Looking at 2020: Internal Business
As 2020 comes to an end, you are invited to read about all that has happened at the gallery internally. Especially as the amount of contact, this last year has been minimal. I also hope this gives artists and curators a look at what we do and how we work. We covered some external highs and lows of the gallery in the previous posts—paintings we had sold, cancelled art fairs, in the fight for democracy and the pandemic. Next week we will elaborate our goals for 2021. Thank you very much for taking the time to get to know what has been going on with us.
Gallery Sorelle Sciarone. Tascha Sciarone in the woods. Photo by Benjamin de Groot.
The gallery has always meant to be based online for the first three years. When COVID shut down most of our world in March 2020, we were very blessed that our gallery presence relied strongly on our online presence. 2020 has made it so essential to be online, seeing as most of the world has delegated to being online this last year. This is part of our business model, but not the usual in the art world.
Expanding that presence
Due to the multiple sales and success in January 2020 and later a small COVID relief loan from the Dutch government, we had some money to hire some talented people. Wouter Maas and Chloe Xu came on board to help me describe the paintings in the collection. Wouter is an Art Historian and Chloe and artist. Chloe repaints the paintings with her words, and Wouter has a poetic narrative.
Both Chloe and Wouter's texts add to the accessibility and historicity of the painting. Describing the paintings has three reasons: one Google wants information vital to our online presence. Two, this makes the artwork accessible to blind people. Three, Art Historically, most exhibitions and paintings have little written about them. This practice in the gallery allows for contemporary and historical documentation of the artwork, which results in it being more convenient for a large group of people to interact with the painting now and later. We later asked journalist Emi Eleode also to curate an exhibition. Little did we know how lucky we were to have her as curator. She is a diligent researcher and beatiful narrator.
Humans At Their Most Vulnerable Form - Solo Exhibition of Fiona J. Williams by Emi Eleode (2 November 2020- 29 December 2020)
This year two artists have joined the gallery, Jeanette Olyhoek and Fiona J. Williams. On the other hand, the gallery has been contacted by more than 300 artists this last year from all continents. The reality is that we have to reject almost all collaboration efforts kindly. Even though we sold 15 paintings this year, the gallery has not been able to find collectors for four of the artist that already represents this last year. The time and money of the gallery are first and foremost invested in their careers. Collaborating with more artists is a slow trajectory, that has to work with the balance of what the gallery already has. The artists we represent are our priority. Only when there are more resources can we vet other artists based on their art's intrinsic value and how that intersects with the gallery's values. These are stringent criteria to beat for any artist calling the gallery off the street. But we are also investing in art professionals who can help develop the gallery further.
EXHIBITIONS & Curators
This year we implemented a two-month exhibition process. Every two months, a new exhibition will be held online. And if there is an art fair or a space available, it will be held there as well. We have had constant misses with spaces and fairs this last year. The pandemic has, however, made exclusive online exhibitions the norm. We also try to make these as rich as we can by hiring talented curators. Next year we will be opening a procedure for curators to join the gallery on a freelance basis. We are actively working on our portfolio for Art Basel and The Dutch Association of Art Galleries. To be accepted into both their folds in 2023. We can only do that by creating notable exhibitions that are open to the public, which is only online.
A GALLERY SPACE
In February 2020, Tascha and Mariella van der Net, from Domo Eclectica met each other, over Instagram. We had coffee and talked gallery. Shortly after our first conversation in February, the pandemic hit. Both Tascha and Mirielle focused on their own galleries. In the summer, when restircitions were lifted, they met for lunch a few times to expand their gallery plans. Hoping to exhibit together in the upcoming fall fair season. After those were cancelled they continueed to develope ideas to open their two galleries together in Wassenaar. in November 2020. Ultimately the location fell through. Both of them are working hard to find a location suitable for both their gallery models.
That is what 2020 has been like all year. Making plans, implementing plans, plans being cancelled due to external factors. Planning. Implementing. Redirect. Regroup. Plan. Implement. Redirected. Regroup. Plan. Wassenaar, Laren, or maybe the deconsecrated church in Voorburg?
FINAL THOUGHTS ON PRIVELAGE
2020 AND PRIVELAGE
This year has also been a decisive year that has lifted the veil of privilege and disparity. The Black Lives Movement has educated those of us in positions of privilege, that our inaction is just as harmful and violent, as overt racist actions. Most of us are theoretically aware of our privilege. Still, we continue to make use of the system that we actively benefit from. How to address in the gallery has always been a long term plan, but this year has taught us, that taking action today is the only real option. We have fast tracked a few long term plans. We also have contact with a lot of artists whose work explicitly deals with racial and gender issues the coming years. In the spirit of full disclosure and transparancy we end the year with the goals and the financial reality at the gallery.
Detail of paintings from top to bottom, right to left; Adéle du Plessis, Denise van der Burgh, Els Kampert, Gemma Jonker, Marko Klomp and Monique Leliefeld. The original 6 artist we started with.
PRIVELAGE IN ARTS AND CULTURE
Most galleries take 3-5 years for a gallery to establish itself and 5-8 years to become profitable. The gallery has yet to have its second birthday. The gallery uses its slim profits to invest in the careers of our artists and gallery professionals. The gallery is a labour of love. That means I receive almost no financial compensation. I am very privileged to have a partner that pays our mortgage. Without the financial stability he provides for our lives, the gallery would no be able to exist. However, as for many professionals in the art world, we almost all work as volunteers at cultural institutions. Most of us in the arts and culture have Master degrees and years of experience. Yet most of us who were even able to start in the cultural sector come from a privileged financial stability position. Even less of us are allowed to stay in the cultural sector, which is a big problem for diversity within the cultural sector. The gallery at the core of its business model tries to address this issue by taking small steps to build an equitable space for all involved arts. Concrete steps we had taken was by publicly postings vacancies and paying curators for their work. Another was to be as transparent and upfront about how the gallery operates as possible. These steps came from my history as an Art Historian, Office Manager and working for great cultural institutions and crazy unhealthy working environments. Still, I need to learn a lot more and how to take steps outside my privilege. That means actively scouting historically systematically underrepresented artists and thinking how immaterial art and a balance between the commercial and social equity within the gallery.
The artworld is a mysterious and strange space for many. The arts and cultural sector is still heavily influenced by 19th-century politics, hierarchy and explicit gatekeeping. My generations have inherited this construct as well as the cultural expectations. Our gallery is by no means unique in attempting to address this. However, we are aware that all change in this sector comes from how we engage in the mores of this inherited sector. Which means we need to examine every action we take and if it aligns with our core beliefs. Some of those beliefs still need to be expanded on. This last year has pushed us to learn more and take a more active approach to long term goals.
Working at Gallery Cultural Speech and Peggy Mental Coaching, made me realise I am in many ways also my gatekeeper to the sector. How qualified do I have to be, to take myself and others serious?
Shout out to Peggy John Wessels for teaching me more in two months working for her, than the several years spent in 'the art world'. I have come to realise, artist, gallerists, journalists, curators, art critic, academics, all these professions are about taking yourself and your profession seriously. Doing the work to back up that you are a professional. But being able to do so is similarly steeped in privilege. The amount of boundaries within the sector itself is partially self-imposed but mostly systematic.
Most importantly, it takes time to become established. Which the remedy is sticking to your guns and doing your work, but being able to do so without financial compensation can only come from a place of privilege. We are in the long haul with the gallery. We can dedicate ourselves because of our privilege. Our active goal is to facilitate and sustain artistic practices of curators, art historians, artists who in turn foster their creative community with an explicit goal to amplify as many voices as we can. When the gallery space comes available, we have a roster of talented artists screening their video art, installations and immaterial art.
Hope you enjoyed reading the accounts of the galleries crazy ups and downs this last year. The next post will be about our plans for 2021.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
On a personal note. Things got a lot darker this year. Tascha started 2020 blonde, but it went for navy blue as the year progressed. Don't know which one you will meet at the next art event.
Art Historian Tascha Sciarone with blonde hair in front of a painting. January 2020. Photo Nicole Sciarone
Art Historian Tascha Sciarone with navy blue hair, in a forest November 2020. Photo by Benjamin de Groot.