. etc.

I tend to schedule first-time studio visits on Sundays when I can dress down and not have to worry about such issues, but on the occasions I'm running from the gallery (where, OK, I don't dress up often, but still wear clothes I don't want covered in paint) or some luncheon with collectors, or whatever, I do greatly appreciate someone taking a few basic precautions.

All of this, again, boils down to ensuring the only thing the visitor is focused on is your work.

7/01/2008 02:18:00 PM  
Anonymous J@simpleposie said...

Another tactic Ollie might consider, is to rent a clean temporary space for an impromptu exhibition (perhaps with a couple of associates or on his own). Make appointments with key individuals you want to see the work while it's up in the pristine environment. In the end you'll have been proactive as all get out - have a new show on your resume and feedback galore.

7/01/2008 02:41:00 PM  
Anonymous BORI said...

I took Edward's advice, researched galleries, and made initial visits two weeks ago, taking extra care on my appearance. It was great and I had some nice conversation with people who work there (though none directors/owners). I think perhaps I went too far... I am getting follow-up e-mails and I think they might think I was a collector... When is the good time to come clean without ruining the good will? Should I wait until I get to know the owners/directors at one of their openings? Because ultimately, I want to talk about a studio visit, reviewing my portfolio, etc...

7/01/2008 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Just for the record, I'd like to say that a couple of years ago, I guess it was, I asked Edward if he'd look at my work, and he graciously said he would. Since I didn't have a studio (just a corner of my bedroom) he let me use his gallery, and I lugged over a bunch of things to show him. We had a fantastic discussion about what I couldn't even refer to, at the time, as my work (I was still too timid).

Granted it didn't lead to a show with Winkleman Gallery -- but I knew going in my work was a) still very much in its formative stages and not ready for showing and b) not the style he'd want to show. Ed probably knew that, too, but was willing to lend me his time and energy anyway.

I have always been surprised at the openness and generosity of the people I've met in the art world. And Ed is often one of the more open and generous ones out there. Since then we've had our (online) disagreements and I'm sure I've pissed him off more than once, but ultimately I like and respect him, and that visit is a big part of it.

7/01/2008 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

In my experience- most artists, curators, gallerists or collectors won't come to your studio or to your shows for that matter unless they are serious about you and your work or they like you and your work and want to know more- or see more... to me it is kind of a mystery how seeing the work in person or seeing the work in my studio changes the work for them or their impression about me and my work- i think it is all there all the time the same way- but again and again i hear how much seeing the work is very different in person- the scale, the feel, everything - even though I have also got solo shows off the internet or website reviews, nothing is the same as seeing the work in context and i think studio visits are usually friendly enjoyable occasions- unless it becomes awkward because you realize you don't like the work or respect the artist afterwards- that happens too- i exchange studio visits with artists for critique from time to time- that can be helpful and friendly as well but i will work to get curators to my studio when i am promoting a show, esp. if they cannot make the show while it is up and i want them to see the installation or body of work...

7/01/2008 03:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed says "But, as you say, what have you got to lose? The worst anyone will say is "no"

This may be the most important thing to take away from this whole post. Most will say no. Even if you are an artist with a pretty good track record, and even If they are aware of your work, if one in 4 requests pans out, that's good. Also, even if they do agree to come, you can expect postponements, cancellations etc. due to the fact that your studio visit, while potentially interesting to the dealer, is fairly low on their priority list.

Anyway, most good studio visits happen organically and by mutual interest...kind of like, well, you know what.

7/01/2008 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Donna sez:
...to me it is kind of a mystery how seeing the work in person or seeing the work in my studio changes the work for them or their impression about me and my work...

Come now, Donna. As a sculptor, especially, you've got to know that you need to meet the artwork in person to really get to know it. The best work has a presence which can't be reproduced; where in my experience, work that reproduces well can be really bland in real life.

I didn't think I liked Van Gogh until I finally saw some of his paintings at the Met; then I fell in love. Vincent is my favorite painter bar none, but I think his posters are really lousy.

If you're talking about the difference between seeing the work in a gallery versus seeing it in your studio, I think there's a difference there, too: Surrounded by your work, with good pieces and less good ones, your favorites and not-so-favorites, salable items and unsalable, a visitor can get a larger view on your work and its directions. The focused nature of a gallery show is kind of artificial and not as enlightening, I think. And doesn't leave as much room for discussion.

7/01/2008 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger pam farrell said...

This is so interesting...lots of food for thought. The post and comments provide lots of insight. Unless I missed something, I didn't see any comments or input from dealers or gallerists other than EW. Wondering what others in the biz might have to say about studio visits--best and worst experiences, etc.

7/01/2008 11:14:00 PM  
Blogger Iris said...

Hello Edward, blog readers and participants, I'm new to reading this blog and find it very informative and interesting, thank you Edward for being so kind and giving your time to educate us regarding the behind the scenes of the 'real' world of art...

Edward, I have heard you say this comment for the second time: "the single best way to get gallery representation is to make artwork so compelling the art world beats a path to your door. "

The first time I heard you say it I realized you were kidding, but now I see you are repeating it, it's part of your shtick... this makes me a bit nervous... you are kidding, right? I get nervous because when I hear you say it again I am thinking maybe you are serious? so my second thought is I must be so out of it, to even think so.... hence I get a bit nervous... wow.... I must be sooooo out of it....

7/02/2008 01:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed, you would NEVER do these things, but how about some guidelines for visitors? For instance: 1) please DO NOT cancel three times in a row especially at the last minute and especially when you initiated the visit 2) Please DO NOT come 20 minues to a half hour early or be an hour late3) DO take your coat off.

7/02/2008 05:50:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The first time I heard you say it I realized you were kidding, but now I see you are repeating it, it's part of your shtick... this makes me a bit nervous... you are kidding, right?

Not really, no.

What I mean to imply by that (more specifically) though is that if the other advice folks offer on how to get a gallery doesn't appeal to you because it seems focused on what the gallery wants or needs, there is a way to get gallery representation and never have to think about what the gallery wants or needs, and that is to make artwork so compelling the gallery will chase after you regardless of whether you have any interest in them or not.

I use that line mostly as a reference point though. Often when discussing my best advice for getting a leg up on all the other artists submitting work to a gallery, I'll get a bit of push back from artists who feel insulted that they should have to even care what the gallery's goals are. I'm not sure why they get insulted; it's not like the gallery is a charity set up to glorify just them. But still I hear such comments, implying to me that they want a gallery, but don't want to be bothered thinking about what the gallery wants, and so in such situations I tell them that's possible...if, again, they make artwork so compelling the world will beat a path to their door.

I should also note, however, that I actually believe artists who set that as their goal get further. If you want (on a scale from 1 at the bottom to 10 at the top) to achieve the 8th rung in the ladder of success, I honestly believe you should set your sights on the 9th rung or the 10th. Setting your sights lower, even on the 8th, wont' get you there as quickly in my experience.

7/02/2008 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I also take it, Ed, as meaning that all of the advice given here isn't much use if the work isn't good. The work comes first. Make the best work you can and then look for a gallery; or, really, continue making the best work you can, always trying to get better, while looking for a gallery.

7/02/2008 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I also take it, Ed, as meaning that all of the advice given here isn't much use if the work isn't good.

Yes, I would agree with that.

7/02/2008 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I'm going to mark this day on my calendar.

7/02/2008 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Ed, what you do here is invaluable to the art community. I know others have thanked you. I've thanked you before, too, but since yours is an ongoing effort there's no reason a little bit of gratitude can't flow regularly.

Turning down the violins, now, I just want to share a few studio- visit clips:

. Clip 1: A well-known dealer came to visit on Saturday morning. I put out what I thought was a modest spread with bagels and cream cheese, a couple of croissants, some fruit, coffee and juice. He chuckled and said, "What, you think dealers don't eat breakfast?"

. Clip 2: An out-of-town curator came to my studio on a brutal 95-degree day. I made sure the comfortable chair in front of the AC was empty in case she wanted to sit there and put out plenty of iced tea. I also offered her a fresh towel and said, "If you'd like to cool off a bit, the sink in the washroom down the hall has only cold water." She took me up on the offer.

. Clip 3: I spent three days getting ready for this visit. I displayed only the big paintings I'd been working on for months. But there was a tiny painting in the far corner of my studio, face toward the wall, which I'd taken out earlier to show a friend and neglected to put away. Wouldn't you know that during the visit, the tiny, face-toward-the-wall painting is the one that got shown.

My points here:
1. Don't overdo it
2. When circumstances are extreme, such as the 95-degree temperature, don't be afraid to be sisterly (or brotherly, or family-like) and offer a curator an option you would not normally offer.
3. Studio visits are a chance for you to show your work in a controlled environment, but you never know exactly how things will turn out.

7/02/2008 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Sean Capone said...

Are there cases where a studio visit might be redundant? In other words, is it more about the work or about the lifestyle & private personality of the artist?
I work in video & digital media, thus my 'studio' is little more than a laptop and assorted small gadgets. I find it useful to be able to direct potential visitors to a website, where they can watch clips and documentation as well as they could through a personal visit.

For the record I do actually have a work studio that I share with some other videomakers. It's cool to be able to say at openings "Yeah, my studio is just up the street (in SoHo)." My painter/sculptor pal (who's a lot more adept at the social side of the art world than me..) is always encouraging introductions for others to visit me 'in my studio'. That makes sense for his work, which is very involved.

But in my case I am happy to let them look at my work in their own privacy, think about it & then happy to visit them to talk more about the work if they want to.
Do you think this is lazy or sends a wrong message? Thanks for your kind opinion, Ed and others...

7/02/2008 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

excellent examples and excellent points, Joanne

some thoughts.

1. definitely don't overdo it on the spread front.

In fact, with food, unless you specifically invited the visitor over for a studio visit AND bite to eat, skip the food altogether. A beverage is generally good to offer if you have one handy, though, so consider having water or something else refreshing.

2. All such gestures are appreciated. I'd keep these simple as well, acknowledging the extreme conditions outside and offering a remedy with very little fanfare (e.g., "I know it's a scorcher out there...there's plenty of cold water in the bathroom down the hall if you'd like to catch your breath." or something. Stop short of suggesting they need to "freshen up" just in case they always look like that, though ;-)

3. My favorite experiences in studio visits with regards to a controlled experience (and this observation is independent of the work or conversation) is when an artist has thought through how to show me the work. Meaning they've prepared a bit of a "story" about their work, and it unfolds in a way the answers my questions and yet permits me to ask new ones. It's exhilarating when that happens, and it leaves a very good impression. I noted one such visit I had in the post linked to in the main section above. The artist had turned around about 7 paintings in her studio and revealed them one by one in a way that not only built anticipation but helped me connect the dots on her progress and see the final, latest painting in the context she wanted me to see it in. Had she made that one available for viewing from the start, I might have remained focused on it regardless of what she tried to tell me about the earlier work, or at least been trying to connect the dots with my own narrative, as opposed to hers.

7/02/2008 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the single best way to get gallery representation is to make artwork so compelling the art world beats a path to your door. "

Well, it is true that when you've done something you KNOW is good, you have a lot more confidence in asking for visits, and during eventual visits.

However, 90% of the work out there, even that which is shown in top galleries, is not particularly compelling, and plenty of really great work gets ignored. So unfortunately your work in and of itself isn't going to get you very far.

7/02/2008 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I am happy to let them look at my work in their own privacy, think about it & then happy to visit them to talk more about the work if they want to.
Do you think this is lazy or sends a wrong message? Thanks for your kind opinion, Ed and others...

I think it's fine actually Sean. With media-based work (photography, video, online, etc.) I find myself doing more and more laptop studio visits, either in the gallery or somewhere else outside a traditional "studio" setting. At least for the initial introduction to the work, this seems to be a good advance, IMO.

7/02/2008 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

“Make art so compelling the world will beat a path to your door”. This is why you’ll see a hundred Kinkades or Erte’s in the galleries for every Parrino, Jensen or Martin. It’d be just as valid to say: make art so compelling the world runs away from your door screaming and twitching.

Ed has said again and again ”the gallery isn’t a charity”, it’s business, turning a profit, makin MONEY.

Dealers and galleries have a very integral part to play, and I respect and appreciate them for the work they do, but they’re only part of the equation. If your interests overlap, good, but shaping your practice solely for the commercial interest of a gallery will leave you with one result…

7/02/2008 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Ed sez:
A beverage is generally good to offer if you have one handy, though, so consider having water or something else refreshing.

"You can have the other half of the bottle of vodka I opened this morning."

Stop short of suggesting they need to "freshen up" just in case they always look like that, though.

"Whew, something sure stinks in here. You shower recently?"

Meaning they've prepared a bit of a "story" about their work...

"Once upon a time there was a poor painter. And he begged and begged someone to come visit his studio...."

7/02/2008 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Iris said...

"make artwork so compelling the gallery will chase after you regardless of whether you have any interest in them or not." well, I'm glad to hear you mean it, because that is my plan A, but I believe one would probably have to be several feet under before they will come a-knockin...

must say I love this quote: "make art so compelling the world runs away from your door screaming and twitching." And I agree the gallery is a business, and we all know money makes the world go around, nothing new there... so your only hope, as an artist, is maybe stick a peg into the big wheel make it come to a screeching halt... perhaps then they will pay some attention :)

I think actually, this has always been the role of the artists, to somehow stop the world and whether by sneaking it in or in way of a shock treatment, cause introspection... Problem is today it's really hard to do it anymore, because shock and awe has become part of the establishment, part of the wheel turning, the big business, it has become an elitist view which only represents the corporate side of the art world and investors.

7/02/2008 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Just for the record and clarity, I agree fully with what James Kalm is saying above with regard to a wide spectrum of exhibition options. This advice is specific to commercial galleries and showing in one or getting a dealer to come visit your studio. Even though I was asked about curators, I don't actually presume to speak for other situations (and I actually don't even presume to speak for all other dealers).

But don't fool yourself.

There are many galleries far more interested in Parrino, Jensen or Martin than they are in Kinkade, for example.

If you're making work that speaks to those kinds of galleries (i.e., the ones not interested in Kinkade, for example), you STILL have to make work more compelling than the other artists making work that speaks to them.

7/02/2008 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Sean Capone said...

How does one *meet* curators in the first place? Gallerists are easy to ambush, being recognizable figures around the gallery esp. if they are playing host at an opening. Curators will generally have their thumbs in a lot more pies & are worth getting to know.

But they don't walk around with "hello I'm a curator" nametags. What's the etiquette of approaching them or contacting them in the first place? (Critics & writers, too.)

It's easier by far to research a gallery's program to see if they are appropriate targets. Less so to do so with a curator's exhibition history & interests & body of work. When I go to a museum and see a show I dig, I jot down the names of the curator for future reference, but that's pretty much where it ends. Openings are terrible places to make new contacts, unfortunately--everyone is very pre-occupied with their cliques. Like going to a bar to meet a husband.

Any thoughts?

7/02/2008 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

How does one *meet* curators in the first place?

When Shamim starts her own blog, I suggest you ask her that. :-)

7/02/2008 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Brandon Juhasz said...

Hi all, great post and quick question that is a dotted line topic from this thread: I am a dedicated, informed artist who through circumstances I can't change at the moment, live in Cleveland. I have my sights set for the broader art market and I was wondering in all honesty, can someone outside greater New York find or create the "long distance" relationships needed to succeed in finding representation? I have some friends and access to New York quite regularly but I fear that not residing in Gotham will hold me back from making real moves regardless of the quality of my idea's and work?

thanks for your time.

7/02/2008 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Sean Capone said...

"When Shamim starts her own blog, I suggest you ask her that. :-)"

Shamim Momin? Would love to ask her. Oh, can I get her phone number?

:) :) :)

7/02/2008 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Ed makes a diving backhanded save that bounces off the top of the net, Kalm stumbles, lunges forward to volley and…

In hindsight this all seems clear. Jensen, after being in the art world as an advisor and artist, was in his mid fifties with no prospects and contemplating suicide before Sam Francis made the introductions that got him some attention. Parrino sold only two paintings in the ten years before his premature death. Chris Martin had been going around to galleries for years but his work was considered too difficult (partially because his average painting at the time was 12 x 15 feet). So now they’ve got a market, everyone wants to glam on, but few people had the guts to get involved before the cash showed up.

7/02/2008 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Brandon Juhasz said...

Sean, Ha, touché! I was super disappointed no one from Cleveland was represented at the Whitney this year and more sad is that your statement confirmed my fears...thanks... :)

7/02/2008 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger William said...

James Kalm paid me a studio visit a few years ago and my studio wasn't the picture of organization to say the least. Instead of being put off, James was actually pretty happy with the mess. I think he referred to it as a 'shoal' of drawings. He also said something I haven't forgotten. Again, I have to paraphrase, but it was something like 'I'm sick of going to these studios where there's a couple of little paintings on the wall and a little palette to indicate that something is going on.'

What I think James was pointing out is that you don't need to hide your process or your practice. Sometimes, at least with other artists and curators like Mr. Kalm who does both, it can be more interesting to not polish up. You never know what someone might respond to, even if it isn't finished work.

I'm not saying don't be professional, but maybe you shouldn't transform your working space into a mini gallery. Let the interested parties see how you think.

7/02/2008 01:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean, I disagree. I've met lots of husbands in bars.


ps Is Kalm James a curator? And why does he use a pseudonym? To differentiate his "guy on the bike" persona from his artist self?

7/02/2008 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

William sez:
...my studio wasn't the picture of organization to say the least.

I wouldn't purposely clean up the art area or make it into a mini-gallery, either. I think if someone wants a studio visit, they should get a studio visit.

But I don't have a studio, I have a corner of my bedroom. Notso hotso for entertaining, except for very specific kinds of visitors.

When I did have a studio, for a month at SVA, I found, much to my horror, that I kept it rather neat. Nothing like the rest of my life.

7/02/2008 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/02/2008 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Ah James. The glass is not only half empty, eh?... it probably contains poison and is likely about to shatter in your hand and puncture your lips when you drink from it and cut through an artery as it splatters and ultimately flings across the room to slice through your latest masterpiece in your presumably messy studio. (William, there's nothing wrong with doing both...leaving enough of your true work space as is for visitors to connect the dots AND clear off a chair for them to sit on without getting paint on their clothes).

Jensen and Martin (I'll leave Mr. Parrino out because of his unfortunately early departure) still found success. Their stories up to that point would describe plenty of other artists who NEVER saw that kind of success. The difference between them and the others remains that someone eventually saw their work as more compelling than the other work out there.

few people had the guts to get involved before the cash showed up

OR....the cash showed up because of the few who had the guts to get involved.

7/02/2008 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger William said...

William, please, I've curated a couple of shows but that hardly qualifies me as a curator.

Well, you're also a writer, let's not forget that! I was trying to point out that you wear many hats and I found your remarks memorable on a few levels. I've seen the pleasant little studios you were referring to way back when in Greenpoint, and sometimes I get the feeling that everything is a little too precious. I want to see the failures...that's the artist talking.

Anyway, everyone should check out Laura Parnes video about the awkward studio visit.

and Ed, I'll always move the trash for you and Marat.

7/02/2008 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Regarding studio visits, try this: after a pleasant 45 minutes or so, excuse yourself, pretend to get a phone call and then announce: Sorry to cut this short but I’ve got a visit from Larry, (or Charles, or Jeffery) in ten minutes. You can let yourselves out. Have a big black town-car with mirrored windows idling near by. Could peak interest no?

William, please, I've curated a couple of shows but that hardly qualifies me as a curator.

I got plenty of reasons for the pseudonym, let’s just say it serves an artistic purpose.

Ed, love your cinematic discriptions.

OR... "Nothing suceeds like success".

7/02/2008 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mean there is no Santa.
well, James, If you would like to stop by I serve oolong cha, ice -- as many glasses as you like. There would be two chairs. One for you one for me -- A total of six colors. On first visit it's not a good idea to talk about art. I like jokes, lots of jokes. lost in laughs. At this point It's always nice to just stop everything and take in the noise, the clink of the ice against the glass, a crack in the air. A short relax, simple stuff!

The second visit we can take in a light meal. The third, if you can remember it, is to catch a show together. The fourth is talk about art. And jokes, lots of jokes, still!

When you are up to it:)


7/02/2008 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

How about tomorrow, but can we skip the foreplay?

7/02/2008 09:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, Jk, you mean straight to third base? OK!
I'll have the oolong ready though, just in case we want to back up a bit. We can do that!


7/02/2008 09:58:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

here's how to get the art world to come clamoring to your studio... you say out loud in a mocking/taunting voice- why all the pointless, craftless, work that makes you think- how did they get in this show? that is long on the dialectic and short on something to look at? why is everyone so afraid of craft? because craft involves history and the fervor with which the art world avoids embracing history is like when you put a cat in a bath and all the fleas mob its head...

7/02/2008 10:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, a personal account. Although I've had a few wobbles, I like to think I've always been more artist than careerist (I may have said this here before). I'm no art star, to be sure, but the two best relationships I've had to date with gallerists (they were local in the small cities I was in, for perspective) have been because they came to me after seeing the work I was doing. This got off on the right foot for me, and then yes, once we decided to work together, of course I cared for their wants and needs, too, and it worked well. With one, we eventually decided that we needed different things and so no longer work together, and the other I still work with relatively frequently, on a project basis; I have drinks with both gallerists whenever I'm in their respective towns. I know it sounds like a love affair, but it could just as easily be an old boss from a "day" job (I still have drinks with those, too, and also needed different things when I left) - and it's honestly probably somewhere in the middle. As with all things.

Second - and given the above - I'll admit I'm not sure I've ever had a dealer in my studio, or any private presentation of my work for that matter - only to peers, colleagues, other artists, the occasional walkabout or public talk in a museum, gallery or university. I've got one such meeting coming up, and have been thinking about it a bit. It sounds like, based on Ed's favorite visit, above, it mightn't be much different than giving one of the aforementioned public talks about your work, with ongoing room for questions and chat. Show the trajectory of thought and making with a few samples over the last couple of years, to pique interest. If it's not a match, it wouldn't suit either one of you anyhow.

7/03/2008 02:26:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

I think some of the above posts show why it might be just as important for artists to make studio visits as it is to receive them.

Visit a “successful” artist’s studio. See how they present themselves and their work. Ed’s recounting of the progressive narrative one artist displayed is a good example of things you might want to try. See what else artists do to make for a memorable visit (I’ve heard the smell of fresh bread triggers pheromones in the brain). Pay attention to accounts of other gambits (a well known artist who doesn’t actually let anyone into the studio but selects a couple of works that he shows in the hall) that might help prick interest.

Don’t try too hard, this usually comes off as desperation, and don’t overwhelm, (unless that’s what someone wants). I like the idea of the spontaneous visit. This used to happen all the time. Meet an artist, they have a studio down the block, drop by. That doesn’t mean you should imposes, but you shouldn’t need to make reservations two years in advance.

Just some thoughts

7/03/2008 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I've heard that the smell of cooking apples and cinnamon helps sell houses.

I strongly remember an opening I went to a couple of years ago where they burned incense. Between the art and the smell, it was a heady experience, and much better than the usual smell of latex housepaint most galleries exude. Although the smell of latex paint always makes me think of galleries now.

7/03/2008 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Anonymous says: I've always been more artist than careerist.

Anon, if by "careerist" you mean someone who takes charge of her/his art career, isn't that simply part of being an artist? "Careerist" is pejorative, but getting one's work out into the world is simoplky the yang to the yin. It's not either/or, but both/and.

(The structure reminds me of a discussion some years ago--different topic, same dichotomy--when someone said, "Well do you believe in monogamy or promiscuity?" Uh, jeez, there's a vast middle ground there for the folks who don't want to be nailed, so to speak, to extremes.)

7/03/2008 06:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Joyce Dade said...

I just lost my msg before it posted :( I'll just say, thank you, Edward Winkleman. Your generosity and love for artists is clearly apparent in these posts. You set a wonderful standard for other gallery operators and agents who should follow your example but due to all the obvious reasons probably won't. You find the time and energy and, I admire you for that. I hope your summer is wonderful and that I will find my way over to your gallery sometime this summer!

6/06/2011 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger robertsloan2art said...

When I lived in New Orleans in the French Quarter and used a "B" license to sell my art on the street, three different gallery owners invited me to put works in their galleries. They asked out of the blue because they knew me.

They threw these great parties with food and wine. I was living on a dime and liked going to parties. So I'd wander in and just hang out having a good time and give an honest opinion of the gallery to the owners, comments to the other artists, just hang out. The gallery invitations always surprised and floored me.

I was a street artist. I didn't think that my work was gallery quality and when I look at what I'm doing now, my work's a lot better. I got those invitations, every one of them, from galleries I liked where I'd been to more than one party and genuinely liked both the art they hung and the people I met.

It was real. I hear this in your entire article. Actually make friends and choose your galleries to approach from among your real friends. They know you. They like you. They may understand your artistic goals and already have been giving useful critique and suggestions for a while. They already poured you a lot of free wine and served you cheese when you didn't have the income to buy any of the paintings they represent, so they must like you for yourself.

When you get any good at painting, your style is as inevitable as having handwriting is once you learn how to form the letters. Being yourself might be the best way to get ahead in art, because you can't help being yourself when you pick up a brush. Your art will show who you are as loud, clear and identifiable as the bank can tell who signed your rent check.

Thus people who like you are a bit more likely to enjoy your art. Everything you believe and feel is going to come through in it.

I painted a landscape with a contemporary house and half the people who saw it told me there were fairies and gnomes in the scene. I didn't put them in. But I love fantasy novels and write them, the fairies and gnomes were there in the right side nonverbal side of my brain, so my painting became a good home for them and now I'm writing a novel that started with the painting. You will show meanings and thoughts you don't think your art carries.

So maybe if you're a devout Christian, hanging out at Christian galleries will give you a better shot at an invitation. If you're a strong feminist, hanging out at various feminist art invents or volunteering alongside a feminist gallery owner at some other event is going to have her thinking your art might really say something important about women and art. Whoever you are, be real, and then look at the galleries where you feel at home.

There's my thoughts on it. I haven't poked into the San Francisco galleries yet but right now I'm looking to create a decent body of work before I start schmoozing.

4/27/2012 03:45:00 PM  

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