I have never given much thought to art galleries. I don't mean the galleries in museums. I mean galleries that sell art, the places you find in some of the trendy parts of town that have a lot of space and expensive items on the wall. I've never seen myself as an art connoisseur or as someone who would buy expensive art from a gallery. But I'm learning new things all the time.
On a recent Sunday walk with my wife, we stopped at a local gallery. Hanging in the Jennifer Kostuik Gallery in Vancouver (1070 Homer Street), the work of two photographers caught our eye. One was the work of Dianne Bos. She travels the world and takes long exposure shots with a simple pinhole camera. The other was the photography of David Burdeny. He also travels the world and likes those long exposure shots. Both of their images evoke dreamlike qualities. Burdeny's web site explains it best: "...David purposefully photographs in poor light and near darkness. He uses unusually long exposures to see that which our eyes can not. Moving beyond the literal, his images have been described as ominous, haunting, beautiful and meditative." And they were.
The work of Bos and Burdeny is not simple photography. It's art. Theirs are images that engage you, draw you in, makes you think differently about your life or about the subject.
I realized that day that I would never have been struck in the same way had the works been on a web site or in a magazine. I've suddenly gained a new appreciation for the role of the art gallery: it's the intermediary between artist and public. When things go well, a mutually rewarding relationship is formed between gallery and artist. A gallery needs to sell items to stay in business. The owner must have a clear idea of what he or she will display. Not all artists are working simply for the act of creating, some wish to find a market for their work and cultivate an audience. The owner must meet and get to know them and select the ones best suited for the gallery. My wife said, "The gallery acts like an athlete's agent." She's right -- a kind of Jerry Maguire for artists. I hadn't quite seen it that way before. The artist needs someone who will market the work, who will test the market, negotiate the best price, motivate him or her to do better. A good relationship with a gallery gives the artist peace of mind to create while the gallery does the marketing work .
The laws of economics are also at play. A little-known artist will not command a high price; one whose reputation is known and who is in high demand will command a high price. This is good for the gallery, good for the artist and also, I believe, good for the public, as more people become aware of the works.
I will probably never walk by a gallery without thinking about the relationships on display there.
1. Dianne Bos
2. David Burdeny
3. Jennifer Kostuik Gallery
4. Pinhole camera
5. Jerry Maguire