Monday, December 15, 2008

Passing the Exhausted Hares

Over the summer I promised to reveal the special project that forced me to cut back on blogging. I was hesitant to do so for two reasons: 1) I wasn't at all sure how it would turn out and whether my publisher would like it (yes, I wrote a book); and 2) as the world economic situation crumbled all around us, I thought it a particularly cruel joke by God that this would be the backdrop against which I announced a book titled How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery. There's not much information about it yet up on Amazon* (it comes out in July 2009), but I am relieved to report that my publisher said he enjoyed reading it, so I'm more comfortable announcing it.

The second issue, though, remained a source of hesitation. I asked my publisher (it feels so strange to use that phrase, "my publisher"...[OK, who am I kidding? I love using it]), the truly brilliant and very patient Tad Crawford of
Allworth Press, whose art world publications are more artist-centric and bursting with useful information than those of any publisher out there IMO, whether he was sure he wanted to launch such a book at a time when galleries, like every other small business, were struggling. Mr. Crawford assured me that the book will be marketed with a shelf-life in mind of about 10 years, and that in that context, now is actually a very good time to get such a book into the market, as now is when people who may want to open a gallery when the market turns up again should begin planning for it.

As we get closer to the pub date, I'll share excerpts from the book. I think there is plenty in it that could help artists wishing to work with a commercial gallery, collectors, and budding dealers. Much of it is based on interviews I conducted with experts in the gallery business and related fields, but much of it is also based on the very conversations we've had on this blog. Toward that end (and I do so in the book as well), I would like to thank those of you who regularly contribute to the conversations here, sharing your insights and/or questions about the business. You continuously refine what I think it means to run a commercial art gallery.

In thinking through Mr. Crawford's long-term view of the book's potential market, though, it dawned on me that a long-term approach to their own market is something artists should be thinking about now as well. As the market turns down, some galleries close, non-profit spaces see their budgets tightened, and exhibition opportunities in general become harder to find perhaps, now is the time to think past the recession in terms of where your career can go.

That may mean scaling back on your studio expenses but taking advantage of how much nicer everyone becomes when times get tough to network more with curators, collectors and other artists. It may mean freedom to start that large, time-consuming project you had put off because of the constant demands to produce for your market. It may mean simply digging in to explore that subject or sharpen your skills in a way the hectic feeding frenzy we're leaving made feel indulgent or impossible.

The opportunity now, obviously, is to be the tortoise, moving forward confidently, and passing the hares who will wear themselves out long before the finish line.

*Bambino thought it hysterical that the book is already discounted on Amazon. He nearly laughed himself into a fit. Have I mentioned he's a direct descendant of Genghis Khan?

Labels: book, how to start and run a commercial art gallery


Anonymous Franklin said...

I don't want to run a gallery but I plan to acquire this book and read it as soon as it hits the stores. Its author has displayed admirable balance between idealism and practicality on his blog, and I'm sure it will be filled with useful insights. Congratulations.

12/15/2008 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

Bambino, ALL Amazon books are discounted. It's their business model, not a reflection on the book (which sounds really interesting).

Ed, you're taunting us. I went to order your book and saw it wasn't available until July. So I guess you're a dealer who's put me on the waiting list. :-)

12/15/2008 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger pam farrell said...

Congratulations! I'll look forward to reading the book when it becomes available.

12/15/2008 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Congrats Ed. From my passing acquaintance with this blog, it’s apparent that you posses a genuine literary talent, not only for your prose but the focus of your subjects as well.

My advice on how to make a small fortune in the art market: start out with a large fortune.

12/15/2008 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger joy said...

I've already pre-ordered it. :-)

12/15/2008 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Annie B said...

Congratulations Ed! You're fortunate to be able to call Allworth Press "my publisher." As a longtime commercial artist, I have many of their titles on my bookshelf. I look forward to adding yours!

12/15/2008 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger jdietrick said...

Congrats. I've enjoyed reading your blog and listening to you at badatsports. Looking forward to reading your book. In town this Saturday and excited to finally swing by your gallery. Looks like a great show.

12/15/2008 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I'm gettin' mine signed, with all kinds of mushy stuff....

12/15/2008 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger Marion BE said...

Allworth's publicity manager, Nicole Miller, mentioned your forthcoming book to me a week or so ago. Given how much I enjoy reading your blog, I can't wait!

12/15/2008 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

I trust you'll have a book party in the gallery so that we can all come and buy our full-price autographed copies.

And congratulations on having taken on the project and delivered it to your publisher. Having written a book myself, I retain the image of Zeus springing Athena full grown from his head. It felt like that for me, and I'm guessing it must have been something similar for you.

So big ups to you and your "Athena," Ed! Can't wait to read it.

12/15/2008 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Many thanks for all the kinds words. I suspect you'll recognize some of the issues we've hammered out here in the chapters on finding and keeping artists and the one that will undoubtedly need immediate revising (the one on art fairs).

We'll have a celebration in the gallery when it comes out, and of course, you're all invited.

12/15/2008 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous jec said...

congratulations, Ed! This is so exciting. I can't wait to read the book and attend one of the many book-launch parties in July.

12/15/2008 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Sunil said...

Congratulations, Edward W.
I plan on getting this book.

12/15/2008 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Ashley said...

I'm a very rare commenter here, but a devoted reader; congratulations, Ed, I very much look forward to reading your book.


12/15/2008 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger Molly Stevens said...

That's great, Ed. Congrats. Am I allowed to send it annonymously to a few galleries...

12/15/2008 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Am I allowed to send it annonymously to a few galleries...

The marketing copy and the copious caveats throughout the book do take pains to stress that not only is a gallery a very organically grown and individualized enterprise but that although it's possible to summarize the advice and best practices of the dealers I've interviewed and known over the years, outside of legal and business regulations, there are no hard and fast rules for running a commercial gallery, and the most successful new dealers are the ones who re-invent the business. In short, it's a book for beginners. I wouldn't dream to suggest it contains anything that established dealers would need to know (although they might enjoy the anecdotes sprinkled throughout and the chapter with interviews by four prominent collectors is good reading for artists and all dealers alike, I think).

Again, I'm not at all suggesting it's THE right way to do things...merely the way I do them with a balance of synthesis of how others do them.

12/15/2008 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger George said...


It's rocketing higher in the Amazon ratings:

From #139,361 at 10 AM to #46,158 at 2:30 PM...

Oprah here he comes!


12/15/2008 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

Hooray, Ed! This is EXACTLY what I always thought you ought to be doing, and thought you never would. Congratulations on keeping it such a secret!

12/15/2008 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger patsplat said...

Congratulations! I'm looking forward to reading it!

12/15/2008 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger nina said...

Well, this makes total sense! All the Winkelman advice bundled into a book. I will def. read it.

12/15/2008 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Julie Sadler said...

Congrats Ed! It's exciting to create...even if it's a lowly book it's still a work of art!

12/15/2008 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger timquinn said...

I will buy and read it. Your generosity is un-paralleled.


12/15/2008 04:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Congratulations on the book!
We'll have to read it!

Cedric Caspe

12/15/2008 06:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Ed! Caught a few hints and rumors, so I've been eagerly awaiting it. Glad to see it reach fruition! We look forward to reading it.

Have Powhida/Dalton design a bookplate

Charles (and Lynda Gene)

12/15/2008 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger Balhatain said...

I want one. Kinda of like Bruce Lee when he gave out temple secrets. Ed, don't accept Aspirin from anyone. :)

12/15/2008 09:36:00 PM  
Blogger nathaniel said...

looks grand, Ed. I look forward to reading it. And I hope you get a few takers of your advice for us tortoises.

12/15/2008 09:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats Ed, and I want to read yours too Franklin...

12/15/2008 10:39:00 PM  
Anonymous L.M. said...

Yay! A bouncing baby book!

(I'm not in awe of exhibitions, I'm in awe of anyone publishing a book)

12/15/2008 11:14:00 PM  
Blogger Henry Bateman said...

Way to Go Mr W, no doubt will be a fascinating read. As a regular reader here can I say otherwise? Now for the film rights.

12/16/2008 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Can't wait... congratulations!
Have your publisher send out releases to universities... if I was still a BFA director, I'd put it on my reading list, and I bet others would, too.

12/16/2008 08:20:00 AM  
Anonymous N Hyde said...

While I am not an active commenter on your site, I am a daily reader of your posts and the comments that ensue. I'm delighted to hear you'll be publishing a book and will certainly put it on pre-order. Congratulations!

12/16/2008 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger ec said...

Congratulations! None better than you to write this book.

Can't wait.

And the next one can be advice to artists--culled from this blog!
You're already there.

12/16/2008 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...


12/16/2008 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger max mulhern said...

I looked at the cover and thought that it read "How To Run by The Tiring Hares". Was that a mirage?

12/16/2008 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

Congratulations! Having gone through a similar situation, I know how long it takes to write and publish and for the time and effort alone, you should be applauded! And in an industry that is not known for transparency, you are a light in the darkness for aspiring gallerists!

The timing is fortuitous as it will be giving advice to the very people you intend to help right about the time such plans are launched. Imagine all the gallery staff who will find themselves unemployed in the next year, a bunch will turn around and be the new crop of young galleries in the recovery - and of course, not just in NYC.

In my profession (far removed form art), I have found being open and sharing with knowledge and tips gets you much further than being secretive and holding back.

And a word of warning - you should be careful, or you may end up being hired as a gallery business/start-up consultant!

I look forward to reading your book.

12/16/2008 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger NYC said...

Ed: Congrats on the book! I'm looking forward to it. (by the way, has your publisher explained that sales via Amazon -- discounted, indeed -- may not count toward your royalties in the same way the would from in-store sales?)

I encourage everyone to pick up their copies at their local bookstore (the smaller, rare mom & pop stores the better!) for everyone's sake, including Ed.

Also, let us know when your release party is. Get your book-signing hat on.

12/18/2008 01:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a question I always have when people in a competitive business write How-To books:
Why do you want to help your competitors? I know there's a whole thing about community, about how the health of the art market or art world raises all boats, but really, how is Winkleman gallery served by helping people become your competition or improving the business practices of your existing competition? This is a serious question.


12/18/2008 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

That's a really great question (and it just so happens to nicely double as a marketing booby trap).

I guess I don't think there's anything about what I say that some budding dealer won't find out themselves eventually. So hiding it from them as a competitive strategy only potentially delays their finding out, it doesn't prevent it. If you're counting on them being a slow study, you're probably already lost.

And, the true competitive advantage in the gallery business (aside from the artists you work with) is entrepreneurial innovation and relationships, not established best practices or standards or the things you find in a how to book.

No book can teach you how to reinvent the wheel...the best it can do is diagram the current model of wheels out there and see what innovations you manage to bring to them. But the designs are plain sight, so hiding them seems silly to me.

The other thing writing the book did was sharpen my sense of what I'm doing, which provided me another advantage...I like mutually beneficial things like that.

12/18/2008 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger Brandon Juhasz said...

The protection of industry secrets I think is pretty universal. I owned a coffee roasting business for a while and when I was starting out you couldn't find anyone who would offer up How-To's. ( Roaster manufacturer's weekend courses and Trades how seminars aside) The real marrow of experienced learned How-To is coveted and not easily shared. People who have gone through the trials and tribulations feel like they've earned that knowledge.
I watched an episode of...gulp..American Idol where Gwen Stefani was featured to promote her new album, part of the deal was that she had to listen to the performers and give criticism. She seemed like a total B*tch, but then I got it. I just figured she felt like she worked super hard for her success and these folks where about to have it handed to them.

Anyways, it is a generous endeavor that Ed is doing. can't wait to snuggle up by the fire.

12/18/2008 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Balhatain said...

This will no doubt be one book that I support. I'm very cynical of those 'how to be a successful artist' type books or 'how to' books in general. Having read your blog I know that your intention for writing the book is not just about making a few extra bucks for your bank account. I look forward to reviewing it. :)

12/19/2008 12:52:00 AM  
Blogger ArtChick1 said...

Can't wait to read it

12/19/2008 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Eva said...

I've learned so much from this blog. You have great writing skills and the conversations here expand every topic. You don't just write on being a gallerist; you also give us a lot of information on how to be an artist. Looking forward to your book - congratulations!

12/26/2008 07:28:00 PM  

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