The Mythological Artist Rep

I love art and artists. I have a successful background in sales and want to combine art and sales. My idea is to become an artist rep. Can you provide insight?
– email from Terri Flynn

“Insight” can mean almost anything, so let’s start at the beginning.

First, Terri, if you become an effective artist rep, the world is your oyster. Many artists will be knocking at your door. You might find them lining up in the comments here.

And I will want to interview you to see how you made it happen.

Tracy Miller represents herself and other artists through her gallery in Manitou Springs, Colorado.

Tracy Miller represents herself and other artists through her gallery in Manitou Springs, Colorado.

I’m not saying it can’t happen. I’m just skeptical.

Here’s why: I have never heard of a rep that an artist was pleased with outside of a spouse or BFF. They are as mythological as unicorns.

The few places I know where reps are helpful, if not necessary, are in the portrait world (portrait brokers), licensing, and illustration.

Art Biz Coach was birthed after I had given serious consideration to becoming an artist rep. In the world where I came from – fine galleries and art museums – they were unheard of. But every artist I spoke with was looking for one.

The reason reps don’t exist at that level is because gallerists and curators want, and expect, to deal directly with artists. Reps are third parties that get in the way of business. Gallerists consider them a threat to their bottom line since their fees must be taken from somewhere.

So if your goal as an artist is gallery representation, you need to learn to represent yourself. Your gallerist will soon be acting as your rep. No third party required or desired.

But Then Again . . .

The way art is sold is rapidly changing. Less art is being sold in the galleries’ physical spaces and more art on the floors of the international art fairs in places like Basel, London, and Miami. And, as my readers know, more artists are representing themselves than ever, thanks to the Internet.

Now might be the perfect time to build a business representing artists whose primary goal isn’t gallery representation. I would encourage anyone considering this path to do a lot of homework because I’m going to be on the other end coaching artists to pay attention to the details in their relationships and contracts with reps.

As an aside, it might be worth your while to consider a business model other than representing artists. For example, you could become a virtual business manager for artists and take care of their online activity. (I’m hearing, “YES!” from my readers right now.)

Just an option.

Here’s what I would advise artists before they consider working with a rep.

  • Ask about a rep’s contacts (quality, quantity, frequency engaged). They have to find buyers. Where do they imagine they’ll come from? How will they introduce your art to the world?
  • Ask the rep to give you her pitch. What is she going to say when she is promoting you?
  • Make sure you have everything in writing in an official contract.
  • Ask as many questions as it takes to get the answers you seek. Don’t be afraid to ask more questions. You’re putting plenty of faith into this person in return for payment. You not only deserve to get answers, you’d be putting yourself in jeopardy without them.
  • Ask about the rep’s plans for building the business. How many artists does she envision representing? What does she consider a maximum number? You want to know how big of a fish you are in that rep’s circle.

What else do we need to know about artist reps?

Have you ever had or been a rep? How was the relationship structured?

I see room for more discussion on this topic, so please leave your comments below.

 

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63 comments to The Mythological Artist Rep

  • Hey Alyson, thanks for using a shot of my gallery! As an artist I have never used a rep, I consider my galleries to be my representatives. I also consider myself to be a representative of the artists I carry in my gallery. And you’re right, I like to deal directly with the artist. It’s a very symbiotic relationship. I do everything I can to promote to my artists and myself, along with supporting my galleries by promoting them also so that interested collectors find the exact painting they want.

  • I would love a rep that became “me” on all things social media. One that kept doing all the things I should be doing on the computer (posting, blogging exposure, twitter etc). I would want that rep to pour over and vet art festivals, speaking engagements, writing opportunities and new places to hang my art (open houses, home tours, etc). I would like them to set up lunches for me with decorators and be there when I needed a shill at a talk or a show. In other words I need someone to be the other half of me so I could stay in the studio….painting. Oh, and I need them to be courageous in their pricing because unless I can do all of this at once there will be no money with which to pay them.

  • Having a rep is a luxurious idea, but just an idea. I honestly don’t think that a rep could do as good a job as I do; they don’t have as much at stake. Besides, a rep would naturally favor some artists they represent over others – it’s just a natural inclination. I think the best rep is the artist because of the direct contact with the client; collectors want to feel a part of that artist’s life and can only do so by meeting them directly or, at the very least, get to know them through regular contact via newsletters, emails, postcards, etc. It is true…a rep just gets in the way. To some extent, galleries also place another layer between the artist and the collector. The bottom line is that the artist needs to get out there and be ready to meet present collectors and get to know future collectors and build a bond. Only face to face contact will do it. At least that has been my experience.

  • Maybe art consulting would be a business model for Tim. Connecting buyers of art with seller AND makers of art. It seems like art consultants are increasingly aware of the advantages of working directly with artists and not just relying on galleries.

    • Melanie: Yes, but I worry about the consultant model because they represent both client and artist. I think that presents an ethical conflict of interest. It’s really bothering me these days.

      • Ren Burke

        From my experience with Art Consultants, they only represent the client. A Denver-based Art Consultant group actually proudly proclaims on their website: “As independent art advisors, we represent you, not the artist.”

        While they do work to get the artists’ work placed, they ‘negotiate’ the price of the artwork (even after the retail cost is stated and agreed upon), then they take their sales commission from the sale of the artwork (between 35% – 50%), then they get paid by the client for finding/placing the artwork.

        I work at a gallery and several of our artists have told us similar stories…frustrating, to say the least.

      • Alyson. You’re right about conflict of interest.
        I worked briefly with an “art rep”. She was buttering her bread on both sides, charging the client to bring a pre-selected roster of artist for the public art commission, while charging the artists a whopping 40% off the top for that privilege.
        She provided no support regarding project administration, organizing, permit fees, interfacing with city. I counted myself lucky to come in second and be paid my design fee. If they’d selected me for the commission I would have lost my shirt. Questions, ask lots of questions…..

  • Cy Twombly had a rep…Nicola Del Roscio…Twombly was also the highest paid living artist (he sadly passed away in 2011 R.I.P)…He also showed with the blockbuster Castelli Gallery (franchise now sort of)…
    So the question might be:”Was Mr. Twombly so successful because he paid a large cut of his earnings to a rep who wrote many Catalogue Raisonnes & other books about the artist & did a huge amount of international legwork, or was this great artist a success first, & then was able to afford the luxury of a rep?”

    • Sari: Was he a rep or a personal assistant?

      • I think we are getting into semantics here…The word “representative” means to represent…In the art world, it can mean many hats…A personal assistant is usually more of an underling…Nicola Del Roscio was referred to as a representative when I was reading about how Cy Twombly did business…Which is why I wrote that here…But philosophically, I feel the two concepts can be just a semantic slip away…I hired a woman to be my rep…I paid her money & then commission percentage…She was my rep but she worked for me, & helped me with things I needed help with…Personal assistant is a little derogatory as a terminology in my mind for what she did, but personal assistants can be asked to do work that reps do…For me the difference between the two terms, personal assistant & rep is that the rep has their own ideas & brings them to your table, while the personal assistant is feeding off of your brains…But maybe I need to reread the documentation…It is harder to find stuff online about this because he died…I hate that about the internet…

  • I recently moved to a new city and struck up a friendship with a woman. She exchanged some life coaching time with me for one large painting, then commissioned another with payment. I was enjoying have a place to send my work upon its completion.
    She said she would like to be a rep for me. Her family was well connected and there would be no problem selling work to them and their friends for much higher prices than I had charged before. She was planning a big event in her parents’ condo where several celebrities lived. When she asked another artist, a sculptor to participate the whole thing fell apart. We began to ask about insurance and contracts, “the rep” brushed it aside with a “we don’t need that”. The thought of a heavy sculpture falling from a pedestal and hurting somebody finally made the issue real in her mind.
    Everything ground to a halt.
    I was so looking forward to meeting new people in a huge new city and having an outlet for my work that I brushed aside the “if it seems too good to be true” motto. Luckily I only spent money on some brochures that I will never use, I came away with a little money in my pocket and a huge disappointment. I should have known better, my husband’s infallible radar was going off, but I didn’t want to listen.
    Lesson learned.

    • Beth: I’m sorry this happened to you. So the event never happened at all?

      What would you do differently next time?

      • Sorry for the delayed response…no, the event never happened. I have worked on getting more commissions, working one on one with people. That has been successful. It is back to what we all know, it is my work and I am the best voice for it.
        Also the children’s book that I wrote many years ago has come out of the drawer. I illustrated it and self published it in time for Christmas giving. It is now a marketing piece to use as I go forward in that industry. I am becoming active in SCBWI which is Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and taking every opportunity they offer to meet art directors, agents and editors. I feel I have found my niche.
        Thank you Alyson.

    • Beth R-P

      LOL, sounds like my hubby. Maybe HE should be your rep!

  • There were times I was so grateful to have a Rep–years ago, for illustration–she would always ask for more money than I would ever dream of asking for.

    At one big international art exhibit, I met Pino’s Rep. He said “Pino sells 17 million a year.” I guess if you are that big, you’d need at least a few people to help you.

    At a big time gallery in Chicago, recently (until he was outbid for the lease) I witnessed quite a few Reps as I worked there as a resident artist. All those Chagall, Picaso, and Renoir, prints had representation. A few other contemporary artists–one from Russia, had, have, representation.

    Maybe a rep is for if you’re going big time.

    • Maureen: Yep, illustrators definitely benefit from representation.

      The deceased artists you mention didn’t and don’t have reps – other than their galleries at the time. Those people are probably private dealers. But the artists died long before they could sign a deal for representation.

  • I had an experience with one once. It turned out badly and frankly she was awful. Decided I didn’t need one after that.

  • Lots of good points. But we can all fall into the “I must do it all myself or it won’t be done right” mode (Reference the book- I think it’s called “e-myth factor”)

    So we need to proceed cautiously as we explore this avenue. And yes, times have sure changed a lot with internet selling!

    I am interested in selling my “surface designs” (licensing) to manufacturers of textiles, home décor, etc. I understand representation in this field can be very valuable as the competition is tough, and a good rep knows the ropes re. doing the important trade shows such as Surtex and PrintSource. These shows can be prohibitively expensive for an artist to do on their own, so I am starting to favor seeking a rep, even though I understand their fee is around 40%. But an established rep has the contacts and relationships with the companies who might be interested in what I do, and that is very valuable and a lot less risky and costly than venturing out on my own in this field.

    Now…..to find that rep…..!

  • I would much rather have a mentor/guide, rather than a rep, with no agenda other than me. And I would much rather have a strong friend or two in my community who knows people with money who want to meet me and who purchase artwork habitually. And lastly, I would want someone who maintains and adds to a strong database of people with money in an area broader than where I live, who buy artwork. So, I want a lot!

    There are probably other ways to combine a love of art, artists, and sales. I am sure there is a way to combine those three things effectively.

    • Libby: I think it’s hard to find a mentor/guide with no agenda other than you.

      I would also encourage you to think more broadly than “people with money.” I think that is limiting.

  • Is an art rep different from an art dealer? These two seem awfully close, if not identical.

    I am working with an art dealer for many years. I love him to pieces! He is an absolute delight, is wonderful to me, and sold a ton of my work. The man is a genius at selling art, loves artists he represents and tries to do the very best for us. So, they do exist, this rare breed!

    On the other hand, I do not rely solely on my wonderful art dealer. I market, do social media, have art in a gallery, find and participate in shows that sell work and do all things self-representing artists do. One does not exclude the other!

  • Alyson,
    This is a timely discussion for me. I am a partner in my step-son’s newly formed metal arts business. I provide the capital and business experience, and he provides the production of amazing metal art.

    I am getting ready to have my own business cards printed, and the issue of what to call myself is at hand. Any suggestions?

    • Carrie MaKenna, Denver CO

      Hi Tony – If you’re looking for a title, Representative is probably the best choice in your circumstance. Your son is lucky to have you on his side! Good luck to both of you.

    • How about Business Director, Business Development Director, Business Manager? I also met someone once who worked in this role for his father’s sculpture working to rent it to museums. His card simply said his name…it was a little odd since his name and his father’s names were the same!

      • Lia,
        I am trying to be very industry sensitive. I already had one gallery co-op act nervous about me conducting business on behalf of my artist son.

        If I were not concerned with putting people off I would say what I am, Managing Partner. Turry, like most artist, loves to be in his studio, and I love sales, marketing, and growing his business.

        I love learning what marketing methods are working “Today” in the art world. I love the challenge of acquiring an audience when audiences are hard to come by. I love working with creatives, passing along skills I have learned over 35 years building business from the ground up.

        • Very good point about being sensitive to norms in the industry. You might want to keep in mind the family angle, and depending on context and who you’re talking to you could even describe it as a “family-run business.” Galleries and museum curators are comfortable with the spouse-rep model, so you being an immediate family member might be a good angle to promote.

          • Lia,
            I like that a lot! One thing I love about working in the art world are the people. People love to be helpful and share their wealth of experiential knowledge.
            Thank You!

  • Interesting conversation. I worked many years as a rep in the gift industry (currently, semi-retired). I understand that many artisans are looking for what I would call a “gallery rep” — a group that I know very little about, personally.

    But to clear up a few things. First, the definition of a sales rep:

    A Manufacturer’s Representative, also called agent, manufacturer’s rep, sales representative, or sales rep – or more commonly, just “rep” – is a self-employed person who contracts direct selling and marketing services to one or more related, but normally non-competing, companies in a particular industry.

    As part of their service, reps call on prospect businesses and present the client’s products in a positive light. Effective reps must answer product questions intelligently; offer promotional materials, terms and other information; and ask for orders and re-orders in person, or by phone, fax, or email, and via their own web sites.

    Sales reps earn commissions as compensation for their selling services, rather than making their money by buying your product at a discount and reselling it for a higher price, like distributors and wholesalers do.

    From the point of view of a producer, sales reps probably qualify as the lowest cost option for expanding sales regionally or nationally. Independent reps operate as a contract sales person, or in the case of rep “groups”, as a contract sales force, working on a strictly commission basis, minimizing overhead for a producer.

    ———————–

    Several of the comments above are describing a PR person or a personal assistant. Generally speaking, a rep can work as a public relations ‘assistant’, but will not like being asked to do other tasks listed — unless, of course, you are hiring an in-house rep that works only for you. These types of reps can cost enormous amounts of money in comparison, but may be worth it to some artisans.

    Having said all that, I have an eguide on ‘How to Find, Recruit and Manage a Sales Rep’ if you plan to go in this direction: http://howtofindsalesreps.com/

    Please note that the eguide describes rep in general — not necessarily gallery reps.

    Good luck to all of you,

    Sandy Dell
    ‘Gift Rep Sandy’

  • Alyson, I think this is one of your most important posts ever!

    Your insights are absolutely true. There is a huge hunger out there for so-called artist reps, and a belief that they exist. It is mostly magical thinking. I’ve actually gotten so many requests to rep artists that I had to put an FAQ on my Contact form saying I am not an artist rep!

    Still, the myth is strong. I’ve seen comments in discussion groups that reps are the “only way to go for the serious artist” but the commenter is inevitably not represented by anyone, and is still looking for that mysterious person.

  • Do you think having a “business partner” is a turn off for Galleries, and Art Shows? If you have great art, don’t you have to have people helping you to make contacts, and set up shows, interviews, galleries etc? If you are just beginning, what about financial investors and advisers like myself?

  • Nicola Del Roscio was Cy Twombly’s life partner, so he fits your spouse/BFF model, Alyson, which is spot on: there has got to be a motivation beyond finances for this kind of rep relationship to work.

    I’ve also seen many artists with a fantasy that someone else can do all the promotional work for them so they can spend time creating in the studio, and I agree that this model is not sustainable. These artists should develop business skills for themselves, or outsource these tasks to a marketing consultant, intern, or personal assistant. However, there are a few other cases outside of portraiture, licensing and illustration where a representative-type relationship can work, as long as the artist is not primarily motivated by a desire to increase sales.

    If an artist’s goals are more about pure exposure than sales, there are reps who can do this. For example, I know one who places art in non-gallery venues (like showrooms, hotels, and department stores), holds opening events, and does PR for the artist. This rep does not make any promises about sales, only about exposure. Some have doubts about what this kind of exposure does for the “academic” reputation of an artist, and some might call this service akin to a vanity gallery since the artist is the one paying her. But I’ve heard from artists who are happy with the service, so it must be working out.

    Another situation that works is when the rep plays a role more like an employee of a foundation or artist’s estate whose goal is to promote the artist’s legacy. I myself do this type of work. This can be done through various activities: doing (or commissioning) art historical research such as a catalogue raisonné and books; working with museum curators to assist organizing exhibitions; overseeing operational issues like shipping, appraisals, and insurance; and potentially administering philanthropic programs through grants, fellowships and the like, funded by the artist. There can be some sales component as well with the goal of placing works in private collections. Artists who would benefit from this kind of representation already have a successful career, are likely in the winter season of life, and most importantly, are not primarily motivated by the bottom line. Frankly it can be similar to a spouse-like rep relationship, except that the actual spouse and artist don’t have the energy, connections, or specific expertise needed to do this work, so they outsource it.

    I tend to prefer the title “advisor” rather than “rep” because rep sounds like sales representative. Even if I do represent an artist in the case of sale to an individual, it is not my primary activity. Rather my goal is to promote the artist’s legacy through activities described above.

    As for being wary of an art consultant who is paid by both the artist and the client, I agree this is a gray area to avoid. However this isn’t a reason an artist should discount them entirely as many are paid only by the client, and they all can be a fantastic way to access new buyers and place works in prestigious collections. But galleries can do this too.

    • *back when I read the in depth interview at the artist’s house in Italy, Nicola Del Roscio was referred to in business language…They spoke of Tatiana Franchetti, the artist’s wife, a portrait artist herself…Their son Alessandro Twombly…

      It was all too vague, & I filed it into representative in my mind…

      But today’s articles all say personal things, that they were a couple after Tatiana died…They didn’t use to say that in articles…I wasn’t sure…

      Yes…So Nicola del Roscio is disqualified from this conversation because he entered the bedroom…Sorry…I am a naive girl with a blind eye…

      http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/In-awe-of-Twombly/24327 While searching, I found this pretty article just after the artist died…For those who don’t know who we are talking about please look…He was one of the greats…

      And Lia…

      What can I say? You are obviously a gem…Thanks for being here & talking…What a thorough answer…

      Nice to meet you, Sari

  • I had sales reps all over the US for 20 years. I could not have done it without them and always paid them before anyone else. I had a pottery souvenir line though, a “product”. I keep thinking in that vein, how to create a product out of my fine art. Then again.. naa, I don’t want to do that again ~lol, the drudgery of it, gads.

    Ah me, just do it, I tell myself. Just do the work of art, eat, drink and sleep it, spend some time getting myself out there, and the rest will fall into place. I know that is true because when I do apply myself, things happen.

    I have a great library too that I refer to. One of my fav books is, “I’d Rather Be in the Studio”, by our host here. Fantastic. The other is “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield.

  • Great article Alyson, just what I needed to read! This idea of a rep has been on my mind, but I see now it is a waste of time if I find myself a gallery that has good business sense.Did you write a blog about an artist can represent him/herselve in an Art Fair? I plan to go to Art Toronto and Art Miami but have a few questions about it. For example: Should I bring real artwork? Or a physical portfolio or CDs. Thank you being there!

  • If you ask me I think having a Rep is just adding to the financial strain onto the artist and to the consumer. It’s already difficult to sell art because society assumes art to be expensive. With the economy effecting the majority of the people, we need to find ways to make art accessible to the buyer. Not make it harder. Every person that is involve between the artist and the buyer just makes the art overpriced. Even having a gallery sell your work already adds 50% of the price. I understand that galleries need to make money for showing and selling your work but some of the commissions really just make your art untouchable to a good majority of society. And when you have retail stores selling “art” at $20 to $100 a pop it just confuses the average art buyer. But I’m going off on a tangent here. Basically adding layers of reps, galleries and what have you is just too much. They just keep the artist from actually making any profit from their work.

  • I once tried to explain the difference between consultants and art reps to another artist- without much success.
    I think if you are making “product” or something more connected to the mass marketing of images then a rep would be more like an agent- getting you deals…..going to trade shows for you, etc….?

    But- Art Consultants are very different. And I don’t like seeing the bad rap they’re getting here. (I’m not talking about someone who operates out of their living room and says they are a “consultant”)
    There are many businesses in the Denver area that consult- ie: get contracts to furnish artwork for large and small projects – primarily businesses/public spaces/health care.
    If they are truly professional, they let you set the retail price, they take 50% if your work is placed or commissioned and it’s a win-win. No different from a gallery. No one has ever tried to ‘talk me down’ . If the client likes it, or wants to commission you- you sign a contract, you deal with professionals.
    Frankly, this is the way I’m trying to go now. Until a few years back I’d done the gallery route for many years.
    The advantages of moving away from that – your work is on many databases simultaneously, so you don’t have to worry about it lanquishing in someone’s storage room. The work is totally under your control and secure, and always available. You can be on various internet gallery sites at the same time, and you can sell it out of your studio (where it lives). At this point in my career it works for me.

    • Nanci: Boy, I guess I opened up a can of worms with one careless remark. It’s just been on my mind for so long.

      This is a great model “if they are truly professional.”

      What concerns me is when they ask artists to discount and then don’t pass on the discount to clients. That’s eating out of both hands. And there are those out there doing it.

    • I read an article about an art consultant in a local magazine & invited her to my studio…To my surprise, she showed up!
      What her field was though was not high end giant stunning abstract expressionist oil paintings…(me at the time)
      Her field was a large quantity of similar works that were relatively safe aesthetically in a sort of semi-generic way that could be bought by the 100, possibly unframed works on paper, that she could them mass frame to match the decor of the hotel restaurant or lobby…
      It was a bread & butter type of product that she was looking for, & the price needed to be based on mass quantity…
      It was not a fit for the type of fine artist I thought I was…
      But if you can produce that kind of bulk, they like you…
      (I am speaking to one species of art consultant…The more common red-necked grebe…The horned grebe might be more exotic…bird metaphors)

    • Nancy: I am with a large gallery in Boca Raton,Florida, which is on a national basis. I design and build geometric sculpture and only have sold two in the past two years to private collectors. I am trying as everyone is to increase commissions or sales, however, I feel like I am riding a turtle. I like your approach, but do not see the marketing strategy. Any ideas?
      Thank you.
      Dennis

  • One place I think someone could function well as a rep (or consultant, or liaison, not sure exactly what you’d call it) is in connecting artists with interior designers. Designers are often responsible for short-listing art for clients and I’m sure it’s a tremendous amount of work finding artists…and I know it’s a tremendous amount of work connecting with designers!

    I haven’t really thought through how exactly this would work, but it strikes me there’s a niche waiting to be filled. And now I have an idea for an open studio aimed at the design industry. Hmmm.

  • Alyson,
    I won a first price in a state exhibit and the rep approached me as to submit work to sell to her client a local insurance co. I have heard of her and have known a few artist who have worked with her.She viewed my website and chose work. I submitted info on the work which she passed on to the cleint so she said. We meet at the company to have them view the work. I brought some forms to sign since she was taking the work. She refused to sign them and rushed me out. As I walked by her car I was horrified to see art work
    unpacked just laying on the car seats. After the clients viewed the work they were not interested but she went onto say the pieces were too large, wrong colors etc, etc.I stated she picked the pieces and said they were interested. After some thought I think she just went through my work and chose the most expensive pieces and was not honest on telling me the cleints designers chose them. But she really tried to belittle me at the end and that ended any relationship with this person.

  • I am an artist representative and an artist, not a unicorn. I used to run a successful art gallery, and have many successful years experience selling many different products and services. The business can be difficult because it involves a lot of up front work, and once the sales begin to flow in, the artist typically no longer wants to pay me, and forgets where they were before the relationship in terms of sales.

    • Anita: Yay! So glad you came here to share this.

      And boo to the artists who forget how they got to where the are.

      Can you share a little about the clients you work with: How they find you or you them? And how you decide it’s a good fit? And maybe what you do for them?

      Thanks!

  • I’ve had a few reps over the past 25+ years….each had their own specialized niche.
    One agent had a group of nationwide reps who sold etchings in the mid to late 1980s. While the artists only made 25% of the retail price, they made up for it in volume…and all of us were making steady monthly incomes.
    Another rep sold to interior designers and corporations needing art – many commissioned pieces came out of this connection (for example, Nordstrom stores).
    And other reps sold cards to retailers – and though this market has slowed way down, I still have one rep who continues to sell in my area.
    So, my experience with reps has been generally good but times are changing and it’s wise to learn as much as you can about representing your own work.

  • I have been approached by several art reps and I haven’t been impressed up to this point. Most want a fee up front each month and were unwilling to talk about results and sales. Talking with others in my area, they haven’t made sales through local reps and felt like they were spending money for no reason.

    I have not made an effort to look for an art rep for my photography, but my perspective after meeting the reps has been this: An effective sales rep would be able to work from commission. If a rep is effective in dealing with art buyers and cultivates the right relationships, then they would have no problem with making their living from the commission.

    Ultimately, each party is running a business that needs to make a profit. If the partnership is beneficial and a good fit, it will allow both parties to see growth in their businesses. If that person is able to help increase my sales, then I would be more than happy to share the commission with them and to grow that relationship.

  • Perhaps the “kin” rep model works, because kin don’t do it for the money, & don’t ask for pay, if times are lean…

  • At one point I thought I needed an artist Rep. That was until I read “i’d rather be in the studio. I have since made a concerted effort to market myself to gain representation in galleries as per “I’d rather be in the studio” all good advice. I am currently represented by one gallery which has produced some results in sales but is not enough to sustain a career. I have found that the old model of the Art Gallery is struggling and failing in many cases, with many tried and true established galleries closing or refusing to take on new artist. I truly believe the the art market is changing and that the old ways of marketing have become ineffective. The artist will have to find new “out of the box ” ways of marketing their art. I don’t have a clue as to what these new ways are at the moment, but they likely are not the old school methods. It would likely involve the internet and some sort of a new hybrid of brick and mortar gallery representation and a freelance art rep (the unicorn). I honestly don’t think an artist can effectively produce great art and market themselves without one or the other suffering from attention. I was told by a wise business man that one should do what they are best at doing and hire someone to do what they can’t. I truly do need to be in the studio and not driving from gallery to gallery begging and “submitting” for representation. The amount,clarity and focus of my work suffered when I put on the marketing hat. I found that when I was represented by a gallery I became a marketing employee of the gallery to represent myself and still gave them 50% commission on my work. There just needs to be a “NEW” way. Maybe the Unicorn Rep is a new concept and yet to be born.

  • In the old days…Consignment commission was one third to gallery…That total was split if there were other hands in the pocket like reps or consultants…Artist got 2/3…The 50% model is a wholesale price which requires money upfront…Artists doing that would sell the work outright to the gallery, usually more than one piece, the gallery buys it & marks it up as they please, within reason(which got lost somewhere in the inflationary high time)…Until artists learn math they will always be unhappy with reps & consultants & galleries…

  • I checked out some of your sites to see what kind of talent was offering thought and advice. Wow, there is some heavy duty talent going on here. Yay.

  • I do know of one artist rep who works with galleries, dealers and designers all over the country, and has just started doing international shows. The combination of the gallery/dealer and rep commission come to 75%, and the artist only makes 25% of the sale. Which could be good if she has a lot of contacts and sells a lot of work, but I don’t know about her volume of sales.

  • Hello everyone, first of all there are hundred of Artist Agents (AA)assisting artists, dealers, private buyers etc.. around the globe… Global Ar Network has 82 on our payroll operating in 100 metro art markets and 20 countries…in our “Representation Management Div” 5th of our business. Artist’s Agent (AA) of the 21st century play many roles – Career Management, Business Generation, Event Analysis, Contract Management, Showcase Management, Public Relation etc.. Studies by PEW and Huffington Post also by GAN internal interviews indicate artists with an Artist’s Agent had more yearly opportunities, generated 76% higher income and live a less stressful life style than their peers without. Reference to galleries – It is correct, most micro-galleries (mom and pop) will not deal with Artist Agents because of margins. However, most major galleries, Corporate AC Executives, quite a few private art buying groups and Dealers will not deal with artist without an agent. So that comment somewhat mute. A skilled “AA” knows the difference between marketing and promoting..which means the results normally better. Here is a question– If not having an Artist’s Agent is a good thing…why is the failure rate of art businesses 90%?