Come Hang Art in our Office

by Doug E. L. Haynes

When those of means make unreasonable demands on artists there is a aura of sadness and humor about it. One begins to think that the idea of a medieval serf or sharecropper has not gone completely out of style. The following is a recent email conversation that took place between myself and Janet B.

On Dec 3, 2004, at 11:42 AM, Janet B wrote:

I work with a local doctor’s office and we are looking for an artist to take up residence here. What our thoughts are is for a local artist to hang her/his work here in our waiting room reception area changing it out every 4 to 6 weeks. The space is 7’x6’ and 17’x6’. We are planning on installing a hanging system and lighting for artwork.
If you are interested please call us at 608.555-5555.
Thank you.

My response to Janet

Thanks for your email.
Could you let me know what your budget would be for the purchase of art?
Doug Haynes

Janet responds:

We are actually not looking to purchase any artwork ourselves. We are opening up our busy office space to an artist to displace their work and hopefully sell some. We are not asking for a hanging fee, but we are asking a 15% commission on any work that sells. We are also asking for the work to be changed out every 4 to 6 weeks.
If this is something that you would be interested in, please email or phone 608.555-5555
Thank you,

My second email to Janet

Dear Janet,

The tone and content of your message suggests you have little understanding of the business of art. I hope you will take the following in the spirit it was intended as an education on what people in my line of work seek.

The idea that an artist would want to display work in your offices based on the hope of sales is naive. Imagine for a moment that I was in another field. Would you expect a plumber to fix your toilet in order to “showcase his talents”? If the physicians with whom you work do not wish to purchase art for the walls what makes you think that the patients would be more inclined to do so. People come to your offices to be healed, not to buy art. So such an arrangement would result in a good bit of inventory being tied up in a very non-productive venue with a great deal of hanging and rehanging required.

My advice to you is to support the arts generously. You will find many reasonably priced works by local artists in the area. Your patients will thank you, you will enjoy it and you will be making a positive impact on the health of the local arts scene.

Doug Haynes

The following response to this post presents another view

Mr Haynes,
I’m a painter living in Maine who is fortunate enough to be able to do what I love and make a pretty
good living at it (knock wood).

I’m writing because I’m puzzled by one of the postings on the Wisconsin artists website under “questionable
schemes”. You show an exchange between yourself and a Janet B who was contacting you on behalf of a local
doctor’s office, wanting to know if you would be interested in hanging art in that office that would be for sale.
They were apparently willing to give you a 85 percent split for anything that sold ( a better split than most of the
galleries I’m familiar with)

Your last email to her was (a), a little condescending: “. . . The tone and content of your message suggests you
have little understanding of the business of art.” She works in a doctor’s office. Why should you expect her
to have an understanding of the business of art? And (b), way off base: “. . . The idea that an artist would want
to display work in your offices based on the hope of sales is naive.” I respectfully have to disagree.

I’m thankful that we are living in a time when we don’t have to rely exclusively on galleries to exhibit our art.
If you scour the web, you’ll find that there’s a much greater percentage of galleries who say “we are not
accepting artist submissions at this time” than there are those that do. But there are a lot of offices, coffee
shops, restaurants, street-side window displays, hotel lobbies, community centers and other non-traditional
venues that offer wall space. I’ve sold a lot of paintings at these venues, and I know a lot of other painters in
Maine (where it seems everyone who isn’t a lobsterman and even a few who are, are artists) who have enjoyed
significant sales also.

My point is, while you may not agree with Janet B.’s proposal, it doesn’t rise to the title of “scheme.” It seemed
to be a genuine effort to offer you exposure for your art. I know exposure is what people die of in the woods,
but that’s only true until a piece sells. I’ve found that it’s better to have paintings hanging out in the world where
people can see them than hanging in your house. In fact, after several futile attempts to get the local newspaper’s
art critic to review my shows (his replies were generally in the vein of “I’ll try, but I’m swamped”), I finally got a review
from him without lobbying because he eats lunch at Shay’s in Portland, where I had a month long exhibit of my work.

The dictionary describes “art gallery” as: “a room or series of rooms where works of art are exhibited”. I respectfully
suggest that you expand your definition of “art gallery” to approximate the above.

Thank you for your time, and like your email to Janet B., I hope you take this in the spirit in the spirit it was intended
(which is good-natured – an attitude I try to carry around at all times).
George Wardwell