Every wonder why TV stations show a variety of programmes, including ones that only attract a relatively small audience? They could just show the most popular programmes…or could they? I don’t exactly run a TV station myself, but I imagine the logic is this (in part; government-funded broadcasters in particular have many constraints on their programming). If your aim is to have a peak viewership at some point during the evening, by all means show something very popular. Maybe you’ll get 50% of the available viewership. But if you aim is to get 80% of the viewership over an evening, you may be wasting your time by showing a stack of other popular programmes on the same night – you may just get the same viewers tuning in to them all, and not increase your overall percentage much.

If, however, you show some minority-interest programmes as well as the popular ones, you’ll pick up extra percentages here and there, and maybe you’ll get your 80% over the course of an evening. (I have no idea if 80% is a reasonable figure; it’s just for the sake of argument.)

So what? Well, I suspect the TV-ratings analogy may have something important to offer in terms of what many galleries are doing at the moment. Pretty much across the board, as far as I can see, commercial galleries are encouraging artists towards producing more affordable work. The result is a spate of shows in which the works are of a smallish, fairly uniform size, and the prices are also reduced to match the lesser scale of the works.

Not only am I not a  broadcaster, I am also not a gallerist. But it does seem to me that the TV-schedule analogy holds something potentially important. For ‘minority-interest viewer’ substitute ‘(relatively) wealthy purchaser’. A gallery full of smallish works of uniform, lowish price is in danger, I imagine, of missing out on a big sale by offering only the currently most popular option. And of course if the gallery misses out, the artist misses out too – so maybe artists need to insist on mixing things up a bit.

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