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Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the inner workings of an art gallery
I’ve been a gallerist for a little over six years now, and for some odd reason, it seems that what I do on a daily basis is still shrouded in mystery. Friends and family often ask the proverbial question, “What do you do exactly?” So, let’s shed some light on what the typical day of a gallery director in Dubai looks like.
I usually come to the gallery an hour before it is scheduled to open. This is what I refer to as my “me time” in the morning. The first thing I do is walk around the gallery to make sure everything looks perfect. Because we rotate the selection fairly often, I check for the paintings to be hung properly, with the right light, and make small adjustments to the curation if needed. Much like any other person working in retail, I need to make sure that the gallery looks pristine for visitors and collectors.
Then I try as much as possible to treat all the emails received during the night. Because we have galleries and collectors all over the world, I receive a constant stream of emails that need to be responded to. I favour doing this while the gallery is still closed, as it allows me to be more focused and uninterrupted while I do so.
Once the gallery opens, a big part of our job is to handle walk-ins. When people come to the gallery, I give them a tour of the art on display and try to get a feel for what they might like. Each client is different and requires a different level of attention when it comes to pitching the works — no two visits are the same. The real work comes in once the client has left the gallery and asked for more information. A gallerist spends the majority of their time crafting long emails presenting artists, their work, and compiling the required information to relay to collectors. This might sound like a mundane task, but it is essential in order to make the sale and develop strong relationships with our clients.
Additionally, every day is peppered with loads of administrative tasks and client follow-ups. We track shipment of sold pieces, make sure they have been delivered and the collectors are happy. On top of overseeing the operations of the gallery and my sales team, I also allocate quite a lot of my time to meetings, internal and external. I try to think outside of the box and find creative ways to attract new collectors and build partnerships, which requires meeting a lot of various people on a constant basis.
I’m in charge of building the shows, which is very time-consuming and requires endless back-and-forth with different departments within our group. Artwork selection, curation, putting together an exhibition catalogue and constant liaison with our PR team takes up a lot of time during my day.
As you can see, the tasks of a gallery director require a lot of time spent behind a computer and on the phone; this makes up most of a typical day at the gallery.
Then comes what I refer to as my “second shift”, when I leave the gallery. A lot of my job entails going out and socialising with clients, attending openings and other social functions, which Dubai is never short of! I’m never really “off” and spend quite a lot of time outside the gallery networking, which is the part of my job I enjoy the most.
So there you go, hopefully you now have a better understanding of what gallery directors do, without going into lengthy and technical details.
The writer is the director of Opera Gallery Dubai
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