"Merde! I absolutely detest all openings and parties! They're commercial, political and everybody talks too much. They get on my tits!"
The gallery model, as we know it, is flawed. Dramatic changes have affected how we view, experience and acquire art. Does anyone else see this, and if so, are you concerned with it?
People used to get excited to go to a gallery, meet an artist in person and experience a work of art. Now, with almost every image an artist makes available on the internet, more people can view the work online and decide if they like it enough to leave their house to visit the gallery, or attend the opening reception, or just stay in to watch another night of reality television. I guess there is also the flip side: maybe the artist sees marketing the work to a critical mass over the web beneficial to their career. Or maybe it's the collector who would like to see the work online first to get a sense of what they might want to acquire. What's really driving this art market -- artists, collectors, galleries? We'll save the answer to that question for another post.
Artists and dealers know that art must be experienced in person to truly get a sense of its magnitude -- it's the outsiders who don't get that. This is another benefit of visiting an art gallery. Viewing artwork on the Internet is like walking by a gallery on a rainy night and wiping the fog from the glass to get a peek. You think you can see the art but there is a barrier obscuring your vision -- distance from the actual art piece can distort your perception, and not being able to see how a work of art hangs or is displayed next to or near other works of art -- that can be an issue too. We'd hate for you to finally take delivery of your newest conversation piece just to find out it doesn't fit where you wanted it, or the color clashes too much with your chartreuse drapes. Most art is non-refundable.
The gallery used to be a place to go to meet up with friends and exchange ideas and build community. Patrons and students alike would come to see a show and then talk about it with their peers the next day. The arts community has grown to be less real and more superficial because of things like social media and sites like Facebook. With all the good that social media does as a marketing tool for galleries, artists and the arts as a whole, it also removes something from the art world equation: community.
Galleries are one such place to build a community -- a real, true social network -- your art ecosystem, and that is important. It's been this way forever. Warm body introductions are important. Social networks on the internet are okay to rack up followers or friends, but a great quote that I read in the book The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn states, "There is a big difference between being the most connected person and being the best connected person." My network came from the schools that I attended, but also through the artists, collectors, patrons, mentors, educators, curators and publishers that I bumped into at gallery openings and other art-related events along the way. Now that I am an art dealer, I don't get out to openings like I did in the past. When I happened to go to a recent First Friday's gallery event in Boston, it was great to run into old friends. It reminded me of what I love about the arts and I will stress it here again: the community.
Fact: There is definitely a different experience meeting someone in person, rather than just looking at their photograph on a website. Just ask the thousands who think they have found their soul mate on sites like Match.com, and then realize they look nothing like their picture when they finally meet up for a date. The same goes true for looking at and experiencing a piece of art in a gallery. Before you click that 'buy' button on one of those online websites that sell art, go visit and support your local art galleries and experience what can happen. You may just be surprised at what you see, whom you meet, and what you will learn.