Help Desk is an arts-advice column that demystifies practices for artists, writers, curators, collectors, patrons, and the general public. Submit your questions and issues anonymously here. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving.
I’m a new MFA grad and I’m trying to break into the gallery system. Recently I had a great studio visit with a well-known curator. We talked for a long while about the work and he seemed very interested (he even said, “You’re a genius!”), but since then he hasn’t been in touch. I did write an email thanking him for the visit, but I never got a response. It’s been months now, and still no word about putting my work in a show or anything. I’d like to follow up, but I don’t even know what to say because I’m so disappointed. The studio visit was great, so I kind of thought it was my ticket in. What should I do?
Your disappointment is completely understandable. It’s distressing when there’s no follow-up after a successful meeting, and unfortunately, your situation is not unique. In the course of your career, you’re going to have a lot of people tell you that they absolutely looooove your work, and then you’ll never hear from them again. There are any number of reasons for this: Someone gets sick, a budget gets cut, a gallery closes, a new director is hired…or another artist is a better fit. No single exhibition or residency or award—and definitely not one fickle curator—is your “ticket in.”
But don’t write this curator off yet, because curation works at a very different pace from artistic production. Sometimes even when people are excited about the work, things don’t happen as quickly as we would like. Exhibitions at high-level galleries and institutions are often scheduled years in advance, and this curator might still be thinking about where your work fits into future programming. Since you’re a newly minted grad, the curator might also be wondering how your work will evolve over time, so keep him informed. It’s a good idea to send a few images of new work every six months or so, saying, “I really enjoyed talking with you at my studio and thought you might like to see some of the work I’ve made since our visit.”