This is part two (of two) in the ‘Lessons From A Gallery Show’ series. In the first part I discuss how one artist killed his chances for shows at not one but 3 galleries because of unprofessionalism. In this part I discuss some of the unprofessionalism other artists in the same show exhibited. If you are unsure what “ready to hang” means, read this.
‘Ready to Hang’ is not a suggestion, it is a gallery rule.
When artists paid to participate in this show, it was made clear that all artwork must be ready to hang. Being an artist is NOT an excuse for an inability to follow simple instructions.
- The first incident involves a photographer. He walks up to the intake table & pulls out 3 photographs that he clearly just picked up from the drugstore photo counter. The woman next to me, who was handed the photos, just stared for a few seconds before asking: “and what would you like us to do with these??” The idiot (no I’m not going to be nice) tells us they were for the show. Duh. She clarifies, asking him precisely HOW we were supposed to hang loose photos. After being prompted a few times, he decided bulldog clips were OK. He didn’t provide any means for display, he apparently felt that the gallery should have boxes of supplies lying around just in case a lazy, unprepared artist showed up.
BULLDOG CLIPS, TAPE, & THUMBTACKS ARE NEVER AN OK WAY TO DISPLAY ART YOU INTEND TO SELL. EVER. These things often leave marks. They also make it clear to buyers that you don’t give a crap about your own work. If you put a price tag on art, it should be ready to hang not only in a gallery, but in someone’s house.
- One artist had a beautiful pen & ink drawing that was mounted in a narrow wood box. Rather than have it lay flat against the box, the paper was long enough to curve along the bottom edge of the box. It was lovely display method – for about 15 minutes. That was about as long as her ‘adhesive’ held (scotch tape if I remember correctly). For the next several hours, someone had to repeatedly go chasing that drawing across the room because it kept falling out. That nice curve meant it would go flying across the room….and under tables, chairs, and displays. Finally the gallery owner got so pissed off, he grabbed some double-sided tape and stuck it on there. Another artist volunteer asked if it was “acid free” tape. The daggers in his expression should have been enough but he said something like, “I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m not chasing this across the room all month. They should have mounted this properly.” Damn straight.
STICKERS AND MOST STICKY TAPES ARE NOT PROFESSIONAL WAYS TO MOUNT ART (or labels). If you feel you must use a sticker or tape, keep in mind that varying levels of humidity will cause the stickiness to deteriorate. Research your adhesive thoroughly.
- Another artist brought us her work on canvas board, no frame, just painted canvas boards. Her ‘ready to hang’ strategy? A piece of yarn held in place with two pieces of masking tape. I’m not making this up. Needless that say that her hanging method worked for about 15 minutes. It became a scramble trying to figure out what the gallery – and the volunteers – had on hand that might be of use.
“Ready to Hang” means art should be framed or have professional hanging device properly installed on the piece. Think about your potential customer’s reaction to seeing your ‘creative’ hanging method and what that could do to the gallery’s reputation – and your own.
- A few artists brought in artwork that was framed but didn’t bother attaching all the hanging hardware to the back – or any hanging hardware. Framing your art is good, not bothering to finish the job is stupid. Always triple check your work before leaving your house to make sure each and every piece has the proper hanging hardware attached. Even better, have someone else do one of those three checks. Just in case, always carry a small toolbox with framing supplies and other tools in your car anytime you need to drop off work to a gallery. If you have one of those “human” moments, at least you have the tools with you to correct it.
YOUR JOB IS MAKE SURE YOUR ARTWORK CAN GO DIRECTLY ONTO THE GALLERY WALL. The gallery should never, ever have to make adjustments to your work in any way. If you force them to put hanging hardware onto your frames, or find some method to hang your work, you can be sure that an invitation to show your work a second time won’t be coming any time soon.
Artists Are Fully Capable Of Following Rules
Each time I participate in a group show, which is basically all I do, I hear the same lame excuse when an artist fails to follow rules: “But I’m an artist, rules aren’t my thing.” BULLSHIT. You are an adult who is fully capable of following rules, you just don’t want to or can’t be bothered to. Either way you’re acting like a child. Being an artist is not a license to be a terrible human being and a burden to everyone around you. Throw out the rules when you make art. Grow up and act like an adult when you want to sell it.