Archives for posts with tag: commercial galleries

William

After roles at Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Casula Powerhouse and recently as the Gallery Manager of Australian Galleries, Will Sturrock has taken residence as the Gallery Manager of the young and uber- contemporary Gallery 9. Will took some time out from his day to chat about the practical realities of working in a commercial gallery and working with artists.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

What are the challenges of working with artists in a commercial gallery context?

There are different challenges faced by different artists according to what stages of their careers they are at. I think one underpinning challenge of recent years has been a sense of frustration with artists simply not selling work, this can be manifested in a bitterness which can end in a dissolution of a good working relationship or friendship. For me personally I haven’t experienced this but there have been some significant departures of artists from galleries who have not supported them and vice versa.

Given the brief of working with younger emerging artists, financial stress can cause unnecessary and unnerving frustration for all involved. This has meant that people have had to become more resourceful, more proactive and in a sense more driven because there are no easy sales for anyone.

How do you balance personal relationships with business relationships?

Honesty is always a virtue which has to be handled and managed properly. I think letting your emotional response to a body of work or the state of an artist’s studio overwhelm a situation can be incredibly detrimental. I haven’t experienced it personally but I have heard absolute disaster stories in this respect and it can be hard not to engage in an emotional response when you work in visual art. I think approaching the profession with objectivity and a desire to fill the needs of the artist, client and gallery is a difficult job and it’s about learning those balances.

You have to also stand back and not allow yourself to be involved in any disputes going on in the highly political and highly sensitive world of artists and studios, and also in talking with artists from other galleries or other gallery workers.

What are the major ‘do not’s for an artist dealing with their representative gallery?

What underpins the entire point of having a gallery represent an artist, or what keeps us afloat is the fact that there is some degree of exclusivity and that commission is maintained. What I mean by that is in this world of high interaction in social media, web sites and online e commerce, the referral in interest from clients should always come back to the gallery. I think it is just too easy for that information to not be handled properly. People in commercial galleries have a degree of expertise in developing client relationships and client management, in the same way that within a company it’s quite distinct that you have different departments. If you could use some essence of that business model and apply it to an artist/ dealer relationship I think it makes sense that the gallery is left in charge of dealing with the commercial activity and the artist remains in control of their artistic careers.

What core skills do you need to develop to work within a gallery?

The ability to approach new art and new artists and their work with completely open eyes and a great sensitivity to the hard work and dedication that they put into their practice is very important. I think remaining objective and critical without necessarily being vocal about it is a skill I am grateful to have acquired early on.

The ability to be able to expand your skill base is vital, once upon a time we could have contractors to do everything and in tougher times you have to be the web designer, print and graphic designer, then jump straight into a conversation with an executive client and then the next minute counsel an artist. There is a degree of psychology involved in it which you have to take in your stride. The ability to multitask and a willingness to learn new skills is potentially the most important skill. I cannot stress how important this is as often there is no one else to do it.

www.gallery9.com.au

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eva arts interview

Portfolio Careers, a fancy term for ‘multiple jobs’, are a growing trend, as for whatever reasons, more and more people take on various roles in their professional lives and also combine them with personal commitments. Nicky McWilliam currently has the ultimate Portfolio Career. She is a director of Eva Breuer Art Dealer in Sydney, her late mother’s gallery in Woollahra, runs a small mediation practice with another lawyer, is at the tail end of a PhD in law set for completion in the next two months, and has three teenage children, a husband and two dogs.

Here arts interview discusses with Nicky the ways in which such disparate, yet equally significant positions are juggled, and most importantly, how she maintains her own personal well-being in such demanding roles.

Interview by Vi Girgis

Given your multiple priorities, how do you manage your time between your various roles to ensure all goals are met?

I think everyone has multiple commitments and priorities and everyone leads busy lives with whatever they are doing. I sort of fell into these multiple roles – it was not really by design, however I enjoy every bit of what I do and am excited by all the opportunities. So even though it is hard work, it is fulfilling and interesting. These multiple roles are also very new for me so I am learning every day and taking it all week by week. Normally on Sunday nights I sit down and work out what I have to do for the whole week with work, family and study. The gallery is not open on Mondays so I have a day to get organised with mediation and other stuff. I try to start work at the gallery during the week at about 7:45am or as early as I can in the morning and work there until about midday. I do mediation practice work in the afternoon. I try to share out the load, if possible, at the gallery, but only when I know that I can follow up. At the moment my Uni work is at the wire, as it is due in September, so I am feeling a lot of pressure with that. Due to this, I am reducing my work load with my mediation and delegating as much as I can at the gallery. At the gallery I have a fantastic team of people, and we try to have weekly meetings so that we can all share the load.

How do you balance professional commitments with family commitments, ensuring that you meet the needs of those around you?

I do get engrossed and energised by all my projects, so weekends and evenings are just for my children and husband, if possible. And it also helps me to share what I am doing with my family, so that I am not closing off what I am doing from them. My kids are a little older now – they are fourteen, seventeen and nineteen – and they enjoy hearing about my work, as I do about their things, so we often sit down and have discussions.

What are some steps that you take to ensuring your own personal well-being?

I need my sleep! There are times when I work late at night, or go out late at night, but I do try and get to bed early as much as I can because my day always starts at 6 o’clock. Although it sounds very clichéd and boring, I also try to eliminate anything negative. I really enjoy what I am doing and I try to be positive about work and life. If I feel that there are people who I come into contact with, who are only criticising or being closed and negative, I try to give them space and time – as much as possible; sometimes it is a tough call. If I am feeling stressed (and I often do) – I say to myself, “Take it one step at a time…you will get there!” It is easy to say, I know, but I do try. Of course, my husband is also a great support to me and he is so helpful and always very supportive!

What advice would you give to any future arts practitioners with regard to balancing multiple roles?

I am very new to the art world and I am on a very steep learning curve, but with the gallery, it is multi-faceted. Even though it is such a little gallery and business, there is a lot to be done because we like to ground everything we do in academic scholarship. My mother, Eva Breuer, was very thorough with research and the accuracy of information. She was amazing and she upgraded systems which the gallery still follows. With every painting that comes in, every artist that we are reviewing, we always look at the academic side of things. We look at how it fits into the history of art, how it fits into the Australian spectrum (because we only deal in museum-quality Australian art). Then there is researching and checking provenance and condition reports followed by looking after exhibitions, and meeting and discussing things with artists. Also, there is the practical side of making sure that the exhibitions are hung beautifully, and that paintings being stored are wrapped and looked after really carefully. And of course, we are a normal shopfront, so there is just the normal retail part to it. It is so multi-faceted; you have to treat each of those things as separate. You have to take it slowly, plan very well and be very thorough. In addition, it is important that everyone is working together as a team, and happy, and also that everyone feels recognised for what they are doing.

Interested in further reading on juggling multiple careers?