Choosing a gallery is NOT a matter of taking the first offer you get from a gallery, or taking a recommendation from your Uncle’s cousin. It is also not about showing trust in humanity. Choosing a Gallery to represent art can be one of the most important decisions an artist can make. This decision will affect who sees the art, and consequently who buys it. An artist is an equal partner with the Gallery: The artist supplies the product sold and the Gallery in turn supplies the selling venue. Neither party can exist without the other. If an artist chooses poorly, it reflects on both the artist and on the art. Art is a business as well as a creative endeavor. If an artist is pursuing art as a career and not as a hobby artists need to be aware of legal issues that can affect them. Most artists benefit from showing their art at Commercial Galleries (nuts and bolts). Unfortunately, not all commercial galleries are created equal. Some are aboveboard and have excellent reputations and ethics. Others do not. Commercial art galleries derive their profit from sales of artwork, and thus take great care to select art and artists that they believe will sell and enhance their gallery’s reputation. They spend time and money cultivating collectors. If the artwork sells, the gallery makes a profit and the artist is then paid. It is not unusual for a commercial art gallery to charge a 50% commission on sales. Before entering into partnership with a new gallery, the artist should do what any responsible person would do before entering into a contract: check it out with the local Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce. Ask to speak to other artists who are under contract. Do they make sales? Does the gallery pay on time when a sale is made? Does the gallery make sales of an artist’s work and not tell artists about it? What about advertising and publicity, how much does the gallery does and who pays for it? Artists should also attend a few of their receptions or events and see who is attending. If it is mostly other artists under contract, very few sales will be made. A successful commercial gallery will be in a location where there is a high volume of foot traffic and visited by a lot of art fans is ideal. A location such as this may be pricey, but if an audience is already there and primed to visit the gallery with the intent to buy, less can be spent on advertising to drive buyers to see the work.
NUTS & BOLTS VS. ON-LINE GALLEIRES
Surprisingly there are a number of on-line and nuts and bolts alternatives for choosing where you will show your art. The words “on-line art gallery” can mean different things, however; an online art gallery most likely will be a website to display and sell art. For example: 1) An on-line art gallery can be displaying art work from their current, future, or past exhibitions, and be set up to promote the exhibition rather than to sell the work via the website. 2) An artist presenting his/her own gallery, either on his own website and 3) Multi-Artist Sites or shared websites (ArtId, Fine Art America, Etsy, etc.), representing many artists working in different medias and genres. On a multi-artist site the artist either pays a monthly fee or agrees to a commission paid when the work is sold. These are usually non-exclusive and are a risk free opportunity for the artist to sell art worldwide. Search for them using “original art” or “online art gallery”. The advantage of Online Galleries is that while the art buying public is growing, many people are still intimidated by walk-in commercial Art Galleries. If a potential buyer has access to a wide range of art viewed in the comfort and safety of their own home, they may relax and make a purchase. A lot of artists now have an online Gallery as well as a walk-in commercial Gallery, which means that an artist can present a lot more art to a lot more people.
Beginning artists can be confused by Vanity Galleries because Vanity Galleries are not the only type of gallery that charges a fee to the artist; a vanity gallery charges artists fees to exhibit their work and makes most of its money from the artists rather than from sales to the public. Some vanity galleries charge a lump sum to arrange an exhibition, while others ask artists to pay regular membership fees and then promise to organize an exhibition with a certain period. Occasionally a vanity gallery will appear to have a selection process because the number of artists on the membership roster cannot exceed the available time slots for shows. Vanity galleries have no incentive to sell art, as they have already been paid by the artist. They are not selective because they don’t have to be. Most Professional critics and reviewers tend to avoid them.
Cooperative galleries (sometimes called artist-run initiatives), are galleries operated by groups of artists who pool their resources to staff the gallery, pay for gallery space, exhibits and publicity. Most cooperative galleries carefully jury their members. Also, most, galleries of this type do require membership fees. Sometimes members must share the overhead cost of operating the gallery.
Before joining a gallery or on-line site, it is a good idea to check out their sales record. Talk or e-mail artists using the site and ask their opinion of the Gallery.