A few days ago, I had the chance to meet (me and 40 others but who’s counting!) the renowned art dealer Michael Findlay, director at Aquavella Galleries and former International Director of Fine Arts and a member of Christie’s Board of Directors.
Mr Findlay was there to share some advice about “How does a gallery find me in the 21st century?” during a conference organized by the New York Foundation of Art, whose staff is both helpful and nice.
Michael Findlay was very generous with his time and answered many questions even after the conference. I even got a chance to talk to him and get a dedicace for his book “The Value of Art” that I had read just a few weeks ago. 🙂
I found inspiring to meet such an expert, so down to earth and accessible. Thank you to the NYFA for this event and mostly to Mr Findlay for his genuine insights.
M.Findlay: “Since I’m not an art dealer anymore I did my homework before the conference with influential people currently active. Well for better or for worse, it seems things have not changed so much and much of what I will say may seem pretty obvious…”
1. What is the most important for an artist? Work! Make art that is personal. Some people try to see and make what sells, it can be a mistake on the long run.
2.What should be the goal for an artist? Show the art in flesh and make sure to be sure to show your best. The goal should be to show it to influencers who can be either fellow artists, gallery owners and the most important: collectors. When you are an art dealer, if a collector recommends an artist, it is likely you will listen. Artists can be very influential too and that is why artists must network with other artists. The main advice coming over and over again is “be around, be visible. somewhat aggressive but not too much”.
3.So how to start? Have a nice website. don’t make it too clever, keep it simple. Also give a sense of scale and context of the art (for example photos of art in a room). I am not a big fan of artist statements and for me education is not very important. Only the work.
4.What about social media? It seems important to maintain a presence but it’s not the key. Also be cautious with the temptation to show your art on your phone and therefore give a wrong or partial impression of your work. A better way is to give your card and let them go to your website.
5.How to convince a gallery? Take an interest in the gallery! Identify the right galleries for you. Go to openings. Make friends with the junior staff, they are the future gallery owners, or they can chat with the art dealer…and then there is also a factor of luck and timing. You have to be willing to wait. Art fairs are a good place to scout galleries but usually not the good time to talk to the dealer who is there to look for collectors. But you can always ask how artists are chosen, it’s not a question that can offend anyone.
6.What about dropping works at a gallery? usually it doesn’t work… Dealers like to find artists but there are exceptions!
7.What about the studio visit? You should rehearse. Pay attention to basic things, like giving clear directions, providing a chair. Then show your best work only and you can like John Jasper, show one piece at a time. Then… don’t talk! Let your work talk.
8.What is a gallery supposed to do for you? They are supposed to show your work to collectors, art fairs, museums, organize exhibitions… They take a commission of 50% but in that case, they absorb the costs. The best way before committing with a gallery is to talk to the artists represented.
9.Last advice? Invest in yourself! Of course if you don’t sell the question is irrelevant but as soon as you do, do not give away all your best work to the dealer even if they pressure you. Keep a few for the future you or your children.
NB: This article is based on the notes I took during the conference and are not a word to word retranscription of Mr Findlay’s speech. More was said, some anecdotes and examples were given, but at least these are the main subjects that were treated.