Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Gallery Game

I felt very honored the other day when I got an email from a gallery in New York City, inviting me to show a few pieces in their space.  While I am still thrilled to be noticed, I was a bit taken back when it became more clear it was not so much an invitation but a solicitation.

Now, from what I understand this is a real legitimate and well known gallery, and am afraid this might be the new accepted structure of the the artist/gallery relationship.

Traditionally galleries earn a commission, typically it's a 50/50 split with an artist.  The artist is willing to pay the gallery half if he sells anything because the gallery provides the space and exposure for the artist.  Unlike other retailers, the gallery isn't buying the merchandise, so they don't have that risk if it doesn't sell, they simply return and find another artist.  

This NY gallery proposed showing 3 of my pieces for a month, and I would pay them a few thousand dollars!  The money would cover a catalogue, invitations, cocktail reception (which is free for the gallery since it's sponsored by a name brand vodka), mailing, emailing and listing on websites (both of which I don't think cost the gallery a thing) and a few other inconsequentials.  The gallery would wave their commission on any sales until the I earned back the money. Ooh, how generous of them to return the money I spent to make the sale. 

So the artist is now supposed to pay for everything? The gallery never risks anything and puts it ALL on the artist.  They just come in and skim off the profit after everything is paid for. Obviously I told them, "No Thanks, I'm not interested in hiring a publicist right now."  Because that is essentially what they are, except that a publicist doesn't also take 50% of what you sell, nor would the money I am paying a publicist be working to promote someone else, such as my funding the galleries catalog.

They even offer more expensive 'packages' and brag that they can leverage reviews for those who choose to advertise in certain publications.  Now I know how people get noticed in major publications, you pay for it. It's probably me, but I find it all a bit distasteful and phony. It makes me doubly appreciative of all my patrons.

It's sad to think that some galleries won't even invest in or believe in the art that they expect their patrons to invest in, and that the art in these galleries is only that of artists that can afford it.  The good news is that not all galleries operate in this matter. Let's hope this practice doesn't spread. 


Nick said...

I hope it wasn't the Leslie Lohman Gallery!

Paul Richmond said...

These vanity galleries are a total scam. Steer clear!

Michael said...

Reading the post, I was thinking "This sounds like the artist equivalent of a vanity press," and Paul's comment confirmed that.

Michael Breyette said...

Yes thanks Paul for putting a name to it.