Confessions Of A Gallery Girl Pt. 8: The Devil Has A Gallery

As a gallerina, I was thrilled when I left behind the small galleries to take a position at one of the biggest and most celebrated galleries in Milan, Italy. The building’s facade screamed renaissance—I thought I could even hear the great masters whispering into my ear,"Benvenuti." But it was the smell of the owner's ambition that felt most infused into the walls. It only took me a month to make the next step in my career—a big step all the way down to the gallery’s cellar where, along the softly lit, marble corridors, I found many artists' bodies of work – not even on display – being held hostage by this evil gallerist.

Art As Power

One artist had called numerous times, begging to get back some of her pieces for a possible show she would have elsewhere. But the works were to remain for a couple more years at our gallery as part of a mischievous contract. The fact is that all of this stored artwork was exclusively requested for exhibitions that the gallerist had whimsically wanted – exhibitions that were usually put down only after a few weeks (the same way that they were requested; at the gallerist's whim), despite the shows attracting visitors and collectors. You see, he pays artists for the materials and their time and claims full rights to their work for the next three to four years. Sounds fair, no?

The fate of the artwork amassed by this evil gallerist. Artwork by Olivia Steel – read about it here. Photo: Chris Phillips

Not all of us love the idea, but power is name of the game. It is sexy, tempting and a status-marker in the art world. I mean, the markers of status were there, not only stored in a dark and dusty cellar but also held visible in a corridor that led to the main exhibition hall. And this was his intention all along: to show how much 'support' he was supposedly giving to the art community and the status that this type of patronage brings. This evil gallerist not only had the renaissance facade but also the mentality: instead of buying himself a Ferrari to impress his peers (as they usually do around here), he would amass works of art that would rarely see the light of day or benefit the artist in any way.

Sure, he initially paid some money to the artist for producing the art, but when it is not even exhibited or put anywhere up for sale, what is this really about? In a time when owning a gallery can become a playground where to show one’s teeth and opulence rather than showing taste or spotting and supporting good talent, where has the value of art gone? I am a gallerina, so I know a thing or two about indentured servitude, but I also know that our artists deserve better. Art, too, deserves better than being held captive in order to raise the cool points of a devil with a gallery.

Article by Anonymous Gallery Girl

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