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When to let them fly away by Robert Genn

When to let them fly away
by Robert Genn

Yesterday, Joe Radovich of Surrey, B.C. wrote, "Together with two other painters I'm having a two-day show in our art clubhouse this weekend. My question is, when someone buys, should we give it to them right away, or should we keep it hanging for the duration of the show?"

Thanks, Joe. I prefer shows to stay up until the last minute. I like the idea of maintaining integrity and showing the whole range of what I chose. Also, I don't like to see above-average paintings diminishing my remaining efforts by prematurely flying out the door. Whether as a group in a church basement or as a solo in a prestigious gallery, it's a retrospective and it deserves to be seen.

In my experience, collectors prefer a show to stay together and are quite willing to return again at show's end to pick up their booty. In the case of dealers, they often prefer this system as well--it gets the customer back into the gallery.

But these days, for commercial considerations, we sometimes find ourselves being overruled. The oft-heard remark "I'd have bought that if it wasn't sold," drives art dealers prematurely into rest-homes. Many dealers think when work is removed, even lesser remaining work looks rarer and more desirable. As far as I'm concerned, it's a risky practice. I once had a show where the dealer slapped brown paper around everything as it was purchased and encouraged bewildered folks to put down their wine glasses and move on. Toward the end of the show people were coming in, seeing only three miserable little paintings still hanging, looking at me as if I was a dysfunctional loser, and remarking, "Not painting much, eh?"

A better system is to have the "opening" on the last day of the show. Customers stand around juggling cheeses and waiting for the great dispensation. This way, work stays together so people can schmooze and take lots of time to decide. Dot-wielding sales staff have the luxury of further interaction.

In your case, Joe, I would encourage your customers to leave the happily red-dotted stuff up until the end--unless they happen to be momentarily catching a flight to Samoa.

Best regards,


PS: "It's not our art, but our heart that's on display." (Gary Holland)

Esoterica: Shows can be stressful. They range from indiscriminate rummage sales to snobby events where everyone says nothing in fear of appearing stupid. Artists have the most to lose. "To have all your life's work and to have them along the wall," said Andrew Wyeth, it's like walking in with no clothes on. It's terrible." Many artists these days think shows are demeaning, artificial and unnecessary ballyhoo. In 1807 Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres said he thought shows should be abolished. I'm afraid shows are with us for a while yet. Best to make the best of them. Let people get to know you through your stuff.


Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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