Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vanity Galleries / Pay for Play

Pablo Picasso being polite

Call us street artists, street vendors, starving artists, whatever label you choose. A constant misunderstanding about us is that we are biding our time until a gallery discovers our talent and chooses to represent us.This is certainly not the case, especially in a city that is not NYC or LA. To be one of a dozen artists displayed in a "resort"gallery will not get you enough income to pay for your paints. Co-op galleries come and go , a sometime casualty of internal politics or the economy. The latest trend is to "rent" wall space to artists. In the big cities you can buy yourself an opening and a 30 day exhibit in the  low four figures. Here in town you can get wall space for as little as75 dollars a month. Now, by illegal ordinance the City of St. Augustine has created a 75 dollar a month vanity gallery with no walls within a 40'x10' spot in the Plaza. The refuse to explain the thousands of dollars they were forced to refund a few years ago because licensing was illegal.

Granted, running a gallery is a tough business and owners should be prepared to dedicate full time and more to getting traffic and closing sales. Too often I hear artists tell me that they have left their prints "on consignment" in a local gallery.This is in violation of the long standing rule that original artworks are.... consigned.... and published multiple prints are.... sold.... at wholesale to the gallery. The logic is that a manufactured print from a local artist is not treated differently as that from a national publisher. If a merchant had a choice of moving inventory, which one do you think would take precedence ...It would be the one that has an investment interest.

The few St. Augustine artists illegally banished to the small area in the Plaza's slave market are well aware that the more "eyes" on their artworks, the more people will end up owning one. "It's all about the money", says Mayor Joe Boles. He is correct. Without an audience and without sales there would be no artwork. If it was his intention to harm the artist's ability to sell, he has been successful. He has also prevented you from seeing our artwork.

The City of St. Augustine continues violating the spirit of our U.S.Constitution This is a "special" place in our country where the city administration feels that they do not have to abide by the same first amendment laws that are upheld throughout our nation. I hear the "Ghosts  of 1964" .It would serve them well to check the record of the self styled "Constitutional expert" hired to advise them.

We have our gallery. It is a small space on public property, not where you have banished us.....and you city administrators are interfering with the public's right to see our expression.


  1. Your photo captioning skills, make me want to post photos, and hope you will add words.

  2. Elizabeth13 May, 2010

    It is all about the money and about my autonomy as a visual artist. I am with the opinion of Mr. Richard Childs that many but not all galleries are actually art profiteers. I so miss the plaza but find the limitations of the Old Slave Market suffocating.
    Gregorio, I am so glad to see activity on your blog.

  3. I do agree with you on the benefit of displaying your work in the open areas, and it brings a uniqueness to the area that tourists love. I being one of them. I love the memory of strolling around, having an espresso and finding that unique piece that catches our eye. A great memory. Unforuantly I disagree with your opinion of the "vanity" gallery. It was the old masters that broke away to get out from under the thumbs of the politics and branched out on their own via vanity galleries and coops. The coop and vanity gallery is very prevelant all over Europe and NYC. It is happening with music, publishing alike. It has its place, and I have bought a lot of art from a vanity gallery. With the economy like it is, typical galleries adding high commissions making them no longer affordable causes the business model to change. The way it used to be is a dangerous path and that line of thinkiing has killed more than one industry. If the concept is not for you, so be it, but to knock it would be the same as a gallery artist saying that selling art on the side of the road is ridiculous. They should not knock your way, successful way of getting your art to the public, but neither should you. Final thought, the public shold get together and explain that we want these type of open galleries and they should invest in marketing them as opposed to trying to kill them.

  4. Yes, These are all good points.The intention was not to knock a co op gallery or a rental space. This is certainly a viable alternative to show artworks and the public benefits by seeing varied local works and buying for their collections. This post and Elizabeth's comments were in reference to the local situation.

    Other than a few scattered galleries in the historic section you will find little art done by locals. The art displayed in the galleries surrounding the Plaza is generally stocked via trade shows such as ArtExpo in N.Y.C. (Tripp Harrison Gallery excepted) These works tend to be prints on canvas sold at exhorbitant prices.You can expect an "investment" pitch when you get into the viewing room.

    The outdoor art vendors in St. Augustine, Boston,N.Y.C.and other cities rely upon the First Amendment tested through a number of
    Federal cases ruling in favor of the visual artists.

    The "pay" galleries and the co op galleries have a short life span here in St. Augustine. Our visitors here purchase artworks directly from the creator. The unobtrusive displays that do not interfere with publc safety are part of the "message" as stated by the favorable court decision Bery vs Guiliani.(N.Y.C)Coop galleries cannot provide this message.

    Yes, a coop gallery is a good idea but here high rents force the locations to be away from well travelled areas. A full time artist would have a difficult time recouping enough to survive and create new art.