...serenity in motion
What are your rights as an artist when it comes to relationship with the gallery?
There was a small disaster in a gallery recently. Things happen and galleries look good in buildings with character and that comes from age. Many of the best store fronts are in gentrified areas and despite all the updates, something can just break and cause damage to the space and the work displayed there-in. What do you, as an artist do? Galleries are supposed to carry insurance on their inventory but some of the smaller ones can’t always afford it. It is always a good idea to get supplemental insurance. Another thing to keep in mind is if the gallery carries insurance, it will only cover the cost of what you would receive if it had sold. If you are paying 40% commission, you will only receive 60% of the loss. Some galleries will also insist on using the restoration firm of their choice. Looking into the reputation of the firm they hired is just good sense. Take into consideration what your medium is and it’s durability. Just because a restoration company knows how to clean a bronze, doesn’t mean they can restore a patina to its original state.
In case of a fire (god forbid) remember, fire fighters are also more focused on putting out a fire and will spread fire retardant (water or foam) where it is best to win their battle. Oil and acrylic work can be more durable on a canvas. You will probably loose the frame and mats. When it comes to dry medium works, you have a limited amount of time before irreversible harm comes to the work. Water color and guache as well as dry mediums are vulnerable to wicking moisture in the mats and invading the substrate of the original works. If work is going to be shipped to a restorer and the wet/damp mats aren’t removed before they were boxed, it can continue to move into the working surface of your art. You should take the time to go see what has happened to your work. I spoke with one pastelist who was waiting and taking the gallery directors word on what was being done. He lived 45 minutes away. Gallery directors who have hundreds of works of art to deal with, might just glance at your piece and not really know what to look for to prevent permanent damage that is a danger but not yet happened. Moisture might be in the mats but not yet reached the origianl and removing it from the mounting could save the gallery’s insurance hundreds of dollars. The other thing is you shouldn’t rely on a business you don’t know to bring things back to original condition. This is your work, you own it. Less the commission, my friend had over $6,000 worth of inventory that he was taking someone’s word on.
Be a proactive professional and be involved in the restoration of your work. Ask about sending the work to a restorer of your choice. Perhaps all that it would take is replacing a frame which you create in your studio. Do you want your work out of commission for 2 to 3 months while it waits with hundreds of other pieces to be reframed? The gallery might be able to re-open months before all the work is taken care of, you could be one of the first artists back on their walls. Again remember, this belongs to you and you have the right to take ownership of it’s repair.