The late, great, Leo Castelli. Okay, he was already rich, but don’t say he didn’t have an eye for a big movement and know how to stick his neck out.
There are so many galleries al over Paris. I have my own theories about them. One is that they are used either as a way to write-off tax and/or to give Mistresses gainful employment and out of bed enjoyment by hob-nobbing in the “glamorous world” of Parisian vernissage and l’art contemporain (“Pass the awful red wine”…..yawn………)”. I’d bet my bottom dollar, if it was still worth anything, that making money is not the main function.
There is just not a great buying public in Paris. People here don’t have real disposable income like they do in the UK and USA as French salaries are typically very low in comparison. Tourists are too busy hitting the top five attractions to get under the skin of the art scene and the international jet-set that do zoom in and out of town would be well-served by the biggies, let’s say 5-10 galleries at most. I’ve really no idea how most of them stay in business.
I heard recently that there are a good few renting out wall space, especially to foreign artists who would descend to the gates of hell or even Les Halles crazy-making shopping centre to get a show in Paris. Rates are anything from 1000E a week to a crazy 8000E – WITH NO GUARANTEE OF SALES! Please remember this if you are tempted, even if you feel you can drum up a crowd yourself and would enjoy it…..
I think traditional style galleries deserve their cut. Especially if they have the guts to stick their neck out and try and run a profitable business and stay true to their personal aestetic, (and even more so in this damn country where it’s famously hard to do anything even slightly entrpreneurial). The whole point is that they use their judgement and taste to choose the artists, who could be completely unknown, and then ransack their address book, (in Paris, takes year’s to build up. French buyers are no fly-by-night Hedge Fund guys who just show up and drop 20 grand on something that might just take their fancy on the way home). So they deserve their cut and if they can love and understand the artists’s process, work and general raison d’etre then crucially translate this understanding and love into sales, hot-damn, it’s worth it.
Here’s what Robert’s reader asked: “What do you think about the yearly fee of the Agora Gallery in Soho, NYC? It’s a 20-year-old, nice and fast-growing gallery that represents hundreds of artists from all over the world. I was a member in 2000-2001. The member fee was $1000 back then. I had two shows with other artists, but didn’t sell anything. This year they will accept me as a member if I sign the contract and pay the fee. I’m wondering, should I do it? $3000 is big money. I might throw it in water again, or I might get a chance to sell my works at high prices and connect in NY. I need your advice.”
Robert replies: “Thanks, C.J. Not surprisingly, this question comes up often.
The Agora people are actively canvassing artists to send money. Many artists report no sales with them, although it’s always a possibility. I doubt their figures are that hot. Their system is to charge artists as well as buyers. They rent their walls. Galleries don’t normally charge a wall fee. Agora’s selection process is also suspect–it seems they’ll take anyone with $3000.
As well, the Agora folks fight a stigma. Most potential buyers who go there know that the artists have had to pay to get hung. This knowledge interferes with sales. To borrow a word from my last letter, it’s not a good “context.”
Artists are generally better off in galleries with standard profiles. Mutually agreeable, these galleries believe in the artists they actively represent. Working on consignment with no front-end fees, they take a decent commission for their efforts.
The thing about Agora is that it’s in New York. The “Big Apple” still cuts a lot of cheese. It’s amazing how eyebrows go up when “my New York gallery” is mentioned. People are blown over backwards in Humptulips.
We may be witnessing a trend. With far more artists looking for representation than previously, vanity galleries are on the rise. Exploiting creative people for monetary gain is nothing new. Because of your interest, C.J., I await correspondence from artists who have had success with Agora, and I will personally see that we publish every one of them in the next clickback.”
Voila. Subtract “New York” and add “Paris”. The allure is just as great but the price could be too high.