Museums, Galleries, and Purity
Museums function very differently than galleries, and they have different goals and approaches to art. Museums look for projects that expand the definitions of art and they are looking everywhere for it from the Middle East to Brooklyn. A museum wants to bring in something that educates, and since almost all curators and museum directors are academics, they are looking for something they understand and that they feel is important.
Museum versus Gallery
It is important to understand the differences between museums and galleries so you know that preparing to approach one is very different from preparing for the other. Unless a gallery is a co-op run by artists or a nonprofit space (both of which make little or no sales), it has really only one goal—to make a good profit. This is because galleries cost money to run, and their shows usually sell very little, so the sales they do make need to be as high end or commercial as possible so they can pay for all their business expenses. By necessity, galleries are less interested in the art than its ability to sell. The upside is that you can make a gallery an offer they can’t refuse, and that is generally a no-no for museums.
Making a Deal the Gallerist Cannot Refuse
A deal you cannot refuse is a staple in any businessperson’s repertoire. It means that you present yourself and your proposal in such a way that is impossible or nearly impossible to refuse because it’s clear that everyone wins. If I ask you for $100 and guarantee that I will give you $200 in a week, would you refuse? That’s an example of a deal you cannot refuse. If you trusted me, you would pay me $100 because the deal clearly works in your favor. This, in essence, is the basis of any proposal that is difficult to refuse. It doesn’t matter if you are talking to a gallery, an investor, or a business partner; the other side wants to know what is in it for them, and they want to take as little risk as possible.
It Isn’t about Your Art Alone
That is why just showing your work to a gallery is not nearly enough. Even if your art is stunning, the gallerist isn’t interested in liking you or your work as the priority. She has a very serious financial decision to make about whether your work will likely bring them a good financial return on their investment, which is giving you a show. Museums are different, and we will discuss them soon, but galleries must think about profits. If they didn’t, you would not want to be with them. The reason you seek galleries is to sell your work, so why would you sell to a place where selling your work wasn’t their main objective? Sometimes you may find very small, poorly run galleries similar to small, unambitious businesses, and they may not be motivated to sell your work and having good shows. Do you really want to be there?
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.