THE ARTIST PAYS
The Artist Pays
I got an email today. It was one of a type that I have received before usually from New York. This one was from a London gallery.
It started in a familiar fashion and many of us have received them. They’d seen my artwork on Instagram and loved it and had even put “likes” on a few pieces. They spoke about one painting in particular … to sound like they were really impressed and no doubt hoping by now that I was getting hooked!
There was talk about an opportunity to show in London and of course, that magic word 'exposure'.
There were draw cards. Everything is done for you, including staffing, drinks, hanging and promotion. And the big one …. there is no commission taken off sales. Interested?
The gallery was up-front in the email explaining they are a fee-based. This means they make every scrap of their profit out of the artists' pocket. The fact that they don't take commission is a shout-out in itself. This gallery does rely on sales because it survives solely on the fees they get from artists.
On their website there are lots of pictures of artists standing proudly next to their artworks on the lovely white walls with drinks in hand. But there is a distinct lack of red dots - ouch!
The artists' reviews on the website tell the story. There is no mention of sales at all, with the main thrust being how wonderful staff were and the great experience they had. These artists are not the starving kind.
This idea of exhibition openings and exhibitions being successful even if there were no sales is quite common. I've heard it more than a few times even from gallery owners whose galleries no longer exist.
An artist who regards a no-sale show as successful because “good fun was had by all”, can safely be regarded as a hobby artist.
The gallery in question targets overseas artists. This means that as well as the gallery fee, there will be freight costs both ways. Mostly it’s about how wonderful it is to be showing in London - the stuff dreams are made of.
So, what does the privilege of showing at a no-commission gallery cost?
For less than two-weeks in a group show it comes in at around $1200AUS for a 3-metre space, around $3500AUS for a 9-metre space and a solo exhibition with all the bells and whistles will set you back about $10,000 for one week.
With a steady stream of cashed-up artists willing to take it up, it’s a brilliant business model for galleries. For artists though, unless they have their own list of buyers ready to attend, it's difficult to make it work.