Thursday, November 2, 2006

Making Suggestions To a Gallery

Pink Patch, 206, Oil on Panel. 16x20

James at jrmedia asked me an interesting question in response to yesterday's post. He said:

I'm wondering, when you send your work to a gallery, do you ever 'suggest' how the pieces will hang - or is that just not the done thing?

I started to write a response and as usual it became rather long-winded so I thought I'd make a post of it. That way I can really prattle on and on.

Most of the galleries that I have worked with do a beautiful job of hanging their shows. So I have felt very comfortable in leaving my work and returning to find a nicely displayed exhibition. Doug and I have hung several of my shows at a few different art associations, so we know what's involved and that it does take a good eye and a bit of flair. I have a tendency to include too much work (editing my own work is not one of my talents) so I prefer to let the gallery take care of that as well as to group the paintings according to how they interpret them. Which is usually different than how I would. Which is good.

So at this point, I have never made any suggestions as to how they should hang my work. I suppose I might at some point, although right now I can't imagine doing that. I did come close this time, however, to making a suggestion. I made two large pieces specifically for the two spots in the gallery that will accommodate them, the director and I had discussed that ahead of time and she gave me the wall measurements. So when I dropped the paintings off, I mentioned that the two large pieces were meant for those spots, however if they felt that the work would be better suited somewhere else I was fine with that. Whatever they decide there will be no hissy fits on my part.

I certainly have had my share of bad experiences though. Mostly with art organizations whose livelihood doesn't necessarily depend on sales from their shows. I was in a show at an arts org a while ago and they did a terrible job of hanging the work, everything was either too low or too high and the groupings had no balance. They only sold about three pieces from the entire show and I feel certain that that number would have been higher if it had been hung better. There's a local organization that I participate in each year and I always offer to hang my pieces because they seem to have some difficulty with it, things are crooked and the nail holes and scuffs aren't always cleaned up properly. Last time, one of the two lights directed at my paintings had a burned out bulb at the opening, which was annoying. I did complain about that as I think that it really affected how my work looked at the opening. Burned out bulbs, especially at the opening receptions, are one of my pet peeves in a gallery and when I see that, it really bothers me. I was in a group show once where there were maybe 5 bulbs out. I didn't complain but it has affected my decisions about participating in future shows there.

That was a very long answer to a short question, which you all should expect from me by now. heh. To answer the other part about whether it is "the done thing", I don't know. And I would love to know. Perhaps some artists make suggestions, those who are more assertive than I am, and I imagine that more prominent artists would have some control over that if they wanted it, that is.

So tell us if you make suggestions about hanging a show or if you have heard of others doing so.


S.L. Peterson said...

I've never made any suggestions to a gallery regarding how to hang my work. The way I see it, if I didn't like the way the gallery owner hung paintings, I wouldn't be showing my work there anyways. I've chosen not to pursue representation with a couple of galleries that I didn't think did a good job of hanging the work for sale (too many paintings on the walls, etc) - I figured if my work wasn't going to be presented well, it probably wasn't going to sell.

Juried shows are another story altogether. I've been in shows that I never entered again once I saw how they hung the work. In one show I was in, there was a beautiful watercolor that was awarded a prize, but was hung behind the door that opened into the gallery where no one could see it!

Angela Ferreira said...

As long is not upside down and it sells, they can stick it up anywhere really!

Tracy said...

Stacy, I am influenced by how well a gallery hangs their show too, as too whether I will work with them. Although I must admit that I have 2 galleries representing me, that I have never even visited, so obviously it's not an iron-clad rule for me!

You are right about the juried shows! They can get pretty interesting-the holiday shows too, sometimes.

Angela, I have heard stories about work being hung upside down-it does happen! Unfortunately though, how a show looks does have some effect on sales, in my opinion, anyway.

amber said...

Yeah the upside down thing happened to a friend of mine
mine has been hung sideways,kinda bugged me a bit. what the heck!
Very informative subject thank you!

Anonymous said...

I woudn't tell the gallery owner how to hang my work either as I like to see what they come up with first. I exhibit in another state though, so it's difficult for me to help hang the work. Sometimes I think "ugh, why did you hang that next to that?" but really, at this stage I'm not in a position where I can get too bossy. For my next exhibition though I would like to at least see how they hang the work before I go to the opening, so if something does stick out for me I can ask to have it moved. Unfortunately though in my case, beggars can't be choosy.

jrmedia - on painters & painting said...

I agree Tracy - the 'art' of hanging art has a real influence on how an audience reacts to, and percieves, the art.
I read an interesting article recently about the Howard Hodgkin retrospective exhibition at the Tate Gallery and was intrigued to read how Hodgkin had specified, not only where the pieces would hang, but the colour of the walls!
You can see some photos on the Tate website which show the rooms painted with golds, blues, greens etc to compliment the art.
It's hard to imagine a modern gallery space with anything but white walls!
The Hodgkin exhibition raises some interesting ideas about the 'space' we exhibit our art... mmm, maybe it's time I get those old tins of house paint out and paint the living room again!....

Tracy said...

Amber, Sideways? Yikes, how does THAT happen?

Lauren, well I know what you mean. It is tricky to be assertive with out coming across as difficult. And for awhile it's good to be careful about that. But you will soon be able to be more choosy I think!

James, I love art displayed on colored walls! We have not one single white wall in our house and while it was quite a challenge to coordinate, I think our art collection looks so great on the wall colors we have. I should post some shots of them sometime.