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The new switcheroo

February 19, 2013

Dear Artist,

Recently, Cynthia Reid of Tucson, Arizona wrote, "Six galleries carry my art. Over the past few years I've had a number of instances when one gallery's customer wants a painting that's at another gallery. My website shows all my current work and their locations. What should an artist do if a person one gallery considers its customer wants to purchase a painting that is currently at another gallery?"

Thanks, Cynthia. This is a growing trend, a pain to some dealers but an indicator of the future. The Internet, when everybody participates, simply offers a smorgasbord never before seen. The operative words in art dealing are moving from "scarcity" to "availability." FYI, we've put a selection of Cynthia's paintings at the top of the current clickback.

Many collectors have favourite galleries where they tend to buy their art. Other collectors grow to dislike a dealer and prefer to buy somewhere else, even though the art they fancy is right under their noses. It works both ways--many dealers now ship stuff to other galleries and split the commission. Some artists like to get involved, give permission, etc., but not me. I think it's best for dealers to work out the logistics themselves.

Apart from dealer association and general goodwill, artists can benefit: The artist generally gets paid the same amount as a regular sale and the practice helps stabilize prices from one area to the next. With air express, works can appear on the other side of a vast country in a day. The home dealer may ship unframed, leaving the destination gallery to frame to the collector's taste. It's the home dealer who usually pays the artist, although some destination dealers prefer to pay the home dealer in the form of a "kickback."

Recently, I received an email from a local collector: "We looked everywhere for something good, but the only one we really liked was in Toronto," she wrote. Her letter made me think my work is 99% substandard, and I only occasionally do half-decent ones. The customer, being always right, received a "thank you."

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "Some galleries are more agreeable to splitting commissions than others. Our gallery will, within reason, in the time-honoured manner of the international galleries, do whatever is necessary to put a collector together with a great work of art, no matter where it may be." (Gallery owner)

Esoterica: I'm laptopping you from a "Seaside Penitentiary with Sand" at Montego Bay, Jamaica. They give you a wrist bracelet here--and you need to ask for a pass if you want to get beyond the walls for a few hours. It's a great place for reading, writing and painting, if you like that sort of thing. Many of the inmates are swimming, dancing, playing Scrabble, eating, and jogging to the gym to work it off. Some of them conduct outside business on their cellphones, but not me--I've got too much to do trying to shake off the substandard.





Exchanging paintings
by Denise Bezanson, Vancouver, BC, Canada


Being a dealer, I have had this happen to me. The dealers split the commission, which is okay,<br>Denise Bezanson
Denise Bezanson
"It’s better than a kick in the pants with a frozen boot." I also recently had a client, who had bought paintings from my website, ask if she could exchange a painting I had previously, but traded back to the artist, who then gave it to another gallery. She bought it from the other gallery, but then got it and didn't like it. She looked at my website, saw a painting by the same artist that was the same size and asked if she could trade it, if she paid the shipping costs. So I thought about it, and agreed. She's promised to buy more from me in the future. We are in a goodwill business. I want her future business, but I like to think that Good Karma comes from helping clients.



There is 1 comment for Exchanging paintings by Denise Bezanson

From: Angela Treat Lyon -- Feb 21, 2013

I'm so glad to hear you say "we're in a goodwill business" - that, to me, is the essence of why be in business at all.


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Fickle public
by Brad Michael Moore, Perrin, TX, USA


Most people (buyers), do not know good work from sub-standard. I am sure all of your works - that Mother Mary Sister Nun<br>digital artifact by Brad Michael Moore Mother Mary Sister Nun
digital artifact
you allow into galleries - are 100% good. It is just that, "Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder," based upon other folks’ lifetimes of experiences and circumstances, and that one piece in Toronto "filled their bill..." You create to satisfy yourself, and allow your fickle public to be who they are - ha!



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50% for what?
by Deb Strong Napple, Cheltenham, PA, USA


So, if I understand this correctly, the artist is maintaining a website with a current inventory that Shenandoah Haze<br>oil painting by Deb Strong Napple Shenandoah Haze
oil painting
drives purchasers to her galleries. She makes the art, she maintains the website that promotes the art, she sends the buyers to the galleries to complete the sale.

So just what are these galleries doing to earn a commission? 50% for what?



There are 2 comments for 50% for what? by Deb Strong Napple

From: Jerry F. Albert -- Feb 22, 2013

I sure agree with you on that. Thats why I started myown website and am cutting out the 50% and giving it to the purchasers advantage. You never know who the gallery is promoting over your paintings.
www.jfalbert.com

From: Anonymous -- Feb 22, 2013

It’s very simple to answer this for me. In the last 5 years my web site sales are nill, even though I keep it up to date. In the same time period galleries sold more than 100 of my paintings. That’s what I am paying 50% for. The 50% I keep from the web site sales don’t do me any good.


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Full security experience in Nigeria
by Richard Gagnon, Knowlton, QC, Canada


For the full experience try Nigeria. Just got back ten days ago. There is no walking the streets Untitled<br>editorial illustration by Richard Gagnon Untitled
editorial illustration
or visiting markets. At the airport you get into a secured vehicle and ride to the hotel. The hotel is surrounded by eight foot concrete walls topped with a coil of razor wire. The entrance gates to the compound are plate steel with guards on the exterior and inside as well. The road leading to the hotel is meandering so no nefarious vehicles get a straight run at the lobby. The entrance to the hotel is protected by concrete blocks that limit the distance vehicles can approach. Once past all of this you have to go through the equivalent of airport security to get into the lobby. Yes, x-rays of baggage, metal detectors and pat downs if you set off the machine.

Travel is in a bus with curtains so that the people on the street cannot see what kind of a kidnapping target there is in the bus. Personally, I think that it is more so that the people in the bus cannot see the way people drive in Abuja and Lagos. Frankly, they would intimidate the most aggressive of Quebec drivers. When you arrive at your destination, it is another walled compound with the same security.

All of that aside, you cannot meet nicer people. They always have a hello, how are you, have a nice day and they will make eye contact with you which I noticed on my return people here seem reluctant to do. My first evening in Abuja, the President of Indonesia was staying at the same hotel. There had to be between 400-500 machine gun toting police in and around the compound. All had smiles and hellos when you passed them. Very different from what you would expect.



There is 1 comment for Full security experience in Nigeria by Richard Gagnon

From: Anonymous -- Feb 22, 2013

A South African friend of mine worked in Lagos for a year or so, and told similar stories. His company allocated a car and driver for each employee; his driver fetched him from his secured apartment each day and took him home in the evenings. I never thought to ask him how he got food. He did save a fortune to take home at the end of his contract - nothing to spend it on!
Coming from South Africa and therefore used to high walls, razor wire,etc., though to a far lesser degree, he wasn't shocked by the situation; just irritated at his own lack of freedom. He would have loved the opportunity to explore another African country.
But he also said how charming and friendly the local people were; how sad that the few spoil it for the many.


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Amazing platform
by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada


Right now, as I am about to open my own exhibition next month, I have a few things you might be Gastown to Lower Floor<br>acrylic painting by John Ferrie Gastown to Lower Floor
acrylic painting
able to help me out with. I have been working for a year on this new collection. Wondering about what I am expressing and communicating in my work and will anyone connect and understand what I am painting. I have plastered the city with posters and cards that I produced at my own expense. I have been a media whore and sent out endless press releases in order to garner some media attention. I follow up with each and every one of them too. All the while creating and paying for a web page, linked to my facebook, Facebook-artist page, pinterest, twitter and vimeo. I have followed up with anyone who even sniffs at my work to see if they would be interested in buying one of my pieces.

Meanwhile, four nights a week, I don black pants and a starched white shirt and waiter table just to make sure my bills and rent are paid... When I look at the success of an artist like the one described it is hard to think they might have had to work as hard as some of us do. As this is the REALity of being an artist in 2013.

But yeah, let’s make sure that when we all have 1/2 dozen galleries carrying our works that we know the art of the deal and how to appease everyone. I think you have an amazing platform here, Robert, and you reach out to more people than you know. It has also been my experience that an artist does more for a gallery than the gallery does for the artist. Then again, that is just me.



There are 4 comments for Amazing platform by John Ferrie

From: Don -- Feb 22, 2013

Good luck with the exhibit John.....as always, enjoy your insights and artistic bravado.

From: susan burns -- Feb 22, 2013

Sounds like you are on your way to being a successful collected painter. 50% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck in 2013.

From: John Ferrie -- Feb 22, 2013

Awww, thanks you guys. Please check out my new collection "Red Skies" at www.johnferrie.com

From: andre satie -- Feb 24, 2013

As a groupie fan of yours, I can only say that your energy and dedication in the service of your art is bound to have its rewards. Keep on keeping on, we love your work!


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Understanding dealers
by Highly successful painter


Whenever any of my galleries have something unique or unusual happening, like discounting or commission splitting, I ask them to share it with me before the fact. This helps me to get an understanding of their situation and what they have to go through when working with me and other artists. Of course there are some difficult dealers, but I soon threw those out. While I know some of my fellow artists are difficult to deal with as well, I try to be easy going and understanding and sometimes I help out where I can. Dealers are only ogres to those who have had little experience with the wonderful work that they do for both the customer and the artist.


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Small finder’s fee
by Art gallery owner


As a dealer and storefront gallery we offer a finder’s fee to other galleries, decorators and other associates and friends--usually 10 percent, who connect new customers to us. We want as many to go fully through us as possible but we do not mind the small percentage. We just cannot make a living on our regular 40% commission with gallery overhead--we have two staff plus rental, etc. Also we do all the advertising and do not charge our artists for shows or wallspace, etc. Genn's idea is very idealistic but it would not work in this backward town where no one is at all interested in art. We need everything we can get.


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Free to paint
by Brigitte Nowak, Toronto, ON, Canada


I've been following this discussion with interest. I've also checked out Cynthia Reid's End of Day<br>oil painting by Brigitte Nowak End of Day
oil painting
website , which seems clear and comprehensive. I'm in somewhat similar circumstances: I have work in five galleries in Ontario, Canada. While I don't don John Ferrie's waiter outfit to make ends meet, I would say that my five galleries supplement my income, but the work isn't flying off the walls.

However, I paint what I want, and I paint it as well as I can. Some of it ends on the gallery walls, where it is displayed at no cost to me, in case someone is affected enough by it to part with their hard-earned cash for the pleasure of taking it home.

Until that happens, it is the gallery that pays for the walls that my paintings are hung on. It is the gallery that pays for the lighting, the staff that cajole the buyers, the advertising, the gallery website, etc. I pay for the paint and the canvas, for the ideas that have gestated throughout my lifetime. I consider my relationship with the galleries that represent me a partnership: I am free to paint; I don't have to schlep paintings from tent show to tent show, do my own advertising, be nice to potential buyers, or keep my studio neat enough to receive guests.



There is 1 comment for Free to paint by Brigitte Nowak

From: Judy Lalingo -- Feb 27, 2013

I agree with your comments. There's also some legitimacy (real or perceived) with listing galleries on your cv.

BTW, beautiful piece, Brigitte. I visited your website, & admire the directions that you've travelled with your work. (Long time fan here!)


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Art dealers may pool space
by Phil Stanford


A friend in Australia shared this information with me and now I will share it with you:<br>Olsen Irwin Contemporary Art Gallery
Olsen Irwin Contemporary Art Gallery


Sign of the times: Katrina Strickland of the Australian Financial Review wrote last September about two prominent Sydney art dealers negotiating to unite their businesses under one roof in 2013, and she conjectured that this would have a definite affect on the artists, since their numbers would be reduced considerably.

This union has taken place: see " Olsen Irwin Contemporary Art Gallery. " Rex Irwin, according to the " Art Collector " told the "Australian Financial Review": "We will each drop a few artists and merge our important artists. We’ll be a bit overstocked with artists initially, but there will be a degree of natural attrition."

With the continuing trend of art gallery closings, now and in the future, artists may have only the Internet to display their work, denying the public access, not to mention access for serious collectors and curators. Attendance at art fairs for a brief few days may one day become the only actual presence for artists. Our reality is changing, but the reality of seeing an original work of art "face-to-face" and seeing/feeling its large size, texture and emotional expression, i.e., being overwhelmed by the presence of art in a quiet space, may be one of the limitations of the Internet, leaving that experience to the museums.

I can see a time of yearning for the days of brick-and-mortar galleries across our countries, but there is no stopping change.



There are 2 comments for Art dealers may pool space by Phil Stanford

From: Jackie Knott -- Feb 22, 2013

Interesting solution to a changing marketplace but I think this may be an isolated one rather than a new trend. Mergers in other industries all have legitimate reasons. Even roommates share expenses. But galleries, maybe not so much. My favorite haunts all have their unigue atmosphere and personalities as individual as their featured artists. Whether it is an "art town" with dozens or a few galleries the best will thrive while the lesser will become another statistic.
The Internet is another factor in the quotient and will not make or break an artist or a gallery, only alter the marketing plan. We are still responding to its benefits and limitations.
Art is a singular product like no other. It will never be high consumption merchandise. Artists may lament "no one is buying" when we should remind ourselves there is only so much wall space, and even then there is just a small percentage of the public who collects art, and has the resources and desire to do so.
I would have thought galleries worked out their mutual interests long ago and standard services are as established as commissions to artists; they're almost set in stone.

From: Michael McDevitt -- Feb 23, 2013

“…almost set in stone.” The ‘almost’ modifier is useful here. All prices persist as negotiable, since even stone can be reworked. Old art fluctuates in price (see major auction houses), but presumably never in intrinsic value. Seek the best price you can for your work, but loathe to hold onto any piece for your posterity. The world needs to see your work—even on a humble wall in your neighbor’s apartment downstairs…


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Michael Bingham and Michael Albrechtsen workshops
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Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The new switcheroo...

From: Danny Sales -- Feb 18, 2013

Robert, Im in Kingston. Cmon down Mon

From: John Ferrie -- Feb 18, 2013

Yes Robert, by all means, lets give this artist, who is obviously living in the black, prime real estate with a full listing on your website. My Goodness, what a calamity this artist must be having. Wondering how to juggle all those galleries and all those clients clamouring to buy her works....Really Robert??
Right now, as I am about to open my own exhibition next month, I have a few things you might be able to help me out with. I have been working for a year on this new collection. Wondering about what I am expressing and communicating in my work and will anyone connect and understand what I am painting. I have plastered the city with posters and cards that I produced at my own expense. I have been a media whore and sent out endless press releases in order to garner some media attention. I follow up with each and every one of them too. All the while creating and paying for a web page, linked to my facebook, Facebook-artist page, pinterest, twitter and vimeo. I have followed up with anyone who even sniffs at my work to see if they would be interested in buying one of my pieces.
Meanwhile, four nights a week, I don black pants and a starched white shirt and waiter table just to make sure my bills and rent are paid...When I look at the success of an artist like the one described it is hard to think they might have had to work as hard as some of us do. As this is the REALity of being an artist in 2013.
But yeah, lets make sure that when we all have 1/2 dozen galleries carrying our works that we know the art of the deal and how to appease everyone. I think you have an amazing platform here Robert and you reach out to more people than you know. It has also been my experience that an artist does more for a gallery than the gallery does for the artist. Then again, that is just me.
John Ferrie

From: Victor Chernoff -- Feb 19, 2013

Artists without galleries (see above) have to spend a fair amount of time and treasure getting out the vote.

From: ED Brewer -- Feb 19, 2013

By making so much available to so many, the Internet is changing the face of commerce. Older ideas of "control" and "artificial rarity" are more difficult to maintain.

From: Art gallery owner -- Feb 19, 2013

As a dealer and storefront gallery we offer a finders fee to other galleries, decorators and other associates and friends--usually 10 percent, who connect new customers to us. We want as many to go fully through us as possible but we do not mind the small percentage but we just cannot make a living on our regular 40% commission with gallery overhead--we have two staff plus rental, etc. Also we do all the advertising and do not charge our artists for shows or wallspace, etc. Genn's idea is very idealistic but it would not work in this backward town where no one is at all interested in art. We need everything we can get.

From: International art dealer -- Feb 19, 2013

Like it or not, Genn's idea is the way of the future. The writing is on the wall. Dealers must now share or suffer. The internet is here to stay.

From: Arne Hansen -- Feb 19, 2013

I'm glad art galleries are reading this. The art buying public is becoming more and more in control, and more knowledgable, unlike just a few years ago where there were gullible people around who would wander into galleries and be told a line of bull. It doesn't look to me like galleries are laughing all the way to the bank anymore. Hawaii.

From: R. P. -- Feb 19, 2013

The gallery in our city is pretty well the only one and except for frame shops has control of all the local artists and a few better ones from out of state. They have just now started to offer expensive paintings borrowed from out of state galleries on split consignment which they may or may not sell which gives the gallery a more sophisticated flavor and may even help to sell us locals.

From: Anne Bell -- Feb 19, 2013

People like the idea of having difficulty finding just what they want. Look at women's clothing. Finding the painting all the way off in Toronto, (or Morrocco) is part of the mystique.

From: May Newberry -- Feb 19, 2013

Artists need to do like R, Genn, once in a while and get behind high walls--even in their own studios--and concentrate on getting better as artists. This is the message I have often received from Genn after several years of reading here. And those others who see fit to respond are truly appreciated. They make this site so strong.

From: Dwight -- Feb 19, 2013

John Ferrie's last comment above tells a true story, at least from my 50+ years of dealing with galleries. I never worked as hard as John but did really work at it until I decided being 80 I'd let up some. Let me repeat his words,"...an artist does more for a gallery than the gallery does for the artist." Right on, John, from here!

From: Jack Turnbull -- Feb 19, 2013

for those of us who do not try to sell through galleries, but only love doing art, this information is not necessary but interesting. It's good to know art is getting more democratic.

From: Elma Peterson -- Feb 19, 2013

I am not interested in selling, but because I don't sell, my relatives don't think very much of it when I give them my work. I gave one to my mother recently and she used it to draw on the back of.

From: Basim Bettelheim -- Feb 19, 2013

I don't sell, don't give, don't care. I put 'em in my basement. I am a genius.

From: Highly successful painter -- Feb 19, 2013

Whenever any of my galleries have something unique or unusual happening, like discounting or commission splitting, I ask them to share it with me before the fact. This helps me to get an understanding of their situation and what they have to go through when working with me and other artists. Of course there are some difficult dealers but I soon threw those out. While i know some of my fellow artists are difficult to deal with as well, I try to be easy going and understanding and sometimes i help out where I can. Dealers are only ogres to those who have had little experience with the wonderful work that they do for both the customer and the artist.

From: Jackson Bond -- Feb 19, 2013

Without the promise and potential of commercial art galleries, the art supplies industry would hardly exist.

From: Flamingo Girl -- Feb 19, 2013

Nothing happens until someone makes a sale.

From: Doug Hastie -- Feb 19, 2013

I wonder, Mr Genn and all of your associates, whether you ever see a time coming when the middleman in art will cease to exist? There are so many painters going in this direction right now, but so far the prices are insignificant. Is this business model happening? Does it have a future? Thank you so much for this forum. Essex.

From: Gallery Anon -- Feb 19, 2013

I own a successful gallery in the midwest. We gross about a million a year, which may not seem like a lot but half of that goes to mostly five artists that we sell by far the most of. Part of our mandate is to help these artists in other geographic zones where they are not well represented or at all. We do everything we can to help these artists --even when it comes to splitting commissions. There is more and more of this going on--and we are proud to have connected two of our painters to other markets and are pleased with their success in those markets.

From: Linda Blondheim -- Feb 19, 2013

I never show gallery paintings on my web site. I show paintings that are for sale in my own studio. I feel like my gallery should be responsible for promoting the work that they have as part of their commission fees.

From: Gail and Ralph Hislop -- Feb 19, 2013

That unfortunate remark about the only good painting being available in Toronto would be hilarious if it were not so sad.

From: Glenice Wilson -- Feb 19, 2013

This one is so true! We tend to hang on to the one percent of criticism. Nothing stranger than we humans it seems.
The good part is “what other people think of me is none of my business” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

From: Artist -- Feb 19, 2013

My galleries implied to me that they would rather keep the piece and wait until they sell it for a full commission, than share the commission with another gallery and deal with shipping back and forth. It also seems that they don't trust and don’t like to talk to each other. I always wondered why. I also noticed small remarks implying that I send better paintings to other galleries. Dealer’s paranoia?

From: Russ Hogger -- Feb 21, 2013

I like to think of my website as an online gallery so I set it up to give visitors good size pics of my art. I've been on some sites where the pics are the size of postage stamps. Click for a larger view and another pic pops up the size of a slightly larger postage stamp.

From: Marsha Hamby Savage -- Feb 22, 2013

I always hope if I have more than one gallery, they will work with each other on a sale. Some money is better than no money in my opinion.

I have another problem at the moment... a company that provides artwork in a state across the country from me contacted me about paintings of my state by me. They also wanted the wholesale pricing. I directed them to my website which has the retail price no matter where the painting is sold from. I did say they can calculate the wholesale price from that. We are now talking about specific paintings, three of which are at my local gallery. I was discussing specifics with them about these paintings, really thinking this was just another scam and would probably go away. Now, I am beginning to feel they are legitimate and so what is my plan going to be? I must contact them and say they will have to discuss those paintings and negotiate with the gallery? My gut tells me this is what should happen. So, we shall see how this one shakes out. In the meantime, I will notifiy my local gallery and let them know what is going on. We do have a good relationship and feel they will know how to handle the situation. It has been interesting reading the other thoughts expressed here. Selling art is no easy matter ... and sometimes can end up being a slippery slope if not careful.

From: Angela Sheard -- Apr 23, 2013

Regarding paintings being somewhere other than the client, I have a story. I live in France but used to live in Italy where a friend is an avid collector of paintings by artists local to his home city, Rieti, from whatever period. Having French skills, I helped him some years ago bit for and acquire a painting, long lost to his city, when it came up for sale at a Paris gallery. Some months ago, he contacted me again to say that, looking through old catalogues, he noted that a collection of six pictures that interested him had been offered by the same gallery ten years ago without finding a buyer. Could I phone and ask if the gallery knew where they were now in case they were still available. I emailed first as I had the details in the computer but the email received no reply. So after a time, I phoned the gallery to ask if they had seen my email. They wouldn't admit to having seen and ignored it. Well, can you put me in touch with the vendor? Out of the question, client secrecy etc. Well, could you please follow up the query and if possible let the vendor know we are interested and give him my details and at the very least, contact me when you manage to trace the paintings.
Crashing silence since, Robert. Now, short of presenting myself in Paris, which is 500km from where I live, I wonder what you have to do to persuade a gallery, 10 years on, to politely reply to a query regarding an unsold item for someone who has already bought from them. Meanwhile, the owner probably doesn't know that someone would now love to pay him for the pictures which may well be languishing in store as they aren't exceptional, just interesting in the niche market my friends likes.





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