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Thread: to "opening" or not to "opening"?

  1. #1

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    to "opening" or not to "opening"?

    And if "opening" do we serve wine?

    I'm pondering all aspects of running a gallery at my new, almost-painted space, including the institution of having an opening--and of serving wine.

    First, the confession. I don't like openings. I don't like the people who come to openings. I never see people looking much at the art. I never get the impression that much sells at the opening.

    So do I have them? Or do something else--maybe just a private party for invitees only?

    And if I do an opening do I serve alcohol? Doing it right would be expensive and wouldn't I just attract all the wrong people?

    Thoughts, experiences? Would love to hear from folks who buy art if the opening is a factor in their purchases.

    --Darin

  2. #2

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    Re: to "opening" or not to "opening"?

    From my limited experience openings are just a schmooze fest, especially if everyone knows each other. I think it's good to do as far as pr goes though. Make new friends and be introduced to potential buyers is always nice. If you haven't done so, you might check with the local authorities to be sure that it is legal to serve alcohol or if you need some kind of permit. One gallery in town here had the cops make the poor gallery owner poor a crap load of wine out in the gutter outside because they had no permit, embarrassing the gallery owner for being ignorant of the law. They now have that permit

  3. #3
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: to "opening" or not to "opening"?

    Openings are not cheap, but I would look at them as an effective advertising expense. Many artists like the chance to talk with people about their work and/or celebrate the successful effort of getting their work on the walls. For me it is just traditional -- a show includes an opening...or sometimes a closing instead. An opening can be an educational opportunity -- with the artist(s) giving a short talk about their work, or even a demonstration of some kind. Such things can create in the community's mind that your place is just not another gallery...but with value added.

    As a gallery owner (well, as part owner in an artist cooperative...30 members), our gallery has been well supported by the community in exchange for being a monthly meeting place where community folks can meet the artists (and as a small community, it seems like everyone knows one of us members), and chat, look at new work, etc. Sales are not especially high during the openings, but people come back -- or come because of word-of-mouth.

    Have a trusted person at the door who can act as a bouncer -- kicking out or keeping out the obvious riff-raff coming in for free wine and food.

    The second Friday of the month is ArtsArcata...when all the galleries (and stores with art on the walls) in town stay open from 6 to 9pm to have their openings. I do not know if your area has something similar.

    Generally, group shows (especially of local artists) draw more people into the gallery during openings than just one artist. This would be a good way to introduce your gallery to the community.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  4. #4
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: to "opening" or not to "opening"?

    I think every show I have ever been in had an opening. I used to hate them, but over the years pretending I liked them took over to where I actually do like them now. Though they may not do a lot of sales that night they definitely impact on sales. I know discussions I have had at openings with attendees have led to sales later on. AAMOF a discussion I had with a collector at an opening at a show in Louisville some 11 years ago led to a sale just a couple of months ago. He couldn't get our talk or the image out of his mind. Of course if he had bought it eleven years ago it would have been half the price......
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 70:
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  5. #5

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    Re: to "opening" or not to "opening"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Gittings View Post
    I think every show I have ever been in had an opening. I used to hate them, but over the years pretending I liked them took over to where I actually do like them now. Though they may not do a lot of sales that night they definitely impact on sales. I know discussions I have had at openings with attendees have led to sales later on. AAMOF a discussion I had with a collector at an opening at a show in Louisville some 11 years ago led to a sale just a couple of months ago. He couldn't get our talk or the image out of his mind. Of course if he had bought it eleven years ago it would have been half the price......
    Funny how things look different from different perspectives. Kirk, i think you are trying to make the case *for* openings but from my (new, embryonic) gallery owner perspective you are really making the case *against* openings.

    Or at least making the case against inviting artists to their own openings!

    --Darin

  6. #6
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: to "opening" or not to "opening"?

    FWIW that recent sale came through the original gallery where it showed 11 years ago. So they benefited too.

    There is a group show here that I do every year. I hang three prints and have sold as many as 10, 8 from one negative once. There is a kind of buzz or feeding frenzy sometimes that gets going at openings. You have to make an effort to get collectors to come-not just photographers. Photographers (though yes I have sold a lot of prints to photographers) want to trade with you a lot of times. Collectors are the key. You need to develop a good list and work them.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 70:
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  7. #7
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Re: to "opening" or not to "opening"?

    An opening is a chance to send out a press release, organize interviews with the artist and potential reviewers and members of the press, and generate buzz about the show. Maybe it's not the part of the art business that most artists like, but if you want to sell work in galleries, it's part of how one communicates to the world that the work is there and available for purchase. Even if interested parties don't attend the opening, they are likely to find out about the show from the publicity associated with the opening.

  8. #8

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    Re: to "opening" or not to "opening"?

    Vaughn, as an obvious riff-raff, I'm represent that remark.

    Darin, inquire about a company coming in with 3 or 4 wait people who will carry trays of drinks and food and 1 who will operate a bar. In some jurisdictions part of their service is an alcohol-serving license. It might not be too expensive if you supply the beverages and food.

    A true story... about 20 years ago there was a gallery opening in a small suburban town nearby. One of the photographs was by my friend Atlanta photographer Chuck Rogers. It was a classy tasteful photo Chuck had created for the American Cancer Society to promote female breast self-exams. The newly installed chief of police stormed in and wanted to shut the place down for "exhibiting pornography". When shown the cancer society brochures he became quite embarrassed and left quietly.

  9. #9

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    Re: to "opening" or not to "opening"?

    I am very frankly baffled that it would even be a consideration....honestly, if you're thinking of having an art gallery without opening shows with sparkling wine...maybe, you not right for the business.

  10. #10
    multi format
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    Re: to "opening" or not to "opening"?

    yup
    openings with wine and little bite size food things
    i used to own an a gallery with a handful of people too
    and openings were a great time ( every few weeks! ),
    nothing to hate, it was all good.... ( i miss it, but my pockets aren't deep now )

    ( don't forget the after-party ! )
    enjoy your coffee

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