I am planning another reader critique. If you would like your art considered for a crit on this blog, e mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org If I use your painting I will photoshop your signature off of it, and I will tell no one whose painting I am critiquing. This has been a regular feature on this blog, and if you would like to see some previous crits , look under "critiques" in my sidebar.
I need to do the photography while I make some painting panels and I will do that early in the coming week so I can show you how I make a painting panel. So tonight I think I will write a little bit about art dealers. I intend to do a number of posts on the business of art and I really haven't written about that much , so this will foreshadow a longer series of posts yet to come.
People ask me how the art business works and I tell them this. "I lend my art to dealers in hopes they will sell it and pay me. Its a consignment business like used clothing" The dealer and I split the price paid for the painting. Years ago the commission on a sale was sometimes as low as 33% but in recent years it has crept up to about 50% and that seems now to be the industry standard.
Some artists I know feel that is unfair and they should receive a larger portion of the proceeds from the sale. I owned a small art gallery in Rockport, Massachusetts for about fifteen years and I know how much work it is. There is lots of overhead for the location, electricity, advertising, insurance, payroll if you have employees, and you have to be there, almost all the time. That's even on days when you don't feel like it. It is a whole lot of work, and when it doesn't make money, all those costs just keep on coming. So I have been on both sides of the equation. Now, I only handled my own work, but if I handled someone else, I would want half.
However, for that 50% I have a number of expectations. Here they are.
- The gallery needs to have a brick and mortar location with a plate glass window full of art, in a location frequented by likely buyers. I used to get lots of phone calls from corporate art ladies. They would ask me for slides (this was a while ago) of my best paintings and they always seemed to have some important showing coming up right away, so they had to have them ASAP. I used to run around getting the photography together and send it to them. I would never hear from them again, not even a thank you. SO....no corporate art ladies, if they haven't got a REAL gallery I don't show with them.
- I expect a gallery to be open, clean, well lit, and staffed by someone who greets clients in a professional and welcoming manner. Generally I want that person dealing with the clients to be the owner. Remote control owners who aren't there, never seem to sell my art. You can hire someone to be present in the gallery, if a client walks in and points out a painting and says "I want that", they will ring it up. That's not a salesperson, that's a clerk. Clerks don't sell my art, they generally sell the bottom end stuff and their friends paintings. There are exceptions to this but not many. Most of the exceptions are older, and experienced retail sales people.
- A gallery should advertise, I hope they will advertise my paintings once in a while but no matter who they feature in their advertisements, I want to be in a gallery that has traffic and is known in its area. That takes advertising. In print. In major art magazines, or at least magazines aimed at visitors to the area where the gallery is located.
- I expect the gallery to handle my art and frames with care, and take responsibility for seeing they are not damaged.
- I expect the owner of the gallery to be knowledgeable about art and to know what I am about artistically, so they can speak authoritatively to their customers. Most people know zip about art, they go to a dealer looking for an expert they can trust, to guide them through the process of selecting a good painting. So a dealer is selling expertise and integrity.
- I expect a gallery to pay me promptly. That is a few days after the sale, enough time for the clients check to clear and to know the sale has "stuck'. About half my galleries do this, I stock them first, here's why. Say I just made a great painting, and my wife says to me "while your up dear, you wanna make another 10,000 dollars?" Where am I going to send that special new painting. Now if I have two galleries that have a reasonable chance of selling the picture, which one am I going to give the painting to, the one who will pay me at the end of the coming month, or the gallery that will pay me right away? I have tried to explain this to some dealers and they have said to me that they have so much book keeping to do, that it just isn't practical. The do however want another painting from me right away...that's practical. Their competition, the other gallery knows how things work and they will get my best work and they will get it first. That's not because I am vengeful but because I have got to have the cash flow.
- I prefer to be in a gallery that carries mostly the kind of art I make. If they are hanging everything from abstract, to marine painting, I don't see how they can value what I do, it is just another sort of product to them. Many of my best dealers have been people who have dealt mostly in dead artists. My work is extremely traditional and often appeals tot the kind of clients they already have. Recently, "dead" art has gone up so much in price that things that used to sell for 10 to 50 thousand dollars are now 50 to 200 thousand dollars. Many dealers have plenty of clients in the first price range, the successful local doctor or businessmen, but they haven't got to many in the second category. They are out there but they are a lot fewer of them. I have often been useful to those dealers by giving them something to sell that isn't quite as expensive. More and more of the dealers of dead art are starting to call up living artists that they wouldn't have been interested in handling a few years ago. Back then they would have said, "come back when your dead, kid!"
- A gallery should be showing my work on their walls. I have closets at home. If I walk into a gallery that has my art and nothing is showing, I reclaim my paintings and go somewhere else. People won't buy what they can't see. So I don't show in galleries that do one man shows often, I want to be in a gallery that shows the works of its stable all the time, if they do one man shows, they need to have enough room so that they can show my art while that show is running.
- My work should be shown on the premises, that means no lending it out to restaurants or real estate offices. I am not in the business of providing free decoration for restaurants.