Art Shows & Curators – Calls to Artists Part 2

Sometimes the sad truth is that you may not like how a curator displays your work.

In a nutshell, too bad for you.

You have the option to either see it as the curator sees it, or the message that the curator is trying to get across or understand how the curator had to work within the space confines, or you can take your work out.

If you take your work out, you run the risk of looking like a high maintenance prima donna, or in my eyes, at the least, very unprofessional. But that is your choice.

When you submit work for an art show, whether in a gallery, an informal community centre such as the RCA Galleria, or in your own space, you need to remember to think about a few things, and to do a few things, BEFORE you submit, and then remember these AFTER you submit. A Call to Artists is a Call to Artists, regardless if the art will be presented in a gallery for a fundraiser, or if in a public gallery for a show, or a commercial gallery for sale.

First, is the Call to Artists. Your job, and the scope of your responsibility is the artwork. I’ve addressed the majority of the issues already in this blog post here. In the Call, there may be specific requests or requirements, such as having the works ready and wired to hang, or framing issues etc. If you have any questions at all, the time to ask them will be at the Call to Artists. Even if the Call does not state, use your initiative to ASK about space issues – should you submit a large work or a small one? ASK about potential client attendees – should you submit to a price point, or a specific subject, or a specific size or should they be framed?

There are normally two main goals when you submit work to a Call: exposure and sales (or cv if work is not for sale). Why wouldn’t you do the absolute best you can to satisfy and succeed in those two goals?

rant/ RESPECT the deadlines! Can I say that any louder? RESPECT THE DEADLINES! That means you need to mark your own calendar, and be responsible for work drop off, and for work pick up…. ON TIME! When I coordinate a show, I don’t want you calling me every week and asking me when to drop off work, or when to pick up work, when I have already provided you with that information! (I am thinking of one particular artist who did that. I no longer take their calls.) I am not your mother, or your caretaker, or your angel on your shoulder! I gave you a timeline, use it! Am I frustrated? Can you tell? lol! Okay, that felt better. If you don’t have a calendar, get one. Then, after you get the calendar, use it. The excuse “I am an artist, I am above/I don’t know how/can’t/don’t want to” is bullshit. I don’t care if it is a hard copy book, or one online, just get one, then use it! Yes, that is a direct command from General Trops! I use google calendars, I can access them from anywhere on the web, my whole family is on there, so if I need to figure out if an appointment is doable, I log in and check. So simple! /rant

When a curator is installing a work they have to work, at the very minimum, within constraints such as space, and what other works are submitted. The best overall look for a show is the number one priority for the curator. Simply put, artist egos have no place in determining where an artwork goes. Larger works are usually placed first, or depending on the message that needs to be conveyed, the artworks that are placed first are usually the strongest in that message. Something I should say again, is that artist egos have no place in deciding where an artwork goes, most especially in a group show.

Make sure your artworks are labeled! Recently I had the opportunity to coordinate and curate the Evergreen Art Gallery of about 40 or 50 works – I would say at least 75% of the works were not marked on the back. Nothing. No title, no medium, no artist name, nothing. When the same artist submits five pieces, and none of them are marked, what do you think is the likelihood of the correct tag being put on the work? Or if an artist submits an unmarked diptych or a triptych, what is the likelihood that they will be arranged properly? Obviously if the artist does not care to mark the piece, then should I care to make sure the right tag is on it, or it is in the right order? oops… that is sounding dangerously like another rant. Well, I think you get the idea.

When you submit work for a show, it is the curator’s job to ensure it all works within the space and the artworks as a whole.  The artist is responsible for their work arriving and departing, and the curator is responsible for the gestalt presentation.

Present your best artwork in a professional manner at all times, and the curator will do their best too.

Showing your artwork in cafes or restaurants or other public spaces

is a very business oriented action. By this I mean you are entering in to a contract with another business owner to perform a service, which is supplying artwork for their walls. In supplying artwork for their walls, they receive a benefit, as do you, which is exposure and possible artwork sales.

The best way to not provide good service as an artist to your potential business partners is to never communicate, never provide updated contact information if you move or change phone numbers, and never follow-up on agreements to confirm that they are still in place or see if things have changed.

I was recently involved in a situation where an artist booked a space with a business in December, never communicated with the business owner when they (the artist) moved, or even throughout the time leading up to their appointment to hang their artwork in May. I, on the other hand, went in sometime in March, to this same business, and asked if there were any spots available – I was told no, not until the fall, however, there is someone who was to go in May who they couldn’t get in contact with.

Okay I said to the business owner, I will follow up with you later on. I went back the end of March, and again once a week in April (a total of about four times from March to April) to find out what was happening. Finally, the last week of April I was given the go ahead because this other artist had apparently dropped off the ends of the earth. I found out who the current showing artist was, and when they would be taking their artwork down. The two of us made arrangements, so that the business owner would not have bare walls for too long of a time.

Lo and behold, the lost artist came in on April 30th (I understand) and was surprised to find that they lost their position. I was asked ….Hmmm – would I be willing to share the time or the space? No, absolutely not, I replied – this is a business situation, I did my due diligence and then some. Maybe next time you can do yours.

Lessons I hope this other artist learned:

  1. always follow up and/or confirm as time goes on.
  2. you are an artist and your communication is not restricted to the visual – communicate with the business owner, and the artist previous to you to make the transition as seamless as possible.
  3. don’t throw tantums because you feel you have been slighted if you drop the ball, then NO one will want your work.