The Gallery Month

In a previous post, I have mentioned that I am currently working in an art gallery. Indeed, I have been spending the last four weeks in Milan, as an intern at Galleria Rubin (the name is a mere coincidence, by the way). Even though I have only completed my first year of college, I am already thinking ahead of my graduation. Obviously, there is no way for me to know where I will end up after 2019. On the other hand though, I am carefully considering the various traditional paths connected to an art-history degree and certainly I find the art market fascinating. Throughout this summer I have tried to see if my expectations could actually match with reality. To some extent, the Yale summer course too served this purpose. Therefore, I am gathering some personal considerations about my recent experience and the way it has impacted my perception.

Tutto è fermo – Luca Gastaldo – 2016 – mixed techniques on canvas

The art market relies to a great extent on relations. The gallery is a meeting point between artists and potential customers. It is essential for the art dealer to keep a solid connection with a group of connoisseurs, while supporting and mentoring artists. The artist and the dealer work in symbiosis, even though it should be noted that the changing rules of trade are partially causing the whole sector to mutate. The growing popularity of auctions, for instance, is creating new unexpected scenarios. On the other hand, the forms of cooperation between galleries and artists are loosening. Generally speaking though, the art dealer receives a fixed share from sold artworks, depending on the contract with each artist. Exclusivity clauses between artists and certain galleries may apply as well.

Paul of Tarsus Falls Asleep and Dreams – Maurizio L’Altrella – 2016 – oil on canvas

My job at Galleria Rubin consisted of a variety of tasks. On the one hand, I was responsible for the basic customer-service, welcoming guests and taking care of the gallery whenever the owners were otherwise occupied. This was probably the easiest side of my internship, but it taught me the necessity of creating and nurturing a connection between the visitor and the works of art on exhibition. Usually, they would walk around and observe quickly each piece. Then, they would often find an object or an artist peculiarly appealing. In this instant of epiphany, it is important to be reactive but not pedantic. Delivering a well-thought but pompous explanation of the technique and meaning can be intimidating or bothersome. Rather, it is good practice to understand what the customer has noticed and thus direct the conversation so as to show him/her why that piece would be ideal in his/her collection. Of course, it is not always possible to do so but sometimes I was able to create a positive exchange that would put the customer at ease and possibly convince him/her to return for a second look.

Ain Karem – Paola Marzoli – 2015 – oil on canvas

Apart from attending to the gallery’s basic errands, my main occupation was writing contents related to the coming exhibitions. From the twelfth of October, for instance, Galleria Rubin will display a series of paintings by the renowned Italian artist Alessandra Giovannoni. The artworks focus on the peculiar combination of bathers and migrants, two different worlds which have been coexisting on the Mediterranean beaches. I am not going to delve into details, as I will probably dedicate a post to this in the near future. However, I was asked to write a press report and a promotional article that would be published in advance of the vernissage. This taught me the necessity to adapt subtly both register and content in order to appeal to a specific share of customers. Selecting an artist and arranging an exhibition does not mean choosing artworks only, it also implies finding a sector of the market where the gallery’s proposal can match the public’s expectations. Promoting the exhibition requires one to know thoroughly both the artist and those who are most likely to be interested in her oeuvre.

King Dom – Tommaso Ottieri – 2016 – oil on panel

At the end of my internship, I have gathered a direct insight into the art-trade world. It reminded me once again the importance of art’s materiality, and the way art is created and circulates through society. Relations mean more than selling the right object to the right collector. Primary trade, as it is called, consists of finding artists and helping them to nurture their career effectively. It is a work of development which requires a vision covering the whole gallery as a hub of creative outputs. In conclusion, I believe this experience has helped me in readjusting my focus as an art-history student. While looking at social phenomena from a great distance, it is often easy to idealise certain artistic practices as well as the intentions of artists and patrons. The contemporary art world reminds us that often masterpieces stem from casual relations, random events, connections between people. It is not some sort of Hegelian narrative, where the story unravels plainly before our eyes. It is rather a complex net of relations, intertwining and running apart, distracting us from any underlying pattern.

Credits:< a href=””>Featured Image< a href=”×60-Tecnica-mista-su-tela-2016.jpg?format=1500w”>Tutto è fermo< a href=””>Paul of Tarsus Falls Asleep and Dreams< a href=”–2015-718-100×100-Ain-Karem.jpg?format=1500w”>Ain Karem< a href=”×180+cm.+19000jpg.jpg?format=1000w”>King Dom<< p>< /p>

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Alessandro M. Rubin Written by:

Cambridge History of Art alumnus. Passionate early-modernist, curious about contemporary art and aesthetic theory.

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