1. Dealers, save yourselves
Forget gallery walks. Dealers, visit other galleries. Regularly. Put your cell number on the gallery door and stay in the neighborhood. If we don’t see each other’s shows, how can we expect others to see our shows? Take your friends/artists/collectors with you. Introduce them to your colleagues. Show them what you like in other dealers’ dens. Tell them why. Discuss how what you like outside your gallery relates to your program and where we’re going (collectively). Become an art adviser (two jobs pay better than one). Knowledgeable dealers can be the best art advisers. Sell other galleries’ art to your people and collect a commission. Advocate sustaining reciprocity. All parties will benefit.
2. Encourage connoisseurship
A corollary to one’s out-of-gallery experiences is the collaborative nurturing of connoisseurship. Connoisseurship is not consensus, but its opposite. Connoisseurship dismantles consensus, or is consensus in another, acceptable, form.1 Here, the gallery office can be a place of argued discussion bound by evidence and example, an intimate seat to the art world’s intellectual culture. Forget panel discussions.
3. Exhibitions are galleries’ raison d’être
Writing this week in his Grey Market column on Artnet News, Tim Schneider suggests that “building (or rebuilding) sustainable audiences now revolves around developing robust, long-term, event-based programming.” Maybe not. Forget “event-based programming.” It is an add-on, neither a panacea nor a solution. The exhibition is the “event” and it demands one-on-one engagement. Now, in this most intimate realm of engagement, smaller galleries have a categorical advantage. Exhibitions are our core, demanding the better part of our time and resources. Enter a smaller gallery and you have the exhibition accompanied by its executors. Large galleries do not and cannot offer the impromptu services small galleries can easily provide. Gallery-goers, gallery-going is an active enterprise. Engage your hosts and hold them responsible. Dealers, cultivate collectors. This is where we must work, and we really must: collectors are not born constantly.2
(To paraphrase 1Georges Bataille, The Solar Anus, 1927/31, and 2Henri Michaux, I Am Writing to You from a Far-off Country, 1938.)
Mitchell Algus is an art dealer based in New York.