Bearing Bad News–the Emotional Content
A friend of mine recently received bad news about an opportunity—-a potentially big opportunity—and it set me thinking about how, as artists, we experience these letdowns. In every business there are successes and failures, but since we are often at the end of string of folks who are making the decisions (collector-designer-gallereist-artist, for example) we can get left out of the loop.
Odd, because we have generated the artwork that everyone is fussing about!
Any seasoned professional artist understands that there is some kind of ratio of nibble to sale, and it is never 100%. For example, the piece below, recently sold, had quite a busy time of it this year before reaching its new home. In March, it went to Chicago, where it was selected for viewing in a home. Much as they would have liked it, the piece didn’t fit the budget at that time, so a smaller piece was settled upon. Then, it was vetted for a possible swap with one of my dealers for a coveted Milton Avery print. But before I could bring it to her for her to decide, a private dealer asked me to hold it back for a likely sale through a designer. Months later and no word, I let it back out again to my gallery in Rhinebeck, and from there it again went out to a home (through an architect, this time) where it looked as if I had painted it for the room in question.
This story leads me to the real point of this blog post, which is how all of this feels from the artist’s perspective. “Months later and no word…” How is that possible, that a dealer with whom I have had a decades-long relationship would not have the courtesy to tell me when the deal was off? And after she had requested that I hold this painting back from another gallery?
As for my friend, he was notified via email at the last minute that the anticipated visit to his studio was cancelled. The visit was coordinated by someone who might not have had any control over this, but what hurt was that there was was no heartfelt apology, no acknowledgement of his effort to prepare for the visit or for his disappointment.
In my world, the galleriest/dealer/designer always says, “I will let you know what happens either way”, but if the answer is no, they often don’t, leaving it up to the artist to wait and eventually inquire.
This leaves the artist with the double-whammy of the original disappointment (which can’t be helped) and the debilitating feeling of being treated with disregard (which can). And the galleriest still has to address the situation when the artist inquires, so sending a quick note when they know that the sale is off is just as efficient.
Avoidance behavior is human nature. Who wants to tackle an unpleasant task? And yet, doing the right thing keeps us human. An apology, if required (and this does not have to imply guilt, just sympathy) or a simple communication that a deal is off is not so very hard (man up!! I might say, much as this expression has a sexist bias). That rejections and disappointments happen is just business. Handling that with courtesy and kindness both maintains the relationship (for future business) and, very importantly, sends compassion out into the world.