Episode 154 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Questions


Then we were asked a slightly bigger question than we had expected. The top curator said, “Well, what would you like exactly in terms of space and time?” We hadn’t thought about that beforehand, so fairly quickly we just asked for the moon. I said we wanted all six thousand square feet in the space where we were sitting, including the galleries off to the side, and we wanted it all for at least a month. She nodded her head and took notes. We were thanked for coming to the meeting and told that they would be in touch. As of that moment, the show was being considered but was not in the bag by any means. We had three more meetings before we signed a contract for the exhibit. We were asked if we could do the show in two months. We said no, that was too soon to prepare, and they said the only slot after that was a year from then, and we happily said that was the spot we wanted. Then we spent a year working on the show. When the show finally went up, it was billed as a “commission” by the Whitney Museum, which we liked very much and were surprised by, but we also understood that how a show is publicized by the museum is up to the museum for the most part, not us.


One of the questions we had over the course of several meetings with the curators was how much money the museum would give us for this show. We knew this was a tricky question because there is not a set amount that artists get in most cases. However, we had a method for finding out exactly what they could offer us. In many cases, the museum will only give you a portion of what you need, even if they are commissioning it. When we were in the group show at the Whitney Biennial, we were given a $400 budget. That was of course very little, so like many artists, we had to do fund-raising beyond the show. That meant that if we needed a tent built (and we did), we would ask the company that made it to donate that to us (and they did). There was even an artist in that show (the Biennial) that the museum commissioned to do a huge installation, but the museum would not pay for it. However, because it was a prestigious show, the artist was able to ask sponsors from all kinds of places to help pay for the show, and they did.

Now in the show that I am talking about in this chapter, which was a solo show in a giant space, we had to come up with a budget. This is how we did it and is also how we found out what was the most they could afford.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.


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