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Dealer padding

February 17, 2012

Dear Artist,

Yesterday, a subscriber who asked to remain anonymous wrote, "I recently got into a very good gallery in another city. I included the retail pricelist used by all my galleries. When they posted my paintings on their website, each painting was marked up from 5% to 20%. I phoned the gallery and the secretary told me the owner sets the prices and marks things up for administration and handling. On my invoice, my 50% cut reflects my prices, and not the 'marked up prices'--so the fees are extra coin for him. I don't want my customers to pay this extra fee. I'm wondering if this situation ever comes up with you, and how you might handle it?"

Thanks, Anonymous. I also have a couple of dealers who give themselves a little bonus with some of their artists, especially the low priced ones. Commercial galleries are businesses. True to their roots in hunting and gathering, in the need to maximize profits, these businesses can be predatory. With their roots in the need to create, artists can be less businesslike.

Dealer padding has gone on since cave art. But things are changing. Serious artists at all career stages have realized they need to establish universal price consistency. Dealers need to realize that with so many people looking around online these days, it's to the dealer's advantage to offer work at the standard, worldwide prices--the only variation being the cost of the frame.

I could cite several recent situations where customers were so turned off by minor dealer padding that they felt justified to start buying from another dealer.

Padding is most commonly done by dealers with walk in, one-time tourist or diplomatic customers who don't have the time or inclination to compare prices. Padding doesn't work as well for dealers who tend to develop long-term, serious collectors.

Situations vary from one gallery to another. The gallery you mentioned is in a culture where padding is pervasive, and you are a young artist who might use the extra push. For the time being I'd overlook the padding and just continue working with them. If you start to do well with this gallery it may be because of your work or it may be because of the padding. You can make a decision in a couple of years whether to ask them to stop padding, continue to look the other way, or switch to another dealer in the same city. However, if it was happening to me I'd tell them to take the noon balloon to Rangoon.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "Perhaps the Internet is the wave of the future and the gallery will become obsolete." (John Ferrie)

Esoterica: A related problem is where dealers cut deals with amateur, security-minded or unsophisticated artists, get control of their output and manage their distribution by planned rarity--often at an above-average mark-up for the dealer. Some dealers can and will sell almost anything to certain customers. This situation puts an unnatural spin on the art market, confuses customers, and does little to advance the evolution of quality. Affected artists need to note when this is happening and be prepared to take control, even at the expense of perceived security. While most dealers, at least in my experience, are sweethearts, it's also true that the art world is littered with well-promoted, "kept" artists, dead and alive, who never achieved the happiness and lifestyle of the dealers who represented them.





Get agreements beforehand
by Scott Kahn, NY, USA


I was surprised by your subscriber's situation of dealer padding. Didn't the artist sign a Saybrook Light<br>oil painting by Scott Kahn Saybrook Light
oil painting
consignment agreement with the dealer stating clearly and unequivocally the gross retail price of each artwork and the dealer's commission? Prices need to be agreed upon between artist and dealer from the onset as well as commissions and discounts, and should be reflected in the consignment agreement at the very least or a contract.



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Pricing is your territory
by Linda Anderson Stewart, AB, Canada


I think it is often the case that dealers assume that the artist will be willing to give up Petticoats<br>watercolour painting by Linda Anderson Stewart Petticoats
watercolour painting
the extra money (which is what marking up the commission always does to the painter) in exchange for their exalted services... and perhaps a sale or two. All I have ever found is that the buying public is savvy enough to know when a price is just too high (read young artist starting out) and won't buy anything! Don't be too sure your gallery owner knows best... they are clueless usually... and you'll be the one who will have to absorb the losses. Pricing is your territory--claim it.



There are 2 comments for Pricing is your territory by Linda Anderson Stewart

From: Brenda W. -- Feb 21, 2012

From: Maureen B -- Feb 21, 2012

I love your painting too! I can almost smell these wonders.


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Principles trump pragmatism
by Jaana Woiceshyn, Calgary, AB, Canada


Principles always trump pragmatism--nothing is as practical as valid principles--if you want to <br>Jaana Woiceshyn at 'Pearl' in the Bugaboos, Purcell Range, British Columbia, September 2011
Jaana Woiceshyn at 'Pearl' in the Bugaboos, Purcell Range, British Columbia, September 2011
achieve your long-term self-interest. So absolutely the artist should not look the other way, no matter how desperate he is for gallery representation. There are moral gallery owners out there, as you know from your experience, Robert, so "Anonymous" needs to drop the immoral "padder."

(RG note) Thanks, Jaana. Dr. Jaana Woiceshyn teaches ethics at the University of Calgary. I'm currently reading her excellent book How to be Profitable and Moral. A Rational Egoist Approach to Business .



There are 2 comments for Principles trump pragmatism by Jaana Woiceshyn

From: Casey Craig -- Feb 21, 2012

Well said!

From: Stella Reinwald -- Feb 21, 2012

Robert, could I please use the image of these mountains and snow for a painting. I don't currently exhibit or sell, although I hope to at some point. (I especially love the way the shadows fall over the snow and I won't be going to such elevations anymore). If so, could someone email me a slightly larger file so I can print a good reference photo for detail in the rock. Crop out the figure if there are concerns of privacy, I just want the light on the snow. Thank you so very much.
Stella


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Surprise benefit from padding
by Angela Treat Lyon, Kailua, Hawaii, USA


I had my work in a gallery where the cut was 60% to them, 40% to me. He had a pretty aggressive Which Reality?<br>oil painting<br>24 x 20 inches by Angela Treat Lyon Which Reality?
oil painting
24 x 20 inches
sales force; most of the work was 'tourist' art. My work didn't really fit in, but he liked it and wanted to keep displaying it. I never could get it across to him how he was losing sales - I had an avid fan base at the time that knew the prices across the board, and would not shop at his gallery because of the extra padding. This was before the Internet, too. Nowadays, as you say, it's even easier for buyers to find out prices and shop accordingly.

The one thing that padding did for me was show me that people still bought my work at higher prices. So I increased my own home/studio and other-gallery prices. It was a good boost to the old who-do-I-think-I-am starving-artist ego. But when it got to the point that he was getting more than 60% - that was it for me. Several years later, he had sold the gallery, and felt ripped off when I wouldn't sell a piece to him at wholesale. I don't think so!



There are 2 comments for Surprise benefit from padding by Angela Treat Lyon

From: shirley fachilla -- Feb 21, 2012

Your painting is wonderful... so is the title.

From: Ann -- Feb 21, 2012

I had 2 galleries close down so far and I gave a painting as a gift to each of them. I was touched by their greatfulness since they felt as failures for not being able to stay afloat.


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Profiteering padder
by Eleanor Blair, Gainesville, FL, USA


I have had the same problem. An out-of-town gallery raised the retail price of my paintings Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve <br>oil painting by Eleanor Blair Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve
oil painting
from $900 to $2800 without informing me. I paid an unannounced visit and when I discovered the price discrepancy I confronted the gallery owner, who gave me this explanation: her clients always expected a big discount, so she'd automatically knock $1000 off the price, and then they'd expect her to frame and install the painting which accounted for the balance. I understand that galleries may know their market better than I do, and I'm willing to let them raise the price of my work if they feel it's necessary, but now I make sure the galleries know in advance that I expect 50% of the full retail price.



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No harm to the artist
by Kate Fowle, Baltimore, MD, USA


I am a glass worker and jeweler, not a painter. I have a slightly different perspective on this. Green hydra<br>original jewelry by Kate Fowle Green hydra
original jewelry
One gallery with whom I've done business routinely inflates prices by 10-15% because many of the repeat customers have their egos stroked by being given a 10 - 15% discount. So they end up paying the same price they would have paid at another gallery, but they are made to feel "special" by this particular venue.

If the gallery is still getting the job done, selling the artwork, I don't see the harm (except potentially to them if their customers see the discrepancy). And savvy customers who shop several galleries will feel like they've gotten a deal if they purchase elsewhere at a lower price. In the end, I think it reflects on the gallery, not the artist.



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The shaky world of online galleries
by Gail Caduff-Nash, Mountain home, NC, USA


In recent years I've noticed more and more websites that call themselves galleries and even claim to Fall day<br>oil painting by Gail Caduff-Nash Fall day
oil painting
have a physical address where you can send your work. I've Google-mapped a number of them, with very varied results. There was one big-named gallery near San Diego asking for entries. Upon Google-mapping it and seeing the street view, it became clear that their "address" was a Boys & Girls Club on a wide highway. There was nothing else to be seen there. Which made me wonder, if they were having a show at a Boys & Girls club, how were they going to offer protection of one's artwork, or even a way to keep track of it?

I wonder how many artists ship their work off to these places, never really knowing if they exist at all. How could anyone know if they would be responsible and pay them for work sold? Another one was in Ohio and was only the upstairs of a sign-less brick building that was on the outskirts of town with a realtor down below. And without being able to actually go see the gallery exhibit in person, how does one even know how many people were juried, were accepted and were in the show? Or was there an audience? It seems like a shaky way to do business, don't you think?



There are 2 comments for The shaky world of online galleries by Gail Caduff-Nash

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Feb 21, 2012

I like your painterly painting!

From: Peter -- Feb 21, 2012

The falling leaves in your painting are wonderful.
Thanks for sharing the painting.


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Give to the needy, withhold from the greedy
by Brenda Behr, Goldsboro, NC, USA


Albeit I'm an artist, I consider myself a business and I try to go about my business in an above Late afternoon at Ocracoke Lighthouse<br>oil painting by Brenda Behr Late afternoon at Ocracoke Lighthouse
oil painting
board manner. In describing some businesses in your letter, greedy might be the better word to describe what you call "predatory." Because artists are inherently in the business of sharing, greed would contradict what an artist is all about. All the same, I do think we artists might take a Robin Hood approach to dispersing our work; giving to the needy, withholding from the greedy.

In the past year, I pulled all my work out from one of the dealers. Several late payments and finally, a "lost" painting all contributed to my doing this. More recently, I've had reason to be concerned about another gallery that represents my work. Earlier this month, the owner of the gallery sold my work for less than our agreed upon price. She tried to justify this by saying, "Either this, or losing the sale." Hello, would somebody wake up here? This is my work, not hers to negotiate. I've had this happen behind the scenes, but still received the amount that was due me. If a gallery cuts a deal by discounting a piece of artwork without the artist's consent, the discount needs to come out of their piece of the pie.

Not to end this on a sour note, I have my work in several reputable galleries that I consider business partners. What works for me, works for them, and works for the customer. Greed is not part of the equation in running a good business. Honesty and integrity win out every time.

p.s. I was finally reimbursed at gallery expense for the "lost" painting.



There is 1 comment for Give to the needy, withhold from the greedy by Brenda Behr

From: Diane Artz Furlong -- Feb 21, 2012

Love your painting of the lighthouse at Ocracoke, my second favorite place after home.


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Stan Moeller workshops  <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>The Workshop Calendar</a> provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>here</a>.
Stan Moeller workshops

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look here.



World of Art Featured artist Jim Oberst, Hot Springs Village, AR, USA



You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Alex Nodopaka of Lake Forest, CA, USA, who wrote, "I really appreciate your ending your rubrique with the exclamation, "I'd tell them to take the noon balloon to Rangoon." That's the way I feel about banks. It crossed my mind the reason there are different banks at every major city intersection is because it's so easy to fleece a gullible public. Artists top the heap and that's how the story goes back millennia to when God painted the best trompe l'oeil garden and Eve sold us a bag of rotten apples for a hefty price."

And also Jenny DeLury at Woodlands Gallery, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, who wrote, "I'm shocked that some galleries will do this. It's unfair to both collectors and to artists."


If you think a friend or fellow artist may find value in this material please feel free to forward it. This does not mean that they will automatically be subscribed to the Twice-Weekly Letter. They have to do it voluntarily and can find out about it by reading our Welcome Letter.



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Dealer padding...

From: marj vetter -- Feb 17, 2012

Some artists do the reverse, they'll undercut their dealers when they sell from their studios. Makes it difficult for the dealers.

From: Dwight -- Feb 17, 2012

A agent in our area used to pad the art...and the frames. The sales were almost totally to commercial organizations and the agent was pure middleman, albeit a necessary one who could reach large corporations that would be very difficult or impossible for an individual artist to do. We got our stated percentage cut of the sale, so therefore had no complaint on that score. However, other dealers and galleries at the time were, of course, put off. So were most of the artists and framers who dealt with this agent. A lot of sales were made though and we did get our stated cut. I guess the answer then would have been, how much of this is an artist going to put up with for the good money involved?

From: Gavin Logan -- Feb 17, 2012

I am surprised and disgusted that this slippery practice goes on. Prices are prices and should be the same for everybody. Tell Anonymous to tell the guy to take the noon balloon to Rangoon.

From: Janet Austin -- Feb 17, 2012

Not knowing the details, it is certainly possible that the artwork is underpriced, and that the dealer has a better feel for what the right price is. In some cases, it's well known that people will not buy a lower priced item, because they perceive it must be of lower quality. There is strange psychology involved with finding just the right price.

From: Rick Rotante -- Feb 17, 2012

This kind of behavior doesn't surprise me. Choose your galleries wisely. What surprises me is galleries think artists are corrupt and ready to cheat them. It's the pot calling the kettle black. Fairness isn't a consideration when it comes to money with galleries. I constantly read where galleries have all the overhead and artists get everything at NO cost. It's time we live in the real world folks.

From: Melanie Peter -- Feb 17, 2012

Regarding your quote from John Ferrie, "Perhaps the Internet is the wave of the future and the gallery will become obsolete," Dealer padding, Feb. 17, 2012: I hope not. When that happens, paintings will have descended into some form of hybrid art/decor.

If you visit the Metropolitan Museum online, you will not experience the scale, volume, luminosity, nuances, mysterious and powerful forces in the paintings that landed them there.

My own paintings online show the subject only. You canít see the small strokes, opacities and transparencies, undulation of colors, surface luminosity. You canít see their physicality. Buying art online is like buying a mail-order bride.

From: Anon -- Feb 17, 2012

Letís say one is an emerging artist facing the monumental task of finding a gallery. Letís do some homework. I live in a very large city with a vibrant art scene with LOT of galleries. But, surprise, on closer inspection and checking references there are less than 10 that have respectable practices, move the work and have figured out how to survive. The rest barely sell anything and will go out of business sooner or later, probably with unpaid bills and lost paintings, so letís forget about those. Letís say there are 10 good ones and in the best case scenario, each will take 20 to 30 artists Ė letís say 50 to be unrealistically generous. This means that our large city with the vibrant art scene will provide for gallery sales of 500 artists at the very most at any time. Of those 500, 90% are established artists with good track record. This leaves about 50 seats for emerging artists, which includes those from the city and from anywhere in the world that these galleries decide to represent. This is a meager opportunity for us who are starting out. I have been in a few B rate galleries over the last 6 years, most of which closed down after couple years of operation. In the last couple years I finally made it into a good one and finally experienced my work moving nicely. The owner is a nice guy and pays promptly. He doesnít give me all the opportunities as he does to his ďfavoritesĒ but I take that as apprenticeship and am happy that my sales are good. The way he sets sales didnít draw my attention too much, but now that I read Robertís letter I can see that my gallery owner is a padder. We nicely agree about my retail price and he adds the cost of the frame on top. But those frames seems mighty expensive, and they seem to get more expensive as time goes by. Couple months ago I raised my prices by a small percentage and I noticed his stiff upper lip and I couldnít figure why Ė doesnít he want to earn more I thought? Now I realize that he has already padded the prices to what he knows is the most he can get and if I raise my prices, his fudge-factor gets smaller! Cheeky! I wonder if thatís his present to himself for taking on a few emerging artists. Am I going to say something? No I am not Ė why? Because I donít want to go back to competing for one of the 50 meager seats. The couple of my remaining B rate galleries are not getting upset because they probably figure that they offer a better price for my work so a shrewd collector will go to them. In any case I am trying not to lose sleep over this because the collectors are adults and should know a few things about the market. Iíll stick to painting and trying not to get cheated myself, thatís hard enough. Iíll remember when I buy art to either buy unframed, or negotiate the frame separately.

From: Robin -- Feb 17, 2012

I have a similar situation and the gallery charges 2.5 times my retail price because their rent is so very high. Some galleries might have higher overheads being in an expensive resort town or city.
Its underhanded if they are random about it, don't tell the artists, or are really overcharging the buyers. Its not great... I don't LIKE getting LESS than the gallery gets for MY work. But he sells a lot for me and is in a great location. And its nice to know my work can and will sell for more.
Personally, I think its a terrible arrangement that artists get only half of what they sell (including framing they invested in) when being represented by a gallery. What other agent takes such a cut?

From: Brigitte Nowak -- Feb 18, 2012

Response to Robin: ("what other agent takes such a cut?"). As a painter, of course it rankles to "lose" half the price of a painting to the gallery. But, the way I look at it, is that I am gaining exhibition space rent free. I don't have to pay for the wall space to show my work. I don't have to sit in a tent on summer weekends, or pay $1,000 or more up front to, maybe, sell a painting or two at a fair, or to schlep my work to a community centre where it may be seen by 50 people in a month. I am also not responsible for paying the gallery's rent every month, or the electricity to keep the lights on, or the salaries of the staff that show up every day. Especially in these challenging times, the good galleries earn their commission.

As far as padding is concerned, I feel that this practice is as unethical as the artists who undercut their galleries, and probably just as prevalent. Since Anonymous has discovered this practice, but might prefer not to lose the gallery, perhaps, after establishing a track record with the gallery, Anonymous might speak to the gallery owner and suggest that the disparity in pricing might be counter-productive, in that the artist may be less likely to steer potential customers to that gallery. On the other hand, if the gallery owner feels that Anonymous's prices could be higher, perhaps the solution is to slowly increase prices to achieve a better bottom line.

From: Susan Easton Burns -- Feb 19, 2012

I recently participated in a group show in Miami. I noticed the prices were all 25% higher than on my price sheet. i also noted these dealers really working hard to sell the work. the show was hung beautifully, the food and music at the opening were excellent and there were plenty of people in attendance. One of my pieces was marked sold. I received a check immediately for the amount that I had priced it. when I inquired about the pricing difference,I was told that every American buyer is looking to haggle. (not the Europeans) I realize this is not an ideal situation. I also notice that many sample artist/gallery contracts have a clause that allows the artist to view the galleries books and am curious if anyone has ever done this.

From: Anonymous art dealer -- Feb 19, 2012

The art world as we have come to know it through the Internet is as complicated a web as the internet itself. I watch clients stand in our gallery and with a smart phone, google the artist and say " look honey - they have a bigger selection in the city , further here is the artists phone number lets just call him when we get home"

In many ways the galleries are becoming "show rooms - museums - for the amusement and education of visitors who stop by.

The relationship between the dealer and the artist needs to be crystal clear. There is no room for grey areas. When an artist gets a call
directly from a client - we presume the artist will ask "Where did you see my work? Who introduced you to my work? and if it was us,
we expect the artist to ask the client to call us back. Sadly more and more this is not happening.

From: gallery owner -- Feb 19, 2012

In the past few years our gallery has grossed between 2.1 and 2.3 million. After the artists are paid we pay our rent, 10 people on our payroll and advertising, shipping etc etc. there is about 5% profit.

My husband and my accountant think we are completely mad to continue to work as hard as we do for so little profit. Our dedicated team are not on commission, however our payroll is just under 15% of the gross. We do the best we can to take care of the committed staff that we could not survive without. Most dealers I know who have expensive tastes and a life style that some could only dream of, are living off an inheritance, not the profit they make from their gallery.

Most gallery owners I know do it because the sincerely LOVE what they do, want to try and support the artists they represent
and most importantly, preach the benefits of creativity and original thought.

From: Shaun Mayberry -- Feb 19, 2012

As a gallery owner I understand how costs eat away at your profit. We're a small business with locations in two cities and, including ourselves, employ 13 people. Expenses are enormous. We occasionally tack on a 2% margin to cover cost of shipping product back and forth between locations. Additionally, at any given time, we have close to $150,000 invested into framing and presentation. Those costs get tacked onto and added to the purchase price. So hypothetically when an artist consigns a work of art for let's say $3000, depending on the size and cost of framing we will routinely tack on an additional $300 - $800 and pass that cost along to the retail client. Do the math, that's a 10 - 30%, hike which, out of necessity, has to be passed along otherwise there would be no point in even opening doors.

From: Anonymous dealer -- Feb 19, 2012

We have a small gallery in a midsize city in the Midwest. My husband and I have other businesses as well. We operate 40/60 in the artist's favor. Many of our artists (some of them well known) exhibit in other galleries across the country and we stick to their prices. We have traditionally done about a million and a half each year, though the last two years have been lower. We have one paid staff who as well as a salary gets a 2% commission on everything we sell. She is totally motivated to call customers when new work comes in and my husband and I could not run the gallery without her. We would like to make her a partner but she refuses to take that responsibility. The gallery has excellent good will and some customers have been with us for many years. Our artists have mostly been with us since the day we started and there is no turnover among our artists. We pay artists right away. We keep our overhead low--a small gallery next to a dress shop and we make a decent living from it without padding. The gallery business is somewhat unique. With the exception of framing which for the most part is ordered by the customer, we have no owned inventory. The dress shop next door has to pay for their merchandise within three months.

From: Nick Chestokis -- Feb 19, 2012

A lot of this debate has to do with culture. We Greeks expect the price to be padded, and we expect to bargain it down. Greeks who pay the full price for things are called chumps. Greeks who pay taxes are called chumps too.

From: Arthur Kwan -- Feb 19, 2012

Gone are the days when a gallery owner could look at the quality of a customers shoes to determine what he should charge. The civilized world is better informed now, especially regards art, and demands a level playing field, subject to slight variations of perceived quality. Artists who have only one dealer, well that's another matter. Those are the ones you really have to look out for.

From: Ann Arensmeyer -- Feb 19, 2012

I took my work by motor home, sailboat, dinghy and dock from Montana to San Diego to Catalina Island's Casino Gallery. I was juried in with a variety of subject matter--not island or tropical even. I never sold, so the next year when we wintered in San Diego on the boat I walked into the gallery and asked to see work by Ann Arensmeyer. Big blank look; no work, no note cards or business cards anywhere. I finally found them by climbing on a tall stepladder in the back closet stored like junk. The woman told me they were not island subjects!!!!!!!! I have my work in just one gallery now, a nearby coop called Lincoln Gallery in Loveland, CO. Since I teach each week I have many demos which creates an abundance of artwork for which I need a showing place. I have some work on fineartamerica.com as well. Just wanted to share my experience; perhaps it will make me feel better about it.

From: Please don't use my name -- Feb 20, 2012

I have owned a gallery in the southwest for many years and I am finding that, in this economy, my biggest challenges come from gallerists discounting artwork when a potential customer merely looks at an artwork. I now know dealers who mark up the artworks to give discounts or offer 25% off without a second thought.

I have felt that it is important to maintain the integrity of the artists' pricing structure, but offer free shipping or generous time payments. I now see new customers turning away from my gallery as they jump to other galleries who are heavily discounting artworks.

In the end, I believe these mark-up/discounting policies are disadvantageous to all artists and galleries. Any suggestions?

From: Bill Hibberd -- Feb 21, 2012

Re:"please don't use my name" Perhaps an easily read and articulate statement of your pricing philosophy displayed in your gallery would educate the buying public. Generally, people don't have any idea of the realities of operation overhead so if you can enlighten them "gently" it may be helpful.ui

From: Bing -- Feb 21, 2012

Gallery is a sales shop. When an artist joins the commercial market, he becomes a player in the sales business. Businesses fail because of lack of sales - so sell you must, and the only rules are written in the law. Imposing unwritten "ethical" rules doesn't work in a free market. Anything that's legal is a fair game - discounts, fees, padding, undercutting...etc. The sooner sales people (including artists) get this, the sooner they have a chance of succeeding commercially. Your artistic soul has nothing to do with all this.

From: Liz Reday -- Feb 21, 2012

I'd like to thank all the art dealers and gallery owners who have responded to this subject and congratulate them for still being in business. It's a tough world out there for most artists and I, for one, prefer to have somebody else dealing with the sales of my work. Unfortunately, my current subject matter in painting, makes it a hard sell, but I have to paint it anyway. Art dealers are performing a valuable service.

From: Yon Regan -- Feb 21, 2012

Like you, I believe there is a considerable downside to variable pricing that hurts the artistís credibility and I would never allow a gallery to post pricing that was inconsistent with all the galleries I work with. However, if the padding gallery shows a consistent level of sales at a higher price point, it may also be true that the artistís standard pricing need to be raised.
Broomfield, CO

From: Tony Luppino -- Feb 21, 2012

Your points are important and I will talk them over with our staff. Many of the issues you point out are things that affect the reputation of the good galleries and dealers, including the Leighton Art Centre, that do not approve or use these practices.
We do not pad any prices. There is the standard commission that is part of the price of the work. We certainly would not change the price without consultation and the consent of the artist. Thank you for raising these issues and bringing these practices to our attention. It reminds us how important integrity is in dealing both with our artists and our clients.

From: Del Rupert -- Feb 22, 2012

Thank you all for all this valuable information. I am better armed now to go out into the world.

From: Philip Edmonds -- Feb 23, 2012

If they have to pad, their gallery is not well run or their overhead is too high for what they are.

From: Kitty Wallis -- Feb 23, 2012

Galleries, like any human institution need to be reminded of their original policies now and again. The internet is helping with that now.
Galleries used to support artists, expecting to give artists a workable stipend for an exclusive. They were much more diligent, taking their promotion obligations seriously when asking 50% commission from the artist.
I always choose galleries that are serious about their standards, both artistically and ethically, also about their networking. I shy away from galleries who are showing work I don't respect, or who are in it for the romance of owning a gallery, not needing to sell.
I do my homework, checking out the community, the galleries, picking the gallery director that responds to my work, and shows a similar standard of work. Likely the clients of that gallery will also respond well.
Being in a gallery is an honor and an opportunity, it is also an investment. I have to choose well.

From: John Ferrie -- Feb 26, 2012

Dear Robert,
I am so glad that you quoted me at the end of your response to this artists concern. Artists have to understand that a gallery is a business. Simply put, they are a stepping stone between an artist and a buyer. Careful what you agree to, as a gallery can then go ahead and do whatever they deem right for them. If an artist were to say, get 50% of the selling price, the gallery can then mark the piece down by 1/2, just to make a sale. The artist would then get their percentage on that price sold. It is a dicy market.
It has been my experience that the artist does more for the gallery than the gallery does for the artists. Usually by the time an artist is signed by a gallery, they have a following. Most sales at a gallery come from the artists following they have already developed. Galleries can be like used car salesman. Most people do not know that a gallery takes work on consignment. The days of a gallery paying an artist a salary are GONE.
An artists work will also inevitably shift and become something new. This is where it gets really tricky. The gallery, while claiming to LOVE the new works and the exciting new direction, may not follow throughout with selling these new works. They can often dictate what an artist will paint based on what has sold previously..."we love the new works, but we get calls every day for pieces like you did five years ago". So, the artist, wanting to eat, starts painting for the demand, rather than their inner voice. It is a catch 22 situation and is a dangerous line to cross.
I have avoided galleries and would not sign with a gallery unless I really knew they could sell my work, be a wonderful and reputable dealer, NOT want exclusivity and book me for shows for the next three years. Then again, that is just me.
John Ferrie




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