Sunday, January 8, 2012

Food for discussion

One thing about a winter First Friday: Fewer openings make for a more relaxed pace (not that I'm complaining about busy nights, but sometimes it's nice just to stand/sit for a while and talk).

During one stop, near the end of the walk, the subject of art in restaurants came up.

A gallery-owner friend advanced the proposition that restaurants, rather than offering artists shows and taking commissions on sales, should purchase art outright from those artists -- whether from existing stock or by commissioning works -- just as they'd buy any other items of decor.

It's tempting to agree wholeheartedly ... but in this economy, and with profit margins in the restaurant industry already as thin as a truffle shaving, I can't say, "Yes. Absolutely," and mean it wholeheartedly. I know people in the business, and I know it can be a struggle just to keep the doors open.

You've already heard my contention that restaurants should showcase local art, and a program of rotating exhibits provides one way to do that. Such shows also allow a venue to change its "look" on a monthly, bimonthly or seasonal basis.

That said, there should be some intrinsic economic benefit to the artist, not merely the possibility of sales. Why? Because artists will send/invite their friends and family to the restaurant to see the works, and most people will get something to eat or drink while they're there. That's a tangible plus for the venue, while the artist can only hope to realize a real benefit.

One solution might be for the restaurant to pay for publicity materials, and commit to promoting the artist during the run of the show. It's not new cash for the artist, but it would save him or her an expenditure. Art rental is another option; so is a commitment to purchase one piece from each show, to build a permanent collection. (Yes, I know that would limit opportunities for new artists after the first year or so of operations; no plan is perfect.)

All of this is preface to asking, "What do you think?"

Should artists just be grateful for the exposure, especially in a brutally tight market, or do they have as much right to expect remuneration as the people who supply the table service, the furniture and the mood lighting?

No answers here ... just questions and what-ifs.

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of the facility hosting/showing the artist to promote the artist in whatever ways they can while showing. It's also nice for the artist when the hosting facility can provide food/refreshments. We also understand that although commission is usually taken, and the facility gets a lot of new exposure from the people we bring in, but we also get exposure/contacts from those who frequent where we are showing. So, it goes both ways. It has also been refreshing, however, when hosts get creative and do not use a one-size approach... ie: because Marissa danced for entertainment, and they usually pay for entertainment, they surprised her by not taking commission on the pieces she sold.


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