Laura West asked me as the curator of K-Jewel Art Gallery to give my 2 cent perspective on how to get galleries to exhibit your work. I’ll try to let you know what I look for in sculpture (and wall art, since many of you are multiple media artists), and why we have certain parameters.
Our gallery is similar to many other galleries and for that matter museums, in that we want to display interesting, creative inspiring artworks that the general public will not just view, but, desire to see. Most galleries would like to make a good profit or at least pay expenses plus. Since that is the intention of 70% of galleries, what is your intention? Most artists are in a self-involved universe, (this not necessarily a negative, it may lead you to become self-evolved, (read: style)). However, since you are concerned with being accepted into shows and galleries, we might want to take a slightly more pragmatic approach with what we initially submit.
Institutional galleries are much more likely to promote edgier or experimental art forms. I feel a
common academic attitude is, “Been there, seen that, want something different”. Of course, this
is the very vehicle that art uses to push past its limits. Eventually truth will tell, quality will be
proven or fall to the wayside.
In my opinion, however, Fresno galleries will want more commercial, more easily psychologically and physiological accessible pieces that their patrons can share with their friends and colleagues. Accessibility comes through many neural pathways. Texture and form is embedded in both physical touch and mental remberances of the tactile feel of metal, wood, stone and other sculpture media. Color also makes pieces accessible as the Limbic System in the lower brain accesses encrypted memories, both positive and negative.
This leads into your intention. Do you want public recognition or personal release? If your intent is to have a combination, than you must give some thought as to what will touch the general populace. Are you concerned with an empathetic value or a shock value? Would you like the person to appreciate the piece, take it home and extol it’s inspiring qualities or would you rather it be appreciated for the visceral reaction to the piece. Everything is relative, what will the reaction be to the piece in the gallery? Make no mistake, the curator is fully aware of what the reaction will be and whether the piece is harmonious to the gallery.
KYNO / K-JEWEL Art Gallery, is in a unique position, The art-deco building encompasses two fully operational radio stations with 7 studios and an advertising agency in addition to the gallery. The owners are local and have been deeply involved in downtown Fresno for 35 years. The mission of the gallery was to open up its walls and interior space to high quality local artist works that could be enjoyed by the community. Our personal goal was to have fun doing it.
Again, this whole exercise is about understanding what the particular venue wants to achieve. In our case, regarding sculpture, we personally look for clean lines, uncomplicated textures, less shock and more contemplative and/or whimsical values. Pieces that are more appreciated by the general public and less by the sophisticates of nihilism.
To more practical matters, it may behoove you to:
1) Have a reasonable body of work for the curator to choose from, that is preferable to having
two great pieces only. This is much more important with wall art and less with sculpture.
2) Let the curator know that you are always ready to show with only a few days notice. If a gallery
is organized, it is booking artists at least one year in advance. (At this time I’m booked with
exceptional wall art through October of 2010). If an artist is unable to do a show at the last
minute, be the artist that the curator can count on for an immediate show.
3) Have digital files (this is important), with
A) One or more clear color (not quirky) high res. pictures of yourself.
B) Three or more high res. pictures of your pieces.
C) A bio or as an alternative, if your bio is weak, have a great 2-3 paragraph (only), statement
about your passion and/or your involvement with what you have created (general, not specific
pieces). As a rule, people will spend no more than 30 seconds reading a bio or statement.
It is very important to the gallery that there is no last minute struggle to put together
info for a press release.
4) Have ready transportation for your pieces. The gallery will have specific install and takedown
dates. Normally there is a very short window of time between pull-down and
installation of shows.
5) If you actually want to sell your pieces, expect to be at the opening, wearing something less
than a tie or high heals, but something more than flip-flops. A one sheet flyer,
postcard or at least a business card is helpful to give out, otherwise you’ll be writing
your name and cell number on napkins.
6) I have talked to enough curators, artists, owners and agents to give an informal protocol:
A) Call the gallery to see it they are accepting submissions.
B) If they are, make an appointment with the curator.
Many times the large galleries will ask you to submit via email so they can accept or
reject without having to invest in you emotionally. Keep in mind that there is
nothing personal in this process, again, generally the curator will know
immediately if your work furthers the essential goals of the gallery.
C) Do not submit during the opening of a show. There is too much going on and the curator
won’t have time to give you any meaningful feedback, which is very important if
you want to be successful.
Ask any artist, art curator or gallery owner about the great natural high that you get from a successful opening. There’s nothing like it. "The function of art is to free the spirit of man and to invigorate and
enlarge his vision." Katherine Dreier
KYNO / K-JEWEL Art Gallery