Things have been disrupted and the art world has been changed forever. Experiential is the name of the game of late—just look at Meow Wolf—but here and there, we find remnants of the old days wherein the galleries held the power and collectors roamed the land looking to expand their holdings.
Look, galleries aren't all bad and, in some cases, they're wildly helpful to the up-and-comers, the lesser-knowns and (yeah) the wealthy. Still, this is Santa Fe, so you'll surely be engaging once in awhile. Save your cause for your own time and learn to be an astute art observer, whether you've got the cash to take part or not. As always, we've enlisted the help of locals from within that world, but they'll be kept anonymous so as to not cause them any grief.
Don’t Lie to “Help” People
Says one of our sources, it drives them nuts when friends of the artists show up and loudly, dramatically fake like they're gearing up to buy a piece in front of prospective collectors. The jig is up on that one, friends, and all you're doing is upping desperation appearances. This goes double if you showed up like I normally would—unkempt and in whatever sweater happened to be nearest to the door when you were leaving the house.
Don’t Waste Time, Either
If you tell a gallerist you're interested in buying a piece, they'll probably do everything they can to help you. If you, however, act like you're ready to close a sale for whatever reason—to make yourself feel big? We don't know—and then pull out, ghost or otherwise prove you've wasted their time, you've gotten hopes up, set events into motion and, we're pretty sure, forever become that person they describe by name as a phony who shouldn't be taken seriously to others in the art world. Y'know, like people do with me.
Speaking of Time, Think About Whose This Is
One local curator tells us that people show up to openings ready and raring to pitch their own work more often than you'd think. This is tacky. "It's like they're erasing the person in front of them," they say, pointing out that an opening is that artist's night, and at best it's weird to shoehorn in, and at worst it's downright disrespectful. This source goes on to add that asking about the nuts and bolts, like where a print was made so they can also get prints made, glosses over the real reason everyone is there.
Direct Contact Hurts
This column is not meant to defend an obviously flawed system wherein the richies collect the art and the rest of us just get to look at it at openings and such before it's sent off to Texas or wherever. But we're not going to solve the complexities of the gallery economy in a few hundred words, so instead we'll defer to our source who tells us it's tough when gallery-goers check out a show then find the artist on Instagram later to try and get a deal on the artwork. On paper, this sounds wonderful—cut out the middle man, more money goes to the artist—but it also means headaches for creators who just want to create, and that the gallery has less motivation to get that artist in front of as many eyeballs as possible with marketing bucks and the like.
Not art related, but a number of people we spoke to say they're tired of people who come in, dump those little cheese cubes (or whatever snack) into their bag and wander off. If you're sincerely hungry and can't do a lot about it, you should definitely do this; if you're doing OK and are just a cheapskate stealing cheese, that's pretty bogus.
No One Cares, Chump
The gallery folk we spoke to seem to have at least one pet peeve in common—that person who shows up to loudly proclaim how they bought a piece from whatever artist years ago, before they were big, before it cost an arm and a leg. Awesome, wonderful, good for you. It's still the art show equivalent of people who need to tell you they only liked that one band's early stuff. Everyone just wonders what that's for and who you're out to impress. They also think it's gross.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
"I wish they wouldn't be afraid to negotiate on pricing," one source says. "I wish they felt like they could ask about payment plans." Indeed, we often feel like the price is the price—and this is absolutely true some places; read the room—but, they say, at least in their experience, most artists would rather knock a couple bucks off a piece than have it forever sit on a wall or not sell at all. Use this advice to also ask the artist about their own story. You might be surprised by what you learn.
This One’s for the Artists
There's this misconception that moxie and aggression means you're helping your career when, according to one source, it's doing just the opposite. Don't cold-call making demands; try to set a meeting. Don't invite a curator to your car during someone else's show so you can display your work. That's weird. "This is the colonial mindset," our source says. "We call it the 'entrepreneurial sprit,' but I call it the douchebag spirit. It's good to put yourself out there, but it's good to be consensual."