Sunday, January 11, 2004

Getting stuff sold. Part 63c


Last night after the vernie, I went to Le Boudoir, because I was so damn tired. I figured that either I was going to fall asleep in my chair, or that perhaps there was half a chance if I plied myself with a beer or two that I might experience a second (or third, or fourth) wind. I should've gone to the casino, my half a chance would've landed me better than the daily-double.

As I was being driven, I first made a pit stop at A.R. Lussier to show my driver the phenomenal display that they had in their window. It also afforded me a chance to actually count the number of guns - close but no cigar, we counted thirteen, and as some had been removed, I think it actually would have been more like sixteen originally, the basic premise is the same, but sadly, my specifics were as wrong as the raelians.

But then we ended up at Le Boudoir, one of my favorite places in the city (they posses THE best seat in all of Montreal, ask me about it, and I will specify exactly where it is. One of the reasons that I like Le Boudoir is that while they are a bar, they exhibit art, and they exhibit it well. Then according to the scuttlebutt that I have heard they actually do stuff that makes the artist happy - hence the title of this entry.

The art that they had on the walls was not particularly good or interesting (unless you squinted hard enough to make your temples throb). But, just because this particular exhibit wasn't mind blowing didn't take away from their rep. "Their rep?" I hear you ask, well, lemme explain. If you're an artist, there are scads of restaurants, cafes, bars and other alternative spaces where it is possible to exhibit your art. Some of these places are kick-ass, some of these places suck the big wazoo. Le Boudoir kicks ass. Hence the rep.

"Why do they kick-ass?" I hear you ask. [Full-disclosure: as I am not an artist, and have never been an artist, all of the following information is based on second and sometimes, third hand, information. In other words, take it as far as you can throw it.]

If you're an artist, and this in certain respects can apply to galleries as well, you need to identify what your goals are for exhibiting. If you're exhibiting at an alternative space, it is pretty much a given that you're pretty high on the concept of selling some of your work. So question number 1: Are there lots of people who frequent the space? In the case of Le Boudoir the answer is a resounding "Yes."

Question number 2: Do the people who frequent the place actually buy art? Or do they sit around and cry into their beer, barely lifting their eyes above the lip of the glass? In the case of Le Boudoir, the answer is another resounding "Yes."

Question number 3: How do they handle sales? Or in other words, if I were to go up to some nameless staff member and ask for some information about the artist or the art, would I get a shrug of the shoulders and a "Huh?! What are you talking about? There's art here?" Or are the people who are employed to work there going to give you a phone number? A CV? Take a deposit and place a red dot on the tag? Take your money and let you walk out of the place with the piece? Shrug their shoulders and let you walk out of the establishment with the art after you've promised to pay the artist the following day? In the case of Le Boudoir the answer is, you guessed it, take a deposit, and place a red dot on the tag.

This, to me is the most important thing that you can get in an alternative exhibition space, if the staff will help in selling your art, then you don't have to hang out there 24/7 getting wired on coffee or so completely snookered that your tongue doesn't recognize your lips anymore. It also helps if they actually end up giving you the money, instead of pocketing it and saying "Huh? There used to be some art there?"

Question number 4: How do they handle damage and theft? This ain't something that I am particularly fond of, 'cause no matter how you look at you're gonna be pissed (or at least annoyed, miffed, or dare I say it disappointed). If they say that it is all you responsibility, then they might be wankers. But, be forewarned that if the place does burn down, you're likely to suddenly have an awful lot of empty space in your studio. In the case of Le Boudoir, the answer is a resounding "I don't know.' But I would imagine that they would at least buy you a beer.

Question number 5: Why are they hanging YOUR art on their walls? In the case of Le Boudoir, it strikes me that it is a sincere and effective means of supporting local artists and helping the community that they serve - I have never asked anybody who works there, anything other than "Could I get a beer, please?" But the attitude that the staff has is one of "local is good."

There's this restaurant that approached me in my position as Gallery Guy and asked if I had any art that would be suitable for their walls. Now this was a kick-ass restaurant that I really really liked, I came up with a catalogue for them of available art, and they liked the stuff I was showing them. But none of the art here got on their walls, because they were looking to decorate their place for free! They wouldn't even cough up a free dinner for the artist of the paintings, all that they would offer was a possibility that the pieces might sell, and for that possibility they wanted to take 15% commission. I told them to take a hike. They said that it would be "good exposure" for the artists; I muttered under my breath, "what do you think I do for a living? Pick my nose?" Sadly, I no longer frequent the restaurant.

Question number 5.5: Do they want a commission? Easy litmus test to see why they are hanging your art on their walls. Once again, Le Boudoir comes through with flying colors.

Question number 6: How and when do they let you hang the show? Sadly, there ain't much wiggle room here, most of the places either will ask you to show up at 3 am, and hang after they have closed for business, or if they are slightly more understanding, give you a window of a couple of hours early in the afternoon before things get hectic. As they are an operating business there ain't much room to maneuver here - but you never can tell until you ask.

Question number 7: How and where do you sign up? Normally stuff on the walls of an alternative space is not curated. I've heard of a couple, but Le Boudoir ain't one of them. If their sign up sheet gives you a show next Wednesday, think hard about it. If on the other hand their next open slot is in July, 2005 and is good for a week. You might have found a good spot. I don't think Le Boudoir is booked until July 2005, but I am certain that you can't hang your stuff there next Wednesday.

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