I have had a few galleries reperesent me in my art career and until recently, the experience was not good. When I first started painting and showing my work 12 years ago, I was picked up by a pretty large gallery in San Diego. I was extremely excited, and naive. I didn't know about contracts or how to deal with gallery directors. I was just so excited to be having solo shows once a year at gallery. I mean, that's what I thought it was about...having a gallery show your work and represent you, right?
Well for the first two years, it was nice. My painting were selling and I was in numerous group and solo shows. But then the gallery owner/director stopped taking my calls and returning my emails. I was supposed to receive about 8 of my paintings back for open studios and never received them. Months later when I finally got a hold of the woman, she said she sent my paintings months ago and didn't I receive them? Well since she never called to tell me she had shipped them (months after I actually requested them, by the way), I didn't know to expect them. The delivery was sent to the wrong address and someone else signed for them. My paintings were lost forever. The gallery owner basically told me I was on my own and good luck in filing a claim against FedEx cause she was not responsible. After this, she was even worse about answering calls or emails. I finally got frustrated and drove to San Diego when she wasn't there and loaded as many of my painting that I could find into my Honda Civic and cut ties. There were still at least two large paintings that she sold that I never got paid for and a few smaller paintings that I couldn't find in my painting heist. I was not the only person she had done this to and the gallery finally went out of business.
The second time I had a gallery approach me (after a 6 year break from painting), I thought I would be wiser about it. I researched the gallery and talked to another artist who was going to be represented by them also. They seemed like a good fit and it was nice to say that I was an international artist since the gallery was in Banff, Alberta Canada. But once again the communication was lacking. After two years of not feeling like I was getting what I needed from this gallery, and not selling work there, I decided to pull my work and sent a nice email explaining the situation. Big surprise, it was ignored. Actually the next ten emails and requests were ignored. After many months and many emails, I did get one unfriendly email back that said I would get my painting by the end of January...it is now mid April and I still have not received my paintings. I am now having to file a lawsuit in order to get my paintings back and am not looking forward to the hassle.
You would think after these two experieneces I would be a little gun shy about having Artzone 461 Gallery represent me, but after years of visiting the gallery in person, I got a really good feeling from them. They are always great about communicating with me, but the ultimate proof in how great this gallery is, was this past Saturday at my first opening reception there.
Artzone 461 was packed with art admirerers. People were enjoying the art, drinking wine, talking to artists, and generally having a great time, myself included. And then I hear a crash right behind me. The nightmare of all gallery opening nightmares had just happened. Someone knocked over one of my paintings and damaged it. I was heart broken and on the verge of tears (and the woman who did it didn't even apologize and walked away). Antonio, from Artzone 461, was immediately there besides me assessing the damage. When he saw how upset I was, he hugged me and told me it was going to be okay. Actually he had to hug me a few times because I was that upset. He told me to not to worry, the gallery would take care of this and to not let it ruin my opening. He helped me find the chunk of wax that was chipped off and put the painting away for safe keeping. Throughout the night, both Erik and Steve hugged me and told me how sorry they were that it had happened and that the gallery would take care of the situation, don't worry. They were very comforting and made me feel better about the situation.
When I first started talking to Steve Lopez about showing my work there he said that the artist comes first and after this experience, I really do believe him. I had never felt like I came first with the two other galleries in the past, but Artzone 461 Gallery really makes me feel like I am a priority there. When I came in the next morning to see the damage of my painting, Steve and I discussed what my options were. Not once did I feel like I was going to have to deal with this problem alone or that it was my problem alone. They took responsibilty and took action. I knew that my work and I were being taken care of. THIS is how a gallery should treat an artist. Other galleries could learn a lesson from these guys.