I typically arrive at the gallery just before 10 am with an iced coffee in hand. Along the way, I greet the local delivery guy Marcos and the fish- market guys next door (who sometimes treat us to cupcakes—they are great neighbors!). West Twenty-Ninth Street still has the flavor of old New York although the High Line Park and high- rise development projects loom large.
When I enter the gallery, I plop down my stuff and de-brief with the Registrar. Are there are any fires that need to be put out? Is one of our clients arriving early? Or, is an artwork arriving late? Then I take a walk around the gallery to make sure all the art is okay and the video/installation pieces are working properly. The gallery is located in an old stable- turned-taxi garage so the building has great character, but also great quirks and structural challenges. I find it pays to expect the unexpected.
After my morning walkabout, I review the emails from the gallery owner Cristin Tierney. And usually after reading those, my schedule for the day changes. When Cristin arrives we all check in to review the gallery agenda. In the immediate: the daily schedule, new or potential sales and general art world news. Longer term: gallery exhibition plans, outside exhibitions, art fairs, auctions and travel. And finally the more mundane: calling the HVAC guy to put in new filters, having the graphic designer print new business cards, etc.
Our clients are generally high- powered individuals and their schedules are tricky. Because of this, I sometimes find myself scrambling in the storage room, in dresses and heels, working with the Art Handler to unpack and install an artwork for an unscheduled viewing. Remaining glamourous while handling a painting is an art form unto itself.
Once the day’s schedule is set and I know (generally) what to expect for the day, I sit down and get to work. A lot of my job involves strategy: marketing planning and execution, advertising and gallery outreach. How do we best promote artists, exhibitions and the Cristin Tierney brand. Among the questions for me to consider with each new exhibition: Who is our audience for the work? Which press contacts would be most interested in this show and how can I appeal to them? Are there organizations, museums, or other institutions that would be interested? How exactly do we position this exhibition or this artist within the market? I review our social media, examine the stats and analyze the numbers to see what is successful and what is not. I plan what to post on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ for the weeks ahead which also factors into our email campaigns.
I also work with our roster of fifteen artists to manage their online presences. Are their websites up to date? How can we improve them? Are they using Facebook and Twitter to promote their work? Are they using the platforms properly? If not, would social media be a good fit for them? Would a process blog be a good idea?
In addition to the social media, I also manage all of the online inventory sites like artnet.com and Art.sy. Online sales are increasingly important and thus it is essential to have a strong presence on these sites. One of the reasons Cristin hired me was my expertise and enthusiasm for these platforms. For example, I love working with Art.sy. They have a fantastic, intelligently organized site that is easy to use and really presents artworks well. I can’t wait to see where it goes, especially since we’ve been involved in the site from its inception.
One of my favorite things to do with our artists is project management. They exhibit all over the world and I provide them with any help they might need: access to resources, promotion and coordination. Last year, I worked with Austrian-born installation artist Alois Kronschlaeger to create a 72-foot, site-specific sculptural installation in the elevator shaft of an abandoned building in Grand Rapids, MI. The project, entitled Spire, took about six months from the first site visit to the opening of the exhibition. Alois and his artwork, thanks to our team’s efforts, was featured in every local publication, all the papers and all three TV news station segments. We also documented the entire show from start to finish on a process blog, which I oversaw, edited and promoted. As an emerging artist it was a game changer for Alois and has since led to many more opportunities. I am thrilled to be a part of this.
It takes a lot to put on an exhibition. In fact, it takes a village: the artist, the dealer, the collectors, the curators, the installers, the shippers, the photographer, the caterers, the graphic designers and many more people in between. No matter how prepared you are there are always last minute emergencies. I often find myself lighting art and rearranging the gallery until just before I have to greet our guests at an opening party. The VIPs always sneak in early and duck out quickly so I’ve learned to look good with a hammer in hand and to be ready with all relevant info.
My responsibilities are varied. One moment I might be climbing a ladder or lifting a huge crate up a flight of stairs, and in the next moment I may be explaining our latest installation to a major critic or collector. I wear many different hats and I like the challenge of that. It isn’t a job for the faint of heart. But I am happy to be working with Cristin at this exciting juncture and to see the gallery and our artists evolve. It feels great to know that I actively contribute to those successes. And although my mornings generally begin the same way, I know that I can count on the unpredictable nature of the art market to ensure that every day is an adventure.