Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's Ali-i-i-i-ve!!!

Although I've been told to ignore the rankings on Amazon (apparently they use some Byzantine algorithm that only makes real sense to databases), I was still delighted to see my book, which becomes available today (wahoo!!) ranked at #2 in the Business of Art category (although if you click on that link even a few moments after I write this, it is likely to be at any other seemingly random ranking, so apparently fickle are these calculations). Still, I'm guessing that means a fair number of people have purchased it in advance...I know my little brother did (thanks very much, Ray!).

Knowing that a larger percentage of the readers here are artists or collectors or other folks unlikely to start their own gallery any time soon, I was delighted to see the first generous and thoughtful blogger response to the book (by one of the smartest and loveliest artists/bloggers out there, Joanne Mattera) contextualize much better than I have been able to thus far, what in the book might be applicable and/or of interest to artists. Joanne notes:
[U]nderstanding the dealer's concerns and activities will help you present yourself in a way that complements the gallery's program. [Also] it underscores the idea that artists and dealers are not so different. Here's Ed: "This is a business in which very little is stable . . . rent in your neighborhood will skyrocket, forcing you to find a new location (and consuming all the money that moving requires); and critics will inexplicably hate your latest exhibition. . . It never really gets easy. Some months you’re flush; others, you’re scrambling." Sound familiar?
And although I wrote it specifically from the point of view of what I think a budding dealer needs to know about finding and working with artists, Joanne has kindly worked through all that and summarized what artists can learn from that chapter:
Chapter 14: Artists: Where to Find Them; How to Keep Them
Make a beeline for these 24 pages. Nothing takes the mystery out of the submission process better than learning how a dealer puts a roster together. Here's how Ed found/finds his artists, in order of frequency: "recommendations (including from other dealers), institutional exhibitions, open studios, cold call submissions."

In other words: show, show, show, show and network, network, network. This goes along with what I know of dealers. Their websites may say "No submissions accepted at this time," but they are always looking. As for cold-call submissions, they are, confirms Ed, "the least productive means of finding suitable artists." If you must go this route, do your homework. "Every now and then an unsolicited submission will make your day. Either the artist has done his research and knows his work is a good match for your mission, or fate smiles on you."
I am contractually obligated to limit the amount of text in the book I give away for free, but in the interest of promoting it, I'm encouraged to share excerpts. Among my very favorites in the book, the opening anecdote retells the single-most motivating bit of advice I'd ever received about opening my gallery. I think it applies to any daunting venture one might dream of launching. From How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery:
Introduction: The Easy Part and the Hard Part

Shortly after moving to New York City, I met a producer of off-Broadway plays at a party. Listening to him describe his passion, I grew highly impressed with his resilience in finding backers for his productions. He said he wouldn't even begin to become discouraged until the thirteenth potential investor turned him down. In fact, he took anything other than a flat-out "No!" as encouragement, and he rarely accepted the first "No!" as a final answer, anyway. Nothing was going to dissuade him from following his dream.

I was busy soaking up these insights, so I was caught by surprise when he asked what I was doing in New York. What was my dream, he wanted to know.

"I'd like to open an art gallery," I answered.

"That's great," he replied. "How are you going about doing that?"

"Er...uh...well," I said. "I'm doing studio visits with lots of artists, and working freelance for a gallery, and attending art fairs, and...."

"That's the lamest thing I've ever heard," he interjected.

"Excuse me?" I asked, visibly offended.

"What is an art gallery?" he continued. "It's a space with art on the walls. If you want to open an art gallery, get a space and put art on the walls."

"Wait...er...it's not that simple," I insisted.

"Yes it is," he insisted. "It's exactly that simple. Get a space, put art on the walls, and you will have an art gallery."

He was right of course. It was that simple. Six months after that conversation, I rented a space on the Lower East Side for a weekend, put art on the walls, and had my first (if highly temporary) art gallery. I even sold some work. What the producer-mentor didn't tell me back then, though, was that finding a space and putting art on the walls is the easy part. Staying in business is the real trick.
Staying in business is a central theme of the book (and why you'll find chapters on writing a business plan, managing cash flow, and other such practical matters), but the fact remains that getting in the game is the inescapable, all-important first step to doing anything of any consequence. Bambino and I are still working out the details for a book signing party we'd like to host in the gallery sometime next week...details to follow soon.

UPDATE: András Szántó has also read and responded to the book on Art World Salon. Here's a snippet:
Part Bible, part user’s guide, Ed’s book offers calm and steady, and above all honest, advice on questions younger dealers always want to know about, but are often afraid to ask. How much should I pay myself? Where should I advertise? When do I need a lawyer? But even the best-laid plans can skid off the tracks because of the minutiae. One of the virtues of Ed’s book is that it delves into seemingly mundane, nevertheless important matters that others might have glossed over. No detail escapes his attention: from staff dress codes to the best choice of gallery paint color; from industry-standard salary levels to the wisdom of including packing tape in your “art fair survival kit.”
Many sincere thanks to both Joanne and András!

UPDATE 2: An embarrassment of riches (and generosity, I must say), as Sarah Douglas' interview about what it would take for her to open a gallery came out today as well. From artinfo.com:
During the depths of a recession — when keeping tabs on the number of art galleries that have closed has become something of a hobby among certain journalists, and one notorious blog even features a death watch — would seem an unlikely time to publish a how-to guide for opening an art gallery. And yet the intrepid and astute Ed Winkleman, who runs his eponymous gallery in New York's Chelsea art district when he's not posting on his popular blog, has done precisely that. His new book, How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery, comes out today from Allworth Press. ARTINFO cornered Ed in his gallery last week and pestered him about how much money we would need to borrow from our parents in order to open a gallery, why we would need grit our teeth and write a business plan, and why being an art dealer is the best job in the world.

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24 Comments:

Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

Got notification that the book was on the way (from Amazon) - I am looking forward to this read. While I have no intention of opening an art gallery, I'd love to get a glimpse of how they work.

Here's to your book! I very much look forward to reading it!

7/14/2009 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger jami said...

I read Joanne’s blog and ordered the book, that is why I was very excited when I read in my mail this morning: your amazon.com order has shipped

7/14/2009 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Wait! There's more!

The book got a very nice review in Artworld Salon today, too: http://www.artworldsalon.com/blog/2009/07/art-gallery-101/

And thanks for the shout out, Ed. I meant every word of it.

The artworld has finally reached a point where artists and dealers don't have to struggle for a decade to find out how to move forward. It's never going to be easy, but at least we understand what it is we need to do and how to go about doing it.

7/14/2009 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thank you Bromo and Jami!!! Much appreciated, and if you find any typos, well, don't tell me for a while. ;-)

7/14/2009 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Schro Ro girls are so proud of you!

7/14/2009 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed--
I should be getting the book later this week, but I was just curious as to how long it took for you to write this book. I realize this is a little like the question artists hear all the time... How long did it take you to paint that ( all of my life), but I'm still curious to hear about the process.

Were you developing your ideas while you were at the gallery, or did you do all of the writing outside of the gallery? Did you set aside specific times each day to focus on writing teh book?
I'm just curious to know a little about how you brought this idea to the light of day.

Alan

7/14/2009 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Alan,

I began discussing the book with Allworth about 2 years ago now (maybe 1.5...seems longer).

Much of it was taken from texts I had already written, either for this blog, or for lectures. The chapter on Business plans was reworked from my actual business plan, which I had spent months writing, for example.

I took a few "writing vacations" during that time too, leaving poor Bambino to entertain himself while I wrote, and spent every weekend writing. I can't write in the gallery, though, too many distractions.

7/14/2009 12:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations Ed,

Great to see how the book compliments the blog and your ideas.

Pedrovel

7/14/2009 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Good luck with this enterprise.


Cedric Caspesyan

7/14/2009 02:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed-
Is there any chance that you might publish a book which serves as a more inside account of the trends and themes which are relevant in contemporary art today.

For instance when I look at your stable of artists I think that each one of them carries a sense of the avant garde. I see that your gallery is aware of trends and operates with a keen knowledge of the market yet the work doesn't seem to cater towards this end. You obviously want to sell and market the work, but you also only involve yourself with challenging art that speaks to the concerns only an artist from this time would consider.

I guess what I'm trying to say is how do you see your gallery functioning within the art world context beyond simply being a place of commerce. And is ther any chance taht you could share some of these fascinating answers with the reet of us.

I know that I would be interested in a Winkleman guide to the contemporary art world.

---JAMES

7/14/2009 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

That's a much taller order than the book that just released James, if only because 1) I'm not sure I have a handle yet on what I think the relationship is between the gallery and state of commerce in fine art today or the program and what will be sorted out as important down the road (let alone today), and 2) no matter what I feel about any of these topics, there are folks much more eloquent about them with very different opinions from mine who would make any attempt by me to summarize them seem obvious or pedestrian in comparison.

In the end, and I know this is a bit of a cop out, but.... the program itself---the continuous text of the press releases and responses by writers to the exhibitions, as well as the narratives implied from one exhibition by an artist to his/her next----is that book. It's hard to write about it as it's underway. It's impossible to assess how to frame it at the moment, as well. As one friend recently described a process, it would be like trying to change a tire on a moving car.

7/14/2009 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed--
Your response is no cop out at all. This blog is in many ways more than I could ask for with regard to having an inside perspective on the art scene. As someone far less involved in shaping the forward trajectory of contemporary art, I am simply interested in how someone in the thick of it sees their own role witihin the machinery of a very diverse and involved system such as the art world.

Congratulations on the book and thanks for keeping as all in tune with what strikes a chord within and around your gallery scene.

--JAMES

7/14/2009 05:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed,

I'm a newcomer to your blog, and it, and the book, couldn't be more timely - I'm in the process of setting up my own space (in London), and can't wait to get hold of the book! Especially as right now I'm wrestling with a business plan.

Did have some issues getting hold of it on amazon.co.uk though - in the end I had to resort to getting my girlfriend who works in a bookshop over here to order it direct from the publishers. If the advice works out, and I'm sure it will, I'll get her to stock it! ;-)

Tom

7/15/2009 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Best of Luck in the new gallery, Tom!!!

7/15/2009 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Ed - I'm probably going to start blogging the whole process soon, so you can watch me fly in the face of all logic as I attempt to make a success of it in these uncertain times!!

7/15/2009 12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the 14th

http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/32017/ed-winkleman-on-opening-an-art-gallery-recession-be-damned/

7/15/2009 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

It is here! I will begin reading shortly. Any chance if I bring it to the gallery when I am there at the end of the month, I could get it signed?

7/15/2009 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Absolutely, Bromo. Thanks!

7/15/2009 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger Erebus said...

Hopefully Chapters (the biggest book retailer in Canada) starts stocking the book someday

7/16/2009 07:17:00 AM  
Blogger Mae West NYC said...

GOOD FOR YOU! And a very sound statement - - it's not about starting a business but instead it's about STAYING in BUSINESS.
- - is there a way to locate a DANISH art dealer in Manhattan? - -
Since I own a unique multi-media + oil portrait of Hans Christian Andersen I would like to sell, I was hoping a Scandinavian art seller would help me find a buyer. (Americans don't even know who this author was.)

Good luck with your latest book!!!

7/16/2009 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger marc said...

Best of luck and Congratulations on the book!

7/16/2009 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

I noticed the book was #1 in its category on Amazon this morning. Endless congratulations!

7/17/2009 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger donna said...

"Intrepid and astute" is an excellent description of you, Ed. I'd add generous. You've helped demystify the gallery side of the business so that artists can be intelligently proactive about their careers. There are easier ways to make money than being a gallerist- so for artist and dealer, it starts with a love of art. I like feeling like we're all in it together. Congratulations and best wishes.

7/17/2009 11:09:00 PM  
Blogger Shena Kaye said...

Oh...what a great find. This book is a Godsend. I have been dreaming of owning a Studio-Gallery for years and no matter how close it always falls through.
Now, I have a very real possibility of that dream coming true by teaming up with the owner of a building...and the same day I spoke with him I came across your book. Its like a sign..haha. I can't wait to have your book in my hands.

Many hugs to you. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with us.

Yours always,
shena kaye
www.poeticimagesstudio.com

8/07/2009 11:12:00 PM  

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