Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Vanity galleries

A vanity gallery is an art gallery that "rents" its space to artists in order for the artist to have a show. Thus, the main driver in having a show at a vanity gallery is not necessarily the quality of the artwork, but the artist's ability to pay the gallery to host his/her artwork.

New York is crawling with vanity galleries, and the vast majority of European galleries are vanity galleries. In the US however, vanity galleries are often looked down upon by everyone, since they are essentially a "rental" gallery. A knowledgeable art critic or curator knows which galleries in his/her town are vanity galleries, and often ignore them, much like book critics ignore most self-published writers, who use "vanity publishers."

An interesting fact, at least here in Washington, is the fact that I have seen "reputable" galleries which sometimes cross the line and become "charge the artist" galleries or vanity galleries once in a while, as the mighty dollar (or lack thereof) calls.

Sometimes, when I was part of Fraser Gallery, we'd get a phone call from an embassy, or from the agent of a Hollywood actor who's also a "painter" or "photographer," or from an individual "artist," and they'll ask us how much would we charge to host a show by their "artist."

When we'd inform them that we do not rent the gallery for artists to have shows, they'd thank us and hang up. Then a few months later I'd see that "Hollywood artist" or "embassy artist" exhibiting in one of the area's "reputable" art galleries, and immediately recognize that - at least for that month - that gallery is making ends meet by renting the space to someone.

While I understand that most galleries are labors of love, and often run by the skin of one's teeth, I still find it somewhat distasteful, and dishonest - to appear (on the surface) to be a gallery that shows work based on merit, while at the same time showing work based on an artist, or a corporation's ability to pay.

And it's not just commercial art spaces. Several years ago, the WCP profiled a then a local non-profit, which inadvertently admitted charging a multinational corporation a hefty fee to put up an art show at the "reputable" non-profit art spaces.

One can even make the case that even some museums sometimes cross the line and become "vanity museums."

A few years ago I was astounded when a Culture Minister from one of the embassies in DC told me that they had finished a deal with a local museum to host the first ever retrospective of one of that country's artists for a fee of four million dollars! To him, it was "business as usual," while to me it was distasteful and dishonest and left a bad taste in my mouth about that museum for the longest time.

Opportunity for Artists

Deadline: March 28, 2008 (postmark date)

Ragan Cole-Cunningham, Director of Exhibitions and Education at the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia (CAC), is the Virginia Art Education Association’s (VAEA) 2006 Art Educator of the Year/Museum Division is the juror for the 2008 Arts Council @ Grace Competition.

Last year’s winners were: Linda Hesh (1st place), Kathryn Cornelius (2nd place) and Charles Westerman (3rd place).

The exhibition is June 21–August 1, 2008 and has awards of $2000.

To download the 2008 entry form click here.

Opportunity for Artists

Established by the United States Department of State in 1964, the Art In Embassies Program is a global museum that exhibits original works of art by U.S. citizens in the public rooms of approximately 180 American diplomatic residences worldwide.

To submit images to its staff for consideration in upcoming exhibitions please email .jpg or .gif images of your works no larger than 50k in size, to:

Lucelia Artist Award winners

Are you curious about how the Lucelia Artist Award winners were selected? Join Sidra Stitch, former executive director of the Lucelia Artist Award and guest curator of the current exhibition, as she discusses each of the artists featured in Celebrating the Lucelia Artist Award, 2001--2006 and current issues in contemporary art.

McEvoy Auditorium — Lower Level Saturday, February 2, 3 p.m. Questions can be directed to (202) 633-1000 or

Michael Janis

No objectivity here, but more evidence of why DC area artists who use glass as their means to deliver visual art are creating a new art movement centered on the Greater DC area...

Recently his public art glass and steel sculpture for the Hotel Palomar received "Best Artwork Award 2007" from Boutique Design Magazine, and The Onion singled out that sculpture as one of the reasons that Washington, DC is becoming a cool arts center. He's also been selling a ton of work at the major art fairs.

Michael Janis
Lobby Sculpture Hotel Palomar, Washington, DC
Michael Janis, c. 2006 . Cast glass and steel - 4.5' x 6'

Michael Janis is represented in the Greater DC area by Gallery Neptune, in Richmond, Virginia by Red Door Gallery, and elsewhere by Maurine Littleton Gallery.

Janis will be in a three person show at Gallery Neptune titled "Closer" which is opening February 6, 2008.

Buy Michael Janis now.