Culture | Cultural organization » Núria Gurina Puig - Commercial Galleries and Non Profit Art Spaces, The Thin Red Line


Year, pagecount:2012, 3 page(s)



Uploaded:February 06, 2023

Size:585 KB




Download in PDF:Please log in!


No comments yet. You can be the first!

Content extract

Commercial galleries and non profit art spaces: the thin red line Todays art world is a changing ecosystem. The traditional art gallery model, as we have known it for the past decades, seems to be in a deep crisis and new paradigms have to be built in order to preserve the galleries existence. A trend that is strongly rising in some commercially run spaces is the gallery as a hub that collaborates and exchanges projects with other galleries, works together with local institutions, is highly attached to its territory, curates its shows, holds artists residencies, organizes special events and works, somehow, in a way closer to an art space rather than a commercialbased gallery. In this context, are the boundaries between these two traditionally separate spheres blurring? Are we witnessing the birth of a new blended gallery formula that takes features from non-profit models? Are these two paradigms actually that distant or is this distance based more on prejudgements rather than on actual

facts? This essay tries to highlight and analyze some aspects between the dichotomy profit - non profit in order to show that, in some cases, the thin red line that has historically kept them on different sides of the battleground is fading away. The adjective commercial has always had some negative connotations to the eyes of the public opinion. For many what is commercial seems to be less genuine and pure than what is tagged with the label non-profit. This situation has recently become more evident with the rise of branded galleries, selling branded artists which have adopted business models that seem to follow strategies taken from huge unpersonalized supermarket chains. However, there is life beyond this typology of art galleries that show a new way of approaching the delicate issue of art and business. During the last Talking Galleries Symposium, Jocelyn Wolff, director of the Jocelyn Wolff Gallery in Paris, stated than running a commercial gallery does not necessarily mean making

profit, and that profit might not be the main objective of an art gallery. In this sense, the money made from the art sales would be basically used to pay the gallery costs and the remaining amount would be invested in the business itself in order to carry out more challenging and critical programs. One can wonder if there isnt a bit of a non-profit art space philosophy in Wolffs words? Under these premises, what is the difference between the two sides of the coin in a context in which "commercial" only indicates that the art on display can be purchased from the space, and "non profit" refers to those works that are not salable. Dont they share sometimes a similar mission with the difference of having different business or managing models? Lets move on. Going deeper into this issue, currently there is a growing number of art galleries that are holding curated "non selling exhibitions" within their premises. These non selling shows, sometimes also called

gallery projects, give galleries the chance to show some alternative and more experimental works by up-and-coming artists that hardly fit into the commercial line and work as a statement of the ideology and positioning of the gallery as a leading actor of the art ecosystem. Some galleries are opening "project spaces" to show this sort of work, borrowing the term to name themselves from independent art spaces and adopting an attitude that might be considered similar to the sort of practices carried out by Kunsthalles.Coincidences between commercial and non-commercial models dont stop here. Gallery project spaces have started hosting artists residencies in order to foster emerging artists careers. Galleries commission artists’ works that will be later shown in the gallery space. All these hybrid formulas seem to indicate that some galleries are becoming a sort of art laboratories. Motivated by an effort to defend their relevance beyond their commercial activity, they are

taking practices traditionally credited to non profit models. A fact that might be read as an attempt to generate knowledge through curatorial and commissioned projects that helps them recover a better reputation. Insisting a bit more in the pejorative connotations of the word "commercial", it is interesting to bring back a statement made by Claes Nordenhake during his intervention in the second Talking Galleries. Claes Nordenhake, gallery director and promoter of the Berlin Gallery Weekend, in conversation with Ann Demeester, director of De Appel Arts Center, a leading international non profit institution for contemporary art based in Amsterdam, posed the following question to the audience: "what is the actual difference between receiving a cheque from the government to fund artistic practices in the context of an art center and developing the same objectives through a privately funded commercial gallery?" Taking De Appel Arts Center as an example and analyzing its

financial system, we will find out that De Appel receives a permanent subsidy from the government and also generates its own incomes in order to become more self-sufficient. The money comes, to list some among others, from entrance sales, sponsorships and special funding programs that engage people to become a patron of the center. So, ultimately, part of the money to support the center comes from private pockets. Just to emphasize once again the fragile boundaries between the two main characters of our discourse, De Apple Arts Center together with The Fair Gallery, a group of four European Art Galleries, have launched the Gallerist Programme, an educational course that aims to train gallerists into the art business. We can observe thorough these two cases a trace of how non profits are also stepping onto commercial ground contributing to fade the thin red line that separates them. Retrieving Nordenhakes cunning declaration and considering the above mentioned arguments, it might lead

us to question if the boundaries between theses two worlds are still valid or they are rather based on traditional prejudgments built on the basis of who owns the money to undertake art initiatives and who manages these art projects far more than on the basis of content, mission and ideology. Leaving financial and funding issues aside, one can also notice how borders are opening taking a look at the establishment of Clusters and Gallery Districts. Gallerists are opening and moving their businesses in specific geographical areas with a high concentration of commercial art spaces. Galleries directors have realized that there is an urgent need to join forces and work together from a strategic point of view, adopting some new formulas that go beyond the art fair concept. Union is strength and it seems to work pretty well in areas such as Belleville, in Paris, and NY Lower East Side, both worldwide recognized spots with a distinctive "brandname" that identifies them as a

whole. At first sight, this fact could remind us to a same phenomenon happening in the institutional sphere: the Museum Island, in Berlin, the Golden Triangle of Art, in Madrid, to mention some of them. But the tendency goes over the mere geographical encounter in favor of hosting alongside programs, creating gallery weekends, gallery circuits and special collaborations, both with other galleries and non profit organisations, in an operation that could have easily been designed by the Local Arts Council to foster their institutions. Vienna Art Week or Berlin Gallery Weekend, both promoted by local galleries, can be taken as an example of how galleries are creating new recipes to involve a bigger number of actors including institutions and non profit spaces in their general programs. There is, of course, a major will to attract more collectors However there is also a clear intention to build tighter roots with the local community, increase their public visibility, share common grounds

to develop collaborations for joint projects and develop, somehow, a pedagogic role to spread contemporary art through their fellow citizens and potentially collectors. Under such environment, one can perhaps think that the gallery scene is taking the lead in launching innovative proposals and, when doing so, they are, in one way or another, institutionalizing their activity. One could also talk about coproductions of exhibitions among galleries that go touring to different venues or how galleries have started exchanging their artists, both patterns that are widely extended between non-profit art centers. Many more examples could be set out here to make this point stronger but what is clear is that the thin red line that has kept the commercial sphere and the non profit one away for decades is now becoming a blurred stain no longer supported on concept and strategic based practices. Galleries will have to work hard to add value to their role in order to beat clichés and conservative

hierarchies. The word commercial is still a handicap in the art world although the classic duality seems to start falling apart. Núria Gurina Puig