Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Is It Worth It? (a small rant)

I received email notification this week that 2 of my paintings were juried into the Small Works exhibit at the Bennington Center for the Arts in Bennington, Vermont. Of course I was thrilled to get the news, but as I read the email, I was experiencing no small amount of regret. The Bennington Center requires the art be shipped in Air Float Strong Boxes, rather than my usual wood crate (thanks for springing that on me now!). The Strong Boxes are highly protective, relatively lightweight, and ridiculously expensive. So, instead of using one of the several more than adequate crates I already have constructed (and paid for!)… well… you get the point.

Don’t assume that your precious work will be handled by professionals once it reaches its destination. Nearly half the pieces I send to exhibits are returned with at least some noticeable damage. Scratches on the painting, chipped and cracked frames… I once had a painting returned to me with a frame corner smashed flat and the frame joints broken loose. It had obviously been dropped. It’s far more likely that your work is being handled by a couple of art students who are either bored or high or both, despite the $20 “crating fee” you had to pay!

A few years back, I had 2 paintings juried into the Kentucky National Wildlife Exhibit in Henderson. I happened to be in Henderson near the end of the show and stopped in to browse the art. Some of the art was very good, some not so much, but still… it was good to actually see the venue. The art was displayed in the lobby and hallways of a building at the local college campus. There was literally no security in the building. Anyone could lift a small sculpture or take a painting off the wall and walk out the door unnoticed. I don’t expect Fort Knox, but jeez.

Therein lies the conundrum. Is it really worth it to send work to some of these exhibits? Of course the exposure is nice and being included in an exhibition like this looks good on a resume (does anyone ever look at an artist’s resume?), but the cost of crating, shipping, and insurance (don’t expect FedEx or UPS to pay up if the lose or damage your art!) can be prohibitive. There is the chance for a sale, though it’s not usually as likely as the exhibit promoters would have you believe, but then the gallery takes its 40% cut off the top of your price. Again, it’s the same feeling of elation followed by a regretful knot in your stomach as you look at the check and mentally add up what it just cost you to get to this point. Entry fee, framing, crating, shipping, insurance… suddenly you realize you’re barely breaking even! Never mind the cost of actually attending the opening of the exhibit with travel, lodging, and meals… then you’re seriously in the hole!

Happy painting J


ray brown said...

Jim--If I recall correctly, last year, I called them and assured them the box I was shipping to them was adequate and they allowed me to use the box I had. Call them and check before you buy the airfloat boxes.

Jim Bortz said...

Thanks Ray. I already ordered them and they should be here tomorrow. I guess we'll see if they live up to the hype.