Swedish Gallery Horror Story
[Editor's Column: No wire coat hangers ever]
Walead Beshty, Fed Ex, Golf-Bag Bo, 2010
In the early days writing about art, quite a few years ago now, there was a gallery director who once physically and deliberately used her body to push me away, in a pretty staunch and vile fashion, from a colleague and co-director of the gallery during a conversation at an exhibition opening of theirs. The culprit clearly wanted to make it known precious time to be selling art was spent unwisely but chose the visitor to be the receiver of her physical efforts rather than addressing her own colleague (who, if anyone, she was entitled to) who had actually chosen to engage in conversation with yours truly.
A verbal scolding on the spot felt inevitable but I chose still to take the high road instead of firmly letting know how foul it had been. Normally would have no problem to do so but also in the moment didn't want to embarrass the friend who was her close colleague. A few months later once learning about our writing with C-print, the same person throws her arms around you, hugging and shouting in excitement (literally) over your presence at the exhibition. Literally as well tries to hold your hand like a chummy friend, guiding you threw whatever exhibition was on display in the venue then.
Mostly had only nice experiences of gallerists and galleries in Stockholm. At C-print we enjoy and like most people working at the galleries and it is a nicer and more down-to-earth attitude and vibe here than in many places where you can go to see art and where more of the typical cinema-worthy clichés about art and its ecosystem are omnipresent. When putting galleries under scrutinity of course me as well will sympathize to a large extent with the fact that galleries are commercial entities and corporations with financial incentives and not publicly funded museums or workshops for learning (which most galleries will at some point tell you) and yet a little kindness naturally goes a long way. A smile, hi and hello, "we are here if you need or have questions", for the most part is more than sufficient. Of course, I too understand the gallery structure of needing to entertain a venue with opening hours must be hugely frustrating at times when you put so much effort into contextualizing exhibitions and offering a dialogue through the exhibitions and yet few people attend beyond the actual openings. Not even art students in this city seem to always see going to shows as part of their "schooling". My sympathies, I understand the frustration that comes with disengagment from the public.
There is of course other stories of that time you were almost passive-aggressively bullied into buying an artwork at a gallery in the venue ("What is the matter? What does your decsion-making come down to? What's keeping you from getting it? Try: money $$$) or that gallerist who almost was trying to edit your text herself to make it more commercially on point to promote her recent gallery protogé, not respsecting in the least your autonomy as a writer.
Or going to a gallery opening with your co-editor twin brother amidst literally only older obviously wealthy couples and collectors. No one under 40 except for you two. Nothing wrong with the scene at face value...people of course and obviously curious who you might be in this shindig, being the "odd" fellows there. That's totally fine, a reality that becomes less and less of a reality as you make a name for yourself. And yet there was something about the air that night in the room. Tense. Like that idiom of one being able to cut through the air with a knife. There was just something about this picture that obviously wasn't adding up. A disruption, shaking up the convenient habitual for some. Drinks courtesy of Absolut, if it serves the blind item going on here.
It was said about the gallerist later that her artists had to enter her venue at night with a key that one of them somehow had in their possession to bring stocks of their works back since the gallery was dubious and terribly negligent with payments. Many of us heard the story, but our versions might differ and yet important to call to mind that isn't just an urban legend. It happened right here to so many of the artists we know and whose work we have come to love.