This article is by Clint Watson, former art gallery owner/director/salesperson and founder of FineArtViews. You should follow Clint on Twitter here.
I receive a lot of questions regarding the artist/gallery relationship and what should be expected from that relationship when selling fine art. For example, just this week I received this email:
Clint. . . Do you have any guidelines or articles on whether a gallery (or galleries -- local or distant) that represents an artist should have a percentage of sales made directly by the artist from his home studio or from one's web site? The local gallery that I am in would like me to refer all website inquiries or studio sales to them to handle. They of course do not pay for my website. - Artist
Here was my response, but I admit that it is probably not a perfect solution. There are so many factors to consider, and we don’t really know all the details in this particular case:
In general most galleries don’t want to compete with the artist for sales. And most of the big artists refer all of their sales to their galleries. I can see how a gallery that is local to you would not want you to be selling direct, because then you are in direct competition with them.
It is a difficult question. It is hard to agree not to sell direct if you are not comfortable that the gallery doing enough to promote you. My personal opinion is that no one will care about your career than you will as the artist and if you can make a sale – do it. I think a fair solution might be for any sales you make from web or studio to pay the gallery some sort of commission, perhaps 20%, or if the gallery is in possession of the painting, refer the client to the gallery. NEVER pull a piece from the gallery to sell behind their back. I think if they want any cut of your personal sales, they should agree to a certain level of promotion and a guaranteed amount of wall space donated to your artwork, but a lot of galleries won’t agree to that. There are just a million factors to be considered here. – Clint
(I forgot to add in my original response that if you do sell direct NEVER undercut gallery pricing. Your retail prices should be constant everywhere your works are sold, and that includes your studio).
One of the concepts that I feel strongly about is that we all need to share ideas and information for mutual benefit. So here is what I would like to do:
I would like to ask that you share your gallery stories with me. I would like them all: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. It may take some time, but I would like to take them and explore the artist/gallery relationship over time and see if we can find ways for you to help each other. If you email me and I don’t respond immediately, please be patient as I believe many artists will have opinions on this subject.
Here are a few of the questions I have considered, but please share ANY topics relating to art galleries that are on your mind:
1. Is coop advertising fair?
2. Should galleries provide artists with names of collectors who buy their works?
3. Is a 50% commission reasonable if the gallery doesn’t pay for advertising?
4. Should an artist refer studio/web sales to the gallery?
5. Should a gallery receive a commission for sales from your studio?
6. Should galleries be threatened by artists entering museum shows/competitions?
7. Are frames handled equitably?
8. How do you find a good gallery?
9. What’s the best way to approach a gallery?
10. How do you know if your work is hanging or is in storage?
Please reply to me with anything you would like to share, positive or negative. I know from experience that a good relationship with a good gallery is a very positive experience, so please don’t think I’m gallery bashing. I’m not. I genuinely want to explore solutions for both sides of the relationship.
If you reply to me by email, your replies will be posted by first name only with no contact info, if you wish for other artists to be able to contact you, please go to the blog and post your reply there.
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic