"Alternative" Gallery Hell
(Names have been changed to protect the naive and incompetent.)
CALLING ALL "EMERGING" ARTISTS!
HURRY, HURRY! STEP RIGHT UP AND EXPERIENCE THE THRILL AND SPLENDOR OF:
THE ALTERNATIVE GALLERY
Witness the sublime incompetence! Marvel at the unprofessionalism! Watch your hopes get dashed! Experience the humiliation of complete obscurity, yet again!
Hey, Bowleg Guy's portraits are great. I don't say this just because he's my boyfriend. Really and truly. But the only time anyone sees his paintings hanging on the wall is if the super comes to fix the toilet. That's a shame. Every artist wants recognition, right? I'm gonna start a professional publicity campaign.
THE MASTER PLAN: LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR FUTURE FABULOSITY
2000: get a professional slide photographer to take pix of the paintings. Have 8 x 10's made of the four best. Put together a killer portfolio with slides and prints to send to galleries. Compose a bio and artist's statement. A great portfolio, no? Real professional-like. And expensive as the dickens.
Later: Land a few group shows in obscure locations. Lose money on the deal transporting the works back and forth. Oh well, at least you can add these to the resume.
2001: Surfing the web, you spot a downtown alternnative gallery website. They show art during the day, bands at night. Cool, right? You look at the work from some past shows. Yeah, I think Bowleg Guy could fit in there quite nicely. Drop off a portfolio to the gallery.
2002-2004: Months, then years go by. Call gallery every few months. "Yeah, we like the work. But it has to fit the 'theme' of the show we're doing. Call back in three months..."
THE MOMENT OF GLORY
2005: after endless followup calls, you have finally been chosen!
Voice mail message blinking: "Hi Elvira, this is The Gallery Guru; we'd like to exhibit Bowleg Guy's work in our upcoming group show, 'Black Buckets'..."
How exciting! Wow, it is a "gallery"--even if they have bands at night. And it is in Manhattan, which makes it a New York Gallery. Nice downtown location. "Hood still sketchy, but tragically hip. Next door to a shelter or something, but hey. Better than the two lame galleries you've bagged up 'til now. Sure glad the work finally fits into their esoteric theme. I guess they'll have some explanation of it in the show or something, right?
THE MARKETING CAMPAIGN
Here's our big opportunity! I know. I'll print an expensive, full color invite, four panels, to advertise the show, with our email address prominently displayed for all the responses we'll get from the galleries who'll flock to the show and soon be eager to exhibit the Hot New Artist. Plus all the press vehicles eager for a story about Bowleg Guy. I just can see the news trucks gathering on opening night clamoring to get in. (Hey! Isn't that George Whipple! ?)
E-mail to Gallery Guru: "I'm printing a bitchin' invite for the group show. I'll even list you as curator and include a blurb about the gallery on the back." Never hurts to butter up the movers and shakers of the art world.
The design. The copy. The printing. ...
The mailing campaign. Poring through the Guide to NYC Galleries book to pick most appropriate ones to mail to. Lots of promising galleries out there ("We welcome emerging artist's submissions. " KEWL!
Ordering the mailing lists...labeling, stuffing, sealing...late nights, very little time--have to get the pieces out before the opening. Schlepping to the post office, back and forth...
VISITING THE GALLERY
Let's take a peek at the gallery and the current show. Hmmm....unframed works hung crooked on the walls. . Looks like refrigerator art. Exposed brick--yuck..
My my, the "gallery" sure looks deserted during the day...guess most folks come in the evening to see the bands. There are, however, a couple of ne'er do well "employees" at the bar with ears glued to cell phones, sporting those bored downtown art world expressions.
BRINGING THE PAINTINGS TO THE GALLERY
E-mail from Gallery Guru: " Now remember, be here at 11 sharp on the Saturday before opening. Gotta have time to hang everything.'
Hire a car service; need a minivan because one work is 4 ft by 4 ft. That'll be 100 bucks.
Here we are at the gallery, right on time!
Door locked. Bums milling around from the shelter next door. One inebriated woman wanders by and fingers one of the canvases. Bowleg Guy nearly faints.
Finally get in, unwrap paintings, meet with Gallery Guru in the flesh. Surprisingly, she doesn't have unusual piercings, tattoos, or hairdo.
THE PRESS CAMPAIGN
Call the local biweekly community paper. Typical article: opposition to proposed filtration plant.
On the horn with Editor Man:
"Hey, interested in a piece on a Bowleg Guy, a local artist?"
"Hmm...Sounds interesting. In the middle of deadline. E mail me info."
OK, I'll just e-mail hiim the whole article I wrote. Time is running out. The show is opening in two weeks, and hopefully they can run the feature while the show's still going on.
No response to e mail. Follow up calls.
Editor Man; "Sorry, really busy with deadlines. Call you Friday."
Friday: Bowleg Guy picks up phone.
Editor Guy: "May I speak to Elvira?"
"Sorry, not in."
"Her boyfriend, Bowleg Guy."
Call back editor. "Um, you didn't tell me you have a relationship with the artist. That's a problem. We don't do that sort of thing."
Fuck you very much. You'll regret it when Bowleg Guy becomes a household word.
THE MOMENT YOU'VE BEEN WAITING FOR: THE GRAND OPENING NIGHT!!!
Have a few pops at the bar down the street--happy hour--before venturing in; be a little fashionably late. Don't want to look like a schmuck on wheels showing up on time, pacing around. Ok, ready? Let's go!
Decent sized crowd. Hey, nice placement of Bowleg Guy's paintings--right in front, not in Siberia of the back room. But hate that the works are not labeled with name of artist and title of work. What is this, a Commie gallery? Instead, there's a cheesy price list on the table with corresponding numbers. How many people are gonna bother to look at this?
Most of other stuff, bad and/or indecipherable. OK, just makes Bowleg Guy's work look better by contrast.
A FREE DRINK FOR THE ARTIST?
Hey, there's Gallery Guru, the "curator," tending bar. We need ourselves a man-sized drink; not these lame free wine and beer nips. Considering we publicized the gallery and put her as curator on the back panel,of the invite, I'm sure she'll comp the artist one.
"Hey, Gallery Guru! Show looks great! Let me have two scotch and sodas."
"That'll be fifteen."
"Ummm, ok. Here's a 20, keep it."
Five buck tip: can you say passive-agressive?
HOBNOBBING WITH A FELLOW ARTIST
Stinky Artist: "That your stuff? Yeah, here's mine. Hey, I'm in a band too. We're playing here in two weeks."
Jesus, this guy smells really bad. And his paintings suck. Let's cruise.
Time to go....
PICKING UP THE ART
A month after the opening:
E-mail from Gallery Guru: Now be sure to come at 11 sharp on Saturday to pick up the stuff. We have no room to store it, and have to get the next show hung up."
Call the car service again. Arrange to pick us up in front of gallery at 11:30 to transport the stuff home. Minivan, another hundred bucks.
11 am: Gallery locked. Go next door again to get them to open up. Hastily take down the paintings and wrap them in paper, tie lovinggly with twine.
11:25 am: Gallery Guru arrives. We're still the only artists who've shown up. Uh oh, minivan's here.
"Thanks a bunch, Gallery Guru. And be sure to add us to your e-mail list, which numbers in the thousands, to alert us to upcoming shows."
"Sure! And we'd like to use the title you put on your invite for the theme of our upcoming group show. You don't mind, right? And we'd just love to exhibit your work again."
A week later:
Hey, lemme check my e-mail; Gallery Guru was supposed to add me to the e-mail list for upcoming shows.
In-box: "Welcome Elvira! You have zero messages."
Can you spell unprofessional?
Now just sit back and wait for the e-mails to pour in from the galleries. Let's see...I sent out 500 invites to galleries and press. Even if only one percent respond, that's like five galleries, right? I laid out about 2 grand for invites and transportation, but it'll pay off in the long run. Sure it will! You betcha.
Two months later... Inbox: "Welcome Elvira! You have zero messages."
Bowleg Guy: "Nevah, EVAH get me involved in this stuff again! Just leave me alone and let me paint in peace. You stinking moron. "
Sharing, caring, and despairing....ain't love grand?!
ATTENTION ALL YOU OVERTALENTED, UNDERREPRESENTED ARTISTS: THIS IS MY "ALTERNATIVE GALLERY." Post a comment and add a link to your art site!