View Full Version : Artists and galleries

11-09-2012, 04:29 PM
How does an artist actually sell their work. I know they sell through galleries, but how do they actually get their work into galleries - is it like a submission process - by that I mean, how do they establish contact and initiate the process of getting their work stocked.

Also, when they are stocked, how does that work? Does the gallery buy the painting, or is it a percetage thing?

Any infor would be great.

11-09-2012, 07:03 PM
It works much the same way it works for writers, only instead of submitting your work to an agent, you submit it to a gallery. The gallery then shows and sells the work, receiving a commission (25-40%) on everything sold.

These days the submission process is likely to be electronic. The artist can submit photos of his work on a disk or email them or have a website displaying his work.

This is the way it works for galleries showing serious work in major cities. I am not talking about kittens painted on black velvet or framed art at the local discount store.

Another way: Some artists work with interior designers who do offices and corporate headquarters and sell their work that way.

Added: This applies to the US. I don't know if things work the same way elsewhere in the world.

Drachen Jager
11-09-2012, 08:15 PM
I know in Europe it's similar. Often an artist will have some sort of personal connection to the gallery. Artists there usually have catalogues of their work which they can distribute, although it is getting more common for the catalogue to be online.

Galleries never buy paintings. They sell on consignment.

If an artist is big enough, they have galleries coming to them, but as mentioned, most artists have to work to get a gallery showing, and for a beginner it's usually a week, a weekend, or even just an evening to show their stuff in a particular gallery.

I also know of one well-known (locally) artist who has an open house once a year. She has food and drink on, invites all of her regular customers, and has the house filled with her works. She does bronze castings though, so it's a little different from paintings (but a painter could probably manage the same).

I have heard that social media are even more important to a visual artist than they are to us writers these days. Most starting artists couldn't survive without a good presence.

Siri Kirpal
11-10-2012, 12:26 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

What everyone said. Open houses also work for artists in non-sculptural media. For specially commissioned artworks, you might want to pm Filigree.


Siri Kirpal

11-10-2012, 01:07 AM
One of the problems with artists selling their work in galleries is insurance...if something happens to the gallery, say it burns down, is robbed, flooded, etc. the artist needs to know in advance who pays for the paintings. Sometimes the artist gets nothing and is out the paintings. An artist needs to know what kind of insurance the gallery has and whether or not the artist's work will be covered in case of the above. I'm also an artist, and I checked it out thoroughly. There are books on the subject, like there are books for writers. An artist may need to have his/her own insurance. Another problem, if the gallery goes bankrupt, the court may decide that the artist's work belongs to the gallery and, therefore, is part of the bankruptcy assets. I know this sounds wrong, but it has happened. Sometimes the artist has to pay for the frames used in the gallery, not just any frames, but ones that complement the gallery. They can have specific requirements. Before a person hangs their work in a gallery, they need to find out the specifics of that gallery, read up on all the pitfalls and make sure their work is covered. There are many issues to consider. It's a matter of educating oneself, like with writing.

11-10-2012, 02:40 AM
Our family has a few painters and what the others have said is accurate AFAIK. The galleries sell on consignment - how big a percentage the artist gets varies with each gallery. For local or regional galleries it's all about the networking - that's partly why artists attend so many gallery openings, even if they don't like the art, to make the connections.

Openings at smallish galleries - the artist often pays for the wine, the cheese, the bread. If there are musicians, they're often there unpaid, just for the exposure.

My daughter has an BA and MFA in visual arts and I asked if there were any classes on the business end of being an artist. There weren't, at her school anyway. I think it would be a good idea - so many artists think they'll just start selling their works and make enough money to survive - and become disillusioned and quit.

Similar to writers ...

11-10-2012, 03:19 AM
Don't know if this will help, but...

Every year in Calgary, Alberta, we have the Calgary Stampede. In addition to other things, they have a high-end art show and auction, representing some of the finest Western artists in the world. If an artist already has a name in Western art, they'll likely get a "Call for artists" e-mail inviting them to submit six photos for a jury to decide whether they should be allowed to be part of the show. The jury decides whether the item is suitable for their market (niche) and goes from there.

A second way to get an invite is to win a ribbon in the Stampede's arts and crafts show held in the same building at the same time. It's one way for them to find budding artists, but doesn't guarantee the jury will find next year's items suitable for the big show.

Alessandra Kelley
11-10-2012, 07:52 AM
Here is my biased and subjective understanding of galleries and artists from twentyish years' experience.

There has been a tech shift over the last twenty years (going from slides to digital), but basically the process of getting one's art into a gallery has remained about the same.

To begin with, there are two entirely different kinds of getting work into galleries.

It sounds like you are talking about the sort of long-term relationship where a gallery represents an artist and shows that artists's work over time. This is considered something of a holy grail for artists, to be semi-permanently and reliably represented by a gallery. It is pretty rare for most artists, and viewed as a good thing, although something of the attitude of gallerists themselves towards artists can be gleaned from the terminology, in which the artists are part of the gallery's "stable."

One way for artists to try to get into these galleries is by schlepping their portfolios around from gallery to gallery, sometimes on specially appointed days and almost always with an appointment first. Portfolios consist of actual works or fancy folders and sleeves of large reproductions, and a couple of decades ago also included slide sheets and slides which could be left for the gallery's perusal. Many galleries prefer mail-in portfolios only, only talking to artists they have some interest in.

Observation suggests that a significant number of artists get into these sorts of galleries by personal relationships or contacts, and the recommendation of an artist already part of a gallery is worth more than a hundred write-ups in "ArtNews" magazine.

Once the artist is a part of the gallery, the gallery generally keeps a stock of the artist's works in storage, rotating some out into the main gallery over time to attract buyers. The artist is not paid until the art is bought, or rather is generally paid a few months aftwards after the gallery takes its commission. The gallery may return older unsold pieces to the artist. The artist is usually expected to keep producing new works for the gallery.

I'm now going to talk at length about the second sort of gallery show, because it is far more common and it is viewed as one way to catch the attention of the coveted first sort of gallery.

The second sort of work in galleries is short-term, once-off shows, most often with many artists with one work apiece, although sometimes a small group show, two to six artists, say, with a few works apiece, or the coveted one-man or one-woman show. There is no ongoing relationship between the artist and the gallery; each show is a new and separate contract. Artworks are held only for the time of the show, then returned to the artist (if unsold, which is most common) or handed over to the buyer.

These short terrm shows themselves come in two types: the juried show, where anyone may enter and the curator chooses art from among the entries; and the invitational show, where the curator chooses artists and requests that they join the show.

(There is actually a third type, the show where anyone who pays the right fee gets in. The term for a place that does this is a "vanity gallery," and they are held in even less regard than vanity presses are in the literary world. We will speak of them no more.)

The way to get into a juried show varies. The commonest sort of juried shows put out what is called a "call for entries," a sort of classified ad which is broadcast in the backs of art magazines and specialty websites. They give the name and address of the gallery, the show theme, if any, the name of the juror(s), the sort of art they are looking for, the deadline, and the fee.

Ah yes. Unlike in the literary world, where a reading fee is a sign of a scam, it is common practice in the art world to charge artists a good chunk of change just to look at their portfolios in order to consider whether or not to jury them in to the show.

The old excuse for this was to deal with the hassle of handling, projecting, and judging slides, although they have continued even as jpegs and CDs make handling and viewing slides much simpler; an alternate justification was that it winnowed out unserious artists, although there is no sign that this occurs; or that an especially prestigious juror must be paid. Charges of $25, $35, or $50 per artist, and sometimes per image entered, are not uncommon. There is no promise of getting into the gallery -- this is simply the entry fee to have one's work considered at all.

Many artists and arts groups have tried to encourage no-entry-fee shows. There have been a trickle of them, mostly at university galleries. But fee-charging shows dominate this end of the gallery market.

Some artists will enter shows in hopes of catching the juror's eye as much as hoping to get into the show. Jurors can be museum curators, art dealers, or other sorts of people artists wish to get their imagery in front of. They can be owners of the sorts of galleries that have stables of artists, or prominent artists themselves.

Invitational shows tend to be viewed as better than juried shows. They are less likely to charge artists to participate (although some do). The artists do not have to compete to join, and they are generally showcased with more than one work apiece. The work tends to be unified under a curator's vision, rather than the best of whatever happens to have been entered.

All galleries take a commission on the sales of art, even the ones that charge hefty entrance fees for shows. Last I heard, New York City galleries took 60% and most others took 40-50%. Some university galleries I've encountered took 20%, and they generally do not charge entry fees.

The quest for gallery space is a rather stressful way for artists to do business, and I imagine it is rough on the gallerists as well. There is almost no business education in art schools, and subsequently a large number of artists are ill-equipped to deal with the business end of things. This in turn makes those who have to deal with artists wary of their capricious and sometimes unworldly ways.

The stability of the art world would be greatly increased with a little more attention paid to commonsense business practices.

Er ... but I have wandered a bit into editorial territory here.

If you have more specific questions, please do ask them. I'd be glad to help.

11-10-2012, 12:59 PM
Thanks all, this is amazing info and really helpful.

11-10-2012, 04:27 PM
I know of a couple of galleries near me that rent spaces out for exhibitions. They're expensive, but then the gallery doesn't charge a commission on sales.