Selling Art in Galleries
My initial intention of this blog was to name and shame Galleries as I truly feel very strongly that many of the Galleries out there should not be operating at all…. However, I have calmed down to a mild panic and decided rather to use examples of things that can go wrong …and things that can go very right too.
As with all Artists who do what I do for a living, it is imperative that we manage our business of creating Art, as a business and therefore be very cautious when it comes to Galleries and Gallery owners.
Over the past 25 years I have been creating and selling Art. Either over the Internet – off my site or through Facebook, Twitter and many Art sites. I also however, am very dependent on Galleries to showcase my work, hold exhibitions of my work and ultimately sell what I have to offer. This can be quite a daunting task – having to deal with bad business ethics and exploitation.
Colin by Jax
Before I list that things that can go wrong, I need to say right off the bat that not ALL galleries are bad. As is the fact that not all people are bad. I just need to say – ALWAYS PROCEED WITH CAUTION!
I am the biggest culprit when it comes to dealing with what I think are like-minded people. I believe that all Arty Farty folk are great! They get me! They understand what I am about and where I am coming from and that I do this to make a living. Not just for fun but because I love it. I too need to earn money in order to live.
People have been exploited since the year dot and mostly (not always) because they allow it. I was one of them. Firstly, it is important to remember that we probably need Galleries more than they need us.
There are thousands of up and coming Artists (and fantastic Artist at that) out there. Galleries can literally sit back a wait for the Artist to come to them, because they do. Not all Artists can afford their own Galleries so they need them more than ever, and the Gallery Owner knows this! Without a doubt.
Secondly, not all Gallery Owners have knowledge of Art or what is good and what isn’t. They will tell you how wonderful and fantastic they are (the good ones usually don’t need to) and they all think that they are the experts. Truthfully, what does it take to run a gallery? Money.
Many are able to wing the rest. Many Gallery Owners buy up or take work on consignment that they like and that is just the way that it is. A good Gallery has trained, educated staff who knows what they are doing, but these are usually the Galleries that own stables of Artists and don’t need any more. This is a sad fact. Some of the better Galleries recognize the need for “fresh blood” and call for New Artists from time to time; however, the competition is tough! Some of these galleries interview up to 300 Artists at a time and land up adding just ONE to their stable.
ONE IMPORTANT FACT TO REMEMBER: A good gallery will give you a CONTRACT. A good Artist will have their own! A contract is not a piece of paper with CONSIGNMENT written on and a few details. A contract is a full on contract that protects your rights, the Galleries rights and much more.
Many new Galleries are popping up out of the woodwork that call for Artists work. They have exorbitant mark up rates taking as much as 100% commission and in some cases even more. Without a contract your work can be damaged, de-faced, copied (digitally and by hired copy-artists) and stolen with little recourse for you the Artist. Some Galleries offer discount on your work after the agreed price and then deduct this from your portion of the profits. Bottom line – without a contract (or a good lawyer) you are pretty much screwed! It is your right as an Artist to question the integrity of the Gallery and to ask for references or even qualifications from a Gallery Owner. If you have the slightest doubt – walk away!
Value and respect your Artwork as you would your children. These are your creations. You want your work to be treated with respect and care by everyone who works in a Gallery. From the owner right down to the cleaner.
I have compiled my own contract that I use when I take my Artwork into a gallery and would be happy to share it with other Artists.
You are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy which you can tweak and change to suite yourself and your Gallery.
If a Gallery is not prepared to sign YOUR contract, consider finding another Gallery. Seriously there is some dodgy businesses out there. Please take care!
I found an Artist’s Computer program over the Internet. It is called GYST or to give you it’s full name “Get Your Sh*t Together”. It is in my opinion the best invention since coffee! (two things that I cannot live without)
This program gives you everything you need with regards to contracts and covers everything that you ever need to know about copyright, advertising, planning exhibitions and tons more. It has a database where you can store information and different size photographs of all your work and reference, buyers, dealers, galleries etc. It costs money – as any good program does, but is worth every single cent and well worth buying if you are an Artist. It is your digital diary, logbook and more.
The program is not written for South Africans, it is American so some of the information regarding grants and stuff is not relevant to us here, however, it is such a tiny portion of everything else that is relevant, that it is truly worthwhile owning.