Oops! You promised the same work to two different venues

Here’s the dilemma I received from a reader:

I’m hoping you can advise me on the best way to correct a huge mistake I made, if possible – or at least to minimize the damage. I entered the same painting in two separate exhibitions. What I was thinking was the exhibition dates are separated by a few months, so no problem if the same painting was accepted into both. Well, it was accepted into both. Then it dawned on me that if it sold at the first, it would not be available for the second. Okay, I’m an idiot. Is there anything I can do other than learn my lesson and pray it doesn’t sell? I understand I can’t renege, but am I being dishonest by not mentioning the dilemma to the galleries or the organizations sponsoring the exhibitions?

Dear reader, first, you are not an idiot. We all make mistakes and this is human error. I hope your painting does sell in the first exhibit! But, you’re right. You do have a problem in that case.

I have learned that it’s always best to be up front and to say "I have made a mistake." So, if it were I, I would contact the second gallery immediately. Tell the gallery you just had an epiphany and want to do everything you can to correct the error before it blows up. Then ask the gallery "How would you like for me to handle this?" That shows that you are (1) asking for the gallery’s professional opinion and (2) owning up to your responsibility to take care of it.

If you wait and pray it doesn’t sell, you’ll be a nervous wreck for two months and that won’t help anyone. You need that energy to go into making new work.

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6 comments to Oops! You promised the same work to two different venues

  • becky

    Oh, jeeps, I just experienced this same dilemma this past weekend – on a much smaller scale. I had listed a very small piece on ETSY back in April, which had not sold. I did a spur of the moment craft show this past weekend and took the piece along with the rest of my stuff – and a friend bought it, but wanted it made into a pin. So I still had it in my possession. I got home late and looked at my email – and darn, if it hadn’t sold on ETSY! My first sale there. I didn’t sleep that night, feeling like a jerk, knowing I’d have to tell someone that I’d done something stupid. It worked out ok, but I’ll make sure I don’t make that mistake again. Know I can come up with some other faux pas in the future. Fortunately, this was a small one. I sympathize with this poster.

  • Have you let them know the price for the first exhibition yet? If not, you could over price it to discourage buyers… I would just put it in and hope that it doesn’t sell. If it does sell, then contact the second exhibition and let them know what’s happened.

  • Here, here to Alyson’s advise. Don’t overprice–the market sets prices. Don’t just hope it doesn’t sell–bad negative energy. Don’t just wait and see…only THEN calling the second gallery if it sells. That would be too late and could result in a nice black mark on your file in their eyes. Don’t risk that! Own up, fix it, and move on…lesson learned. It never works to try and either put off something uncomfortable or skirt the system. Great job on getting the same piece into two shows!

  • Making mistakes means you’re doing something! That’s a good thing. Sarah and Alyson are on solid ground here. Congratulate yourself for getting into two shows, own up to your error, and move on! The power is yours, don’t give it away. Contacting the 2nd gallery right away lets them make necessary changes, and lets them know you’re serious about what you do.

  • You could always make a similar second piece, couldn’t you?

  • Alyson’s advice is perfect for even situations that don’t involve art (for example any time one ends up trying to be in two places at the same time). Being responsible saves so much wear and tear on the psyche!