After viewing art in both open studios run by artists and museums run by curators, we wanted to see how contemporary art is shown in different types of venues. One gallery that we had heard about various times was City Art Gallery, located on Valencia in the extremely fruitful Mission district. We went to City Lights with no expectations, for we had no idea how it, or any other galleries for that matter, were ran.
As soon as we entered, we were shocked by the way the gallery was laid out. Instead of just having the work of one artist displayed, there were about 5 or 6 that we were able to see out of the gate. Each wall would be sectioned off for a certain artist, complete with their name and about 6 or 7 of their pieces, depending upon the size. The different artists all made art with different themes and out of different media, and each one was able to stand strongly on its own, yet work together with those around it.
We decided to interview Beka Brayer, an artist who was working at the gallery when we visited. Beka explained to us that City Art was a co-op gallery owned by about 200 artists or so, in which each artist would work 2 sets of 4.5 hour-days per month. In order to join the gallery, an artist would have the opportunity sit in front of a jury of around 7 artists once a month, in which they would display their art and explain why they should be a part of the gallery. Once accepted, an artist is only allowed to show in the gallery 9 months per each year, so that everyone has a chance to show their work.
The exhibits at City Art are changed every month, and the gallery closes down for 2 days. Everything about the gallery changes, for example the walls are painted and the setup of the gallery is changed, so that 26 new artists are able to show their work on a fresh and new background.
Because the gallery is recognized by the city and has been awarded each year for it's excellence, City Art is able to attract many buyers for it's artists. Thanks to the gallery's recognition and cheaper prices, huge amounts of the artwork shown there gets sold. There are some months that the gallery has sold $100,000 worth of art, Beka claimed.
In addition, Beka also explained to us how the gallery was different than other galleries. Because the artists owned and ran this gallery, they gave more money to the artists themselves than to the gallery. Regular galleries split the price of art 50-50, the gallery keeps 50% and the artist keeps the other half. City Art, and other co-op galleries are different, in which the gallery gets 10%, the selling artist gets 10%, and the artist who created the work gets 80%. We both loved this fact, for it seemed extremely fair. Emma and I are both avid supporters of an equal art business world, in which all artists have the chance to sell their works to everyone and keep all the money they sell it for. We feel that it is extremely unfair for a gallery to take 50% of the money made by the artist, when all they do is hang the works of art. Because of this, Emma and I were extremely intrigued and interested in the gallery, and we believed many others were as well.
Lastly, we talked to Beka about the differences between art collectors and art buyers for homes, and how they act when they come to buy at studios. Beka explained to us that art collectors are much easier to sell to, for they come into the gallery knowing exactly what they want. Art collectors want the works of art to speak for themselves, for they recognize that the viewers won't get the chance to learn the background information about the work. Because of this, Beka claimed that art collectors don't like to talk or hear from the artist, and instead just buy art solely on it's looks. Buyers, on the other hand, were more interested in forming a personal connection with the art that went just beyond the way it appeared.
All in all, Emma and I very much enjoyed our visit to the gallery and will definitely return soon!