Observations: Why artists need dealers
Friday 24 October 2008
Art dealers were miffed when Damien Hirst bypassed them by selling his works directly at auction last month. They argue that they made him, so how could he cut them out? Their cages have been rattled. So is there still a role for the dealer?
Yes, very much so. It's a partnership and some artists can do self-promotion better than others. Hirst is a brilliant businessman, and so was Henry Moore. If they hadn't been creators, Moore and Hirst would have run multinationals on their own. Others need a little bit of help. One artist had someone interested in buying his painting for £6,000 He was so grateful that I had to kick him in the shins.
We're not dispensable, but we're not main players. I think the ego should be with the artist and the buyer, not with the gallery. Art, like wine, is full of snobs. I trained as a gilder so I've been the lowest of the low. I met Andy Warhol when I was gilding his frames and I realised that the hype came from the gallery owners and the people around him.
My role is to create an ambience so that people can engage in the art. Sometimes buyers turn to you for reassurance, but you shouldn't patronise them. I've had people come in who were thinking of buying a £10,000 sculpture. They asked me if I'd buy it, and I said: "No, I wouldn't even give it house room!" It just wasn't my taste. They bought it anyway and said thanks for the honesty.
Drummond Cuthbert is the manager of GX Gallery in Denmark Hill, south-east London (www.gxgallery.com)
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