Thursday, 31 March 2016

Interning at an Art Gallery and Advice for Artists

I have just finished my three month internship working at a vanity gallery in east London. It was amazing and I was able to learn so much so quickly. It was my first time working intensively in a gallery environment and as such I was exposed to the logistics and inner workings needed to help keep a gallery ticking in terms of the day to day. 

From art handling, unpacking and installation I learnt the maths required to hang art work, a lot of DIY skills and can proudly say that I can sort out the calculations, draw guideline, hammer nails, remove nails, fill holes, sand and repaint walls. I even learned how to successfully use an electric drill. All while making sure the middle of the artwork is at 150cm or 'eye level'. The gallery had a huge exhibition turn around with two venues and a total of four separate group shows a month. I really appreciate being physically active in the workplace and mastering skills that typically I would have never tried and now I'll be much more than confident in my future home if there's ever any hanging involved!  

As an artist when it comes to hanging your artwork, we'll do all the manual labour but there's a lot of cost related logistics for you to consider. First you may need to get your work printed if it's a digital piece or an 'edition', so you need the decided the material, with the most popular being paper, aluminium or plastic. This will affect whether it needs framing. Then, will you buying cheap frames or pay for a service? Is your work on canvas board, this one is tricky. Will it be framed, attached to the wall via velcro or nails around the edge which may cause small damage? Do you want your work hung from the frame, string or wire which may stretch depending on the weight of the piece and can affect it's height when hung? 

The easiest way to bypass this is simply working or printing directly onto framed canvas. It can be hung from the frame, it's the easiest thing to hang, it won't get weighed down and you don't need to pay for any framing fees. 

With shows changing so rapidly, opening nights and online promotion is a massive deal. I helped with PR, from organising and creating tumblr posts for each artist and Facebook albums for each show to helping host opening nights, serving drinks and mingling with clientele and the artists themselves. It's astounding the conversations you hear and engage with at art shows. I love how educated but almost other worldly they are. As someone with a great personal interest in art and is largely self taught, it's fantastic to get involved and discuss perspectives. One of my favourite parts of opening events is seeing the happiness in the artists' faces. 

The gallery itself is situated in a very hipster, vintage, quirky and artsy part of London so the people visiting and engaging with the gallery are usually such characters. Before each exhibit we also go out flyering, giving me the opportunity to speak to many employees in other nearby companies and honestly everyone is so lovely and genuinely interested in the art. The fact that our shows do change so often really appeals to many people and they look forward to seeing fresh work every fortnight.  

Our gallery exhibits group shows under an umbrella of themes such as Portraits, Contemporary Painting and Works on Paper to name a few. (We also offer sole hires.) As we hire by 3, 6 or 9 meters and work by application only, a large part of the job is working closely with artists as clients. Whether that's responding to direct applications and enquiries or researching and inviting artists. It's amazing being able to fill my brain with so much inspiring art on a regular basis. When looking for applicants we love emerging artists and being able to help people gain exposure, it's such a great and worthwhile cause. 

Yet there have been so many times that I have found AMAZING artists and haven't been able to contact them as the don't have an email address anywhere. Accessible email addresses are SO IMPORTANT. I cannot stress this enough. A company will not tumblr ask or Facebook message, DM you. It just won't happen. We need records of our interactions and we need to remain professional. The most social media switched on artists I have found are always on instagram. It is the absolute best when an artist has their email address in their instagram bio. 

Social media links are also vital. If you have a website make sure you get social media buttons (e.g. the pink logo circles you see in the top of this blog's side bar), it's the quickest and easier way for others to find your work and get to know you as an artist. When corresponding with a company you may talk to a few gallery assistants or managers, and being able to easily refresh their memory of your work and style is key. Especially when they are working with over 40 confirmed artists very month.

This includes linking up all your social media accounts with each other, not just using your website as a base platform. Use hashtags on instagram and post things regularly. Everywhere. You never know where someone will find your work. When at the show make sure to provide business cards which we can direct potential buyers to if they wish to see more of your work or contact you directly. 

Lastly, the main purpose of an exhibition is to promote your work. Sales may not come right away or even directly from that one show. The idea is to showcase your work and raise your profile. While it is certainly an investment it is often in yourself as an artist rather than in the individual pieces you are exhibiting. In reality it is an art show not really an art shop. Although art does get purchased please don't start asking gallery employees on the opening night if anything has sold as soon as you arrive.

In all I have loved this experience and look forward to building on it. It's so exhilarating to learn the context of art and to help people in such an unconventional way. For me, bringing together my creative interests and people skills is a need for fulfilment in my career and I loved the variety that this role has brought me. 

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