This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY, artnet, WorldNetDaily (WND) and Art Fag City. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 20,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
One of the most controversial aspects of the art gallery/artist business relationship 'boils down' to how profit is split between art dealer and artist. As we all know, art galleries charge a commission once a work of art is sold. The commission will often involve between 25 and 60% of the selling price – 50% is common. Many artists – specifically those who have never been represented by a gallery OR have had bad experiences with a few galleries – claim that the split is unfair. Needless to say, this frustration often spurs 'us vs. them' debates among artists – with art galleries being described as parasites, or worse. I, for one, feel that the cycle of complaining is nothing more than a waste of time.
This is the hard truth: Complaining about how money is split between art dealer and artist does nothing to change the situation. Pointblank, art dealers -- in general -- are not going to magically lower their percentages based on complaints from artists. Trust me on this... art dealers know that the 'split' is controversial – they know that many artists dislike it. They also know how much their time is worth... and that they are running a business.
Like it or not, art galleries tend to be privately-owned AND for-profit. They should not be confused with non-profit art exhibit spaces that focus on education and preservation. The relationship between the commercial art gallery and represented artist is a business partnership. It is a relationship established with mutual financial benefit in mind – NOT charity. The foundation of the gallery / artist relationship, in this context, is a business arrangement. Artists need to remember that.
The gallery commission may seem high at first glance. That said, some artists forget – or simply don't know – just how expensive it is to operate a meaningful art gallery. The gallery owner(s) must think about utilities, paying staff, shipping, exhibit promotion, marketing expense, insurance, rent or property tax... the list goes on. I realize that artists have expenses as well. News Flash: every business endures expense. Get over it. You are not being forced to form a business partnership. You can represent yourself (even open your own gallery) if you desire.
This is what I want to stress: If you don't agree with the commission a gallery takes... the solution is simple -- don't get involved with the gallery. Furthermore, don't worry about art gallery representation. Problem solved, right? Just remember that in order to reap 100% of the profit... you must do 100% of the marketing. It is as simple as that. Stop complaining about percentages... stop being obsessed with what the art galleries are doing. Stop wasting your time - I promise you they have heard it all before... long before blogs and online forums. Focus on your business model – as a self-representing artist -- rather than complaining about the business model used by others. Stop. Wasting. Time.
In closing, if you honestly feel that all art dealers are sitting on easy street from their 'cut' of the profit... I challenge YOU to open a gallery. Let us see if you can get past the 5 year mark. Let us see if you can make it just one month. I know, I know... you can say the same to art dealers about creating art. BUT remember... creating art is not their business -- selling art IS their business. Your relationship with a gallery is a business partnership... two businesses coming together for mutual gain -- each with a different set of skills. Think about that... and decide what you want from the art business. Just don't waste too much time thinking about it.
Take care, Stay true,