Dealing with Art Galleries

Wishful thinking:

Just because family and friends think your artwork is wonderful, they think that all you have to do is to walk into an art gallery and wham all your paintings will sell like hot cakes!

When you hear someone say that,  do you silently screeeeeam? And think, how could they be so naive?

Watercolour landscape.

Watercolour landscape.

Dealing with art galleries: 

Getting into art galleries isn’t easy. Especially when you are a beginner, and even if you have been selling your work over a number of years. The art world is a tough cookie to crack. It’s not necessary your skill that’s in question.  There is a lot of artists out there and a lot of modus operandi protocol behind the scenes.  It’s like getting lost in a forest, it’s  bewildering.

You have to do research before going to galleries:

  • Are you fully prepared with an exceptional portfolio? Have you got an impressive exhibit CV? If not what have you got that demonstrates your extraordinary talent?
  • What are galleries selling? That is: what is the present trend? Is your art exciting and where does your style fit in with the galleries you visited?
  • If they are international operative galleries, naturally they will only be interested in renowned artists. They will expect a high part of your commission percentage.
  • What is the gallery owner like? You have to consider what future dealings with them will be like? What is his or her etiquette ethics? Did they push their luck and bully you into taking a ridiculously low commission? Respect is needed on both sides.
  • Can you handle rejection with panache? If they were rude, don’t `burn your bridges’, be polite, you never know what the future holds!
  • What price range and commission percentage does the gallery expect? What does it cost you to produce your art and what profit margin are you expecting to stay in business?
  • Are you prepared to work long hours producing new concepts on a regular basis? How many good paintings can you produce per week and per month without producing the same type of composition format over and over again?
  • Do you have appropriate social demeanour experience to handle public and media interviews? People expect artists to be interesting. That is: know how to express themselves, be news worthy, etc.

General art galleries:

If your talent looks amateurish galleries will most probably turn you away. They give all sorts of excuses. Some are polite and others are impolite. So make sure the quality of your work is up to standard.

I’ve come across some plush looking galleries, only to find them full of amateurs’ work or kitsch creations. Your first thought will most probably be, “It’s quite amazing what the public buy and willing to pay”. Another thought may enter your mind, “Perhaps it’s a relative, who has the owner’s patronage?”

Even though the quality of your work is far better than what is in the gallery, they may still turn you away, it’s because they are nervous of new unknown artists. It seems a vicious circle without a beginning doesn’t it!

Ten-one your thought is: “How do you  make it big time, if every gallery still thinks you are a beginner?”

But the gallery owner has to consider his situation. “Are you worth the risk?” they gallery owners ask themselves. Are  you a hot commodity or not? How well will your paintings sell?

Galleries’ Status:

What type of district is the gallery in? High society or medium to poor? This has an effect on the price range and milieu preferences.

What sells well in one gallery, may not sell at all in another gallery. Each gallery has a certain market niche and style of work in their shop, because it’s their clienteles’ preference. Whether it is high quality fine art, abstract, naive or ethnic, etc?

For any avant-garde gallery to prosper, it needs to be in a more influential affluent district. These galleries are well-known for a certain type of art and their clients often travel further to obtain that eminence.

Galleries in residential areas are inclined to sell more domestic compositions. South African galleries along tourist routes tend sell wildlife paintings and ethnic curio carvings. Does your style and subject matter fit into a certain milieu?

Corporate businesses want huge dynamic pictures to make impressive direct impact, in their entrance halls. Their décor advertises their type of style of business and what it stands for. It must `smell’ of wealth and success.

So make sure your credentials appropriate to the gallery you are approaching.

 What is your talent worth?

Gallery owners have huge overheads to pay to keep their galleries open. If a dealer doesn’t think your paintings will sell or that there isn’t enough profit margin, he won’t take in your paintings.

Some gallery owners are very greedy, wiry and crafty. They will try to browbeat you until you accept lower and lower prices: such low prices that it doesn’t cover the cost of the materials to produce the paintings. They are trying to see how desperate you are.

They will tell you that the present economy of the country is so poor, that you can’t expect anything better, anywhere else either!. Or their client milieu isn’t wealthy to afford your prices. Be wise to what’s happening, and if their bargaining persists, you know your work is of worth to them.

So know what your talent is worth. Check the going-price range for similar talent and set your price a little higher than you expect in that milieu, as a bargaining leverage.


You need friendly workable team-ship between you and the gallery. So know what you letting yourself in for.

Personally I won’t go back to a gallery if the owner was rude and came across impatient or rude, because future dealing with them would probably be of the same nature.

Most galleries take paintings on consignment because very few galleries have backing capital to buy paintings. And because sales fluctuate they operate as art traders.

When accepting a consignment deal, remember if your paintings don’t sell you will still have to pay for the framing they put on your painting. Therefore, try to keep your paintings to standard sizes so that your paintings can be replaced by another painting of yours in the same frame.

There are two types of consignments. The other, is producing a certain amount of paintings for the gallery each month. If the amount is too much and you can’t keep up with the demand sooner or later, your capability to think up new composition concepts will dry up. You must know your capabilities and be realistic of how much you can produce in a week, let alone a month.

Some gallery owners actually provide studios and nurture their artists in order to keep sales flourishing. Mainly because the artist is really good, but very poor. Under their roof they know you are indebted to them for their generosity.

For more info on how to sell your art, check out the page Art & Fame.


Selling Art Direct to the Public

“What type of paintings sell best?”

Have you ever wondered about the paintings hanging in galleries? You can see the gallery is open but is it doing business? How are the paintings selling? Which paintings sell quickest?art








What should I be painting?

What hangs in galleries doesn’t necessary mean it’s selling. You are not there every day to see what’s selling or not, or what people prefer.

To find out what really sells, go to the grassroots. Sell direct to the public yourself. You don’t have to own a gallery though. Let people watch you paint on location, doing fieldwork at popular public places, along the tourist trade routes, etc. If they like what you are doing, they will want to buy it! Be your own ambassador. Have a neat portfolio and business cards on hand for any future commissions or inquiries.

Working directly with the public gives you a `hands on’ approach. Ultimately the public counts. Remember the public’s taste constantly changes. Subject matter and colour taste fluctuate according to fashion, events, politics, economics, and seasonal trends.

Hearing the truth:

I have a warped sense of humour. I like to walk unnoticed behind people as they peruse my art work to observe their reactions.

If they say your work is fantastic, ask them what they like most about it. If there are derogatory remarks, ask them what they don’t like about it. Not knowing who you are, they will give you their honest opinion. Sometimes they point out something you haven’t noticed before. Look at it as an enriching moment. You are seeing things through their eyes.  If more than one set of people makes the same comment, you have something to consider or cheer about.

Making adjustments:

Once you know what the public likes about your work, combine those positives and promote that type of style. This opens up a new niche in the market place and the public spreads the word for you. The more you sell direct to the public, the more the galleries get framing orders for your work, the more likely the galleries will start noticing how popular you are.

Be willing to do demos:

Don’t be shy and hide yourself in your studio. Be willing to get out there and show what you made of. Actions speak louder than words.

Do demos at art shops and galleries. Paint murals and accept seminar assignments. Enjoy the fun of sharing your talent with others. I found, the more you help others and share, the more everyone benefits, including yourself. Proverbs 11:24-25.

Don’t worry about people watching. People are fascinated by creative activities and your courage to do it in public. You never know who is watching you. It could be a prospective buyer. If you are concerned about professional artists watching, don’t worry, keep an open mind, most people can’t paint or they want to learn a new technique.

Don’t worry about someone pinching your style or technique either. Art is like a fingerprint. Everyone’s dexterity differs according to personality, skill and materials available to them. The combination of perception and concept of the procedure differs from person to person. Choice of subject matter and composition format varies according to knowledge, temperament, personal view and the pressure or conditions people work under.

Create a network:

They say it’s easier to get a job if you have the right connections. It’s also true with art.

  • Be outgoing, sociable, and build good relationships with everyone you meet. When people ask what you are doing presently, be brief but enthusiastic about it. If they want your website details, be fully equipped with business cards for such eventualities. You never know who is likely to buy your art or who their connections are.
  • Be willing to take on challenges: But listen carefully to requests and be sensible as to your capabilities. Make sure your art is good before showing it to the public. If you take commissions you must be able to fulfil requirements people request.
  • No matter where you live, with the technology we have today, you can sell on the internet media websites, and publicize `by word of mouth’ on Facebook, Twitter, etc

If you want to know more about selling your art, go to page Art & Fame.