This post is by Jason Horejs, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Jason Horejs and his wife, Carrie, own Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ., which they founded in 2001. Jason also publishes RedDotBlog.com, a resource for artists interested in creating and strengthening relationships with galleries, as well as those looking to sharpen their own selling skills.
Several months ago, my wife, Carrie, and I attended a live performance of the Phantom of the Opera at Arizona State University’s Gammage Auditorium. The show was a part of their Broadway series that brings professional productions of major plays to Arizona.
We arrived at the crowded theater a few minutes early and made our way to our seats. We were fortunate to have great seats (thanks to Carrie’s parents, who are season ticket holders), but this meant that we had to practically climb over people to get to the seats in the center of the auditorium. When we arrived at our empty seats, I smiled at the gentleman next to whom I would be sitting and said, “Thanks for saving our seats!” The guy, who I had never seen before, and who was a decade or two older than me, laughed and said, “Of course, glad you made it!”
We still had a few minutes before the curtain went up, and so I started chatting with my neighbor.
“Have you seen Phantom before?” He asked.
“First time,” I said. “I’m not a huge Andrew Lloyd Weber fan, so we’ll see how I do. Have you seen it before?”
“Dozens of times!” he exclaimed. “I love it. My wife and I have flown in from Wisconsin to see it. Our daughter is playing Christine.”
Now, I truly am not an Andrew Lloyd Weber fan, and don’t know much about Phantom, but I do know at least enough to have been very impressed by this little tidbit.
“Wow,” I said, “that’s amazing!” He went on to tell me a little bit of the story of how his daughter began singing when she was three or four, and how she told her brother when she was five or six that she was going to play Christine in Phantom of the Opera.
I could tell this man was very proud of his daughter and asked him a number of questions before the curtain finally went up. He assured me that I was going to love the production. He could hardly contain his excitement or pride, and I have to admit, his feelings were contagious.
The first act was an amazing spectacle. The performances were outstanding, and the sets and choreography were truly mind-blowing.
When intermission came, I told Carrie that I was sitting next to the father of the star of the show. When the man and his wife returned to their seats, we both let him know how amazing we thought his daughter’s performance and voice were. He told us more about his daughter’s history, about the production and how the show traveled. Then he told us that he and his wife and some friends would be going backstage after the show, and invit
ed us to join him.
The second act was just as amazing as the first. When the play ended, after a stunning and dramatic finale, we again complimented the man and his wife on their daughter’s performance. Despite our protest that we didn’t want to intrude or inconvenience them, the couple insisted that we follow them backstage. Once there, we waited a few minutes and talked more, while waiting for the their actress daughter to change out of costume. When she emerged from her dressing room, not only did we get to meet her, she graciously showed us around the set, introduced us to many of the other performers and answered our questions.
When we left after thanking them profusely, Carrie whispered to me “sometimes it really pays that you easily make friends with random people!”
In truth, my success as a gallery owner depends on this ability – backstage visits are just a bonus! I meet hundreds, if not thousands, of people every year, and in order to help them acquire art, I have to be able to quickly establish a relationship and engender trust. Over the years I’ve learned that this is indeed a skill, not something that just happens naturally, and I’ve worked hard to cultivate this skill.
As an artist or gallerist, it’s important that you too learn how to break the ice and build relationships quickly as you meet new people. Although this topic requires a lot more depth than I could hope to delve into here, I want to share some basic principles I use when meeting new people. These principles are pretty basic, and I’m sure you either already know many of them, or naturally use them without even realizing it. Hopefully I can provide some insight into why these principles are important, and how to use them more effectively.
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