April 14, 2020. As I write, we are partway through week five of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. It is day #33 of the ‘Quarantine’ and ‘social-distancing.’ Normally I don’t begin an essay with the date but ‘normal’ went out the window last month.
Unless you’ve been off-planet (lucky you) for the past couple of months you know that, right now, we’re not working or leaving our homes except for ‘essential’ things like going to the grocery store or the pharmacy (or, strangely, a gun shop). Restaurants are open but only for take-out. The restaurant business is being hit especially hard and that is what brings me to the topic of this essay.
It’s really difficult for an artist to get an exhibition in an actual brick-and-mortar gallery, or any other type of physical space. It’s even more difficult for relatively unknown artists like myself. Because of this institutional and built-in difficulty I’ve found myself doing exhibitions wherever I can and right now I have a small exhibition at a restaurant. My artworks aren’t even in the restaurant’s dining room; I’m in a hallway. Despite this, one piece has been sold. I would have been paid at the end of the exhibition but that was three weeks ago and the restaurant is closed except for drive-up orders.
- · I have an exhibition in a ‘non-traditional’ space where people don’t go to see art primarily.
- · One piece was sold.
- · Coronavirus closes the restaurant and other ‘non-essential’ businesses.
- · No one is seeing the artwork.
- · The restaurant is holding my portion of the print-sale until the end of the exhibition.
- · The exhibition is over, but still on the wall. Restaurant open for take-out only.
- · No dine-in so no one can see my artwork (same as storing it in a box in my studio).
- · Zero potential for any more art sales.
Usually it’s no problem to wait for an exhibition to close to be paid. Usually. In fact that’s usually how it’s done, but the novel-virus has created a novel situation. It is clear that whatever the outcome of ‘Coronavirus 2020,’ many businesses will fail. Many of the failed businesses will be small businesses and many of them will be restaurants. I came to the harsh realization that the restaurant that owes me money for the sale of an artwork could easily go belly-up. I’ve been there before (although not because of a global pandemic) and when a business that owes you money goes out of business, you don’t get paid.
I’ve been in business for myself for decades and one thing I really, really, hate, hate is to make a ‘money call.’ But I sucked it up and made the call and it was OK. The next day I went to the restaurant, where I found one employee and no customers, and picked up a check.
My artworks remain on the wall in the hall. Right now the same number of people can see my artworks in the restaurant as would see them stored in boxes in my studio: zero. Eventually the restaurant will re-open (assuming they don’t go out of business first) and then the artworks will be seen again. There is the fear that the restaurant will go out of business and close with my artworks inside it. But I’m not worried about some landlord claiming “everything in the building is my asset now.” Technically that’s theft, I know because I’ve been down that road too. I’ve got a consignment contract and I’d get the artwork back. But I hope they make it and survive the pandemic.
If they don’t make it I’ve at least got my money.
And I’m going to need it.
Things are going to get worse in ways we cannot predict.
Hunkered-down (with an extra couple of hundred bucks in the bank).
April 14, 2020
Covid-19 Day #33