Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Vanity Galleries

In response to a letter from Robert Genn's twice weekly musings at 'Painters Keys', I emailed a reply relating to pay-for-space art galleries. Due to editorial cuts not all of my email could be printed (lack of space etc.), so I have chosen to show it in full here for all those curious readers clicking through from the website. Also, I have included one of my more recent paintings to let you have a look at. It is called Altea Con-fusion (the road rises). Let me know your thoughts....

Dear Robert
It's interesting to hear your comments about paying for wall space in galleries as 'ego' and 'vanity' based. Of course it is! What is an artist if not driven by ego? We constantly put our hearts on our sleeves and expose ourselves - and our insecurities - to either ridicule or adulation depending on your circle of admirers/detractors, of which there are legion.

I have used the pay-for-space type gallery successfully in the past, although not in the Agora gallery, and have come out ahead financially, egotistically, broadened my travel and artistic experiences, and have succeeded in lifting my own profile on the international stage because of it.

Why not? If you hide your light under a bushel of brushes and wait to be discovered, chances are you will probably give up through disillusionment and get a 'real job' again. There are two types of canvas in my art world. I paint on one, but I canvas votes also, by pushing myself constantly into the public realm. As fellow countryman of mine, Oscar Wilde, once said "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."

Yes, it costs money. Yes, it can be thrown in the water if you choose to look at it that way. It's the chance you take. I don't see it that way, however, as I get a bigger buzz travelling to the country concerned and relish all the adventures, artistic or otherwise, I have along the way. For me that is the pay-off. I get to write about it in my blog, I get people talking about me and my work, I lift my profile higher, I collect new collectors of TJ Miles' artworks. The bonus is when I sell a numerous paintings as well. I then have new advocates of my work, who will in turn talk about me in other circles, in other societies, in other languages, in other places around the world. You have to feed the beast to make it hunger again. If you fail to feed it in the first place it cannot recognise what hunger is and will wither and die before it has had a chance to fully come to life.

I have found the pay-for-space style so successful that I am toying with the idea of starting my own gallery along the same lines here in Spain. By renting wall space, I don't consider it taking advantage of struggling artists at all, in fact I think it gives them an opportunity to exhibit in a location, and at a time in their careers where a hand up is better than a hand out. The pay for space idea, in my mind, would be a way for me to cover the rental of premises, which in turn would enable me to exhibit potentially important artists of the future who could have fallen by the riverbank of despair and lethargy because they failed to get that first opportunity.

I am curious to see how many artists who read your letters and subsequent replies would be interested in exhibiting in Spain. With the possibility of throwing in a few days of Spanish history, architecture, art and a holiday at the same time. Please don't think I am looking for a free advertisement here, I'm not. I am very capable of contacting all the artists on the 'painters keys' website and countless others advertising their egos on the web, just like myself. I would just be interested in knowing what proportion agree with my views and would consider my thoughts to have merit.

A gallery owner and long-time exhibitor of my work, and also a good friend of mine, once had a group of teenage art students organise a trip to ask his advice about the art market and how they should go about forging a career. When they came in (always the Irish wit) the first thing he gave them was a clove of garlic each. They looked puzzled until he told them to carry it in their pocket when visiting a gallery owner for protection. The premise being that most gallery owners were vampires and this should protect them from the gallery owners getting their teeth into them too early before they have a chance to establish themselves as individual artists.

The pay-for-space type of exhibition just means your buying a service which, if things go according to plan, you should get back through sales anyway. You are aware the bite in the neck is coming, but it has it's benefits in other ways. A sort of love-bite instead of a full blown arterial letting, shall we say?

With best wishes as always
TJ Miles

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