In another article I wrote Beware of Vanity Galleries and explained why artists should avoid them. On my mission to protect artists from being taken advantage of I take this article further by listing questions to ask galleries before you deliver your artwork.
Exhibiting in a gallery, whether they charge artists’ fees or not, requires an investment of time and energy on your part. So, before you ask any questions do some research, either in person or online.
1. Visit the gallery several times over a period of at least two seasons, at different times of the day.
2. Attend their receptions to see what kind of followers they attract.
3. Compare their style of doing business with established galleries that are known for building their artists’ reputations.
4. Check the Better Business Bureau, Attorney General’s office, artists’ organizations and online search engines for any complaints.
If the gallery is charging you a fee, the following questions should be answered to your satisfaction.
Questions to Ask Galleries, Especially Those That Charge Fees
First ask yourself: What do you hope to achieve from this venture? What role will this exhibition play in your short and long term career objectives? Then, find out the answers to the following questions:
1. Is the gallery genuinely impressed with your work (or your ability to pay their exhibition fee) and have they told you why?
2. Does the gallery offer a contract that obligates them to perform specific services for you or does the contract serve only to protect them?
3. What sales commission do they take?
4. What do the leading critics, gallery owners, artists’ organizations and fellow artists say about the gallery?
5. Has the gallery received any legitimate reviews by known critics?
6. If you pay a dealer any substantial sum upfront, do you think they will be motivated to develop sales of your work?
7. Does the gallery consistently advertise in art publications for “Call For Artists” and “Competitions”? Think about this: If they were satisfying their current artists through sales and promotion why do they need to continuously try to get more artists?
8. Do they offer genuine public relations and marketing services? When you ask for specific proofs of past performance, do they respond with concrete evidence?
9. Do they treat you in a condescending manner as though you should be grateful to them for giving you the opportunity? You deserve and should require to have a gallery’s respect.
10. Is the gallery in a favorable location?
What is the appearance and attitude of the gallery and staff?
11. Is the hanging and lighting properly arranged? Is the quality of the artwork in the gallery unprofessional or uneven in quality? Are too many pieces hung on the wall too close together without sufficient space in between them?
12. Have you observed any qualified buyers in the gallery? Are there mostly artists at their receptions or does the gallery have a respected following of art consultants, interior designers, architects, collectors and members of the press?
13. Who determines the price of your work?
When will you be notified of sales?
How soon do you get paid after the sale?
14. Will the dealer release names and addresses to you of those who buy your work?
15. If the gallery is offering you extended representation, how many exhibitions are they offering in one year?
What are the costs and obligations for each?
16. What month(s) are they offering you? (In New York January, February, July and August are the least desirable times.)
17. What kind of effort do they make to sell the work? A good gallery knows not to rely on walk-in traffic for sales; they generate sales through persistent effort – phone calls, press releases, advertising, mailings and a range of networking activities.
18. What portion of your fee goes toward advertising?
What types of advertising (radio, TV, or print) do they buy on a regular basis?
19. Do they provide an itemized list of what you get for your contribution fee?
20. Do they invite you to have a role in the decision-making process about where and how they spend your money? Are their costs legitimate or overstated?
21. Who will pay for invitations, receptions and advertising?
22. How many of their artists have remained with them for more than five years? Do you know any artists in the gallery whose work has sold in it? What do these artists have to say about them?
Also read Beware of Vanity Galleries
How Can I Help You?
If you have any questions about galleries or want to receive personalized career guidance on any topic please visit my Career Coaching for Artists page.
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