Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Transporting artworks to the exhibition venue is often the responsibility of the artist even if the gallery may agree to cover the return transportation costs. Having a local exhibition offers the possibility of saving costs by transporting   the artworks oneself. The physical agility and energy required to load and unload the vehicle; and to make several trips up and down several flights of stairs and through two sets of doors (photo of Centrepointe Theatre Gallery entrance), can be a challenge to do alone. The example shown in this blog, Arctic Crisis Project, Parts 1 and 2, involved thirty framed photomontage prints. Transporting close to home is still a snap compared to transporting to the other side of  world as in previous exhibitions in Xi'ian China, and then to South America in Bogotá Colombia. However, even closer to home, Canadian winter weather can make do-it-yourself transporting a challenge. A January solo exhibition at the MVS Gallery, St. Lawrence College in Brockville, required 2 seperate car loads in knuckle gripping snow storms along the highway 416 and 401. Regardless of whether its shipping artworks to China (FedX; Air Cargo), or transporting it next door, the "how to" challenges are unique to each situation.

The packaging of artworks for transporation is the responsibility of the artist, unless resources permit hiring a specialist. Information on the internet by museums and conservationists is helpful to the artist even if some of their methods are too expensive for most individual artists to follow completely. Specialists claim packing artwork is an art in itself. e.g For the do-it-yourself artist, being aware of issues such as extreme temperature fluctuations when sending artworks by air cargo can alert to the need of appropriate insulated packaging for the medium. Getting the artworks back-home is often another story, but needs to be figured out ahead of time. Sometimes, galleries agree to do a return shipping, and then the artist has the challenge of "letting-go" to their way of doing things. By providing the gallery with the packaging you prefer in a way that is easy for them to use, you maintain control.  I recommend at the very least studying the specialists' packing methods and then adapting their methods in an affordable way for your needs. If attending the international exhibition, sometimes one just has to transport their exhibition prints in a tube they carry on-board the air craft.

Artist-Gallery Agreement Contract re Transportation
The challenges are similar regardless of whether the practice is classified as "emerging", "mid-career" or "established" (see previous blogs). The differences are in the types of galleries, their stature and budget. In my experience, the other differences relate to what the artist will agree to in the artist-gallery contract agreement. For example, when I showed at the City of Ottawa Karsh-Masson Gallery in 2003/04, I agreed to transport my own work to and from the gallery. However, when they have an artist from, say Nova Scotia, they have paid for transporting the artwork at least one way. The norm for "professional" galleries is one-way transportation (return), and this includes the non profit sector artist-run galleries and centres who receive pubic funding.

Exhibition Installation
Installing an exhibition at the Centrepointe Theatre Gallery (photo) which has two floors and no elevator is going to be a challenge. The City exhibition information to artists suggests bringing a friend to help with installation, not available in many cases. And what about all the artists working from a wheel chair or otherwise not able to make the minimum of 10 trips up, and 10 trips down, two very long flights of stairs while carrying sets of 2 large framed works, which is what I will have to do. Now you see why I framed with Plexiglas instead of the heavier glass. What would make this seem worthwhile would be if the general public was even aware that the exhibition continued on the second floor, and they were of course physically capable, had the time, etc. to climb the stairs. Photo:  my grandson helping to install the exhibition.

Media Lists and Follow-up
Alas, it is Tuesday with the exhibition opening on Friday August 28/09, and there's been no free advertising from the City's media list distribution because they only sent it out yesterday, late in the day. Media lists are ever changing and require vigilant follow-up by a designated "paid" City employee. Desperate, I followed a version of one of the City's media list, sending emails on the list with 15 being returned as no longer functioning. I embarked on telephone calls to track down appropriate media contacts for my exhibition. In several cases, someone was taking over this week, or for an undetermined amount of time, for the person on the City's media list. This isn't a criticism of the City's employee responsible for the media list so much as an alert to how futile the media thing is unless one is completely committed. Ultimately, in my experience, the task falls to the artist. It shouldn't have to be done by the artist when there are people being paid to do this.

Expensive Process in Time and Money
The process for getting an exhibition, eg. Centrepointe Theatre Gallery, begins with having created the art. What is often overlooked are all the additional expenses in time and money by the artist. In this example, it begins with completing an application proposal with visual supports on CD of the artwork to be shown. A "peer" jury has the challenge of selection from sometimes more than a hundred hopefuls for relatively few exhibition spots, considering there are only 12 months in a year, each exhibition being a month. The successful applicant continues to expend time and money preparing art for presentation (framing), packing and transporting, installation, providing refreshments for a reception, and if there is to be an invitation, its design, printing and distribution. When the City the host agrees to distribute notice of the exhibition to the media, the very least is that the media list should be up-to-date with the key people. Dropping the ball, so to speak, at this point by a third party after the artist has invested so much is really not fair, and actually quite cruel. Certainly, there is no artist's copyright fee being paid here, and sales are dependent upon exhibition attendance. Its understood that the media may not respond to notices of the exhibition with public service announcements and coverage. At least if the right media contacts are made, there's a chance. People might visit the exhibition, but then they may not.

Exhibition Benefits for the Artist
Beyond the unlikely breaking even in terms of exhibition expenses, there are benefits for the artist's development during each step in the process described above. But only to a certain point in the artist's career. The artist has a chance to see their art as a body of work, to take distance as if the other person, to comtemplate their aesthetic direction, and to make decisions regarding the future direction of their artist career.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Welcome. Thank you for your comments