I've been clearing out old file drawers to make my office space more usable, and musing over their contents--documentation of art business in all its many forms. The oldest files go back over 25 years to my undergrad years at the University of Wisconsin, and graduate years at Arizona State. Others are more recent--but almost all predate my heavy reliance on the computer, and provide a look at those times when conducting art biz was a bit more labor-intensive.
Some of what I came across:
*Dozens of entries to the same few grants and publications, never successful, but sent off year after year--with accompanying slide sheets, of course, carefully labeled...remember how many hours those paper and slide applications could take? I dreaded the whole project, but felt compelled to go through with it every time.
*Piles of files from various group and juried shows, many of which have long since fallen off my resume...but important enough to me at the time that I saved every scrap of correspondence, publicity, and other documentation.
*Plenty of gallery correspondence, both with those that represented my work and those that I wished would. One of my favorite rejection letters of all time: "While your paintings are beautiful and mature, they do not fit with our current aesthetic direction"..."so, what you're looking for is ugly and adolescent?" I was tempted to write back.
*There are also files on various galleries that ended up representing my work for 6 months or a year, and then sent it back to me citing a lack of interest by their clients....in retrospect, the lack of interest was at least as true of the galleries themselves. It took years to connect with galleries that were truly excited about my work, and could sell it well.
*Carbon copies (!) of resumes, cover letters and such...I should probably save these for their value as ancient relics.
*Lots of art supply product information sheets, price charts, brochures from framers...the kind of thing that is now easily accessed with a few mouse clicks, on a need-to-know basis.
*A thick folder of artist statements, dating back to college years...with draft copies and rewrites of everything. The earlier statements tend to be long and detailed, and include accounts of profound childhood experiences. The more recent statements are less grandiose, more concise and thankfully, much less embarrassing.
I'm tossing out most of this stuff, obviously, and feeling quite happy that with almost everything now on in computer files, new paper files have stopped accumulating so thickly (although my e-files too could use some clearing out!) That old paper is going to make good tinder for my winter studio fires, and as I feed it into the woodstove piece by piece, I'll be reminded of the hard work and persistence in the years behind me-- the hopes, ideas, plans that fell through, as well as those that came to be, and those that still remain as possibilities. Makes me feel a bit old--or maybe "seasoned " is more like it. I'm just glad that the toughest struggles for recognition and representation--which these old files testify to in such excruciating detail--are behind me now. And very grateful too for the cleaner, more organized computer systems that now make art business so much easier and more efficient.