Chances are, there will come a time during the exciting roller-coaster ride that is your art career, that you will be asked to gallery sit. If you're in a group exhibition at a non-profit, this may be par for the course. And “so what?” you say. Gallery sitting is a job-job for many, many artists. But what if the request comes from the gallery that represents you? If they ask you to take a turn behind the desk, should you do it?
I for one, say yes. But ask these questions first:
(1) Most importantly – will you be paid?
(2) Do you actually have to do any work? If you’re not going to have time to read magazines, call your friends and troll the web, you need to know if, beyond grunting at people who enter and answering the phone, you will be asked to do any skilled labor. Then return to question (1) and ask “how much?”
(3) A touchy issue for some -- will you be sitting during your own, someone else’s or a group show? Are you in said group show? If you are, will you be filled with anxiety, jealousy, rage and/or insecurity facilitating a sale for another artist? Will you be uncomfortable talking to potential buyers of your work? Will you feel the need to assume a false identity and pretend you're not an artist who needs to pick up extra cash by gallery sitting? (I wouldn’t worry about this because with your youthful disposition and lack of information, everyone will assume you’re an intern!)
(4) Which leads us to the ultimate question - do you even have a job? If you don’t and the answer to (1) is yes, you'd better just do it and suck it up! Your gallery probably asked you to do this because they were sick of hearing you whine that even though they sold out your show, you're still broke. That, and watching you clap with glee at events where free food was involved.
I know, some of you are going to say it's exploitive, it compromises your position, your gallery will see you as a “worker” and not as a “serious artist,” and thus it is “bad for your career.” This may be true if the requests start to become a pattern. But if you’ll actually be responsible for doing some work, remember that information is power and it can’t hurt to know who calls, who stops by and what actually goes on behind the desk!