Secret Society - Kathy Dalwood

Secret Society - Kathy Dalwood Kathy Dalwood, Secret Society @ Paul Smith, 2015

Kathy Dalwood tells us about exhibiting her artwork in clothes designer Paul Smith's shop in Mayfair

My show ‘Secret Society at Paul Smith’ is the second exhibition of my work in a retail space – the other was at Bergdorf Goodman in New York this summer. At one time my work was more design led than pure sculpture so I’m used to it being placed in a design rather fine art gallery context and most of my press coverage has been in design magazines and blogs. Many more people visit design stores than (most) commercial art galleries and seeing sculpture in these contexts I think helps people to visualise it in their own homes. Although I’ve had several museum shows, I’ve never been attracted to the commercial art gallery system in terms of selling work. I think the system is very hard to navigate and the 50% mark-up on work shown on a sale or return basis isn’t appealing.

Of course the profile of the store and the visual setting for the exhibition has to be right. The stores I’ve shown in are contemporary, design-led, high end with global profiles. The power of association with companies like this can be very strong with the potential to attract a wide, often wealthy, audience to the work. Selling through this kind of store has a positive impact on pricing because the work is offered in the context of ‘luxury’ stock. Also, the stores buy the work up front so even though I quote a ‘wholesale’ price - which I negotiate - I am sure of receiving x amount of money in advance and am not dependent on them making sales to receive this. From a promotion point of view, these high profile stores have PR departments and are very active on social media so I benefit from press campaigns for free. Bergdorf PR got me a big feature on the New York Times for example (on-line & print) – that paper is one of the most widely read in the world and I could never have attracted their attention on my own, nor I doubt could any small contemporary art gallery I might have shown my work in.

I always remember what the VP of Decorative Home at Bergdorf Goodman said to me on a studio visit: he was asking me if I minded showing my work in a retail context and I said, not at all, I was very happy to do so but I knew that many artists would be quite sniffy about the idea. He said to me, “Kathy, if they only knew who our clients are”! In other words, probably the same collectors who haunt the Gagosians and Hauser & Worths of Downtown, Manhattan.

Both these stores found my work through my website and possibly some press features. It is hugely important to have a good website with excellent images showing all aspects of the work clearly along with relevant search terms embedded in the pages. One thing’s for sure, none of these creative directors are interested in esoteric artist statements! Visual, visual, visual is the beginning, middle and end of the judgments and choices these influential people make.

Kathy Dalwood
Published September, 2015

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