Confessions Of A Gallery Girl Pt. 3: Boys vs. Girls

The plight of the gallery girl has become quite famous in the last few years.  With a reality TV show, several magazine editorials and now these confessions by yours truly, you’d think that you have the world of the gallerina figured out. The truth is that you’re only hearing half the story. Behind those placid white desks, typing feverishly away on their computers, only looking up occasionally to scowl at the latest visitor, there are also gallery boys (gallerinos).

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They are not that different from us. In fact, they have a lot in common with their female compatriots: driven, smart, and way too overqualified to just answer phone calls and e-mails all day. Another thing they have in common is a no-holds barge attitude to climbing the gallery ladder. Lean a bit closer to the screen, let me tell you a little secret: after a few fights and tussles over at Art Basel, it is true that the battle of the sexes knows no limits.

The Hierarchies Of The Art Kingdom

Oh Basel – such a beautiful, quaint city where the rich go to show off and the poor go to dream. As the culmination of the spring fair season, Art Basel has a myriad satellite fairs including Liste, Scope and more. It’s funny to see the hierarchy of fairs: I heard many from Liste or Basel scoff at the idea of seeing anything coming from Scope. It is cheaper to buy into these smaller fairs – if you can’t afford to join in with the big boys, it’s obvious that the art you're selling isn’t worth seeing (at least that's the general opinion; don't shoot me, I'm just the gallery girl). The hierarchy is so obvious that I even saw some gallerists being denied entry to certain after-parties.

Just like monkeys in the jungle - a gallerina needs to learn how to climb the art world's food chain. Photo: Chris Phillips

For those of us that were forced to sit through the mundanity of the fair while the higher-ups got to walk around the city and mingle, we ended up making short-term friends with the gallerinas and gallerinos confined to the fair booths. One of the girls sitting across from me – an American working with a gallery in Paris – confessed to me how she was spending time in Basel as the other assistants were wallowing away further down the Rhine back home.

“Marcel is this really snotty gallery assistant I work with,” she explained to me while stuffing her mouth with the complimentary treats given to us by Art Basel, “He always attempts to kiss my boss’s ass endlessly and it has actually worked out well for him.” Her story sounds familiar as she details how he would stay late cleaning the gallery or literally running packages to collectors' houses and hand them works in person. She says that this had brought Marcel into the favorable eyes of the director of her gallery, who proceeded to take him to all the exclusive parties, fairs and studio visits. “My goals in life suddenly switched from me wanting to succeed in the art world, to wanting to watch him fail,” she confesses.

I’m sure you’ve seen movies likes The Devil Wears Prada and know exactly where this competition stems from. You have two assistants, both wanting to get promoted to something above glorified indentured servitude, and both willing to do whatever it takes to get there. I’ve heard stories of gallerinas smearing lipstick that matches their coworkers’ color on artworks in order to frame them for being careless. I’ve heard other stories where gallerinos will purposely hang works in a shitty way so they’ll eventually fall and break, only to point fingers at their “clumsy” coworkers. What she told me about Marcel, however, was on a whole new level.

Is this Imran Qureshi's work? Or is it the blood of a gallerina battle? Photo: Chris Phillips

“I started to leave notes near my boss's computer that looked like they came form Marcel,” she said, “Each note was carefully written so it would appear that Marcel was falling in love with our boss – I knew this would make any married man without homosexual tendencies feel extremely uncomfortable." As watched the relationship between Marcel and her boss deteriorate, eventually she was the one asked to go to Basel – a promise that Marcel was given months ago.

It's A Jungle Out There

It makes sense that she would be so focused on eliminating the gallerino from the picture: if anything stands in a gallery girl's way, it is the boys. They are so quickly favored by male directors and especially by male collectors who are serious about filling their home with contemporary art. I’m not one to argue that there is sexism in the work place, but it sure is hard when the boys go out for drinks and they don’t invite you. Sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do if she wants to achieve her dreams. So if you’re a gallery boy, sitting at work typing away a mindless email to an artist, be aware of the gallerina quietly reading within the white cube – she may have plans for you!

Article by Anonymous Gallery Girl

Did you miss her past Confessions?: Part One & Part Two