Taking on the responsibility of joining a gallery…

'Fallen Leaves' jarchote@gmail.com Oil on Panel, $3800

‘Fallen Leaves’
Oil on Panel, $3800

I know I’ve talked before about the importance of a mutually beneficial, strong relationship with your galleries based on integrity, but it is only because it is a topic I feel very passionate about. At our last critique session at Jake’s Bagel Shop the question of joining a gallery arose. What most of the artists at the critique did not consider is when is an artist ready to join a gallery? I always recall one of my students, who had never picked up a brush before, just asking when she had six paintings done, if I could recommend a gallery where she could take them.

So many artists forget galleries are in business to make money, not simply there to show art. Artists in galleries are part employees and partners; employes in the sense that if they aren’t producing they are let go, and partners in the sense that they have input into how they are represented in the gallery. With joining a gallery comes responsibilities. Your art is the product your your gallery is standing behind. Art doesn’t come with a warranty, both the gallery and collector expect the art to measure up to certain standards. It is the artists responsiblity to meet these standards. Originality is one of the factors a collector expects and the quality of your materials is another. If you are cutting corners, using materials that aren’t meant to be used in the way you are using them you need to make your gallery aware of this practice. If you are pulling photos from the internet and reproducing them in oil or some other medium you are not ready for a gallery… You will be opening your gallery to legal problems and putting their reputation and the reputation of your fellow artists in question. Getting caught just once puts all your work into question.

When you are ready to join a gallery, start by checking out the galleries in your area first – don’t just walk in loaded with your paintings and ask to join. First see if your work is compatible with the type of work they already handle. Go to a gallery and see how they treat you before you inform them you are an artist. If they make you feel uncomfortable as a client you might consider how real collectors will feel. I’ve seen many galleries go out of business after a year or two becaues their sales staff didn’t know how to sell art. Make note of what other artists show with them and contact them and ask how they feel about the gallery. When you first begin with the gallery system, begin with a gallery within driving distance so you can drop in periodically to check on how your work is being shown.  Most galleries will want at least 6 pieces of which they may only show 3, holding the other 3 in reserve to replace any sold. You will need to have a few in reserve as well.

Wehn you start showing with a gallery your prices will have to be consistant, you cannot undercut your gallery selling at lower prices out of your studio or in other galleries. You cannot pull a piece out of your gallery to sell direct to a collector. These practices hurt not only the gallery but the other artists you show with – it will be their sales that keep the gallery going enabling you to show in it.


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