Why Artists Should Avoid Gallery Representation Contracts

Why Artists Should Avoid Gallery Representation Contracts

Gal­leries have a lot of oth­er artists in their stables.

You are not the only artist that the gallery is look­ing after. It is also nur­tur­ing the careers of many oth­er artists.

It is rare that a gallery can tell an artist (hon­est­ly), “You are my #1 priority.”

On the oth­er hand, you should always be your #1 priority.

You are your best salesperson.

Nobody cares about your suc­cess more than you. Nobody knows your art bet­ter than you.

Even if you find a gallery where your work will fit, you still have to sell your­self to the gallery. You could be spend­ing this ener­gy sell­ing your work direct­ly to inter­est­ed buyers.

You still have to do a lot of self-promotion.

Con­trary to pop­u­lar opin­ion, gal­leries do not do all of the work for artists. You are expect­ed to pro­mote your art at the gallery as if it were your own space.

If the gallery’s com­mis­sion is 50%, it’s hard to moti­vate your­self to do a lot of work for them.

Gal­leries usu­al­ly earn 50% of the sale.

Notice that I didn’t say they “take” 50% of the sale. If a gal­lerist is doing his or her job, they are earn­ing the com­mis­sion. More­over, gal­leries have high over­head costs that help them jus­ti­fy this high percentage.

Still, 50% is 50%. And some­times it stings. If you can sell your art and keep 100% of the prof­its, do it!

Gal­leries are hope­less­ly behind the times with their marketing.

In the art world as a whole, gal­leries have been the slow­est to adapt to a chang­ing econ­o­my. They were slow to embrace email and have been much slow­er with social media.

If they aren’t care­ful, they may become the Block­buster or Bor­ders of the art world.

Heads Up!

Any of the fol­low­ing six sit­u­a­tions could be a red flag when look­ing at gallery representation.

1. New gal­leries with­out an estab­lished list or connections.

This wouldn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly break a deal, but you do need to be cau­tious of gal­lerists who haven’t been in busi­ness. Ask a lot of ques­tions and know what you’re get­ting into.

2. Bad location.

Loca­tions with­out park­ing or mass tran­sit access can mean the death of a gallery. Or they can mean noth­ing. If a gal­lerist has great con­nec­tions, loca­tion might not mat­ter as much.

3. Clue­less peo­ple on the sales floor.

Do all sales­peo­ple under­stand how to talk to clients and close a sale? Do all sales­peo­ple know the artists and the sell­ing points of each? If not, they have lit­tle busi­ness sell­ing your art.

4. Staff mem­bers are bad communicators.

It’s not a good sign if a gallery’s staff isn’t telling you about events and oppor­tu­ni­ties. Dit­to if they aren’t updat­ing you on your sales. If they aren’t com­mu­ni­cat­ing well with you, they prob­a­bly aren’t com­mu­ni­cat­ing well with collectors.

5. Dif­fi­cult personalities.

If you don’t like the peo­ple who run the gallery, what are the chances that oth­er peo­ple want to do busi­ness with them?

6. Out-of-date or ugly website.

When will gal­leries under­stand that their Web pres­ence is the point of entry to many poten­tial buy­ers? If a gallery’s site hasn’t been updat­ed since last year’s exhi­bi­tion, recon­sid­er your involve­ment with them.

By the way, you should heed this warn­ing for your own sites. Keep them updated!