On Edition

#15
Sinem Yörük - Kerimcan Güleryüz
Şener Soysal - Tevfik Çağrı Dural
Hakkında Diğer Yazıları

Edition and representation are two issues most artists (including us) are unfamiliar with and not have a grasp of with respect to the mechanisms.

The relation between galleries and artists, works and collectioners are not articulated sufficiently probably because they both involve business. Consequently, these relations and the existing system seem intimidating and disturbing to ones who are outsiders to them. (Surely, the same question should be addressed to those included: Is it also disturbing to you? But, that's the subject of another conversation.)

We have talked about these concepts as to what they really mean and the existing mechanisms with Sinem Yörük, the owner of Elipsis Gallery, and Kerimcan Güleryüz, the owner of Empire Project respectively, and compiled this text through our own conclusions. Our starting point was: Since there exists such a system and young artists get involved or try to get involved into this unavoidably, then why shouldn't we acquaint ourselves with its processes?

On Representation...

After our conversation with Sinem Yörük, we came to the conclusion that the way we associate edition and representation in galleries actually requires a clear distinction. Yörük's words are also the first conclusion this text presents: "The work itself belongs to the artist. Edition is purely and simply an information about the work. Through editions, you secure both the artist and the work. As for representation, it doesn't mean that I own the work of the artist. Gallery is a place that functions for the sake of introducing artist's career and work. What I do is to manage the business for the artist."

We think that this conclusion is especially crucial. For a gallery owning all the works of an artist is out of the question. In other words, gallery has no representational power over the remaining works of the artist after some of the works are sold and the agreement with the gallery expires. Here, gallery is in a position to present the works and intermediate their sales. (Surely, the terms of the agreement between gallery and artist is also crucial. The gallery's representation process of the artist differs from place to place.)

We think it is appropriate to make space for our questions about the notion of representation and their answers. This also covers issues on the reasons to have an agreement with a gallery, as well as the intermediary procedure. (Naturally, because this is a commercial process, terms of agreement can differ depending on the gallery and the artist. Bargaining can also be a part of the art world.) In our conversation with Yörük, we also talked about "Editions" exhibition, the 4th of all organized this year, due to its relation to young artists, more precisely artists who have no galleries to represent them.

Let's start from the recent "Editions" exhibition. I guess the representational situation between the artists in "Editions" and other artists working with galleries, is somewhat different.

Sinem Yörük: What I tried to do in this series, was to bring those artists who have no representational power into to forefront. Try to make them visible. My aim is like "I believe in these works, I support them and I am trying to attract your attention towards them." Also, I try to draw curators', art-lovers', photographers' attention, to open up a space for all to see. Therefore, some kind of a representational effort within a specific period of time in a shifting manner, is in question.

So, we can say the photographs that were chosen for the exhibition have sort of representational quality.

Sinem: Yes, and therefore, artists can have different series in the exhibition. And those series, as a gallery, we don't have any representational power over them. "Editions" is a good experience for the artists. You see what it means to work with a gallery. Also, I try my best not to restrain them.

How long does your right to represent the artist last?

Sinem: If we talk about the artists in the "Editions" exhibition, sometimes a month, sometimes 3 months or 5 years. But it depends on what kind of agreement you make with a specific artist. Some galleries keep the works till they save all the costs, but I don't do it that way, which can be hard on the artist.

When the gallery's right to representation expires, let's say the photographs remain unsold. After all, the exhibitions have their own costs. How do you figure this out with the artist?

Sinem: If the artist is to work with another gallery, the cost will be covered by that gallery. If an artist doesn't work with any gallery, the cost can be saved by a sales that can be made at another time. Somehow, you can reach a common ground. For all the scenarios are different, there is no definite solution to that question.

When you sell the works of the artists you represent, how do you share the total revenue?

Sinem: Usually, galleries agree with the artist in fifty fifty terms. They reduce the cost, and the remaining sum is divided by two. I think this way is fair enough.

Some artists can be represented by more than one gallery. Especially in different countries, in different galleries, how does the issue of representation work?

Sinem: Actually, this is exactly what we want. Surely, as a gallery owner, I would like my artist to be represented by a gallery abroad as well. You cannot be present anywhere anytime, so it is important that your artist has some place in different art markets.

So, it goes like this: If the artist is Turkish, Elipsis is the main gallery to represent them. Even if the galleries abroad fulfill their whole responsibilities for them, we have total control over the workings. Therefore, I am immediately informed about what happens abroad or in other words, because we are the headquarter, information is distributed from here. But, let's say two galleries coincide in an art fair in a different country, that's also ok, sometimes it is better. Sometimes you see the works of an artist in various stalls. But surely, you keep in touch and you exhibit different works of the same artist.

No problem regarding the galleries abroad, but the real problem starts within the same country, especially within the same city! It is not a common thing to see our artists' works being exhibited in a non-profit gallery in the same city.

***

We asked about the issues on the right to representation we are pondering upon to Kerimcan Güleryüz as well. Actually, the result is that those questions end up relatively with specific answers. For example, as to how long the gallery's right to represent the artist last, Güleryüz's answer is similar to that of Yörük's: "It usually depends on the agreement between the artist and the gallery, through a consensus between the artist and the gallery it could last throughout artist's career as a whole. If the exhibition is a one time only, gallery's right to represent can last for the works exhibited within a year, but this is also assessed through the framework of the agreement between the gallery and the artist."

Consequently, our questions on the notion of representation, with a concern for not falling into any repetition, were addressed with respect to Güleryüz's own art space and what the gallery does for the artists it represents.

How does this decision to represent the artist function in your gallery? What kind of communication do you establish especially with young artists?

Kerimcan Güleryüz: After all, everything is about mutual dialogue, an evaluation through long-term following, pursuit and conversation. Artists get in touch with us via personal application or our follow-ups or through other's suggestions, so there is no established format. Soon after an active critical process with the artist, we reach a mutual agreement on the following steps.

Can a young artist get in touch with the gallery to show his/her works? If they can, how should they do it, what are your expectations?

Kerimcan: I always prefer to view all of the works of the artists as a whole; how they move along through time, what kind of paths they take; what issues occupy their minds; what kind of things they acknowledge or reject. It doesn't matter if the artist is young or established if we think in terms of their development process. I would like to see the whole picture the artist has created till that day, before I meet them, to assess if some dialogue between us would be useful. We always accept artists' portfolios, but depending on our workload, it might take some time for us to get back to them.

What does it mean that a gallery represents some artist? Is it only to exhibit their works and manage the sales of the works? What other things does a gallery do apart from these two?

Kerimcan: The terms and aims of representation differs from gallery to gallery. Usually, these kinds of relations are established on a commercial basis. I don't really appreciate the idea of a boutique gallery. For me, it is also crucial what the artist is interested in, his/her projects, ideas, if s/he is open to collective work, apart from creating artworks to be hanged on walls. After all, a gallery should be the artist's production partner, it should believe in the artist's works and attitudes as much as them. A gallery cannot be sufficient merely in commercial terms, it should go beyond these terms. A gallery should also support the artist in corporate communication and project development both domestically and internationally. The notion of foreign art fairs which has grown more and more recently, is an outdated phenomena for me. I think it is more important for the galleries to focus on long-lasting and significant pop-up events and exhibitions.

***

When we consider a gallery representing an artist, the concept of edition also comes into play. Photography, by nature, is an article that can be copied as much as one wants. However, we set boundaries to it by playing with that nature just as we do to paintings (no no, just like to anchovies). Why? The less the anchovies fished out of the sea, the more valuable they become. For in the market demand exceeds the supply, so the prices are higher. We can argue that when the same thing happens in the art market, it is called "editions." When photography is concerned, the limitation of the number of the copies to be printed and issuing a certificate for each copy indicating that specific copy being one of those limited copies. Surely, that does not concern the work's content or its artistic quality. But if there is no certificate, it does not worth anything - or much - in the eyes of the collectioner.

The notion of edition turns photography into a marketable work of art. Well then, what do we encounter within the process?

How do you decide the number of editions of a photograph exhibited?

Sinem: There are unwritten rules about what is to be done or what is best to be done regarding this issue. But it is actually a personal thing. For some it is their lucky number, for some it doesn't even matter, but usually it goes like 3, 5, 9, 10. Naturally, as the number of the edition increases the price will decrease, this is also a fact. Even more than that, it has to do with the content of the work and the artists themselves. If the artist is a "marketable" global one and if his/her works sell like hot cakes, then it can also go like 15, 20, 25, 30.

However, it is also important to remember that we are talking about numbers of limited editions in worldwide terms. Therefore, 5 years after you decide them there is no use crying over spilt milk thinking "what a pity, tut-tut, we should have known better."

Well then, what is an "artist's edition"? Why they go like +1 +2?

Sinem: Let's say, if the editions are 5+1, this +1 copy belongs to the artist. It usually works like this: that edition is not immediately sold by the gallery. It is left to be sold later to some institution or a museum. Some artists do not sell the "artist's edition" as a principle (It is usually called "artist's copy", "artist's proof" or shortly "AP" instead of "artist's edition"). S/he might also hang it on his/her own wall or give it to someone as a gift.

Is it possible to exhibit a work somewhere after all its editions are sold?

Sinem: Surely, those works can be shown in a museum or a group exhibition by a curator. If the original work cannot be delivered, then its "exhibition print" can be shown on the condition it would be annihilated after the exhibition. In any case, this issue is out of the box, so it is a special condition. There is no certificate for "exhibition prints" and it is declared as such at the back of the work. So, it has no commercial value. The outlines regarding the work are defined explicitly both by the artist and his/her agent, and the work is delivered as such.

So, what we understand from here is this: Artists protect themselves via artist's editions. Sure, that edition can also be sold. And if the artist's edition is sold, then a copy without any commercial value can be reproduced on the condition that it would be annihilated after an exhibition.

Sinem: This kind of a scenario I mentioned, is a very small detail, because under normal conditions, the edition is requested from a collectioner and that edition is exhibited. Sometimes, seldom, if ever, it is not possible to get the work from the collectioner within that specific period.

When a deal is made with a gallery abroad, is the process based on the editions of the same work? Like, the third edition is sold here and the forth there?

Sinem: Yes right, and we are immediately informed about the follow-up procedure. As you know, we also have foreign artists, some of which work with 12-13 galleries on a global scale. We get the sales report immediately. So, if a customer asks about a particular work, we have an accurate knowledge about the number of the edition.

* * *

We asked about the workings of editions of works exhibited on screen or through a projection to Kerimcan Güleryüz, probably because we didn't encounter such works in Elipsis:

How do you do the sales of digital works? Should we think of the video screen as a frame included in the work?

Kerimcan: Usually, with edition video works, an integrated presentation can be of advantage (like video's frame itself or the player being a part of an installation or an object), but then it can also effect the production cost to a large extent. A work can be sold in SD card, DVD, Digibeta etc. format. As for its presentation, it completely has to do with body language. Some works should remain in a specific dimension, then you present them accordingly. And others can show all sorts of possibilities. For example, Jasper de Beijer's work "Recollector" which is one of my favorites - the edition is presented via a standalone desktop computer. This "1st person shooter" work which allows for different HD and presentation formats, can also be exhibited via a LCD screen or a computer monitor. It is up to the owner of the artwork.

"Poligon/The Shooting Gallery" can be regarded as an "experimentation space" outside of the conventional gallery rationale. There have been exhibitions in this space, in which the gallery space itself were included in the content of the exhibition rather than being merely a white cube. It was pleasant to experience this as a viewer. Our desire is usually within this direction, to place importance on different ways of exhibiting the photographs and their printing method. However, to acknowledge photography as a commercial article, to make it appealing for the collectioners, usually frames or techniques like dupont stand out. It is apparent that a gallery's objective is not only displaying. How do you balance these two positions as a gallery?

"Poligon" is the result of a self-critique about being a gallerist; normally, galleries that are commercial spaces, that is to say "businesses" are not convenient for experimenting or taking risks, this can also effect the artist in a negative fashion, s/he does not feel like taking the necessary risks for the development of his works as an artist because of the burden to consider sales within that kind of space; that is why I created a studio gallery model, because I felt indebted to both the artists and the viewers. Unfortunately, the actuality of Tophane only allowed for this experimentation to last a year - still "Poligon" as an experiment, will always be an important part of the Empire Project and will be put into practice in different periods whenever it is possible. At this point, the crucial thing is to raise the awareness of the collectioners within our developing art world - and their awareness in relating with the art work not only in commercial terms. It is essential to support the artists in this sense, to assess an artwork in packaging terms is the result of a poorly developed perspective.

On Sincerity and Trust...

The notion of edition and representation unavoidably open up issues of sincerity and trust. What we realize was that art world in Turkey is established on a business based upon trust. The galleries which proved their trustworthiness reflect this image to their artists and collectioners and maintain their endeavors.

How does the global validity of certificates prepared for editions work? Like, you can view and check the worldwide patents via patent institutes. Is there any information network available for these certificates as well?

Sinem: These certificates are issued by the institutions that represent these artists and they are all about the prestige of that particular institution. They are valid on a worldwide scale. A conscious buyer would not make a deal unless there is no information, certificates or related documents. If s/he has any doubt, s/he can verify it with the respective gallery.

So, there is no global archive for verification. It is all about trust and the reputation of the gallery...

Sinem: There is no global archive for verification, but there are reliable mediums. And it also concerns all of the art mediums. When there is some speculation about the authenticity of a painting, you consult experts. And who is an expert? The artist is not supposed be present. In fact, the artist may not be alive. So, you consult people who know the artist and his/her works, who can decide whether that work is authentic or not. So, I think we should work with people who we may call experts, who are accomplished and have a vast knowledge on the issue.

This may sound a bit dodgy but one wonders: When you print a photograph in a different size or when you frame it or let's say, when you change its size, does it cease to be an edition?

Sinem: That is beside the point, surely it doesn't cease to be an edition.

Everything is specified from scratch. This is especially the reason why the issue of edition can become a nuisance for young artists. Even when editing is a big problem, fixing the format is always something dreadful. After some time and other series, artists start to become less protective of their works.

We decide on the size of the work, how many different sizes there will be and how many editions there will be for each size. Also, we come to agree on how many artist's editions there will be, which technique will be used, and what kind of frames will be used before the exhibition. Surely, the frames can change over time, but the print never does.

So, everything is in a perfect order.

Sinem: Yes, that's how we work. You cannot lose control over these issues.

* * *

As for an epilogue, although we have started with the notions of edition and representation, we finally find ourselves discussing the issues of sincerity and trust. We have realized that the likes of our search for some sincerity in artists' works, should also be prevalent in galleries as well.

In fact, what we have to learn and the third apple to fell from heaven is the culture of critique. Certainly, it is not right to chastise galleries just because they do business. We have to acknowledge that galleries are a part of this system, but we also have to criticize the workings of the galleries and the exhibitions they do. As a result, two points are crucial:

1.If we are to make a deal with some gallery as artists, we should come to terms with them in a way that we can protect ourselves as well, and know that our decisions on print size/form is very important. And the reason we have compiled this text is to provide a groundwork before that particular process.

2. We should also remember that galleries are not merely shop windows, they should place importance on artists' expressions and presentations, if it is a photography series, they should attach the same importance to each and every photograph, and we should criticize them if necessary.