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.

Collaboration:

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.