Is the gallery system weak? < Deep Thought Thursday

The Art Newspaper recently reported that the gallery system is structurally weak.

A new report by the non-profit dealers’ federation Cinoa finds that fair-led and online business is taking over as the main source of revenue.

Let’s first acknowledge that they’re talking about a certain level of high-end galleries that attend major art fairs around the world.

But are even lower- to mid-range brick-and-mortar galleries in jeopardy?

How are your galleries doing?

 

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41 comments to Is the gallery system weak? < Deep Thought Thursday

  • I think this is all part of a mass vulgarization of art which goes hand in hand with globalization of markets, consumerism and the commoditization of art. Galleries must compete in global space or lose relevancy.

    On the other hand, in terms of the lower end of the market I think that this is the enabling power of the Internet and the desire of artists to cut out the middlemen and circumvent the gatekeepers. This may be lamented in purist terms but its what we’re all doing.

    • What many artisans and fine artists don’t realize is that galleries are their window to the world, that the galleries are enabling them to do their art or craft without all the many, many hassles of retail. They’re doing the promotion, the customer service, the finances. And there is a cost to that. The internet is undermining galleries’ efforts. When the galleries are gone, artists and artisans will have no choice but to spend time away from making their art to do all the shows, the computer work, the advertising, the sales, pay the bank credit card fees, do the bookwork, hire added staff to help out, pay the workmans comp, the liability insurance, the property insurance for the expanded space needed…. and far more than that. I know. I am an artist who opened her own art gallery. I have been hugely successful, but in this economy am not, so understand the greater desire today to go it on your own with the internet. The problem with the internet is that people “out there” don’t connect as well with the artist. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

  • I liked the article, but it does what most articles about the “art world” do. It has a focus, like you said, on a small percentage of the galleries and dealers out there. I would think that most of the rest of the gallery system is doing as well as other small businesses are. In fact, one of the galleries in my area was telling me that this is one of the best years they’ve ever had. I don’t think they’ve changed their business practices much, they are just good at what they do and have incredible customer service. I think buyers respond to that, especially in a tougher economy.

    • @Robert What kind of art does the gallery carry? I’m hearing from most galleries that predominently sell paintings that they’re down.

    • Robert, what kind of art does the gallery carry? I’m hearing from most galleries that predominently sell paintings are down.

      • They have work in a variety of forms. Paintings, drawings, prints, jewelry, sculpture. They’ve been around for a while, and have a good client base. But I think one of the reasons they do so well really is the people there. Smart and friendly, they are honest in their dealings with customers and have a good eye for interesting art.

  • I wouldn’t say that the gallery system is structurally weak. It worked and during its time it worked well.

    But these are new times now! Artists are taking more control and accountability for their careers and their success. they are selling their own work. They are out there marketing through social media, self hosted events (sometimes in their own home), printed materials, art licensing etc.

    So though galleries still play an important part in an artists career it’s becoming less and less everyday. To the point where some artists don’t rely on them at all. Instead of waiting for the potential buyer or collector to walk into the gallery, we’re taking our art to them ourselves.

    • That works to a degree while you’re young and have the energy and want to spend all the time it takes away from your work to do all that you mentioned. Or perhaps it works well for those who are hobbiests or those who have spouses or partners who can do all the added work. The serious artists want to devote time to their work.

      • Hi Ellen, I think it comes down to preference. I wouldn’t say “serious artists” don’t do it because I’ve seen many that do and enjoy it. To an extent you have to seize the opportunities in each day and if this is what today’s market is like then you have to do what it takes to survive.

        I’m not saying that you should abandon your gallery, they still play an important role for many people. However, an artist no matter their level must understand the business side of art as well and take control of their career as necessary to succeed. If you sit and wait for gallery sales only in today’s market it will make things more difficult.

        But I have an interests in both the business of my art and it’s message so that may be where the difference lies.

        • The problem is that artists doing more retail undermines the viability of the galleries, and many are folding because they cannot afford to be just show rooms. They must pay their overhead, which is far more costly than the average artist realizes.

          I spent years going without depending on galleries, until I was in my 40s, doing some consignment, mostly shows, but I had my husband’s backup income to help in lean times. I got heat stroke, then heat prostration, then inability to do any outdoor show where heat could be a problem.

          One of the issues of artists going on their own and having websites that really hurts galleries is the perception that if you go directly to the artist you’ll get a better deal. People come in my gallery, shop for things, look at all tags intensely, sometimes jot things down, then leave with their info to search for the artist on the internet.

          They usually don’t get a better deal because I price things at keystone or lower and when they order online they have to pay shipping. But the perception is there that you’ll get a better deal from the artist.

          That’s part of why so many smaller galleries have been taking on more Chinese made items. The other reason is price point. American art isn’t cheap, because the artists are trying to maintain a decent standard of living, one far higher than that of the average Chinese person. I’m afraid a leveling is going on all over the world that is putting our way of life in peril. We’re already seeing it.

          I have to go open the gallery, but one thing I’d like to say is by “serious” I mean someone who wishes to spend his or her main time creating, who has a vision, a goal higher than sales, and who cannot afford to spend time with all the minute details of conducting business.

          Some day artists trying all this out to get every penny they can to survive will realize that their time is more valuable making their art (if it’s good), that they can’t afford the time away from it, that they are tired of the show hassles, the losses from damages and theft and the hassles of working with people trying to get your prices down all the time.

          • Ellen you state:
            “One of the issues of artists going on their own and having websites that really hurts galleries is the perception that if you go directly to the artist you’ll get a better deal.”

            I think the better galleries realize that in this day and age they should work with an artist about promoting their work and not against them. If an artist has a website that refers collectors to their gallery that is a win win for the gallery. At the same time the artist doesn’t have ALL of their inventory tied to one gallery and needs to be proactive about making a living. I only make money if my galleries sell MY work, they make money if they sell any of their artists works. The cruical point here is honesty, and not underselling your galleries or trying to sell to their clients behind their back.

  • I just signed on with a new gallery last week, so while it is way too soon for me tell you how that is going, I’d say taking on new artists is probably a good sign. My other gallery has been very slow lately.

    I’m one of those people that will always prefer to have galleries sell my work. I’ve done a few of the fine art festival type shows and they require a huge investment of time and energy and that takes me out of the studio AND away from my family. I do promote my work through my website, postcards, newsletters and facebook to collectors and designers and have made sales directly. But, I think putting my work in galleries adds credibility (at least to some) and gets my work to an audience I am unable to reach and as Ellen points out allows me to focus on painting.

    • Casey, how do you see galleries working against artists?

      • You stated in your comment below:
        “I am building a new website that will offer shopping carts for all of my artists (who are hand-picked because they do NOT sell directly to the public online, only wholesale online).”

        You also state that your sales are down dramatically, yet you forbid your artists from selling to the public online. Wouldn’t a better solution be to work with your artists so that they can help promote the work you have in your gallery and not force them into an exclusive relationship with a gallery that may not be able to support them?

        I work very hard at promoting my work, ALL of my work including works that are hanging in my galleries. This promotion is a great benefit to my galleries because as people become interested in my work they will also show interest in those galleries where they can purchase it. Ideally the gallery artist relationship should be a partnership based on trust and a common goal to promote the artist and sell their work.

        • I should have stated more clearly, my sales are down in the gallery, not the internet. My sales were also among the highest per square foot nationwide before the crash, so sales have gone down, but we’re still selling.

          We are doing more online with handmade crafts, i.e., jewelry, handbags, small inexpensive sculptures now than in the past, ironically in some cases from customers in states across the country who are almost next door to the artist. We’re in a resort location at the beach in the Mid-Atlantic, so that presents some unique challenges, but we have always taken very good care of our artists. Despite our location, many of our artists said we were their best gallery. I wish the reverse were true!

          I should have been more specific. The exclusivity is within a 10-mile region. That’s pretty small when you consider we’re on a narrow strip of coast. We established that because visiting this beach area most shoppers will shop the whole 10-mile strip.

          I work with my artists in every way I can, but it doesn’t make sense to work with an artist who requires you to sell his or her work at a set price, then that artist goes online with a lower price. That’s happened a lot, and it’s a gallery killer.

          I made agreements with galleries that carry my work more than 20 years ago that I would never undercut them. Despite challenges in this economy, I never have.

          Yes, ideally, everyone works together. There are many discussions going on in the professional world about this new internet challenge.

          Ideally, artists work with galleries to provide at least the minimum of information about themselves and photos, and the smart ones provide short videos. An online presence that is wholesale or is structured so prices are slightly higher than keystone helps, too.

          When all is said and done, there will come a time when artists revert to wanting to be well represented by galleries more than doing all the work themselves.

          • I think it is very reasonable for galleries to ask for a regional exclusivity. I can understand your frustration if your artists have undersold you. Frankly, I just don’t understand why artists would do that and if they do you have every right to kick them to the curb. Prices, whether online, in a gallery or from an artist’s studio should be consistent.

            Ellen, I really hope your business picks up. You are obviously extremely committed to it. Best Wishes!

          • I hope so, too, Casey. A few years ago, in 800 sq. ft., we were among the top fine art and fine American craft galleries in the country, named a NICHE Top Retailer Award Finalist, so we must do a few things right. You get to that ranking by votes from the artists you represent.

  • Craig, I can certainly agree with your comments above. The galleries need to perhaps rework their techniques and figure out what it is they need to do to sell more and reach out more. it’s not up to the artist as you noted above as long as the artist encourages a win-win situation.

    By no means does that lead to the perception that artists can’t sell on their own though. They can and should certainly do both provided they don’t do it in such a way that undermines the gallery (that’s key right there). Like you said reach out to different markets/clients. Certainly there will be clients/people I meet in my life journey that will never step foot into any particular art gallery.

    • Vanessa, you make a great point with the statement of “galleries need to perhaps rework their techniques and figure out what it is they need to do to sell more”.

      The internet, technology, social media, and the ability of the modern artist to market their own work isn’t going away. I would think if galleries are being hurt by this that they should take a look at what it is that they can offer that an individual artist cannot. That’s a selling point, that’s what should be marketed to customers.

      The first thing that comes to mind is variety and reach – a gallery will often have greater access to artists and work. A singular artist is pretty much their own niche. Alyson has brought up the concept of educating the buyers and how artists need to do that. Shouldn’t galleries also think along those lines?

      One of the most interesting things I’ve attended lately was at a local gallery. They brought in a curator from the Ogden and had several of their artists present for the opening of a show called “The Best in Southern Regionalism”. It cost to attend the talk, but it was worth it, and the gallery was packed. That’s something that a gallery can do that an artist can’t (at least not easily).

      • Robert, you said “Alyson has brought up the concept of educating the buyers and how artists need to do that. Shouldn’t galleries also think along those lines?”

        I think most successful galleries do that, but they can only do that to the degree that the artist assists them with information. We use everything the artist gives us and dig for more to fully represent them. We usually carry a full line of each artist’s work for a well rounded representation to our customers.

        But — trying to get information from artists about their work, even photos, let alone videos, is worse than pulling teeth! We go after info over and over and in some cases fail. Some of the artists do well despite that, but they could do much better!

        Artists are often their own worst enemies.

        • Ellen, I would think that is an area where the new social media and marketing trends will help galleries in the long run. Artists will have to become more polished and knowledgable about their work and how they present it and themselves. That’s why blogs like this are so helpful, not to mention other artists and people like Alyson.

          I know from my own personal experience that as I’ve grown as a businessman it’s only helped my endeavors with entities like galleries. It’s much easier for me to furnish them with the materials they need if I know how I would use it myself. It sounds like you’re doing a good job as a gallery owner in working with your artists. Have faith that they’ll figure it out.

          • A lot of the artists going out there on their own don’t have that much experience, or, conversely, a lot who have only been represented by galleries for many years are going out on their own because galleries have been going out of business in masses across the country.

            We may feel the impact here at the beach a little more because it’s hard to build up loyalty with people who don’t live here year ’round and sometimes only visit once a year or even every few years or more.

            It didn’t require as much effort when middle income people had more money to spend, and we catered a lot to middle income people, as well as higher end, with prices ranging from under $30 to over $20,000.

            With experience, hopefully the artists who undercut their galleries will learn. Some never do. It’s why most of the artists we carry are more seasoned artists, who know what they want and are professional in their dealings.

    • We have always been proactive selling each and every artist we’ve carried. We did a wonderful job of it until October 2008 when the first bank crashed in the “great recession.” Our sales have never recovered, in fact, have grown steadily worse as more and more of our artists go online, and, as a number of customers have said, “I’ve been staying away because I knew I’d want to spend.”

      First the bank crashes, then the media playing it up to get viewer audiences, then more crashes, unemployment, people losing homes, people getting more scared (even those with solid jobs), then banks pulling away credit lines from credit card holders even with excellent ratings (like mine, then 804; and they’re still doing it, tying people’s hands and scaring them more into not spending), then banks raising credit card rates astronomically even on those with high credit scores, then the Suzie Ormonds of the world scaring people further and recommending drastic cuts in spending for everyone. How can an economy recover? How can galleries sell at the rate they were. Yes, new ones on the block will pull people for awhile, but until some confidence among potential customers is realized, only a few will really do great again.

      I am totally proactive, for myself and for my artists. I am building a new website that will offer shopping carts for all of my artists (who are hand-picked because they do NOT sell directly to the public online, only wholesale online). My staff is fully conversant with not only our artists’ backgrounds, but their techniques. When we can get a video of them working, so much the better. They play in the gallery, in a sense giving the customer the feeling of personal contact they desire. All of our works are American or Canadian, and we maintain exclusivity within a given small region.

      We have events, often with musical artists playing, all of which are advertised, and news releases and Constant Contacts go out. Nothing, however, has brought back the buyers to the degree we need. That will take consumer confidence and artists not undermining our efforts.

      I have always treated our artists as I would wish to be treated and until the recession it worked very well and everyone was happy. Times will change. How will be determined by our actions and our confidence in ourselves and dedication to our work.

  • I don’t think the gallery system is necessarily weak, because galleries (in theory) usually have built a reputation with the high end market that in my experience I don’t have ready access to without a lot of extra effort on my part. I personally wouldn’t make a big purchase from some artist’s online store.. I’d rather see it in person first.. so I think galleries still have a place in that they provide a venue for buyers to see the work first-hand and have that gateway to the artist.

    • I think whether a person purchases online or not often depends on whether they have seen the artist’s work somewhere in person, so they could see and feel the quality or lack thereof. Jewelry and candles and handbags, etc., will do better online than 2D art.

      With 2D visual art, i.e. paintings and gicle’es, online is a very tough sale unless the buyer is familiar with the quality of your work, and even then it’s tough because computer monitors change the appearance of paintings. Also, a 2D artists onine are also competing against the posters.com and homedecorator.com sites of the world, printed and framed and sometimes hand embellished in China for pennies and marked up astronomically to $10 or $12 or in the case of hand-embellished prints on canvas, maybe $150 to $300.

      If we want to work for 40 cents an hour and live in homes without electricity, we Americans should keep buying Chinese.

  • Anybody heard of/use Zatista.com?

  • Terri

    Several galleries that I was in in the past have closed. But now there seems to be a few new ones. Hoping that this is a good trend!

    • Sales at some very well respected trade shows for American craft artists recently did not go well for many. Some of my artists won’t go to them until more galleries start going again, which makes it tough for the ones hosting the shows.

      Hopefully, the economy will right itself and more will open. Some are still closing. Many are hanging on by a thread. You have to really think out of the box to stay alive in this mess. The worst thing is that those who caused it aren’t paying, and they’re the same ones holding recovery back. The banks who lent foolishly who are still in business are now going to the far opposite side of the pendulum. People who should be qualifying for mortgages can’t, thus holding the housing market back. Everyone looks at the housing market and says “Whoah is me,” not realizing who’s causing it. There’s a tremendous amount of money on the sidelines, but for now that’s where it’s staying. If you are a gallery and you had the misfortune of paying off your credit line and not re-upping you no longer have credit available. Even when the SBA gave 100% backing to banks who would help small businesses, and it was mandated that they do it, they had their legal teams find loopholes and very few got the loans that would have given them a foot up. It’s very frustrating. And it’s just plain wrong.

    • Sales at some very well respected trade shows for American craft artists recently did not go well for many. Some of my artists won’t go to them until more galleries start going again, which makes it tough for the ones hosting the shows.

      Hopefully, the economy will right itself and more will open. Some are still closing. Many are hanging on by a thread. You have to really think out of the box to stay alive in this mess. The worst thing is that those who caused it aren’t paying, and they’re the same ones holding recovery back. The banks who lent foolishly who are still in business are now going to the far opposite side of the pendulum. People who should be qualifying for mortgages can’t, thus holding the housing market back. Everyone looks at the housing market and says “Whoah is me,” not realizing who’s causing it. There’s a tremendous amount of money on the sidelines, but for now that’s where it’s staying. If you are a gallery and you had the misfortune of paying off your credit line and not re-upping you no longer have credit available. Even when the SBA gave 100% backing to banks who would help small businesses, and it was mandated that they do it, they had their legal teams find loopholes and very few got the loans that would have given them a foot up. It’s very frustrating for those with good credit ratings who need loans to expand, hire, buy goods for the coming season. And it’s just plain wrong.

  • Since this IS Deep Thought Thursday, it’s simple once you get through the…..frou frou.

    It is all about human relationships and integrity.

    1) If you are true to your vision as an artist, carry integrity of substance within your work, you produce work that resonates with others, no matter the subject, the venue or the period in your career or desire for commercial success. You know who you are, and you know when you’re “there” as an artist, AND…when you’re not. If you’re NOT…it’s a clue that you have to get better….and that you’re still in the frou frou.

    2) If you are true to your clients and your artists, as a gallery owner, you develop meaningful relationships that fit client to artist and artist to client. You respect the artistic vision of the artist and support and nurture that vision with your client for the LONG term.

    3) If you are a respectful artist, you understand what it means to hold that “title”. You respect the market systems (when and where required and with integrity with your gallery owners and agents) and do the work that has meaning for others. Let those gallery reps and agents with integrity step forward and do what they do best – support you and build meaningful, human relationships between the client…and your vision. YOU…….do the work.

    The rest is just….. frou frou.

    • I think it also has to do with confidence in what you’re doing, understanding the worth of your art. Artists are in general very sensitive people. Many are insecure. It’s not exactly the easiest line of work to succeed in when an economy is down, but it can be done, and integrity is at the foundation of lasting success. I love what you’ve expressed. In my artist’s statement, I’ve kept one paragraph the same for many years:

      “People, other artists, often ask me how I do this or do that. I can’t tell them how to do what I do, because with me it’s not so technical. My advice to artists — people in all walks of life — is to reach deeply within your own heart and soul, then employ what you find in your work. Technique only takes you so far. Great art is honest art. Genuine art resonates.”

  • This has been a great discussion and if you don’t mind Alyson, I thought I’d pop back in to share a blog post that directly relates to this. It’s an interview I did with artist Kesha Bruce last week entitled “What If There Were No More Art Galleries”.
    Link: http://vanessaturner.com/6×6-summer-blog-tour/

  • As an aside I went shopping for furniture last night in a massive multinational superstore (that starts with an “i”) and it reminded me of this discussion. It was so devoid of soul, so consumerized, so aaarrrgghh. Oh for a personal intimate experience of buying from a craftsman or a lover of craft. As another aside see this link http://bbc.in/p5PHCh for a view of how blockbuster art shows are killing “real” art.

  • Two of my galleries closed last year and this year one of my new galleries realized that my work wasn’t a good fit. Yet another gallery has changed location hoping to get more tourist traffic. I’m not sure if this is just because of the economy or because the owners are learning more about what it takes to make a gallery successful. It doesn’t make me feel too good since my retail sales have been slow too this year.

    • I was talking to an artist on the West Coast yesterday, 3000 miles from my gallery, who has been selling to galleries across the country for years and does not do any retail. They’re still in business, but they’re having to be much more accomodating. It’s not just where you are; it’s everywhere. Art is slow. People are scared. It will improve.

      He sells a handmade, entirely American made, product that is useful, different kinds of lighting. Those things usually sell consistently because they have a practical purpose. He has a variety of lines. Now stores that used to carry all his lines are carrying maybe one line and ordering in very small quantities.

      When I opened my gallery, most American artisans had fairly high minimum orders to make it worth their while with billing and packing and shipping, plus production. Now, I can order basically anything I want one at a time with a lot of artists because their sales are so slow.

      Until banks loosen their hold on their stockpiles of money and start lending to people who want to buy homes more easily (NOT like they were before, but with more normal requirements) and the housing market improves and start lending to small businesses again, I don’t know how the economy, i.e. galleries can succeed to the degree they were when middle class people either had money to spend or weren’t afraid to spend some of what they have.

      A gallery owner in a town near me that I’ve been thinking would be a better location for my gallery called me the other day to see how I was doing. It turns out her gallery, which is about six times bigger than mine in a prime location is doing less than mine! When you’re struggling you look across the fence where the grass looks greener, but when you stand right on top of it you can see the bare patches between the green.

      Keep looking for new galleries. It will get better.

  • If galleries want to be a contender, they’ve got to get in the game. Nowadays people are using google, facebook, etc. so if they are looking for a particular type of art, they can find it online. Not only that, but they can “get to know” or feel like they know the artist by following their blog, tweets, facebook posts, etc. I see galleries that don’t even have websites (!?!) much less a facebook page, etc. Some actually have blogs, but they don’t update them! Or they don’t make any mention of news regarding their artists- awards, interviews, etc. People need to know this stuff! People want to know the artist behind the art and the best way to do that other than going to an opening is to go online. I’m an artist, and even I use the internet to meet other artists, including those in my area.

    I’ve also seen that some middle market galleries are following the footsteps of blue chip ones in that they have the cold, “white box” mentality. Being selective about your collectors is something they can get away with due to their status. However, most galleries don’t have that clout and should be friendly to all that come in their gallery. I know this isn’t everyone, but I’ve been in galleries all over the place in which I walk in, smile, and am given a cold stare in return and then ignored the rest of the time or watched as if I’m going to steal something. How do these people expect to make sales when they treat potential customers (I do buy art…) like dirt? Again, I know this isn’t everyone, but galleries really need to get to know their customers and help the customers get to know them as well (and get rid of this intimidating stigma!).

  • Well, yes…I’ve been thinking about this alot lately…Mainly about: ” What is seeing the art?”…Like, I mean, in the past, you had to go to a gallery to see the work…It was really really hard to see the work any other way…I’ve been wondering, is seeing the art kind of like seeing a movie? You see a movie & well, now you’ve seen it…You ‘got’ the message…if the art has a message, then can you get the message by seeing it online? yes, I think, often…So by making the art seeable online, does that take away the need to possess it? Even in the past, if you saw a work in person, that seeing was so transitory that it might have pushed the viewer into a purchase…But if you can see the work whenever you feel the need, online, does that take away the push? Does this indicate that artists & galleries should be more judicious in what they show online? Or should they be charging admission to view works online? Like for example, we have the AbEx show going on at the AGO…Could there be an online ‘show’ that you could pay for to see the whole thing from your home computer, if say you were disabled or otherwise homebound, lazy or live far away? I would pay to see an international show online, would you?

    • I would think it depends somewhat on the art you are viewing. Some art translates well into a flattened online image. Some doesn’t. You can’t really get an understanding of scale or a sense of in the round with sculpture online. Some paintings lose textures in translation from reality to digital. And color matching isn’t always exact. That’s why seeing the real thing will still be better (at least for now) than seeing the digital image of it (unless it was created in a digital format to begin with, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion).

      • Online images of paintings NEVER accurately depict them because no matter how good the process is putting them up online, they’re still reduced to the web’s 72dpi and every monitor shows them differently. Every time I put a painting image up even in an email, I remind people that what they’re seeing on their monitor will look somewhat different from the original. Unless you can control what monitors people are using, you can never totally control the way your art will look online. We see our website as a brochure for the gallery. Most of our buyers have either been in our gallery or some of our other artists’ works in person somewhere else, then found us online. Sometimes why we get the sale is as simple as we give excellent customer service and the word spreads.

  • I find the comment that serious artists will take the gallery route and not want to be bothered with selling their art to be slightly offensive. No one is more serious about their art than I, with 30+ years as a professional artist. I make my living from my art and in the last five years I have marketed my own work. I used to show in galleries around the SE, but in 2009, many of them closed. I never replaced them. I find it easier to be the one in charge of my own career, not being dependent on others to do so. I opened a retail studio in a loft above a gallery and I have done well, along with my other marketing online.

    Our culture has changed and certainly since 2009. People are more casual in their lifestyle now. It is easy to connect with artists directly. Most of my collectors have no interest in the “artsy,gallery scene”. I find the relationships I make with collectors to be very satisfying. Many of them become personal friends and supporters. That was never possible as a gallery artist. My life is richer as an artist through these friendships.

  • This is such an interesting discussion. Thanks, Alyson, for posting this. Ellen, you sound like the kind of gallery owner I would like to work with. I, too, used to have my own successful gallery, but I closed it in order to devote fully to my own art. (We also moved, so I wasn’t able to continue in the same location.) I have been searching for quality gallery representation since my own gallery closed. There seems to be an odd notion floating around that selling art is easy, and that you don’t have to have any knowledge of art in order to sell it. Galleries that treat their artists badly are just as guilty of ruining artist/gallery relationships as unprofessional artists are. When I found myself unable to find gallery owners who would sell my work, I began working on ways to sell it myself. I would much prefer to work with galleries, but I’m not willing to starve while I am looking for good gallery representation. The best galleries never seem to be looking for new artists, but “new” and “emerging” artists need representation too. I know a lot of this is due to the economy.

    The biggest thing for all of us to remember, I think, is that what happens between artists and galleries is a relationship. Just like all other relationships, it takes work. Pointing fingers and placing blame are pretty unproductive. So many times I have heard artists complain about galleries, and conversely, heard gallery owners complain about artists. Artists and galleries both have the same goals: to sell art and develop an artist’s career. That is our common ground, and I find it helpful to remember that.

    In my humble opinion, galleries play a vital role, since nothing will EVER replace seeing art in person. I think we often overestimate the virtual world. What I do is physical (painting), and it is best experienced in the physical world. I also would like the galleries to be the ones promoting my work, so I have more time to paint. I realize this model isn’t for all artists, but it is the vision I have for myself.

    Best wishes to all of you in 2013, and thanks for chiming in to this discussion!