Getting a gallery show – perspective from an arts manager

There are a lot of posts by artists on the internet about getting into galleries – and I have many friends who are artists that ask me the same question – “How do you select artists for a solo or group exhibition in your/ a gallery?”

Truth be told there really is no straight-forward “formula”. I usually tell artists to approach people they know in galleries if they’re friends with them, or to just approach galleries directly even without an agent or curator in the middle – ESPECIALLY without an agent in the middle. In Bangkok at least, agents are not as common or a norm (yet). In fact, many seem aggressive or pushy with their artists. That’s not the Thai way, or Asian way in fact. And there’s usually more ‘excitement’ involved than need be. 

Anyway, gallery owners or managers are not going to bite your head off if you walk-in unannounced asking for a gallery show. In fact, it’s quite common. The main problem is not only approaching galleries for a show with your work (although I understand that can be quite intimidating for new artists), the main challenge is in being noticed. There’s no formula in standing out as well. Artists can stand out by saying “ground-breaking” or shocking things – yes we will remember you for your radical ideas, but that does not necessarily get you a show. That just makes a good story to share. 

Be prepared and keep trying! It will be worth the trouble.Show works that you believe in and that represent who you are. Show you care. Show you understand this is also a business and you are willing to cooperate. Show that you have chosen this gallery specifically because you believe your style of works and profile will suit our gallery’s mission. Show that you have researched. If rejected, don’t become explosive or abusive – it’s a part of life. Develop yourself and your works and come back. Some might reject you for trying too hard, others will respect your efforts. That way, you will also know who you click with and want to work with. And most importantly, keep in mind nothing is straight-forward. Gallery representation does not only rest on being talented or creative, there are various facets involved in this business for a variety of reasons. 

 

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Painting a beautiful divorce – Anne of Cleves, 1539

I recently discovered something interesting about King Henry VIII’s fourth wife and had to write it down.

Other than the fact that King Henry obviously had no regard for his wives, all 6 of them – it felt great reading how art had a hand in manipulating him to marry someone he divorced in a heartbeat.

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Quick background his wives: One died, one survived,two divorced and two were beheaded.

  1. Catherine of Aragon (marriage annulled; died while detained under guard at Kimbolton Castle);
  2. Anne Boleyn (executed);
  3. Jane Seymour (died days after giving birth, widely believed to be following birth complications);
  4. Anne of Cleves (marriage annulled);
  5. Catherine Howard (executed);
  6. Catherine Parr (widowed).

In 1539, King Henry VIII went looking for wife number 4. His chancellor Thomas Cromwell assured Henry he knew of a German princess who would be a perfect match. The King’s painter-in-residence, Hans Holbein the Younger, returned with a painted portrait of the princess and Henry immediately fell in love. When she arrived to England however, he was more than a little appalled.

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      “As Michael Farquhar reports in his book, “Royal Scandals”, the king’s first words upon their initial meeting were, “I like her not.” In a letter to Thomas Cromwell, Henry complained that she stank and her breasts sagged. They were married on January 6, 1540, but Henry was so repelled by her that he could not bring himself to consummate the marriage. In another letter to Cromwell, written after his wedding night, he said, “I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse . . . [I] could never in her company be provoked and steered to know her carnally.” Anne agreed to a quick divorce, and received a handsome settlement that enabled her live out the rest of her life in comfort. Thomas Cromwell was not so lucky; he was accused of treason and beheaded a few days after the divorce became final. Curiously, Holbein retained his post as King’s Painter, and does not seem to have incurred Henry’s wrath.”

Quite ironic nothing happened to the painter in residence, and how a portrait was enough for the King to decide to marry Anne Cleves. Imagine if that was the only basis for men to select women to marry or become attached. Oh wait, I think that still exists. Pfft

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