Out of the Box by Danni McCarville
Glass artist Danni McCarville emailed me with a situation that I’m starting to hear more and more – a store that sells some of her smaller pieces of work sent her a letter saying that they would no longer allow her to display her website or her full name on the work that she was selling in the store. They were doing this because, they claimed, collectors were bypassing the store and going directly to the artist.
I opened this situation up to fans of the Abundant Artist Facebook page and asked them what they thought Danni should do. There were some great responses, but this one from John Kraft sums up my thoughts best:
I would even go so far as to say that no website is unacceptable as well. Any gallery or store relationship with an artist should be a situation where everyone feels like they are winning. A store or gallery’s reputation should be enhanced by carrying certain artists’ work, and artists in turn should have their own reputation spread by the store’s distribution.
The Internet is changing the dynamics of the art world.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with your art gallery.
Get a Contract – The Art Business is a Business. Make sure that you have everything that you are doing with the gallery spelled out. Which pieces are you selling with them? How long will the contract last? What is the commission split? Is the price variable? Does the gallery get a piece of your website action? How long do they have to pay you?
Promote Your Gallery – Every artist’s contract with their gallery is different, but generally it’s a good idea to list your gallery on your site. They’re working to support you – show them some love. Send interested parties to the gallery to negotiate sales.
Don’t Cheat Your Gallery – Keep prices on your website the same as they are in the gallery. Undercutting a distributor is not cool. Another alternative is to split everything with the gallery – including sales on your own, or through your own website, or sales through a portion of your website.
But, Should I Quit My Gallery?
More and more artists are doing it for themselves, right?
I have interviewed a large host of artists who are making a living selling their art without gallery representation. Perhaps another time I could make a list of all of them. I know artists who are making $100,000 per year or more without gallery representation. So, should you quit your gallery?
Here’s the thing: doing it yourself is a challenge. You can’t just hang out a shingle on the Internet and expect people to show up and give you their money. You have to market yourself every day. You have to be willing to learn the stuff that they don’t teach you in art school. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the artists I know who are doing it on their own didn’t go to art school.
If you think that you can do better on your own, and you are willing to sacrifice, scrimp, save, and put yourself in uncomfortable situations then yes, absolutely quit your gallery and go your own way. But, if you need someone to talk to people for you, if you need someone else to handle the money end of your career, if you would prefer to not think about it, then stick with your gallery.
You should also know this: No matter what the gallery says, they have their own best interests at heart, and those interests are not necessarily yours. You can have a great partner in a gallery owner – but your career is ultimately yours. You must decide.
What do you think? Should artists quit their art galleries?