Finally got around to finishing this.
So i think this whole thing is going nowhere. Havent heard from Gallery man in a long time. Nobody left to chase up. Out of options. Out of steam.
The truth is i could never make this my sole focus of attention, and im a bit upset with myself about that. I havent made any fresh effort for a long time, and I think it's just beyond me. Was enjoyable trying though and i appreciate all the words of encouragement I had from people.
I am, however, relatively pleased with the short film. Not for production values, obviously, but everyone in the family really liked it, and it was such a pleasure getting to know him before it's too late. I dont suppose many of us have this same chance with our grandparents, and i feel so lucky to have taken it. So im gutted it hasnt gone anywhere, but also hoping the act of talking me through his life and experiences has alleviated some the stresses and pressures he's been suffering- so that he doesnt feel his death marks a complete erasure of everything he worked for, and that it all lives on a bit in what he has told me.
My only regret is that i told him of the initial interest i had, which seemed so promising at the time that i couldnt keep it to myself. For a short while i really thought this was going to happen. I guess trying and failing is fine, but it would have been much better to keep it to myself.
Sadly this seems to have fallen flat (feel ive typed these words quite a lot). Last i heard from gallery man he was waiting to hear back from his contact- which he said wasnt a good sign- and since then it has all been quiet. I will send him one last email today, but if that gets no response then i have to reconsider my options.
In retrospect it was really stupid to tell Granddad of the progress i thought id made (again, words i have typed too often). I should have waited until i had something more substantial to show for my efforts. But at the time it really seemed like this was heading in the right direction.
It's hard to gauge how much more money i should throw at this. Of course, if i stop investing then the project ends. The last round of books i sent out cost close to 500. I have saved a bit these last couple of months, so i can afford to do it again, but.... i have some hesitation. Perhaps im lacking the entrepreneurial initiative.
Today I met with the Important Man from Big Gallery. He came to visit Granddad in person and see the work at his flat. Unfortunately, being neurotic as he is, Granddad had a minor breakdown over meeting someone new this morning and decided he no longer wanted to do any of this. So the meeting had to go ahead without Granddad, and he escaped the flat shortly before Gallery Man arrived.
The meeting went really well, i thought. Looking at each painting in detail, it was clear he really liked the work and the story behind it. He offered lots of feedback on everything- not just the art but also what i had done with the books and the film, which he watched several times. He clearly has a lot of contacts and can really make things happen. He mentioned that the Big Gallery he works for probably wouldnt be interested at this stage, as they only work with the famous and established, but he also mentioned that he is leaving Big Gallery in September to work on his own projects, which will primarily involve established artists, but he's very interested in the potential of my grandfather's work nonetheless. He had two suggestions for galleries which he thought would be suitable for my grandfather's first exhibition in 50 years. They are quite well known, so im really happy with that.
Anyway, the next stage is that he's going approach the directors and chief curator of the two galleries he thought would be interested, show them the work and my film, and see if it's possible for us all to work together. Then he'll get back to me with a breakdown of what needs to be done to make this work. Until then, he wants me to carry on recording my conversations with Gdad (something i havent done for ages), and try to get a record of every aspect of his life.
So it's taken a while but im really happy with the direction this seems to be heading.
So I spoke to the man from the gallery over the phone. We chatted for over half an hour and he sounded really enthusiastic about it all. He watched my minifilm twice, and he really liked the artwork. He said we would need to test the commercial viability of Granddad's artwork at a smaller gallery, and he had a couple of suggestions. He even offered to orchestrate an introduction to the respective curators of the galleries he suggested. However, he also suggested that i shouldnt mention any of this to Granddad yet, as he didnt want to get his hopes up in the event that nothing materialised. He said the market for British abstract art was very flat right now, with even established artists struggling to make sales. He said the market had moved on, and before he could offer me any further help, he would need to see further examples of Granddad's work so he could assess the potential.
And so I sent him 40 or so more pictures via dropbox, as he suggested. This was over 4 weeks ago, but I havent heard anything back from him since. I have sent a couple of follow up emails and he hasnt responded to those too. Perhaps he has lost interest, which is rather gutting, as i havent heard anything back from anyone else. Presumably he saw the other pictures and didnt think they were up to the standard of the ones in the book, which may well be true. Upon reflection it was really stupid of me to have told Granddad about all this before we had any concrete interest, although that is what i thought I had. Not really sure what to do now. He was so happy at hearing this gallery was interested in his work that im dreading telling him that is no longer the case.
It's looking like my only remaining option is kickstarter, which after this brief high of thinking we had a partner gallery is really quite disappointing. Oh well
not been in any meaningful contact with the man who expressed a meaningful interest since last week. Last Friday he wrote to me again. He said he watched my short film for a second time and said he found it very poignant and well made (this pleased me so much). He then added a couple of comments which related to the content within (presumably to demonstrate that he had watched it to the end), and then detailed an anecdote of his own which was somewhat relevant to Granddad's artistic tastes.
At the end he said "do lets speak over the weekend or early next week". So i suggested a time for us to speak, but he didnt respond. So i sent him my number, and again he didnt respond. Then on Monday he said 9 30 UK time would be good for him as he is busy during the afternoons and weekends. I wrote back asking if i should call him, or should i wait for his call, but again he didnt write back.
I dont want to call at a bad time when he is unable to speak, but i equally dont want him to think im not interested because i havent phoned him yet. Guess im not really sure what to do. Im trying to tread as carefully as possible, but this might result in me overthinking minor details.
Ive been getting a bit stressed at the thought that i might have told Granddad about all this too soon. I should have waited until he had given me a firm statement indicating he wants to see the work in person. As it stands he could still lose interest, and then someone would have to break the news to Granddad, who really dropped his guard in expressing his happiness and gratitude that someone had organised all this.
So I wrote a little more the gallery man. I told him it could probably be arranged for him to see Granddad's work at the flat, but that i would have to speak with him first to make sure he was okay with it. He suggested we speak on the phone next week and gave me his number. He also offered to call me at a time of my choosing. He also said he will be in Berlin at the end of the month so we can meet there if it's more convenient for me than coming to London. He sounds keen, which is great.
And so my mum was tasked with the news of telling Granddad. I was glad this was her job and not mine. I was expecting him to be quietly pleased, but perhaps also a bit agitated at the prospect of meeting new people. You can never be sure how he's going to react. I guess i was cautiously optimistic. However, I am overjoyed to now report that Mum said he was absolutely thrilled, overwhelmed and astounded. She said he was quite emotional at my efforts, and deeply touched. He said he cannot thank me enough, and his voice apparently broke while saying all this. He repeated how much it would have made to Grandma.
I read all this over FB while at work, and had to go into the toilets to have a little cry. You have to keep in mind this is someone who- while ive seen him laugh many times- i have never seen really happy, and i guess i still havent as i wasnt there to witness his reaction, but just to read about it was great. Gave me butterflies in my stomach. This was a couple of hours ago and i feel a bit emotional again just typing this up.
Hopefully this now goes somewhere. would be a disaster were this man to come visit and then lost interest. But for now optimistic
I have another response!
It's from the international senior director of a leading London gallery. He wants to meet me for coffee to discuss Granddad's work and my expectations. He also wants to see the work physically. Im really excited.
It's no small gallery. It's quite a big name. They have other spaces in New York and Los Angeles.
This response comes from a book i sent out almost 2 months ago, so i guess just because people havent written back yet doesnt mean they wont. And half the books only got sent out a couple of weeks ago, so there may yet still be more interest to come.
Shame im somewhat rooted here with work. Getting time off wont be easy. Nor will telling Granddad that someone has to come to his flat. He wont be happy about that at all, but i dont think he would block it on grounds that this might be his last chance to do what Grandma had always wanted. I have some hope that he will be inwardly quite pleased, and perhaps even relieved.
Im hoping when i meet this guy he doesnt just want a quickfire show and sell. That's not what this is about. Id rather give the paintings to the right people than have them gather dust in a private collection.
There have been so many times with this project where my spirits have been really low. I really believe in this- in the artwork and the story behind it much more than in my ability to deliver it- and especially recently with the cashflow problems and running out of ideas (besides kickstarter, which i really hoped would be a last resort). And so im elated to have something resembling a real interest.
Im probably getting a bit carried away, and hope my excitement isnt premature. I will calm myself down a bit before i send a response. I know what i want to happen, but im equally realistic that compromises will have to be made. He might only like those few paintings i put in the book. or he might not like them at all when he sees them physically. I have to be realistic that this is only initial, early stages interest. But... im still buzzing.
So i finally got one response.
"I am writing to thank you for your letter and for sending along the book of your grandfather's work along with the DVD documentary of his life. It saddens me greatly to hear that he has gone unnoticed as i believe all art is meant to be recognised and made visible. It is great of you to promote his work and i appreciate the opportunity to view examples of his paintings.
I have shared your letter and the accompanying book and DVD with our department of painting and sculpture. Should they express further interest they will be in contact with you directly With best wishes [hand signature of one of the most influential museum directors in the world today]"
So... im happy with this. He didnt say he liked the work, nor that he watched the documentary. But to get a letter response from a tier 1 recipient is good news in itself. Plus i guess the fact he wrote back is some acknowledgment of the quality of Granddad's work. Im also pleased that the response i got was not some generic template. That said, Im not that optimistic that the paintings department will show too strong an interest, as the museum in question is based in America, but i guess you never know. tbh i wasnt expecting any of the tier 1 recipients to even get back to me, so feeling good.
Im thinking of getting some more books printed when i get my pay packet. I sent out 23 or 24, but this is probably something that needs to be sent out in higher volume if im to get a really positive reaction.
I suspect the efforts i went to for the documentary have perhaps been a bit wasted*. Along with the dvd i also sent a link to an unlisted youtube upload, but nobody has watched it yet. I suppose it could still come in use if i have to do the kickstarter thing, which i sort of hope i dont have to, not least because i dont like asking people for money, but also because it just feels a bit cheap.
*in the context of hoping these influential art people will see it. it's still a nice thing to have for the family
Just a small update that after much wrangling and stress i finally got access to my emails. I am of course delighted. The downside is that nobody has written back, but at least i know they havent written back. Not knowing was driving me insane.
I did a lot of guessing and wrote to all the people i might have emailed recently asking them to confirm the subject and date of any emails i sent them, so that i could more accurately complete the validation form. This didnt actually work very well as about 50% of people wouldnt write back, which was very frustrating. Eventually i got onto Microsoft, who at first were very unhelpful. They kept repeating the same line- that being that unless i can answer all the security information correctly then there's nothing they can do. I was certain this was a protocol they werent prepared to break, but after a dozen or so email exchanges they sent me a password reset link. Such a relief.
I have a few more books ordered and they will get posted out as soon as my mum has time. Really very pleased with how they look. Sadly i dont have any pictures. After that all i can do is wait, as im starting a job next week so visits to England are not going to be very realistic in the near future. If none of this works out, then i guess i turn to the Kickstarter. I dont think that will require too much work as i did the text ages ago, the documentary is already finished, and all i really need to do is make a 3 minute edit as a promo video and figure out how i ought to price the prints and things.
We have made contact with two people, however. One person simply confirmed that they had received my parcel, and that the recipient is away on business travel so it might take a while for him to get back to me. The other person said the book had been given to a panel of decision makers. Apparently they dont do this for the vast majority of work they get sent, so that is at least a good sign.
Tiny bit of relief. I seem to have a backup of my notes on memory stick. It's not super recent, but at worst ive lost 3 month of notes, and to be honest, i hadnt really been taking many during that time.
The hotmail thing is still baffling. I am certain all the details i am inputting are correct. I have double checked with email recipients that i have their correct address and also the title of the email i sent. This should be all i need to gain access but it still doesnt work. Im wondering if the conditions for gaining access again havent been tightened after so many failed attempts.
I could not sleep last night. It's a very strange emotion that's hard to describe. Not one ive felt before. Just picturing those books finally making their way to someone important or influential, who then sends me one single email, and i never fucking get it. If it was just about the wasted money id be over it by now, but i think it's knowing that the whole experiment cant even be repeated. eugh
I have been locked out of my email account, just days after the promotional packages were sent out. This is really bad, not only because all my notes on contacts, paintings etc were stored as draft emails in my hotmail account, but because the only contact details provided in the packages i sent out was my email address! Spent all day tracing emails previously sent so i can complete the questionairre that gives me access again. They want the emails and subject headings for 5 recent emails. I gave them all of that- which the guy on the phone said would be enough- and i still cant get in. now i have to wait 24 hours to try again. i am so stressed
- I have no aesthetic creativity, so when i say im happy with the results, i mean this in consideration of my lack of talent. Obviously it would look better had a pro been in charge.
- This is only a promo book. The actual book i produce will be much much longer, bigger and better.
- I could exercise very little creativity with regards page decoration etc. The programs i had to use were quite limiting. All i could do is write text and place pictures.
- The book measures 18cm x 18cm, has high quality, thick matte paper throughout, and the cover has a hint of gloss. It's paperback. Yes hardback would have been better, but that would have added 30% to the production costs and i simply couldnt afford it.
- The first two images are front covers. I decided to make two versions because some galleries im writing to have received more than one copy (one for the director and one for the chief curator), and i wanted each person to have a different book.
See below for how it looks. I produced two versions, each with a different cover. Mum is in the process of posting these out for me
So Im anticipating having finished the documentary side of things by the end of the year. Well, not completely finished, as im somewhat tempted to make a longer version too. But i will have a 20 minute version finalised which covers all the important points, and this is what i'll be posting to the inflluential people i have shortlisted (in addition to a small book of his paintings, and a letter customising this project to their area of expertise).
In total i have parcels for 20 people employed at reputable galleries across the UK (although most of them are in London). However, i'm a little unsure as to whether i'm addressing these parcels to the right people. In most instances the parcels will be addressed to the gallery director. But i'm not sure if the project would be better served by addressing the parcel to the head of programme of chief curator instead. Would be interested to hear people's ideas on this. I cant afford to send parcels to everyone.
I'm also not sure if i ought to send the minifilm on a DVD or on a memory stick.
As for the quality of the minifilm, I think it's actually shaping up quite nicely. It's quite hard to tell as i have a big emotional investment and attachment to everything covered in it, , but my hunch is that the finished piece will actually be quite watchable. In some ways it's a shame i dont have more time and money to throw at this as i think the topics covered are interesting enough to drag it out over at least an extra hour. Then again, if it were much longer i probably run the risk of nobody watching it to the conclusion. Anyway, i can't actually add to the film at this stage as my computer is in England, but i've hired someone to tidy up the sound as it was a bit muffled before, and this should be ready by the time i return to England in December. Then i'll spend a week or two rebuilding and arranging the shots in Adobe wotsitcalled.
Things have generally progressed well. The only downer regards the quality of the photographs I had done. I now realise that the colours aren't exactly as they appear in the actual paintings. In some images it's more noticable than in others, but the change in colours is never an improvement. I wrote to the photographer about this and she gave me a jargon-filled and almost nonsensical reply. I can't help feeling she hasnt given the images the same level of care as she does when archiving for the National Gallery, which is a shame as i paid her the same rate they do.
My flight back to Germany is on Wednesday, so i wont actually be able to work on the video again until December, when i'm next in London. But this does at least give me plenty of time to plan what i will do. Unfortunately im having some technical problems. When i watch this video back in Reaper it looks fine- apart from the shortcomings i've identified. But now having exported it and watched it back there're black frames in between camera shots. They're in different places every time i export, but they are always somewhere to be found. It's almost as if the camera is blinking. I have no idea how to fix this, and google isn't being much help. I've double checked the frame rate i'm exporting at and it matches the frame rate my camera is filming at. I'm lost for ideas. If anyone has any i'd be glad to hear them.
Had a very productive few days. Have less than a week left at Granddad's, and decided to focus most of my time on the minifilm/documentary thing. Up until a few days ago I thought this was a bit of a lost cause, but after putting in a crazy amount of hours this last week i'm now in a position where i have a rough template of how it will look.
There are a handful of shots i know i need to re-film due to camera wobble or poor quality video, and the last few minutes of video dont correspond to especially well to things he is saying, so i need to think what i will put there.
I have another 2 days with the photographer booked for Monday and Tuesday.
Had some bad news with regards Arts Council funding for an exhibition. The application form stipulates that the key criteria for eligibility is that the project must be of benefit to the public. Thought i would have a good case in this respect, as my intention was to make Granddad's paintings freely available to any organisation that can put them on display. I had arranged to visit a couple of the proposed venues next week, but having just got off the phone to the helpline it seems my application wouldnt be considered on grounds that no new piece of art is being created. Bit annoyed that none of the guidance notes mentioned this.
I've been editing bits of film to overlay with my audio documentary thing and, although i used a tripod, the footage almost seems to vibrate. It's not blurred or anything like that, but there is a slight but noticeable movement that persists throughout much of the footage. If this is a problem then i'll have to re-film everything i've done thus far. This wouldnt be the end of the world, but it's a bit of an inconvenience when i've only got a little over a week to do it all.
My dad's also lent me his camera. So i have the possibility of filming at a higher resolution if i can figure out how to use it. But this too would involve filming everything again, as i suspect alternating shots filmed on different bits of equipment would look a bit weird.
Anyway, have another two days booked with the photographer a week on Monday. Hoping to get the last paintings photographed. Going to have a somewhat stressful commute to London over the weekend as i have to carry all the paintings we have in Devon to Granddad's flat.
Granddad's been very cooperative about having the photographer visit this time. I think he was so impressed with the book of his work- which i have now seen, held and looked through, and it's great- that he's actually quite looking forward to see the results.