23 July 2007

Desk Jockeys

A concept I've always found interesting is cost of entry. Essentially, it's the set of barriers, real or perceived, that people encounter in that split second when they decide to enter (or not) a business. A decision to go into Hugo Boss or Hallensteins, for example, is based on a complex matrix of perceptions and designs - how much money do I want to spend, will the staff be rude to me because I'm not wearing a bunch of labels, does the signage draw me in, can I get in without confrontation that will make me feel bad for just looking...

In the case of dealer galleries, there's an even more complex set of factors that go into justifying the cost of entry. Does the gallery look open (I've been standing in open galleries when people have walked in and asked that), do I have to understand the art, will people laugh at me because I don't wear a black turtleneck, my child/cat/self could do that, are they taking the piss with their $30,000 price tags, I'm scared of the empty white box...

Consequently, with the shifting of most of the Wellington dealer galleries in the last couple of years, it's been really interesting to look at how the spaces have been designed, and in particular how the dealer's desks have been configured - whether they confront, invite, or ignore the viewer, how they're placed in relation to the works, where they sit in the flow of the room (little known fact that NZ viewers always move to the left in a new retail environment - unless dissuaded from doing so - which is why supermarkets always have you entering at the right), how much they show or hide from the customer - both papers and the dealer themselves.

New York photographer Andy Freeberg captures a range of gallery desks in the burgeoning dealer market in Chelsea that I find fascinating - clearly there's not too much concern about high costs of entry presented by the dehumanised white box, or the perception - wrong or otherwise - that contemporary art is elitist and impersonal.

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