Reading the New York Times April 20th 2011 article, “Dangerous Art,” by Salmon Rushdie, I was expecting to read about a subject I think about daily, but it wasn’t. Rushdie wrote an interesting story about the risks of being an outspoken artist and how artists who veer into politics can have serious ramifications. Ai Weiewei, the famous Chinese artist, is a good example as he is currently under house arrest for both the art and critical remarks he has made about his country.
I was expecting the article to touch on the actual process of being an art dealer or artist and the occupational hazards that accompany the job. My original training before entering the art world 20 years ago was as a physician with an emphasis on sports, prevention and occupational medicine. This unique background puts my mind set in a different place then most others who deal in art.
Since the New York Times didn’t give it to me, I thought I might share just a few of concerns I have about my profession.
In a gallery there are actual hazards you need to think about each and every time you place a piece of artwork. Today I was considering putting some lovely large Navajo rugs on the gallery floor to add color (and cover a stain I hate). The Art Dealer side said go for it, would be great, the bold reds playing against the one of Glenn Dean’s desert vistas.
The physician in me said. “Wait, no, trip hazard; if one lovely and slightly older admirer was so enamored by Dean’s painting that they missed stepping over the edge of the rug, and tripped landing on a nearby Pedro Ramos bronze. I’ve not only injured my client, but I’ve ruined a great sculpture in the process! Needless to say I left the stain uncovered.
Paintings too can be hazardous if they are too heavy for the wall , the wall mount or in the case of older pieces the wire string which can become frayed over time and snap while you are so carefully positioning it. In the case of “too heavy for the wall,” I had this happen, just once, on a large very heavy work. I can vividly remember hearing the crash and thinking “I hope no one was hurt.” I knew which painting it had to be as I remember how heavy it was when I hung it. I had used the appropriate hooks but the wall just could not hold the weight and “Boom.” Luckily, no one was even in the room and the only damage was to the frame of the painting. Lesson learned, double-check everything.
These are only a few of the many pieces of the art profession pie I will discuss today but will follow up in future blogs with some of the other potential problems, like nails, your local E.R. doctor's bread and butter.