The Internet brought with it some amazing changes to our world. It removed time and distance, it created instant contact and unlimited conversations, and it offered a wealth of shared information. It also made people more isolated and anonymous, it built a barrier to personal communication and human contact, and it desensitized the individual.
In my opinion, the Internet has brought the world closer together while at the same time pushed those in it further apart. This point has been never more apparent to me than when I traveled to New York, Rome, Berlin and Vienna with the intent of visiting art galleries. On this trip I brought with me a portfolio with a selection of actual photo prints of my work. I took the time and effort to assemble a portfolio, just like artists did back in “the day” (the one before the Internet). So I set out on a journey to visit galleries and show my work in person. I was astonished by what happened.
Not a single gallery would take a look at my work! The response I received was universal: “You need to send us an email and we’ll get back to you.” I was looked at with amazement that I would actually walk in the door and expect them to look at my work right then and there. I was often told that no one does this anymore (meaning that everyone used to before you-know-what) and that “all business is done over the Internet.” I ventured to explain that I wanted to make a personal contact and be able to show my actual work, but was repeatedly turned away with claims that “we don’t have time to look at everyone who walks in the door.” What I found most ironic is that in the fifteen minutes that I was in each gallery, being told they didn’t have time to look at my work, they could have looked at my work.
My argument to all the galleries was that sending an email was impersonal and vague. Who knew if anyone actually read it or whether it just went into a junk folder. I would never know if anyone got my note. I was assured that they read all emails. So I tried a new approach. Halfway through my travels, I sent an email to all the galleries I was planning on visiting on my trip. I told them I would be in town the following week and wanted to show my work, and included a link to my website. If they weren’t interested, I asked, please let me know. Not a single gallery responded. So I visited the ones on my list and they all told me the same thing: “You have to send an email.” I told them I did! I was beginning to feel like Captain Yossarian.
Now, I’m not naïve. I get what’s happening. The Internet is being used as a wall, a barrier to keep out pesky artists, as well as others. This way the galleries don’t have to pretend to be interested in the work. They don’t have to feel uncomfortable by turning someone down and sending them away. They can go on their merry way and not have to add that stress to their life. It’s cleaner that way.
They also could pass up some real talent. Being an artist is as much about the artist himself as the work he produces. It’s about their personality and drive, and their work is merely an extension of that. Why wouldn’t you want to get to know that person if they were willing to make the effort to travel to meet you and bring their work to show. That tells you a lot about the person behind the work. After all, the artists are the manufacturers that produce the products that galleries sell.
But the Internet has changed all that. It’s made everything much easier…but not necessarily better.
Thanks for reading. And feel free to drop me an email any time.