Monday, July 11, 2011

The Guest List at Your Opening

A story of savvy art-biz strategy (on behalf of the exhibiting artist)

Back in the springtime, while I was being briefed by Dov and Chris on the progress with arranging and promoting our 5th Painting in New York exhibit, they shared a few stories. I heard about the results from the numerous drop-ins they made around NYC galleries and studios, having conversations with people in the art business.

One of these conversations touched on the subject of our opening reception turnout. Painting in New York were speaking with an artist who was well-seasoned with exhibiting in the New York gallery scene. Upon hearing of our plans to rent a space in Chelsea for a two-week group exhibition, the established artist asked us:

"Well, how many people do you want at the opening?"

"LOTS," we said, picturing a whole herd of visitors trailing in through the doors.

The inquisitive artist grinned and fell silent. For a moment, Chris and Dov thought about the question again.

"How many people would you want at your opening, then?"

"Eight", said the artist.

I was laughing when I heard this, and instantly imagined what it was the artist was thinking when he said "8".

An art exhibit could have twice the impact - at least - on his/her own professional prestige with an audience of 8 rather than with an audience of 800. It could be, this artist learned how to raise the distinction of his work by cutting his exhibition guest list right down to a core group of influential critics and collectors. (So is it just careering?)

As a result of our direction and promotion, the number of attendees for our opening reception in May fell somewhere in the middle of the above-mentioned. Nevertheless, collectors and a handful of critics (The New Criterion, were among them.