In the latest edition of her column Off the Handle, Artspace's advice columnist and Director of Gallery and Institutional Partnerships Patton Hindle steers a collector-turned-biker in the right direction and answers the other questions that keep you up at night. Have something else you want to ask Patton? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have an artwork that I bought from an artist acquaintance some time ago and kind of like but am not married to. Now I hear that he's starting to get famous, and the prices are going up. I'd kind of like to buy a motorcycle, so I'm thinking... time to cash in, suckas! How can I squeeze the most money out of my painting?—Mad About Motors, Detroit, MI
First of all, you are 99 percent more likely to have a fatal accident on a motorcycle than in looking at an artwork. But if you must sell your piece, there are several respectful ways to do so. I would, perhaps, avoid using phrases such as “cash in” given that this piece is tied to a person, whom you in fact know! The first approach I would suggest is to go to the artist’s gallery and give them the option to sell the work. They have an existing client list for their artists and can offer it to interested parties.
If they are unable to place the piece, I would then discuss with them the option of offering the work at auction. Keep in mind that, depending on the artist’s career, an auction price may not match the primary market value and it runs the risk of undervaluing their work in a very public platform. Finally, I would suggest one other option: Hold onto the piece if it is, in fact, appreciating, and save the Harley rides for another day.
I often see great salon walls at my friends’ homes. They look beautiful, but installing one seems incredibly overwhelming. Is the spacing standardized? Should everything be framed the same? How large and small can the works be? How can I achieve a similar outcome without making a total disaster of my wall?—Keep Me Leveled, Long Island, NY
First of all, have a glass of wine; this is supposed to be fun! (Maybe have a second, too.)
Salon walls are a great way to hang a variety of works in different mediums together. The spacing is typically not standardized, as certain works need more space to breathe than others. In all honesty, my salon wall is not standardized. What I would suggest is finding a middle height (58” on center is my own preference) for one or two works and building out from there. It’s best to lay the works out on the floor first so you can play with ideas.
Another method, if you’re worried about your ability to visualize spacing, is to cut paper outlines of the works and move them around on the wall. All kinds of frames and mediums can work together! Typically the center of the wall will be the densest in terms of number of works or scale. Be careful to not group works of a single medium together; the point is to integrate everything. Through the process you’ll start to find interesting connections between your pieces! (Or, that could just be that bottle of wine you finished while working.)
After several years of working in the arts in various capacities, currently in museum administration and previously gallery front desks, I’ve begun to feel removed from the process of working with artists that I enjoyed during my education. I’m not ready (financially or with the know-how) to open a gallery, but I want to re-engage with artists. How can I do this within the confines of my current career?—Artfully Removed, Dallas, TX
I can appreciate where you’re coming from, especially as I’m assuming you began a career in the arts to have the very engagement you’re now craving. It’s easy to get stymied in the day-to-day, and, frankly, this is going to require some “extracurricular” time. Weekend and weeknight studio visits are a great place to begin and the best place to find recommendations is talking to your colleagues and friends within the art world. They will be familiar with your interests and will likely have friends or acquaintances they think might be a good fit.
Additionally, if you see an artist you’re excited about in an exhibition look them up! It’s absolutely okay to reach out directly to an artist. You will find most to be gracious to have you visit, but remember they are inviting you into their workplace so be respectful of their time and space.
Furthermore, you don’t have to open a gallery in order to show work. I’ve found people are becoming more and more creative with exhibition spaces. The most obvious option, an apartment, has a deep-rooted history within the art world. From there, elevators, closets, even trucks all are possibilities. (I’ve seen exhibitions in each of those.) Don’t feel hindered by the traditional notion of a white cube—you're in a creative field, after all.