Before we tackle the larger issue of what defines an establishment as a Gallery verses a Smoke-shop / headshop / etc. I think it is important to talk about the curating responsibilities when a show is put on for an artist.
There are so many facets that need to be taken care of for a successful gallery show to shine. The responsibilities cannot be left up to just the exhibiting artist, and often smoke-shop managers are not equipped with the right skill set to put on a proper gallery show. Curating a gallery show is much different than running a business day-to-day; the improper curating of a gallery show can have a huge impact on its success.
One of the main things I believe a good curator will do is generate media interest and coverage for the show. Not only is this beneficial to the gallery and the show, but in the broader spectrum it is what we as an industry need in order to keep growing and attracting new collectors. Mainstream media coverage and local blog attention will spread in the city, and a whole new set of eyes will come to view the gallery and the exhibiting artists body of work. The more people know about Functional Glass Art, the more opportunities will present themselves to the artists and galleries.
Another vital aspect of a curators responsibilities is the way in which the work is presented once in the show space. As our industry is still in its infant stage, it is important to acknowledge that we sometimes have gallery shows in smoke-shops; but that does not excuse the people putting on the show from turning the space into a gallery like setting for the show. If your shop sells papers, incense sticks, and other typical smoke-shop items, put them away for the show. If you sell Chinese import glass of any sort, put that garbage in the back room for the show. I can’t begin to explain how ridiculous it looks to see a $12 000 Joe Peters Dragon next to a case full of Hoss Glass. It takes away from the space, the appeal of the Dragon, and the respect that Functional Glass Art deserves.
Being able to bring out your own client list to the show is a MUST for any curator! Having a base of clients who trust the curator’s judgment and seek his advice when purchasing in the subject matter is vital to a show being successful. When an artist teams up to do a gallery show, both parties need to be bringing something to the table. The customer base that you are able to establish and bring to this show, is one of the things curators must bring, customer relationship management is key to a curator.
There is also a high amount of logistics involved when putting on a show, a strong sense of organization is needed by the curator to help the artist when necessary as it is one of the more troublesome areas for some artists. From the lighting in the gallery, to the show’s poster branding being in line with the artist and gallery, there is a high amount of minor tasks that make up a major aspect of the show.
Last but certainly not least, the curator has to have impeccable people skills. We are selling art, nothing about the things we buy are “necessary” in the sense that we would die without them. These pieces of art are not commodities; they are luxury at its best. You are not just selling the product; you are selling the experience of owning a piece of Functional Glass Art.