Today's Post is by Lori Woodward, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She also writes "The Artist's Life" blog on American Artists' Forum. Lori is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group that paints under the direction of Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. Find out how you can be a guest author.
Recently, Clint Watson wrote a short blog post here, illustrating a logical way to see if your dealings with a gallery produces a profit. If you are working with a gallery - do the math, and if the favor doesn't come out in your favor, it's time to reconsider.
My tennis coach in college had a saying, If you're winning the match, don't change a thing, but if you're losing, try different strategies until you begin winning. I've used these wise words to guide me through life's endeavors, and they've repaid me handsomely.
Here's what you should be asking yourself:
Am I making a decent profit by working with my gallery? Are they doing a good job of promoting my work? Do they treat me with respect - as a business partner, and send me a check promptly after a sale? If the answer is "no" for any of these matters, it might be time to have a business meeting with yourself and re-evaluate your relationship with the gallery.
Whenever I've consigned work with a gallery, I usually revise their agreement or else write my own agreement if they don't have one. I print two hard copies - one for myself and one for the gallery owner/manager and have that person sign both my copy and theirs. You might think this is a bit drastic, but it comes in handy when issues crop up.
Here's a list of what I include:
I agree to supply the gallery with 5 or more paintings at any time. When the paintings sell, I send an equal number of replacements. If nothing sells, I don't send anything. I've seen artists end up with thousands of dollars in inventory sit for more than a year in a gallery with no sales. It's unfair for the artist to have their paintings, along with framing and shipping investments - not actively selling and possibly sitting in storage. Again, the whole idea of working with a gallery is to sell to collectors whom we have no way of attracting. If that's not happening, just being in the gallery to list it on your resume probably isn't worth it.
I include a clause that lets me exchange unsold paintings with the gallery after 6 months. That way, collectors don't see the same paintings month after month - when they are removed, it gives them the impression that they have sold. When I work with more than one gallery, I have the option of placing those unsold paintings in one of my other venues. More often then not, when I move an unsold work to one of my other galleries, it sells.
I require prompt payment of my funds within 30 days of the sale. No ifs, ands, or buts. This is crucial to my income and my relationship with the gallery. I've worked with a couple of galleries where I hadn't received payment for months after a sale - it got to the point where the owner would not answer my calls. This kind of business issue stresses me out. I make it my aim to work with business partners who are financially solvent, ethical, and welcome hearing my voice.
I make sure the gallery insures loss of paintings while in the gallery and also when the gallery ships the paintings back to the artist.
I don't let my gallery dictate the other venues where I sell my work. Some galleries state that their artists cannot sell from their studios or at certain other galleries (who they deem in competition with them). This requirement is far too restrictive to my income. The gallery has many artists with which to draw income, while I only have that gallery. In my mind, it's unfair for them to restrict my income sources while multiplying theirs.
There's more, but for the sake of not taking up your painting time, I'll stop here. The key: Never let a gallery do anything that increases their income while it restricts yours. Remember, it's an equitable partnership. The day is here were we artists can and should make working with a gallery a true and ethical experience for both sides of the equation.