After six busy years, I have left the artist run co-operative gallery, Greenwich Printmakers. I made a lot of great friends and had a really good time there.
However, being a member of a co-operative gallery entails a fair bit of work. Every artist has to staff the gallery for a minimum of one day a month, take on a role within the organisation (i.e. marketing, outside exhibitions, chairperson, gallery manager), pay a subscription, and attend planning meetings. On top of these commitments, you still have to pay the usual gallery commission (40 -50%).
In return, you get a gallery that keeps a reasonable stock of your work on display (you are allowed a certain number of acetated prints out in the browsers at all times) and there is a regular display of work on the walls (each exhibition generally lasts for a couple of months). In addition to this, each artist gets the chance to have an area of the gallery devoted to a small show of their framed work (on a rotating basis – how often it is depends on how many members there are).
All this is is fine if you’re just starting out, or have other commitments. Once you start to build up a good network of commercial galleries, it becomes difficult to justify devoting so much time to that one co-operative gallery – and of course that co-operative gallery in turn has to rely on every member pulling their weight and being equally committed.
But in the end, co-operative galleries don’t have any more to offer than commercial ones (after all, with commercial galleries, all you have to do is deliver new work periodically and they do the rest). Sadly, it became increasingly difficult to find the time needed to play an active and useful role within the Greenwich Printmakers organisation – and that was the problem in the end….
The printmaking world is a small one, especially in London, and an artist’s working life is rather solitary, so generally it’s great to feel part of a community.
Of course, as in any group of people, everybody knows everything about everyone – a bit like living in a village, I’d imagine. So while it’s great when you have some success – word gets around without you having to stoop so low as to mention it yourself – there’s always a downside.
Cringingly, everyone gets to know about the other stuff as well – the things you’d rather keep quiet about – all those rejections and setbacks that come from working in such a competitive field. (Suffice it to say, I won’t dwell on the less than spectacular parts of my working life right now.)
What’s brought this on? Submission for the UK’s national open print exhibition, Originals, is here again and I’ve just spent this freezing cold, snow-bound day at home, framing, packing and form filling, that’s what…