Paige West of Art Addict writes (in a long-awaited post):
Intimidation is a well-known sales tactic, especially in some of the Blue Chip galleries. If you aren't "in the club" (they don't know you and/or you've never purchased anything at the gallery), many galleries won't offer any assistance, even if you ask. I have a friend who worked at one of those Blue Chip Chelsea galleries not too long ago. She got in a whole heap of trouble for sharing pricing information with an inquiring gallery visitor. Sharing any information with strangers in this gallery was a no-no. When she asked her boss how she should have responded to their questions, she was told that if "we" don't know the individual inquiring then you tell them that the work is no longer available and leave them be, prompting no further questions. In other words, be rude.
I've discussed this before on abLA, specifically about how a non Blue Chip gallery (actually, it's barely a
"gallery") treated us so rudely once when we…gasp…asked for a price list at the opening because we wanted to buy
something. Owning a gallery I understand the desire to concentrate on those who are serious about buying works,
sometimes folks are quite flippant about buying something and don't realize how much time is invested in promoting
artists. But I can never understand galleries being so rude and un-helpful to people.
The way I see it, galleries function in two parts: 1) as an environment to sell artwork and 2) to act as an exhibition arena where the artists shown can be learned about and appreciated. I guess there's a third part as well which includes 1 and 2 and that is galleries (good galleries) should be contexualizing contemporary art. Galleries are the place to see artists before they hit the museums…good gallerists are innovators who recognize talent and support that. But it's important to remember that the public is a key part of this.
West includes ten things a gallery visitor can do to ease the situation but ultimately basic decency says you shouldn't be rude to people for no reason. Especially in Los Angeles, where the guy with the most moeny looks like he has the least, galleries should be cordial to anyone taking the time to visit their space.
(Note: not to say that all gallery visitors are angels but that's another post).