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Art galleries — who is their customer really? It matters.

zentao trademark and logoArtists seek exposure.  They want sales.  They want notoriety.  …Well most do, anyway.  There are a multitude of ways to go about gaining exposure and buying customers, but, today, I’ll talk about galleries.

Legitimate Galleries  make their money by commissions on sales, not by charging the artist money to show their work.  Repeat: Legitimate galleries don’t charge the artist money for space. 

Vanity Galleries: If they charge the artist money, they aren’t a ”legitimate” gallery. They are brokering space for you to build your “vanity” gallery.  Nothing wrong with that, but don’t get suckered into some deal with your eyes closed just because it flatters you to have been asked to rent space from them. You, not the art buyer, are their customer. Therefore, it pays them to flatter you. 

“…But,” you say.

Okay.  Let’s look at real world galleries a bit more closely.

Galleries, a Test: Here’s the basic measuring stick: Who are the gallery’s customer? The art buyer or the artist?  Both? 

If the gallery makes the majority of their money on commissions on sales of artists’ works, then their primary customer is the art buyer, not the artist.  However, if the gallery doesn’t have a good track record, or, if new, doesn’t have a good location, don’t bother. Your art will gather dust, not buyers.

If artists paying for display space are the “gallery’s” primary source of income, you the artist are their customer.  If they have good location (a must have, always, unless they are a really, really big name gallery) and a very good track record where the artists showing in their shop always (or almost always, anyway) make money and gain reputation points, then okay.  It works for everyone involved.  But this is not the norm. 

Do your research.  Thoroughly.  And remember that good vanity galleries will only ask you if they think your work will sell and help build their reputation with other artists…which means they can raise your rent. :D (That IS what you are doing, after all – renting or leasing space.)

What about the galleries who charge the artist money to show, but also take a commission on sales?  Then bully for them, not you.  They’ve got it coming and going, now, don’t they?  You pay their rent, overhead and utilities, plus advertising; your work sells, and they get a commission as cream.  You meanwhile get what?  Do the math. 

  • If the math shows you lose, don’t do it. 
  • If the math shows you break even, and don’t gain reputation points, don’t do it. 
  • If the math shows you make money, but lose reputation points, I say don’t do it, but that choice is up to you, of course. 
  • And, finally, if the math shows that you can win (make money), and you make reputation points, go ahead and do it.  Just make sure you win. 

Now, that said, I’m putting in a caveat — the art coop, owned, run, managed by the artists who show in the venue.  This is different.  However, it can be extremely taxing because of:

  • the politics,
  • the work involved,
  • the politics,
  • the tempers and emotion,
  • the politics,
  • and the whims of customer Joe Shopper and Sally Consumer

…like any business. :D

Originally posted by DLKeur on her art blog on June 27, 2007. Copyright inheres.



Copyright 2007 D.L.Keur &/or F.W.Lineberry, http://www.zentao.com . All rights reserved. Reprint rights granted ONLY if linked and credited.




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