Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Essential Questions: Artist Fatigue

Edited by Jane Guthridge

Those high gallery desks can feel  intimidating. That's by design. They're a form of protection for the gallerists who wish to be in the gallery without engaging with each person who comes through the door
Photo: Andy Freeberg from his series, Sentry

At the 10th International Encaustic Conference, Miles Conrad described a situation he calls “artist fatigue”—the exhaustion art dealers and editors feel after meeting so many artists eager, even desperate, to get their attention. We asked ProWax members to respond. Brian Goslow, managing editor of the New England-based Artscope magazine, gave the most cogent response, which we share here.

"Responding from the standpoint of being the managing editor of Artscope magazine, I can certainly sympathize with those overcome with the feeling of “fatigue” that comes from what seems like an endless parade of requests for coverage. As we head towards our 11th anniversary, there can be up to 100 emails a day to review and consider along with the writing, editing, story planning and social media postings for any given day.

“Much as a gallery has only so many exhibition slots in a given period (or, if they’re in the early stages of business, are looking for a set number of artists for their roster), we have approximately 25 story spots for each issue, covering a two month period and the six New England states. We try to spread the coverage over as many different genres as possible and as many different venues as possible. I suspect the answer of the question how to get our attention is much the same as it would be for a gallery: Take your best shot but don’t overdo it because the more material you “throw” at someone, the more they might be inclined to ‘get to it when I have the time.’

“For me, the main question I’m asking during my daily email review is, Where might this fit into our magazine coverage? A simple and clear subject line that has the artist’s name, genre, theme of show, venue and show dates is most helpful because I’m making an initial, quick decision on whether it’s a show I could see covered in an upcoming issue magazine (thus moving the email into a file for the months of the matching issue) or into a week-by week-collection of folders for potential social media coverage.

“Approximately seven weeks prior to our next issue, I review all the press releases we’ve received up to that point and make a first selection of shows I think would make for a strong issue. An artist I’m already familiar with that I’ve wanted to get in the magazine, or whose work I’ve seen a number of times in person, will always get extra consideration. (In terms of relating to the Pro-Wax group, visiting the International Encaustic Conference exhibitions always puts those artists whose work is on view onto my radar so that if I see they’re having or part of a show, I’ll do some follow up.)

“So you’ve got our attention (or a gallery’s initial attention). How do you hold it? If you’ve got a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page, try to post something on a regular basis that allows those interested in your work to follow its progression, growth, shifts, and your new projects. Going on a residency or having your works shown at a major exhibition or fair? Tell us! Tell everyone! There are times I haven’t had the opportunity to cover an artist I was fond of because they hadn’t had a show, but did get that opportunity as part of a larger overview article. It also shows those galleries you’re trying to attract that you’re serious about your work, career and always striving to grow and find new opportunities.

“On Instagram, it’s important to test which hashtags grab people’s attention; one would expect #encaustic would grab the crowd here but it might also capture the fine-tuned collector for a specific genre that you’ve never heard of; similarly, gallery owners or directors looking to fill roster holes or who are interested or looking for specific kinds of works may also see your work. Much like the buyer who’ll know what he or she wants when they see it, you can’t reach that person if they can’t see your work.”

Inset above: Cover of the April/May issue of Artscope


Secrets, ideas and advice

We close with Goslow’s “little secret” and some advice from other colleagues.

Brian Goslow
I’ve found that posting towards the end of the day, the period when a gallery’s work may be done for the day but it will be open for another hour or two — especially on Sundays — they’ll be browsing Instagram to see what’s new. Where some social media “superstars” can get thousands of “likes” and “hearts,” I’ve come to find galleries and museums will only click that button if they truly like a work. For me, from an editor’s standpoint, it’s a great tool to get professional response to an artist and their work, especially if I feel my positive response might be due to knowing that person or having a familiarity with that work. And if you see a gallery or museum “likes” or “hearts” your work, it can’t hurt to send them a follow up email or note letting them know you noticed . . .  and ask them if you could send them a link to or package of your work as a larger introduction.

Shana Dumont Garr, director, Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, Massachusetts
A few ideas:
1. Be easy to find, with an up-to-date website
2. Stay up to date on social media, especially Instagram
3. Be really thoughtful and even sparing about whom you reach out to, and personalize emails and letters
4. I have heard from some artists who get pretty good coverage that sending a paper press packet to journalists gets more responses than a digital press packet.

Dan Addington, artist and owner of Addington Gallery, Chicago
Know when it’s cool to talk about your work and when it’s not. Talk to me about painting—not your painting—but the work in the gallery, or art history. I might then ask you, “Are you an artist? What kind of art do you make?” By all means respond when the gallerist opens that door. And know how to talk about your work. My conversational firewall is moveable, because I’m also trying to approach collectors on behalf of my artists, and I don’t know initially who’s an artist and who’s a collector.

Wendy Haas, private dealer, Chicago:
Be respectful. Don't corner me and monopolize my attention. You cannot hound your way into a successful dealer relationship. Definitely keep your website current, keep me up to date on your work (press releases, show cards, emails).  In particular, I enjoy seeing exhibition/installation shots—context is very informative. But accept that "no" could easily have nothing at all to do with how much I like your art.

Even if we are not formally working together, I value being considered your colleague and want to feel like I can engage with you without pointed expectations. That is far more likely to make me comfortable reaching out to you in the future regarding opportunities with me or anywhere else that might interest you.

Joanne Mattera, artist and editor of ProWax Journal:
That high desk separating you from the dealer can appear daunting, but if in conversation the dealer steps out from behind it to chat informally, you know you have made a connection. Where it will lead, who knows? Proceed collegially but respectfully. My colleagues here have offered some great advice. I’d add this: Whether in conversation or in writing, keep any request short and accept a no (or even a non response). As an art blogger and occasional exhibition curator and juror, I've had artists email me to ask accusingly, "Why didn't you include my work?" That passes the line from artist fatigue to artist abuse.

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