It is not news that I am passionate about creating innovative programs to attract new audiences to art. Hello, Crusade. But in all of this Crusading, I think it is important not to lose sight of a larger picture. Helping emerging photographers get a foothold in the art world is just one piece of the puzzle, because that is exactly what it is – a foothold. Once that foothold feels secure, and the artist begins to gain traction – exhibitions, collectors, positive exposure – she needs to take the next step. The same is true for collectors. I love bringing someone from a place where they had never really considered what hung on their walls to appreciating original art and wanting to seek out pieces they feel a connection to. Helping someone start on a path of appreciating, patronizing and collecting art is incredibly exciting and rewarding. But as they continue farther down this path – the more they look and buy and hone their tastes and collection – they will feel more comfortable and confident about engaging with traditional galleries and museums and cultural institutions. It will be a regular part of their world.
Galleries are not irrelevant. It is not an either-or proposition. What works in one stage of an artist’s career or collector’s experience may not work at a different point. Online exhibitions and selling, creative pop-ups and cross-country Crusades are exciting ways to cultivate new collectors and support emerging artists. But more established artists and collectors feel comfortable with and get a lot of value out of a gallery relationship.
When an emerging artist, whether they are 20 years old or 70, moves past the “emerging” stage – their work is getting recognized and they are building a collector base – they will begin to seek out more established galleries and institutions to exhibit their work and bring it to the attention of more advanced collectors and patrons. And when new collectors have acquired several pieces, honed their taste, and want to begin curating a serious collection, they will need the help of knowledgeable and trustworthy gallerists as well.
All of these pieces are important in order to create a more sustainable arts ecology. I think we can all agree on that goal.
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