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VISUAL ARTS

GALLERY CONFUSION & INCOMPETENCE

Arthur Benjamins

RED STRIPE - 1.jpg

“THE RED STRIPE II” - (Above painting)

When reading through galleries' manner of submitting work or via gallery owners themselves who discuss the aforementioned, the majority of them speak of 'consistency', but after that they remain vague to the extreme.

There are various ways of translating what that means.


  • For any gallery to exist, there must be a healthy and continuous through-put of work of which it is the gallery’s' sole responsibility to make that as profitable as possible over the longest possible time. There are legions of artists – famous or otherwise – who would or could not fulfill those exact - but uncomplex requirements for a wide range of reasons.

There are galleries who have ceased working with artists because of the lack of commercial common sense.

When approaching galleries, it must be made very clear to them that you are totally aware of the commercial 'guidelines' to foster a very profitable arrangement in every sense of the word.

You may even have to underscore that by stating the fact that every piece of art which is sold through their gallery, you can and will replace it with an equally sellable piece.

You cannot state it simpler than that.


  • The other form of 'consistency' has a more limiting connotation but which may latch onto you like a limpet mine.

    Some 'art gurus' categorically state that you should approach galleries with just ONE style or genre of your work. Many artists only have one, so they won't have THAT specific problem. The idea is that the gallery will not be confused by the quantity of styles you may present them.

If all artists knew exactly what galleries would be looking for, the world would be a far easier place. Instead, all galleries insist that the artists do their 'legwork' first, before descending on them. The steady fact is that galleries do not always have one certain style or genre they represent. They may not exhibit various at one given time, but certainly have a varying portfolio.


I would not have the slightest idea myself what would interest a gallery in relation to the work it would want to exhibit. Offering the work that may seem the correct choice to me, may, in fact, be nowhere near what the gallery has in mind.

Therefore, I would wish to offer them as much opportunity to choose as I could offer.

Alas, it seems that the vast % of galleries don't possess any of that foresightedness that could generate vastly successful relationships.

Some time ago I was asked why I had such a wide portfolio of work to which I replied that because race driver Mario Andretti embraced and excelled driving midgets, sprint cars, World Sports Cars, NASCAR, Formula-1. Indy cars, and probably a few more – he became the all-round, successful and totally respected legendary racer that he is now.



ART MATERIALS

Arthur Benjamins

''BARCODE''

‘‘BARCODE’’


ART MATERIALS


I know of one very gifted artist who is adamant that the quality of a painting is directly proportional to the cost of the materials used.

To that end, he uses the most expensive oils and canvases thinking that this will justify his prices.


Non-standard materials.

In 2011, I had a solo exhibition in Helsinki, Finland. During the set-up, we had the opportunity to visit one or more large galleries, and one such had various exhibits of Keith Haring.

One was a small metal sculpture which was priced at well over 100,000 Euros, and a painting which had been protectively framed behind glass for the only reason that it was painted on a rough piece of cardboard. Price around the 45,000 Euros.

Putting your work on cheaper materials – like cardboard – requires a high degree of continual protection, both from physical and climatic abuse.

Although Keith Haring was exceptionally prodigious in his all too-short life, he possibly didn't think much about his works' longevity, although much has been saved and cosseted by discerning owners.

He painted much on tarpaulins of various large sizes of which the difficulties in keeping them safe and undamaged is something I have trouble contemplating.


Many years ago when painting technology was virtually non-existent, many artists painted on planks of wood slotted or glue together. Over the years, these planks shrunk which severely affected much of them.

It is only that many paintings on canvas which received a certain amount of care, and in some cases minimal, that they survived to this day, albeit sometimes in a deplorable state.


Some 'traditionalists' perceive a painting to be worthy of being called “art”, is only when it's on canvas, nothing else will suffice.

The range of painting substrate has now become almost limitless. I've painted on canvas, aluminum sheet, plywood, hardboard, particle board and many more.

I like particle-and-hardboard because they are grainless and therefore inert, making them quite impervious to warping and bowing.

The larger a piece of work is, the more you have to consider the strength and rigidity of the painting.

Although canvas is much lighter, wood also has the advantage of being far more puncture resistant.


Traditional art materials.

Not all artists are happy with the properties of the more traditional materials, preferring the use of more viscous paints that can be found at domestic suppliers at a fraction of the cost.

Unlike what they are taught, these domestic paints have a similar longevity as the highly priced oil and acrylic paints and should never be underestimated.

New York artist, Franz Kline once had his household paints secretly confiscated by his agent who had sneaked into his studio and replaced all his pots of paint with high-brand tubes of the most expensive Windsor & Newton stuff.

When Kline found out, he simply walked to the local hardware shop and stocked up again with what he wanted. Kline also painted in his telephone directories as these provided him with ample substrate matter free of charge. The (too) few books on him show these directories which formed the basis of many of his final originals.

Jackson Pollock's later masterpieces all consisted out of household and industrial paint and which still hold true.


Canvas stretching (and cleaning)

These days, there are many variations of canvas available from many sources. The larger the painting, the thicker the canvas that artists usually use, otherwise the painting will slop around like a sheet in the wind.

This can be prevented by stretching the canvas on the frame by means of the corner wedges, however I have seen many artists screwing L-brackets onto the back of their frames, keeping them unmovable for ever more. Even store-bought canvases are rigid. In my mind – this is totally unacceptable.

Looking closely at stretcher bars, it seems that the manufacturers have left no direct means to allow the re-tensioning of new or completed canvases. I've designed a radically different tensioning method which also can be retro-fitted to any large painting.

Canvases will loosen up over the years. Some more than the others, depending how rigid the media is. The thin cotton duck canvas does not have the rigidity required, which does not detract from its excellent quality. You can tension a canvas by wetting it depending on the media used.

My own first medium was enamel paint on canvas. This media is wafer thin and as tough as nails. Rolling up a painted canvas into a 3” diameter tube has no detrimental effect on it and thoroughly wetting it is also without problems.

I've had paintings which had been in smoky atmospheres returned to me for cleaning. The clients used to be horrified when I hosed down the complete canvas in the shower and sponged off the smoke with sugar soap, allowing the mess to come off in dirty streaks. I dried the painting with a soft towel, poured the client more coffee and waved him off an hour after he'd arrived.

However – other media will require a totally different cleaning method and with which I'm not familiar.


Reproductions and prints.

I always have to chuckle out loud at the proclamations of a great many fine art print sellers who elaborate lyrically about their finest special, grease proof, acid-free, color-fast, hand scooped, UV-resistant, paper of which all 'mono cells have been stereotypically removed', etc. etc. etc.

The truth is that people want beautiful prints on their walls and simply don't give a tinker's cuss what's it printed on. It’s common knowledge that you don't place a print in direct sunlight.


IMPULSE BUYERS

Arthur Benjamins

RIDERS.AND.HORSES..framed resized.jpg

HORSES AND RIDERS

16” x 48” x 2”

Many buyers may already have decided that this is the day when they will actually go home with a piece of art. I think that these are more difficult to please than the one who have had no such thoughts.

The ones who are looking for a piece of art may already have some kind of idea what it is they want. They may already have mapped out a place in their homes – whether it be a painting, wall decoration or sculpture.

They may have a pre-conceived idea from which it may be difficult to move them – even if they cannot bring into words what that idea is.

It is therefore highly likely that their visit to an art show will only serve to confuse them even more. The more they see – the deeper the confusion – the higher the chance that they'll go home empty handed, even if they have been most impressed with what they have seen - including YOUR work.

MAKING IT EASIER

So, what is/was a certain element that stood between you selling a piece and not selling it?

If you wish to discount the sales chat you may have in mind, the best possible thing is to make their path of decision as straightforward as possible.

Make ALL information about your work as easy as possible to read and digest from a distance of at least 5 feet

Let there be no confusion of the title, size and price on the description of your piece. By all means include a little story with it, but you must consider that many don't give themselves the time to read and digest, so unless you want to get them on your booth, place your work with the 'stories' at the rear in order to entice them on it.

.

You cannot SELL art. A viewer does or does not 'connect' with your work and there is nothing you can do.

Show visible signs that you accept a wide range of payment possibilities. The painlessness of credit cards or others must be subconsciously emphasized that way. Make that path as smooth as possible.

If the visitor is interested in a piece but you detect a certain hesitation, offer an alternative but oft-overlooked way of paying, like installments. You can also offer to carry the taxes and/or freighting.

If as many of those potential 'spoilers' are removed beforehand, the higher the chances that both those decided and undecided become clients.

How many times have you come away from somewhere with something you never anticipated that you would?

- - - oOo - - -

Arthur Benjamins - 2019