Monday, 5 January 2009

The Negotiating Framework for an Exhibition, 1

In the world outside the arts, when someone offers something - a house for sale, a job, work from a trades person, a proposal of marriage even. This is generally the opening gambit in a negotiation process by which what has been offered will be discussed and in the process, either adjusted to create something of mutual benefit, or declined. But in the visual arts there is a tendency for the offer of an exhibition by a gallery to an artist to be taken at face value and either accepted or rejected. This doesn’t need to be so.

The intention here is to set out a mechanism for a collaborative negotiation. Through this the artist and gallery can share their respective aspirations and intentions for a proposed exhibition, and negotiate in order to arrive at a 'win-win' situation. One in which both feel comfortable about what has been agreed because they will both benefit. Importantly, they have also created a working relationship that can be built on in the future.
A collaborative negotiation is preferable to a competitive one where the parties are essentially out to get the best for themselves regardless of the wider implications. An unhappy relationship between artist and gallery tends to ricochet around the art world and does neither any good in the longer term.

Anyone inexperienced in negotiation techniques should get some professional guidance in advance. Artists could do this by contacting a training or professional development organisation. An arts organiser might ask for coaching from a line manager or senior colleague.

Susan Jones (used with permission)