People make real contact with you when things go wrong, generally. They change to a now that things are going badly I've decided to be honest and earnest with you tact (if that's the right word). Otherwise it’s just keep calm and carry on. Sometimes things are so anticipated and safe that when things miraculously go wrong the contacting and communication is an awkward and alien act. The example hasn’t been seen to follow or practice. How am I meant to handle this situation?
So the other day I get the most human and apologetic email I ever received, from the NZAFA gallery co-ordinator, saying that during the storage of my work it had been damaged. Apparently one of the volunteers had wedged a piece of polystyrene between the paintings. When removed they found that it had marked the surface and stretched the canvases in directions they never should have been stretched.
Obviously, in such a state, they were totally useless to them. So I needed to come down and pick them up. And that I did. But I had heard advice enough to think to myself: this was somehow an opportunity rather than an failure. I mean, it was just a tiny art sale in a meagre third of the gallery. While the patronised artists had the other two thirds. In a way it could be seen as a failure from the outset. And I figured the only reason the damage had been discovered, and I had been contacted, was because it was finally my turn to be rotated out of storage and on to the gallery wall. Meaning that the work basically hadn't been shown.
There had been so many entries accepted that they had been hung on a rotational basis. Some in storage while the others on the wall. And this meant that for the first three weeks of the sale my paintings hadn’t even been hung. And then, after the holiday break, all the initial rejects were brought for their turn on the last week. It was then that the volunteers mistake was discovered. Which is the real shame because the longer a canvas is stretched like that the less easy the fix. The show is pretty much inconsequential and the paintings I had made were beginnings rather than masterpieces and I could always restart. It was more about the exercise among other things for me. I had priced them to probably not sell. At value rather than the going rate.
But rather than worry about that, I thought I would use this incident to weave some magic. Get my name recognised or remembered by the people who ran this thing.. Get familiar. Get them on my side. I’m kidding. Actually I didn’t do that well but at least I didn’t thank or totally excuse them for damaging the paintings.
If you’ve been caught speeding (myself, only twice, ok?) you’ll know how the officer hands you a ticket and you automatically mumble a thank you and then try and take it back and then wonder to yourself what it is you should say (IF there is a next time, I'm going to try "How unfortunate"). I heard it said that this is a Western problem that stems from the way that the parents reward or expect a child’s “yes” but punish their “no”. Hmmm… thought provoking :O “Say thank you”... Things parents say.
So she said the volunteers didn’t really know how to handle “rounds” and she usually saw to it, when they came in, as she sometimes worked on “rounds” herself and knew of the difficulties. But these had slipped her by. “Rounds” is the cool art word for a circle canvases I learnt.
So we arranged for alternative pieces that I had from the same series to be swapped in for the last few days. And that I should find what would be an agreeable cost for the repair, and send an invoice to the gallery. I thought an amount equal to the entry fee would be poetic. I don’t really care about the financial reparation but rather a win with the gallery. She even came in on the weekend to hang the new paintings which was neat.
When I was making the swap, the volunteer that helped me, JOHN, had a good idea on how to keep the pieces together. He suggested to somehow have an option where they could be bought together at a discount. Which is genius as they’re painted as pairs and intended to work in a partnership wherever they end up. Thanks John. ;)