Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gallery Relationships: Holly Wilson

In preparation for our Artist Survival Kit workshop, “Expanding your Horizons: Finding New Markets for your Art,” on Saturday, October 23, 2010, several artists who show regularly in venues outside Oklahoma will discuss their galleries, how they built the relationships and tips for other artists. 

Holly Wilson
Q: Where is your favorite gallery where you have shown, especially outside OK?

Holly Wilson, Red Dress,
Encaustic on Birch, 5x3"
Wilson: Goldesberry Gallery, Houston Texas!   I have said it to so many people it’s almost a joke. I have had most of my shows in Texas and have loved it. I’ve had three successful sole shows and that makes a difference. The Goldesberry Gallery was my first “Real” Gallery representation and while we have had our ups and downs it has been an amazing ride. They have grown and so have I.  Now I know what I need to be doing as a professional artist. For example:  inventory sheets, great photos of the work [before the show], updated information, and showing up with the work on time!

Q: Tell us about your most positive gallery relationships, what made them good? 

Wilson: In thinking of my most positive relationships I had to think of all my experiences with galleries, the good in contrast to the not so good, to really understand what is positive for me. For me the ability to communicate is paramount.  I want a gallery to be open to talk to whoever walks through the door about my work. Some gallery’s are too consumed with the game and I just recently realized that I am just not onboard with. I was sure that that was what I wanted; but I was just recently faced with that and I discovered it was not true. Now I hope that the gallery loves my work and that they will talk as if the work was from their own collection.  Last weekend I ran into a few people who had purchased some of my work several years ago. They seemed excited to see me and they said they still have the piece and told me where it sits and how they have enjoyed it for so many years. It really made my day, my week, my year and that’s how I want everyone to feel when they see or own my work. As I look at the galleries that have my work on their floor now I see that I have that and I hope I can continue this kind of relationship.

Q:  How did you initially find gallery representation and/or seek galleries outside of your community?

Holly Wilson, Cigar Girl Walking,
Bronze, Encaustic, Wood, 12.5x5x4"
Wilson: My first time to show in a gallery was before the Internet so it was all legwork, going into the galleries looking at the shows. And even with the Internet you still need to do that, if you can, to see the gallery in person and attend a show makes a big difference. You can see how the owners and the gallery staff are. Are they warm and friendly?  Would you feel they could tell the story of your art?
Before I got my first gallery I was told “no” by 5 galleries all in the same day. Number six said bring the work in and we will see what we think. Then later that night at another event I saw them again and they said to call them when I got the work home from another show and they would come see it. They drove 2 hours to see me and took 6 pieces back to their gallery. I had a Solo show with them 6 months later that following spring and I have been showing with them now for just over 16 years.

At this point I wanted to be able to drive to the galleries within a day or two so I looked at what are the markets by me with a really good presence. Then I check them out online to see who is showing.  I also inspect their web site; is it current, is it updated, what are the shows they have had and going to have, are they anywhere else, Facebook, Twitter etc.   I look up their artists and check what they’re showing and where else they’re showing.  If I happen to know any of the artists I call and ask what they do and don’t like about the gallery.  If I plan to submit I also ask if they would be comfortable writing a reference for me. Before I send anything I check the web site for guidelines on submitting. When visiting I make sure I have an updated book and about 6 examples in the car.
I am a big fan of taking that big breath and jumping!  I have my doubts, I do go round and round thinking  “Will they like me? Am I good enough?”  but in the end the worst they really can do it say no, and they just might say yes.

Q:  What advice would you give to artists about committing to a gallery or gallery show?

Wilson: Make sure you understand what the gallery is offering you for their split. Are they just a place to hang or are they working for you by calling collectors, corporate clients, museums, and doing PR in print and social media such as Facebook, twitter, and blogs?  Are there openings, closings, gallery talks, video promotions, etc?  These make a big difference in the outcome of your work being seen by people and, hopefully, people purchasing it. The goal is to have a gallery represent you and work for you and your art. When this happens it is worth the gallery’s cut and the exclusivity contracts.

Do not over commit. It’s better to show up with more than you promised than to come up short (Alyson Stanfield). I say this but it’s been hard for me to keep it as I have these grand ideas and then life kicks in with the job or the kids and I encounter delays or equipment failures and then I think I can still do it if I just don’t eat or sleep for the next 72 hours.

Read a profile of Holly Wilson in this recent issue of Art Focus Oklahoma magazine. 

The Artist Survival Kit workshop, “Expanding your Horizons: Finding New Markets for your Art,” is Saturday, October 23, 2010; 1-4 pm at Mainsite Contemporary Art Gallery, 122 E Main St in Norman (map).  This panel discussion will cover the basics of how a professional gallery relationship works, as well as tips for approaching galleries and exhibiting your artwork out-of-state. Panelists include artists Jonathan Hils and Kate Rivers, as well as gallery owner Joy Reed Belt. See the Artist Survival Kit page to register. 

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