What if I ran my gallery more like British Petroleum?

Been thinking a lot about the business of running a gallery, and especially the business of being an artist. Typically, a gallery will keep 50% of the sale and the artist the other half. The gallery has a community of people it fosters to promote artists and help people develop their collections. You pretty much are able to expect to walk into a gallery and look at the art. If you want to buy it you can, and if not you can walk back out. Openings are open invitation and you are welcome to have a drink, some nibblies and meet fellow art lovers and artists.

But what if we changed things up a bit so running a gallery was more like how different organizations, corporations and associations run things?Let’s compare a few, starting with BP….

1. What if I ran my gallery like British Petroleum?

First of all, I would set up shop in the heart of the cultural and economic center of a large urban area where there are lots of other galleries. Then I would build a gallery out of, say, asbestos and dynamite because these materials work fine as long as they are not on fire. No time for safety inspections. After stuffing the building with priceless art, I would then ignore and belittle the staff who are nervous and complaining the building is unsound. Ideally, I would never have seen or visited my own gallery. Why would I? Anyways, when the building catches fire and kills and maims my staff and a bunch of the artists I would claim the fault is with the building material company. Being an art fire, I have to design a special fire truck and have it shipped from the other side of the world to put it out in a special way so as to allow me to build another gallery in the same spot. Don’t bother me with the details of other galleries, business and homes nearby also burning down in the meantime. In fact, I will publicly comment on how hard this has been for me personally. My whole life is upside down! Perhaps that is the biggest travesty of all.If the mayor complains about me, I will claim he or she is being anti-arts and is a culturaphobe. I may even sue for libel and slander. In the meantime, don’t worry, my gallery will be profitable again. Ow… I think I hurt my finger. I need a vacation.

An interesting model to consider. Perhaps in Hamilton.

2. What if I ran my gallery like an Airport?

First of all, I would make it very easy to get to. You can spend 40 minutes driving to it and park for only $8 every half hour. Or for the more economical conscious art viewer, you can take the gallery shuttle for $16 each way.  Once you get to the gallery you will be welcomed with a $15 gallery construction fee – to serve you better in the future. Then you have a few options to view the entire art show – you can pay a $100 to view the work in a comfortable chair pod with warm, moist towelettes and classical music. Or you can pay $30 and sit in a room with 50 other people on wooden stools and see one painting of your choice. Take heart in the fact the security guard who searches mostly visible minorities entering the international art section is an owner as well. We serve wine and cheese of course, but these extra frills are 10$ for a glass of wine and $8 for a portion of cheese.

At this point, I don’t really care about selling the art anymore, but if you do want to buy a work then there will be tax on it – not the usual modest 13% but an equally modest (in our task force’s official opinion) 53%.

Time to leave? Thanks for visiting, and don’t forget there is a $15 departure tax for the art visitors. Oh, and we have taxis lined up to take you back to the city, but for a set price of $45 each. Don’t forget to tip.

3. What if I ran my gallery like a Bank?

First of all my gallery has the right to make money more than your right to see art. It is a very delicate entity and is very sensitive to any sort of criticism – in fact, criticizing my gallery might collapse the entire world art zeitgeist, and that includes my 33 million dollar bonus as curator. So back off. Wait – times are a little tough so maybe you should leave a 33 million dollar cheque and in return we will promise to stop financing black velvet paintings of bullfighters for poor people. We thought we were providing a valuable service by lending money to buy mass-produces sweat shop kitsch with a modest 27% interest rate. Well, I kinda knew that was a little risky so I took out insurance that would pay my gallery more than the paintings are worth should poor people default on the paintings. I don’t want to give the impression that these people are allowed to keep the art works! No, no – rest assured the paintings are left to rot where they hang, and if anyone tries to come back to look at them then the police will arrest them for aesthetic trespassing. In no way does this mean these poor people are off the hook for what they owe either – my gallery has a right to make money! Look, it’s all very complicated financial matters that are best left to gallery owners like me so don’t worry about it. Rest assured, if you let my gallery go out of business then people will be eating babies in the streets and Mel Gibson will move in next door.

For god’s sake, keep building houses to hang my new line of black velvet paintings in and don’t forget to blame the poor people when you drive to my gallery in your SUV – with the doors locked, of course.

4. What if I ran my gallery like the Toronto Police Force?

There is a strong and imminent threat of young, privileged white kids from Rosedale coming to my gallery exhibit about the future of the world. I need at least a billion dollars to ensure they get nowhere near the artists or art work. I know having my gallery smack-dab in the middle of your neighbourhood may be slightly inconvenient but you should actually leave town. You must have a cottage in the Muskokas right? I do, and sometimes I need to shop at Old Navy instead of American Apparel because of it. Times are tough for all of us. Anyways, it is very important to impress my rich clientele with fences, empty streets and snipers everywhere. Then they will get a true taste of what our culture has to offer.

I formed a gallery committee to pass a law that no one is allowed within 5 meters of the art. Well, actually I didn’t but really you have no business being near my gallery, or in the city that my gallery is located in. You were warned there was an art exhibit going on so if you get searched and arrested because there might be a law somewhere applicable to something you may or may not of done so it is your own damn fault.

Still want to see the art? Ok, we’ve set up an interactive educational museum tour consisting of small cages and cheese sandwiches. It’s not exactly near the gallery but what it lacks in quality it makes up for in quantity – please enjoy the facilities for a minimum of 16 hours. If you get lonely, your loved ones are probably concerned with your sudden disappearance as you headed off to your job and with absolutely no communication from you they have appeared at our off-site programming exhibition. Our staff will go outside and bring them in as well! For the safety of the art installation all persons of differing opinions must be locked up inside the art facility. Our male uninformed art interpreters will also be available to threaten to assault female participants. If you think this is too harsh then remember that somewhere at sometime someone destroyed something. If it was not for people, then there would be the need for art installations so you must accept the blame, being persons.

Any criticism of my gallery and off-site programming is naive and ill-informed. Thousands of art lovers from elsewhere who watched clips of the exhibit festivities on TV agree with me. There is no need to investigate or criticize my curating any further as I have asked my employees to recommend ways that the experience can be improved for the next time I have an exhibit in your city. Certainly two billion dollars will help ensure that absolutely no one gets anywhere near the art show even in the densest of urban areas.

Wait – I think I just described the AGO.

Anyways, I think I will stick with the current model of running an art gallery. Free art shows, friendly conversation and a little wine, cheese and grapes. It may not interest you, and I may be poor for the rest of my life but at least I know I’m not a complete asshole – except to the people mentioned above.

One comment

  1. Margherita · July 20, 2010

    Love this. Don’t stop…please let us know your recent thoughts on “the business of being an artist” .


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