Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Art Blog: Want FRIES with that ART?

Artists are scrambling to find new and innovative ways to have their art seen and sold. The number of galleries are dwindling and skyrocketing costs/commissions cause artists to rethink how they will get their work out of the studio. Hanging art in alternative venues like restaurants and businesses is not a new idea. However recently, there seems to be surge of interest in this practice. After seeing invitations and announcements about these kinds of "shows", I began to ask questions. I knew I would never show my work in a restaurant or club, but then I asked myself WHY? After thinking about this for a while, I came to some conclusions. However trying to be open minded, I asked other artists for their opinions too.

Claudia Olivos
"I had a horrible experience with all my paintings getting damaged. After 7 yrs, the restaurant owners dropped them off without warning.... lucky for us the rain came an hour after we got home; so, I guess it could have been worse. I had another experience which WAS good..BUT the owner was also an artist, that helps. Restaurants should be grateful for our art...never take commission...rather, we should be paid for our "decoration" just as musicians are paid for their services at a restaurant.... but that is wishful thinking...so at the very least, full payment for services is good. A restaurant should allow labels for the art, as well as allowing the artist to leave business cards at the front desk. (I had people report to me that my art labels were always taken down except when they knew I was visiting...also reports about one particular waiter who would tell everyone the paintings had been painted by him."

Cagney King
"You know...at first...I thought this was a great idea. Another clever way to get art out into the public, possibly promote the artist...so I checked out a few local cool restaurants that were getting into this pretty heavy. I sat down and ordered an appy and some suds and observed. The art on the walls was very cool. Right up my alley, urban, free flowing painted on cardboard mounted to wood frames of sorts. Very cool. Then it happened...a table at angle across began discussing the work more loudly than normal and after a bit of laughing and head shaking decided to fling their food at it like monkeys flinging their shite. I looked around in horror and gave them a most nasty stare to try to make them uncomfortable...it didn't work. I finished and before leaving let them know my opinion on their behavior and how appalling and uneducated I believed it to be. They apologized in the most UN-sincere of ways and I left to visit the bar on my way out and bring their antics to the attention of staff...on which they reacted in mock horror and said they would be sure to clean it up before the artist noticed. This establishment is in the artsy district and known for full support of artists and their work and I know they can't help it if the occasional group of monkeys come in...but that was enough for me. I kindly declined the offer to hang my work."

Marilyn Fenn
"I have hung shows of my work in several restaurants in the past. Nothing bad ever happened, but I never made a sale via those outlets, either. It was nice that some of my work got some additional local exposure (beyond art shows in art spaces), but after awhile, I started thinking that restaurants weren't a very good venue for selling art, and that perhaps it cheapened the perception of the work as "art." There are still a few restaurants, however, in which I would be happy to have my work hanging. These are better restaurants that usually show work by some of my favorite local painters, and so I would consider my work in good "company." These are also the type of places in which the type of behavior mentioned in Cagney's comment above would almost assuredly never take place."

Gabrielle Pascador
"As nice as it is to have an exhibition opportunity, people generally don't go to restaurants to look at art, just as people don't go to galleries to eat (although at some openings, I've seen otherwise). Also, I get a bit nervous when people are eating messy stuff or leaning book bags near my work."

Erika Allison
"I've had good experiences hanging in restaurants. I could actually say I've never had a BAD experience. However, I've always felt that I was decorating the restaurant's walls for free. Years ago, when I lived in the Chicago... I hung in several restaurants with little "success". I did finally sell a watercolor to a business - so then I was in a corporate collection! I moved here to Las Vegas about 5 years ago and wanted to become a part of the arts community - and have opportunities to show my work. An artist I knew invited me to show in an upscale local restaurant (as opposed to a restaurant on The Strip. I was hesitant, thinking I'd be decorating walls...but I went ahead because I did need to find venues, etc. The restaurant had a contract with the artist who invited me. She curated their exhibits. In the end I sold two $600 paintings. So, now, I have to quit babbling on about decorating the walls...LOL Yes, there was a contract and they covered the insurance."

Andrea Pawlisz
"Restaurants like to "exhibit" art because it's free decor. If they should happen to sell a piece, then they make a commission too. Other options are coffee houses or retail. I have done well at both. Any artist hanging art in any space outside their studio without a contract and inventory is not protected and does not value their work. It is the artists responsibility to work as a business, that is if they want to have success and be taken seriously."

Sheree Rensel
OK....Here is my take on this situation. One of the first things that comes to my mind is the idea of FREE art / restaurant decor. I see it this way. Restaurants / businesses spend big bucks on design for their establishments. I highly doubt that the lighting designer allows the restaurateur to hang his/her fixtures free with the idea that patrons will come in, admire them, and want to buy them. All kinds of art/craft goes into business decoration, but I don't think any of the other "artists" ask for nothing but a space to "advertise" or display their wares. Do you think the graphic designer created the menus for free in hopes of future sales or new clients? Did the interior designer work gratis in order to gain more business from those coming to the eatery? I think not. Yet, fine artists are supposed to give it up and then might even have to pay commission if something does sell. That doesn't make sense or seem fair to me. The business buys the rest of the decor, I think they should BUY the art too.

Secondly and probably the most emotionally charged reason I don't see this kind of art opportunity as a surefire win for artist is the possibility of damage. I have had my work damaged before and it is difficult to describe the feeling you get when you look at an artwork that is ruined. Maybe I feel so strongly because I put so much of myself into my work. It feels like someone hurt ME. If your work is in a gallery, there is a built in order and decorum. People know to respect the art. When you put your art in other types of venues, there isn't always that same kind of regard. That worries me.

If you are an artist, you can do what you choose to do. As you have read, showing in alternative venues can be great or terrible. There are many variables on which to base your own opinions. You have to decide for yourself. It is important to be creative, but you need to be careful too!

The artist "RC" allowed me to use this photo of one of his damaged paintings. His case is extreme. He lost 17 works to damage after they were displayed in a nightclub. Just looking at the ripped canvas makes my heart sink. THANK YOU to all the artists who submitted their opinions. I truly appreciate your help!

3 comments:

sara star said...

Although I have purchased art from coffee shop venues, I have never successfully sold any in that venue. I have been more successful connecting directly with buyers or by having my art used for newspaper articles, which of course I was paid for.

namastenancy said...

That rip in a damaged painting just broke my heart. All of my artist friends here in SF have shown in cafes and restaurants and have seldom sold. Back when smoking was allowed, a bunch of my watercolors came back stinking so badly of cigarette smoke that I never displayed again. I also had bad luck in renting work through an artists co-op - one of my best pieces went "missing" and I never recovered the cost. So, I'm down on some of the alternate ways of displaying art It's too bad that all the ways to show your art are becoming more difficult. I wish I had better answer

JafaBrit's Art said...

I will be exhibiting in a local cafe next year and it's very high quality place and I have had great sales there in the past. However, after that obligation, I believe I will be done with exhibiting in such a venue again. I agree, it's decorating their walls for free, but there is no reciprocal promotion or support, other than the feeling that they are doing you some GREAT favour.