Galleries Find Museum Shows to Be a 'Natural Fit': Synchronizing Gallery Events with Museum Shows Spurs Business and a 'Buzz.'

By Fondo, Lisa | Art Business News, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Galleries Find Museum Shows to Be a 'Natural Fit': Synchronizing Gallery Events with Museum Shows Spurs Business and a 'Buzz.'


Fondo, Lisa, Art Business News


This past spring and summer will be remembered for big ticket shows at museums around the country. The Philadelphia Museum of Art show, "Salvador Dali," enjoyed an extended run through the end of May. The show, "Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre," began its run at The Art Institute of Chicago July 16 and continues through Oct. 10, 2005. The exhibit follows a successful run at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Creating a Demand

The Dali show was one of the hot tickets of the season. As Philadelphia Museum of Art Press Officer Dominic M. Mercier says, "the retrospective of Dali's work was the second most highly attended special exhibition in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's history, second only to Cezanne." Attendance soared to more than 370,000 people eager to visit the retrospective, which celebrated the centennial of the Catalan artist's birth. Attendees included celebrities such as actor Jim Carrey, singer Tom Waits and Ireland's President Mary McAleese. The museum had to extend the run by two weeks due to popular demand.

The appeal and the excitement that the Dali show generated would have delighted the consummate showman in Dali, who was known for his pubic relations events almost as much as he was known for his art. The appeal of the show was not lost on regional fine art galleries. One savvy gallery owner who chose to capitalize on the momentum started by the Philadelphia exhibit is Jeanne Richards of the J. Richards Gallery in Englewood, NJ. The gallery, which is located in the New York metro area, played host to its own Dali show this past summer and exhibited a selection of lithographs, serigraphs and sculptures by the artist.

'Natural' Fit

For galleries able to synchronize shows with special exhibits at museums, the practice appears to be a successful marketing strategy. The Dali show was a natural fit, says Richards. "By and large, we do not make an effort to coordinate gallery shows with nearby museum exhibits, but we did the Dali show because of the exhibit in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We felt it would expose us to a different clientele."

Indeed, the museum exhibit drew many first-time visitors to the gallery, including a young couple who had recently attended the Philadelphia show. Although they were not previously clients of the gallery, they purchased a Dali limited edition print within minutes of entering the gallery.

"You must remember that many people were aware of the show in Philadelphia," says Richards. "We sent out press releases and The New York Times picked up and featured Dali's 'Manhattan Skyline' in the Sunday Edition of the New Jersey section of the Times. Those that could not attend the Philadelphia Museum show felt gratified and delighted that they saw in our gallery works not only by Dali, but by Miro, Chagall, Picasso and Rockwell."

Many gallery owners agree that the challenges involved with coordinating and promoting gallery shows with museum exhibits are well worth the benefits. Included in that group is Jonathan Kodner, president and director of Kodner Gallery in St. Louis. "In February 2004, we opened our show, 'Beyond the Endless River: Art of the American Frontier;" says Kodner. The show featured nearly 100 paintings, watercolors, drawings, prints and sculptures by artists such as Karl Bodner (1809-1893); Charles M. Russell (1864-1926); Oscar E. Berninghaus (1874-1952); Cassily Adams (1843-1921); Carl Wimar (1828-1862); George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879); Thomas Moran (1837-1926); Frederic Sackrider Remington (1861-1909); and Alfred Jacob Miller (1810-1874).

"At the same time," Kodner continues, "the St. Louis Museum held their exhibit 'Art of the Osage.' And The Missouri Historical Society also held a Lewis and Clark Exhibit during the same season."

Kodner says he found that if a gallery show "is crafted and presented properly, the benefits far outweigh the cost. Attendees may simply come to visit the exhibit and end up purchasing works because of their superior quality. …

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