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Will Your Galleries Balk at Your Web Site?

by Clint Watson on 9/21/2006

Brian from Maine wonders, "Hi Clint, I was just reading some things in your blog -- the point that stood out to me was your suggestion to list my website on the backs of artwork. Wouldn't galleries balk at this?"

Thanks for your question Brian. Certainly, some gallery owners distrust artist contact information on the backs of artworks. For years this has included an artist's address and phone number. Now of course, web site addresses are taboo as well. Some gallery owners may even remove or black out such information. One can sometimes feel a pervasive desire to create a "wall of separation" between the artist and the collector. What a shame! After all, art is about forging connections between the artist and the viewer. Art is all about communication. In a sense, when a buyer purchases artwork, he's "purchasing" the artist as well. The stronger the client-artist connection, the more likely the person will become an ongoing collector.

The progressive dealer realizes that instead of hindering these connections, he should foster and encourage them. Building relationships is the essence of the dealer's job. Instead of hiding the artist's web site, why not enthusiastically share it with clients and encourage them to visit it? Instead of blocking access to an artist, why not pick up the phone and introduce the prospect to the artist? Heck, why not even give the artist's phone number to prospects? Each of these actions would make a sale more likely; after all, wouldn't YOU feel special if you were invited to personally call the artist?

The only reason that I can fathom regarding such humbug is fear. Specifically, fear that the artist will take advantage of the gallery's good faith efforts and "make a deal" with the client, thereby cutting the gallery out of the sale. I have seen artists make such deals. The galleries who represent such artists have good reason to complain.

All of these problems are symptoms and stop gap measures taken in an attempt to ameliorate a much deeper root problem: Trust. A gallery who won't let the client to talk to the artist doesn't trust the artist. An artist who sells behind the gallery's back, on some level, doesn't trust the gallery: either doesn't trust that the fee arrangement is equitable, or wonders if the gallery inflates prices.

What a lamentable and preventable state of affairs! Just make sure that your gallery relationships are built on trust, respect and a spirit of teamwork. Assure your galleries that you will not sell behind their backs. Discuss in advance how you will handle a call from a prospect from your own web site and how you will respond if a client suggests cutting the gallery out of the picture. Put links to your gallery on your own web site and make it clear to visitors that sales are handled by your gallery. And please, please, please put it all in a written and signed agreement with your gallery.

And yes, by all means, put your web site address on the back of every artwork you create.


Clint Watson
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic


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Topics: Gallery/Artist Relationship

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Martha Marshall
via web
Galleries are going to have to give up this fight. After all, if the artist has a website, savvy folks can find it through web searches anyway.


Rick Rotante
via web
I can't help but feel the mistrust started primarily with the galleries themselves. I've always felt that you suspect in others what you yourself are guilty of. If you are a liar and a cheat, you believe everyone is a liar and a cheat. If you're deceitful, you expect everyone you deal with will be deceitful. It makes perfect common sense to me.
All an artist really wants is for a gallery to genuinely threat them fairly. I don't know of any artist who has said to me or mentioned that their only reason for seeking a gallery was to cheat THEM. An artist (at one time)needed a gallery. I know this is changing and the suspiciion from the galleries is that artistS are out to get them and cheat them of their "deserved rewards." Think about it. All an artists wants is to be treated well and get paid for the work they provide. Fairly. Where is it written that any galley should take a higher percentage of the sale if it didn't start with the galleries. I understand a gallery has overhead. But so does the artist. Actually I think the artist investment is greater than the galleries investment.
We both, the artist and the gallery share rent/mortgage, phone, utilities. the actual costs balance out in the end.
Only the emotional cost would be greater for the artist. Afterall, it's the artist and artwork on the line not the gallery.
If anyone is more trusting, it's the artist. Over time and in the current art market, artists share stories about galleries and have come to be suspicious. Why? Because galleries, by nature of the American business ethic ( an other issue worth discussing)is that they think somehow they are entitled to more or they have an inside track to the "money people" which entitles them to a greater share of the profits. I repeat, as I've done before, "without artwork to sell, there would be no galleries" Galleries are an invention of those who believed they could sell artwork which would give artist all the time in the world to paint. In theory, it's a perfect world. But the gallery owners saw an opportunity here to make more. They saw that artists are bad with business or were not interested in business or were too busy making art to conduct business. Enter the "greed" factor, which is built in to every business person.
From that point mistrust, suspicion flourished. Galleries started setting the rules, in their favor, and sowed the seeds for their eventual demise. Artist were also too willing to agree to "the gallery system". Long story short, we have the system we all love today. So when an artist has a website, it's only natural for a gallery to be suspicious and mistrustful of the artist. AND, in all fairness to the gallery, artists having been burned so many times, some are probably thinking of ways to cheat the gallery.
I'd be safe to say that all large companies in this county were built on mistrust and deceit. It's the American way.
When I was a child, my mother taught me to be true and honest and treat everyone fairly. When I was an adult and told her I declared some things I could have hidden on my tax return, she told me I should not have declared these things. I reminded her of her teaching and she, with a clear voice said, " that teaching was for when you were a child only". The world we're told is supposed to be as children, isn't what we eventually find out it is when we mature into adults. As most have found out.
Galleries could be fair and all benefit from the process, but I don't see that happening. Now that artists can and do have an alternative, they are exercising it more and more. I know I am. And only I am reaping the rewards. Does it take more time? Yes. Is it worth that time? Definitely.
In the end what galleries have to realize is there are more potential buyers surfing the net than are visiting galleries. Plus buyers know they can get a better price from the artist without paying for gallery overhead.

As a post script I'd like to add. Galleries exist today and will for sometime to come. Some are run honestly. Do your research when choosing a good gallery. Remember, it's your work. Take pride in it and don't ever sell it short.

Oscar Ortiz
via web
I always load the back of my pieces with contact info. I've never had an issue with any of my galleries. Artists should always remain in control of their business.

Kathryn Clark
I think that both the gallery and the artist should share collector information. Some potential buyers would prefer to buy directly from the artist in her studio with the easel and the paints, others would prefer to be shown paintings in the elegance of the gallery. I think that the gallery and the artist should share all potential buyer contact information with each other. If the buyer comes from the gallery's list but contacts the artist to see a painting which is in the artist's studio (not in the gallery), the gallery should get 50 percent of the commission (25 percent of the selling price)because the artist made the sale. If the customer sees a painting by the artist on the artist's web site which is not at the gallery and asks the artist to send it to the gallery so he can see it, the artist should get 50 percent of the commission or 25 percent of the selling price because the initial contact came from the artist, but the gallery made the sale. The details of this type of arrangement should be in writing in the formal agreement between the gallery and the artist. Both parties should actively be selling the art work. Naturally, the gallery should get 100 percent of the commission for a painting that is in the gallery and for which they make the sale and vice versa.

Wallace Hugh
I do not have any of these problems. Nore do I forsee having to worrie about them,ever. If I do, I will be right back on this fourum asking for advice. : ) I'm at a Nieve state, where I would say "Who Cares?, I'll just paint another one"
Ive met a lot of Bad guys, and none of them were ripping off Artist, tho not much would surprise me.

Duhamel Xolot
Thank you all for sharing!
Great site for artists!


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