Archive for the ‘Fine Art Galleries’ Category

Gallery Representation: Getting the Most for Your $

In Fine Art, Fine Art Consulting Services, Fine Art Galleries on September 20, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Artists often seek “bricks & mortar” gallery representation to display their work at an art buyers and collectors destination where the work is seen and hopefully purchased first hand.  Artists also sometimes question whether the commission that the gallery is paid for its services (most commonly 50%) is worth it.  If you believe that gallery representation is for you, consider the following checklist of gallery attributes and services before you select a gallery, or if you are reconsidering the gallery representation that you presently have:

1. Location: Is your work displayed in a first class, prime location for fine art sales (a fine art buyer’s destination)?  Or, is it in a gallery on a side street lost among other types of businesses, or in a location that is not an art buyers destination?  “Location, Location, Location!”

2. Display: Is your work displayed well, with plenty of room and proper lighting for the best possible presentation?  Or, is it crowded among other artwork that is distracting, or poorly illuminated, or placed in a congested place, or just sitting in the back room inventory collecting dust?  If you don’t know, visit the gallery unannounced, or have a friend visit it for you.  Or, simply ask the gallery to send you a digital photo of your work as it’s being displayed.

3. Promotions: Does the gallery promote your work via openings, shows, advertising or the Internet?  Or, does your work just sit there waiting for a sale to walk-in traffic?

4. Internet: Does the gallery have a website and are images of your work displayed on it?  Does the gallery use blogging as a way to increase exposure of the gallery and your work?

5. Networking: Does the gallery use business and social networking to increase your exposure?

6. Dynamic Displays: Is the gallery dynamic to give visitors ever-changing new looks to keep the repeaters coming back for more? Or, does the gallery place the work just once until sold, rarely changing the displays so that the appearance becomes stale and the frequency of repeat visitors suffers?

7. Staff: Is the gallery staffed with people who actively pursue both inside and outside sales, are knowledgeable about you and your work, and skilled at displaying, selling and installing your art. Or, is the gallery short-staffed or staffed with passive sales people or people who don’t know much about you or your work.

8. Communications: Does the gallery keep you informed of what’s happening with your art and dialogue with you about what is selling and what is not?  A monthly phone call or e-mail is not a lot to expect, although communication is a two-way street.  Or, are you left wondering what is going on, month after month?

9.  Sale Negotiations Consultation: Does the gallery consult with you, during a difficult sales transaction, to discuss discounting the price with you  (with your proportional participation in the price reduction) to close a sale?  Or, does the gallery discount your work as they feel is necessary for a sale without consulting you, and then expect you to share in the reduced revenue of the discounted sale?

10.  Sales Notifications & Payments: When your work sells, does the gallery promptly tell you and pay you your share of the proceeds?  Or, are you left wondering about sales and, when made, are you left waiting for an extended period to receive payment for your work?

If the above listed positive attributes describe the gallery that you are considering or with, I suggest that the commission that you pay them is well worth it if it is in the 50% range.  If not, you may wish to consider trying to negotiate a lower commission or simply seek another gallery.  With a lower gallery commission, you or others (such as an independent representative) can pick up the slack of the gallery’s shortcomings (such as outside sales, advertising or an Internet presence) with the savings.

Protect the value your work! Remember that, IMO, the retail value of your art work is the same regardless of how, or where, or by whom it sells. Approximately 50% of that value is what you, the artist, expect at least for your work.  The balance (about 50%) is the cost to get it sold, exclusive of taxes and shipping.  Depending on the services provided to sell the work, that amount can all go to one party (such as a gallery or you) or it is split among several parties (such as an Internet site, independent broker, interior designer, art show sponsor, gallery, you or your representative).  Any discounting of your retail price effectively reduces the retail price of your next work for sale and thereby reduces either the least that you receive for the work, or what you have available to spend to sell it, or both.

When you hire a gallery to represent you, the relationship is one of mutual trust and support with mutual benefit as the goal.  Neither party can work unilaterally for their own benefit, at the cost of the other’s benefit, without poisoning the relationship.  Such behavior will lead to mistrust, guarded communications and ultimately a breakdown of the relationship.  Examples include some of the negative attributes that I listed above, and:

  • the artist selling the art work at reduced prices direct to gallery clients (those who became aware of the artist’s work at the gallery, and then went direct to the artist to avoid the gallery commission);
  • the artist reducing the sale price of the art for transactions made without the gallery, thereby undercutting the gallery’s ability to support the retail sales prices for the artist’s work;
  • the gallery limiting the artist’s opportunities for local outside sales (such as from participation in local art shows), or the artist participating in such without in some way including the gallery;  local (to the gallery) art shows are a joint opportunity for outside sales that can benefit both parties with a re-structured (specifically for the show sales) gallery commission based on a unique (to the show) division of responsibilities.

Working together for mutual benefit strengthens the ability of both parties to make sales and support the retail prices. Some buyers, as if on a quest for the Holy Grail, will do almost anything to “divide and conquer” the gallery and artist to get the art work at a substantial discount.  The gallery and artist are stronger together, and if they both recognize and appreciate this, they will form better relationships and stick with them, evolving together as conditions dictate.

If gallery representation is not for you, consider hiring an independent representative to help you expand your exposure and sales opportunities.  An independent representative will cost less than a gallery, but does not offer the “brick & mortar” space to display your work.  However, an independent representative can offer many of the other positive attributes I’ve listed above about galleries, such as promotions, Internet presence, networking, communications and knowledgeable, aggressive sales staff (the representative).  I’ll write my next blog about this option for you.

Here are some related articles that I found on the Internet that may prove helpful to you if you are considering gallery representation: