Once upon a time a gallery owner from Germany reached out to me about having a show at her gallery in Hamburg. Now, I get invitations to show all the time and many of them are scams. The emails will say something like “Dear Artist” …um really? You’re not even going to address me by name. Others will call me “Betsy” and will present a “great opportunity overseas” but will then ask for thousands of dollars for “marketing.” Hard no! My philosophy is: if you want to show my work and truly believe in my artistic vision, you’ll cover the “marketing costs” and will not ask for a “participation fee”. Isn’t that why you take half of my sales? Think about it: If you pay a fee up front, the gallery has no need to actually sell your work. They’ve already made their money. I digress-
So this gallery owner, Andrea was lovely to chat with. We spoke in German and English (sometimes even Germanglish when I lost my words), she did not ask for any money up front, she seemed very professional, and she booked a trip out to California to select work for the show. So far, so good.
So, we kept in touch via email until she visited me in my SoCal studio. She arrived with her adorable dachshund and selected a lot of work to be shipped to Germany. We signed the standard artist/gallery contracts and went along with the preparations.
This was really exciting for me because a show in Germany is like having a show in my “homeland”. I wasn’t born there, but did live there in my 20s during some monumental times in my life. Living abroad opened my mind to lots of new ideas and when I got back to the US, I was ready to create professionally.
So, next steps for the show were to update my artist statement in English & German, then came the crating and shipping, and lastly I booked flights and hotels. Woohoo! This was really happening.
I got onto the plane with three suitcases. My two checked bags were full of brand new small pops and my small carry-on had some clothes. Priorities, right?
I arrived in Hamburg, drowsy but excited. Andrea picked me up at the airport and showed me a bit of the town before taking me to the gallery. At this point I was really crashing. The jet lag was killer, but I pushed through it. The next day was the show so I really had to get myself together. I went to the hotel & slept. Hard.
Since the show didn’t start until evening, my next day was wonderful. I cruised around the town a bit. It was drizzling which feels very foreign to a SoCal girl. I handled it well though. The rain made my hair super curly & puffy. Whatever. I decided to embrace it for the show. I’d just be that ‘artist with the crazy hair’.
So, I arrived at the gallery just as the sun was setting. I saw bodies in there already. “It must be family of the gallery owner”, I thought. “My collectors wouldn’t be there yet, would they?” Um, yes. They would. They were excited!
Let me stop here and say to all the artists reading this. Never go into a show expecting to sell. Just don’t. It will only lead to heartbreak if it doesn’t happen. But if your work does sell, then you will be pleasantly surprised.
So, I went into the gallery with my head held in that “shy artist” position. But wait! There were already so many red dots on the pedestals. Now this was getting exciting. The rest of the night was kind of a blur. I chatted with so many people; some in English, others in German. The majority of guests expressed their love for my work because it was autumn, cool, rainy and they already missed summer. I loved that.
The entire show sold out within 2 hours. I said to myself “holy shit! This may never happen again so I better savor the moment.” What a joy the entire night was.
It turns out that I spoke to quite a lot of important people that night. A writer from Die Welt, a very important German newspaper, wrote about the show in the entertainment section. Another writer from Lust Auf Gut featured me in her magazine. After the show, I traveled up to the North Sea to breathe the salt air and relax. I read my article in Die Welt while burying my feet in the sand. At that moment, my world felt perfect.
The reason that I consider this my best show is not because of the sales or the press. It was my best show because of the warm welcome and the genuine love that Andrea and her collectors gave me. Thank you endlessly Andrea. I am truly grateful.