Artists And Galleries – A Partnership

An artist recently posted on their wall that they think it reasonable that if a gallery customer comes to them after buying a piece from us, they think this is reasonable to take the spoils for themselves.

I’ve had a little time (on my day off) and so wanted to give artists (and customers) an insight into the costs involved in running a gallery and the ‘fairness’ and ‘trust’ that should exist between an artist and gallery to help us both attain the same goals: seek beautiful works of fine art and promote the industry.

So, here goes… warts and all.

My gallery’s physical costs each year are upwards of £30,000.

I can house around 100 paintings on my walls at any one time and sold around 200 paintings last year (2013-14). So doing the sums, to have 300 paintings a year hanging on my walls. Working out the costs, this means it costs me around £100 per painting per year to show it.

If I have, say, 5 of an artist’s works hanging at any one time (even if I sell none at all!) that would cost me £500 per year. This is BEFORE any profit; purely the physical running costs of the gallery (staff, lighting heating insurance, gallery rent.) So, If I sold a painting of an artist for say £500, I would take 40% (£200) and the artist 60%.

Now, if that customer decides to go direct to the artist next time they want to buy a painting rather than through us, after we’ve spent money being a shop-front for their talent for a year and promoted your name, I personally don’t think it’s unfair for a gallery to ask for their percentage. It would mean that gallery is £300 down on the deal AND hasn’t made any profit and now all the hard work making a customer aware of an artist’s work goes direct to the artist.

Trust works two ways. I agree that if a gallery isn’t running their website and business well, it’s a choice for an artist to stay with them or not (and I would hope they wouldn’t. This doesn’t help the industry). But to take business that a gallery has set up with a client and for an artist to do a direct deals with them when they know the gallery has done all of the work to bring them to their door, I feel is breaking a trust and would be unworkable in my eyes.

Good galleries aren’t the enemy. They’re here for a mutual promotion of an artist’s work and the industry itself. Regardless of the web, I’m privileged to know that my artists tell me when someone contacts them having bought from me, and shares the profits of that sale or, more importantly, politely asks the client to contact us. It’s the only way we can continue to be a storefront for their work and bear the costs of promoting it.

Artists, galleries and customers must work together to keep high streets showing work and introducing new and established artists to the general public if we want the industry to survive. The web alone isn’t the answer… just another promotional key. That said, if a gallery doesn’t utilise it in this day and age, more fool them.

I truly hope the above is of interest to all. As an artists myself (Screenwriter, novelist and songwriter) I understand both sides and mutual respect is essential for the industry.

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