Post image for 7 Reasons Galleries Still Matter for Fine Artists Trying to Build a Successful Career

7 Reasons Galleries Still Matter for Fine Artists Trying to Build a Successful Career

by Jason Horejs on June 13, 2014 · 62 comments

Over the last several months, I have run into several threads online or in social media arguing that the age of the art gallery is over and that artists no longer need to work through galleries in order to make sales. The participants in these threads make excellent points, and I actually agree with much of what is being said in terms of the changing market, but I would like to argue the counter-point that, in order for an artist to build a successful, profitable, long-term business, galleries still play a vital role.

I would point to five key factors every artist should consider when deciding whether it is worthwhile to pursue gallery representation as a part of his or her business strategy:

  1. Exposure
  2. Efficiency
  3. The Multiplicative Effect
  4. Stability
  5. Reputation
  6. Relationships
  7. Display

Allow me to take a moment to explain each in more detail

Exposure

I’ll begin with what I feel is the most compelling and important arguments: exposure. While an independent artist can set up a website, do open studio tours, and participate in art shows and festivals, all of which have the potential to put your work in front of potential buyers, these efforts simply can’t match the exposure you can gain by having your work shown and sold in a gallery.

Unlike a show or studio tour, a gallery is open year round. Over the course of a year my gallery, for example, will be visited by thousands and thousands of potential buyers. This consistent stream of viewers gives an artist the best chance at reaching his or her audience and making sales. The art business, just like any other business, is a numbers game. While there are many things you can do to target potential buyers and increase your chances for success, in the end, you’ve got to have eyeballs on your work in order to reach those who are going to feel passionate enough about the work to pull out their credit card and make a purchase.

Some argue that your website gives you exposure to a vast potential audience online. This is true, but if you are tracking your traffic and online sales, you know how difficult it is to get visitors to your site, let alone convince those visitors to buy.

I will concede that you could start to reach a broad audience by participating in a large number of art festivals and shows – in fact you might even be able to reach a larger number of people than you could through galleries, but this leads us to the next factor, efficiency.

Efficiency

Simply put, every minute you spend on self-promotion and shows is a minute that you are not spending in the studio. If you have participated in open studios or weekend art festivals, you know that tremendous preparation and effort is required in order to make the events a success. Unfortunately, all that effort is no guarantee of sales at any particular event.

You might argue that you have plenty of time to participate in art events because you have plenty of artwork and don’t need to be spending more time in the studio. I would encourage you to stop and think about what that means though; if you have plenty of inventory and plenty of time on your hands, you simply aren’t selling enough.

The artists that I show in my gallery would have a hard time participating in  a lot of shows or studio tours because, quite simply,  they are too busy creating to keep their galleries in inventory.

By working with a gallery, you will be able to focus on producing work while the gallery focuses on producing sales – each of you is able to do what you do best.

Moreover, very few artists are both creative and good at sales. Galleries are staffed by professionals who spend all day long, every day working on the sale of artwork. They are going to be better at moving a customer to the close than you are, and they are going to be better able to focus their efforts on following up with customers to close the sale.

The Multiplicative Effect

As an artist doing self-promotion, you are limited in the number of events you can participate in and the marketing efforts you can put forward because there is only one of you. As you expand your representation, you can show in galleries across the country (or the globe!). Now the effort you put into finding galleries begins to pay off in a big way. Each additional gallery now multiplies your exposure.

Compare this with trying to increase your income by participating in more shows or studio events. The work and effort you put into each event is only as long-lasting as the event itself.

Stability

By expanding your reach through galleries, and especially if you are able to secure representation in a number of galleries in a variety of geographic markets, you will be able to create a level of stability in your cash flow.

If you are relying solely on your own marketing efforts and sales slow-down, it can have a devastating impact on your finances. By diversifying your market, you will find that sales will begin to become more stable and reliable. Sure, one gallery may experience a period of slower sales, but often another gallery will then kick into gear, have a strong sales period, and make up for the dip in the first gallery.

The economic downturn of 2008 showed that no one is immune to a precipitous crash in the economy, but in my experience, those artists who were showing in a variety of galleries (as well as doing some direct marketing) were the ones who fared the storm best.

Reputation

Many artists feel that gallery representation helps establish them as more legitimate in the eyes of collectors. Collectors will ask you if you show in galleries. While the quality of your work should speak for itself, the reality is that many collectors see gallery representation as a stamp of legitimacy. Showing with good galleries will enhance your resume and reputation making it easier to join professional art societies and get into juried shows.

Relationships

Often galleries, especially those that have been long-established in their community, will have built relationships with people in the community that can be important to your career. Museum curators, arts writers, show organizers, publishers and other gallery owners all spend time in galleries. Your galleries can become great advocates for you as they work to promote you and your work.

Display

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, art galleries remain one of the best venues to see your art at its very best. We had a show this last season and as the show was opening, the featured artist said, “it’s so awesome to see the art all together like this!” Sure, he had seen the art in his studio, but until it was all hung together in the gallery, he hadn’t been able to get the full impact of the body of work. Galleries spend a lot of money getting their space and the lighting just right, and they put a lot of effort into figuring out the perfect display for the work. Short of building your own gallery, or getting a museum show, you won’t ever see your art in quite this way, and neither will your collectors.

A gallery display is one thing that a website simply can’t replicate

Galleries Should Remain a Part of Your Marketing Strategy

The internet and the ability to sell direct to customers has made it easier than ever before for an artist to take control of her own career. There are more marketing opportunities available to artists than there have ever been. Some see these alternative marketing avenues as a sign of the impending demise of the gallery business. I agree that there is certainly a lot of competitive pressure on galleries, but I believe that galleries will remain an important part of the art market for the for years to come.

Over the last twenty years, I have had the opportunity to get to know hundreds of artists and have been able to observe what these artists are doing build successful careers. It is just as true today as it was twenty years ago: the most successful artists are those who are showing in multiple galleries.

I encourage you to continue building your market, doing shows and events, and maintaining your website. There’s no reason you can’t work to build a successful career by marketing your work on multiple fronts.

It can be difficult to find good gallery representation, and over the last few years, as the gallery market has shrunk, it has become even more competitive. I would argue, however,  that anything worth doing is hard. Securing gallery representation requires preparation, research, and yes, hard work. But if you think about the work required to sell your art on your own you will find the time and effort required to find a good gallery is worth the investment.

What do you think?

Do you see a future for the gallery business, or do you believe that artists will be able to thrive without galleries? Are galleries a part of your marketing efforts? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

About 

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

Connect with me on
Google+

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard Smith June 13, 2014 at 2:28 pm

I’ve seen many instances of artists trying to sell and just not making it. My personal preference is to make art and let those who like to sell, do the selling.

Reply

Hazel Stone June 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Hello Jason,
Thanks for this article about gallery representation. Many years ago, I participated in a Co-op Gallery with many other local artists each working the gallery, hanging their paintings in their own section of the gallery, meeting and greeting visitors and buyers, talking about my own work and the work of other artists, then making sales, keeping records and maintaining the gallery. Ruth Magadini owned the gallery building on 19th Avenue and it was wonderful working under her wing. I had the pleasure of planning and hanging a two-person show and providing a buffet for our Opening Reception. I even got the Ikebana Society to provide several floral arrangements and a table centerpiece that were glorious! I had some wonderful experiences and some scary ones when police officers were called, but overall, I loved being a part of the experience. I was able to grow in talking about art, the artist, the buyer and specific pieces of art. I taught some children’s drawing and painting classes that were fun. Sadly, the bottom line showed us that financially speaking, the gallery needed to close.
Since then, I have been connected with various galleries. I was in one new gallery in Tucson where my work sold, but the owner decided that a different emphasis was needed in the gallery. One gallery in Litchfield Park showed my paintings but was more into the framing business than selling art, so I took my work out. I was one of a few artists at Gallery van Friend on Main Street, Scottsdale, AZ, where I had my own one-artist show which was great, but she gradually realized that she had to close the gallery. Vision Gallery in Chandler has been good to me since its opening in 1996, with many nice opportunities to show my work, plus teaching opportunities, art festivals and shows. I have been able to plan and organize special group exhibitions in the Chandler Center for the Arts venue and participate in special events.
I feel that I want to be close to any gallery that I am connected with just to know how things are going. I believe that an open personal relationship is needed to work together on the exhibition and business end of representation. I need to feel that a gallery has my interests at heart as much as their overall bottom line status. I do believe that galleries are necessary and wonderful additions to our world. I like to say, “Art makes every day better!”
I have enjoyed my connection with Xanadu Gallery and want to continue to build on that in the future.
Thanks!
Hazel Stone

Reply

Dorothy Graden June 16, 2014 at 8:35 am

Thanks, Jason,
It really helps that you share your experience and expertise with all of us. I’m new at this and take your information to heart. I also enjoy having my art on your online gallery. It’s great exposure for my work.
Dorothy

Reply

Jackie W. June 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm

I know my preference is painting at my easel, and my talents are there as well, wish i could say the same for my marketing. I’m getting there since reading Jason’s book!

Reply

Patricia Pasbrig June 13, 2014 at 5:03 pm

I am just starting out, and I agree with Richard Smith, I enjoy painting, let the galleries or internet galleries do the selling.

Reply

Michelle Endersby June 13, 2014 at 5:32 pm

You can never replicate that feeling of walking into a gallery and being moved by a work of art when you can feel the energy of the artist in their brushstrokes or colour choices. To have your artwork displayed professionally in gallery and beautifully hung and lit honours both the artist and the art lover and shows due respect for art itself which enhances and embellishes our very existence. Long live the gallery.

Reply

Deborah Czarny June 13, 2014 at 5:42 pm

I agree with enjoying making your art & leave the selling (time) to the people who do it best.

Reply

Barbara Noll June 13, 2014 at 6:41 pm

I have not given up on finding galleries where I can sell my paintings, but as you said, it is a competitive market. I am a docent in the small town nearby and we hardly sell a thing. In fact, I think it will close soon. I have participated in a group (5) show in west Tx , and only one artist stole the show selling his oil rig pieces (good presentation and following there).
The art guild where I am a member , and participated in juried shows, is about to drop membership with the main guild in Houston ( they have 18 branch guilds within 200 mile radius ). So, I will join a different branch closer to Houston but far from me. Still, no sales connected to membership there…and last year I won best of show at their annual event at The Woodlands.
Discouraging. Gallery representation is only as good as the employees who show the art. I have been to many galleries where they basically just say ” hello, feel free to browse – let me know if I can be of any help….” and “goodbye”.

Reply

Irena Grant-Koch June 13, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Absolutely agree with you.
Just need to find a gallery (or one to find me), which will undertake to successfully sell my sort of work.
Some of us are fascinated with many facets of the world around us and are willing to concentrate on a particular facet of it if there is a demand.
Unfortunately, some galleries seem put off to see an artist who is too diverse, rather than being delighted with the possibilities this offers.
Irena

Reply

Pierre Riche June 13, 2014 at 7:39 pm

I would totally agree with the last comment. I am an awful sales person and not to mention my art career is in need of some serious boot camp training because of it.

Reply

Eileen Kennedy June 13, 2014 at 7:43 pm

I have recently come to believe that artists need to diversify and seek a variety of outlets for their work–selling original art and prints online and selling through galleries. As in the example you provided, I have found no experience that equals that of seeing a body of my work well displayed. You can’t even understand what your own work means until you see it in relation to itself–where else can you see that but in a gallery? As a young artist, I worked with a corporate art director in NYC. We bought a lot of art and met many gallery owners and directors and saw how they looked out for their artists. Later, when I was represented by a gallery, there was nothing else like that feeling of knowing someone was ready to go to bat for you and your work. With few exceptions, gallerists are as passionate about art as we artists.

Reply

Joyce Wynes June 13, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Good article Jason. Galleries are definitely a part of my marketing strategy. While there is a lot that I can do on my own and will continue to do on my own, more and more of my time is being taken up with marketing my work since there are so many avenues that artists must tackle now. I want to spend more of my time in my studio creating and painting and the only way that I can see to do that is by getting reliable gallery representation or hire some art consultants to market my work. So that is my current strategy.

Galleries draw people who come specifically for the art and to see if anything fits their needs. Most times if they see something they like, they buy. Let’s face it, people really want to see what they are purchasing and if I were going to spend money on a painting I would want to see it in real life, as that is, I feel, the best representation of a piece of art. Viewing art on a monitor is not the best representation of what a painting looks like.

And while I am in quite a few group and solo exhibitions, it takes a lot of time out of my schedule to submit for these venues, pack and deliver the work and then pack it back up to return it to my studio. Along with the social media, blog, newsletters and all the other stuff that must be done to market my work, it would be a relief to have galleries out there promoting, displaying and selling my work so that I can spend that extra time doing what I do best, paint. Even when I am represented, I still promote my work but at least the burden is shared with an actual space where my work would be on continual display. Yes, I can see where galleries will be a part of the artist’s marketing strategies for at least the near future.

Reply

Maggib June 13, 2014 at 8:21 pm

I mentioned this in an earlier post to your blog, but, yes, for me gallery representation is the way to go. Since I already have a major gallery here, my prices are such that it is difficult to sell on my own. My hope now is to find more galleries in other parts of the country.

Through the gallery, I have had clients buy two large paintings at one time. I don’t have access to clients like that on my own. And having a solo exhibition is a very rewarding experience.

Reply

Rachel Harvey June 13, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Yes, yes, yes and yes. I have work in a couple of galleries and also do 8-10 summer art festivals each year, as well as commission work. I need to do the shows to make a living, but I’m finding I increasingly am having a hard time keeping up with demand. A good problem to have, but a challenging one. I am actively in the process of finding more gallery representation and have wrapped my mind around the fact that the transition is going to hurt, financially (meaning, as I am sending more work to galleries but before I have enough of them selling to make up for reduced profit on my end), but I believe it’s ultimately where I want to be. In the studio (or field), painting!

Reply

Claudia L Brookes June 16, 2014 at 11:49 am

Rachel–I went to your website and your work is beautiful. Also, very reasonable. Possibly too reasonable if you are having trouble keeping up with demand? worth a thought.

Reply

Kuksht June 13, 2014 at 8:49 pm

I agree with you 100%.
Now if I could just pick up about 5 more galleries…….

Marilyn Kuksht
Sculptor

Reply

Stephen Oller June 13, 2014 at 9:32 pm

Well said Jason. Galleries will always be essential for the true collector and lover of fine art. A web page can never replace the visceral impact of standing before the product of the artist’s creative energy and expession. I can look at a favorite painting by Picaso or Van Gogh on the internet and be somewhat impressed; but to stand before an original work and expeirence the energy that literally leaps from the artist’s physical creation brings me to tears every time. An iPad is a great place for a technical manual; “The Old Man and the Sea” must br read by turning actual pages to be trurly appreciated and enjoyed.

Reply

Jason Horejs June 14, 2014 at 10:39 am

Thanks Stephen – and I obviously agree. I do just need to point out however that online sales are becoming more and more common with collectors willing to spend more and more money on work they’ve discovered online, so I don’t want to suggest that you ignore online sales – it makes sense to try and show your work both online and in galleries.

Reply

Leslie Morgan June 13, 2014 at 9:53 pm

I would like nothing better than to have several galleries around the country selling my work while I make more and more of it in my studio but the fact is, galleries are inundated with artists seeking representation. Most won’t even consider submissions and even if they do they often don’t do “Representation” in the old sense of the word. They might put you in a group show that is up for a month and see how your work does. Here is San Francisco they are even charging fees for you to even enter a juried show in their gallery. They are making money off of the thousands of entry fees they collect and are basically being paid to put on a show in their own gallery. But in their stable of artist they only truly keep 20 to 30 artist. And don’t even get me started on how low the percentage (10% on average) of those artists who are women. I don’t blame them either. They can’t afford the outrages rents they are asked to pay and 1/4 of them go out of business or have to move to a less desirable location. The days of the well respected, brick and mortar Gallery may be numbered. Virtual galleries maybe the wave of the future along with pop up shops and art shows!

So when you say, don’t give up on galleries as part of your marketing strategy, it’s like saying don’t give up on winning the lottery!

Reply

Jason Horejs June 14, 2014 at 10:36 am

Leslie – this is true of many of the top end marketplaces like San Francisco, New York, Chicago, LA, etc. but I would encourage you to reach outside San Francisco. There are great galleries across the country in markets not nearly as competitive as the top markets and if your work is consistent and high quality, you can find good representation. As your sales grow in secondary markets you become better positioned for representation in the larger markets.

As for the glass ceiling, it’s real, but it’s starting to show some cracks. I wrote a post about this last year – http://www.reddotblog.com/wordpress/index.php/the-art-worlds-glass-ceiling-does-the-art-market-still-discriminate-against-women-artists/

Reply

Katharine Weber June 20, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Leslie, I am part of a group of artists involved in a collaborative effort to shine a light on the under-representation of women in the art world. Micol Hebron in the Los Angeles area is spearheading the project, collecting posters created by artists that represents the gender ratio of a specific gallery. She shows the posters in different venues across the country. Currently she is collecting posters to represent San Francisco. She is always looking for artists to participate. Here is the facebook page (I hope this outside link is okay to share here, Jason. If not, feel free to remove it.) https://www.facebook.com/groups/514330251981431/ The project is ongoing, and recently became the subject of a short documentary by KCET. It is sad to see how dismal the representation of women is here in the San Francisco area. Hopefully we will be around to see more fairness in the art world toward women.

As for the need of art galleries… I would say yes, as artists we need them, and they will always be around. Artwork is too visceral to be left completely to digital media.

Reply

Marianne Bland June 13, 2014 at 11:25 pm

I just started a research project to select at least 100 gallery fits for my work in a handful of markets, all in areas I have personally visited. Securing gallery representation is part of my next year’s plan for building my career. Your article reinforced the importance of the gallery component for me. Thank you!

Reply

Sharon Wadsworth-Smith June 14, 2014 at 12:33 am

As I unload my car again after another juried show attempt, this time I am picking up work for friends as well (we take turns) and wondering if it is worth the time and effort to submit. The work will sometimes sit in the venue for a period of time while it is being juried only to hang in a space that may or may not result in a sale. Often the chances of getting one or two paintings in is based on the total number of submissions and the preferances of a jury whose goal is not only to pick for excellence, but to create a show that goes together. All of that time it is not in a gallery where the whole purpose of the gallerist is to sell the artists work. Frankly, I would rather sell art, not just show it.

Reply

Mary Manning June 14, 2014 at 2:52 am

I couldn’t agree more with Richard. And the smaller the town, the harder it is to sell art on an artist’s own, without help.

Reply

Maria Foskolaki June 14, 2014 at 2:52 am

your articles are really intersting

personally i see future for honesty from any contributor to partnership

kindest regards

Reply

Lisbet Damgaard June 14, 2014 at 3:38 am

When understanding that art must be experienced “live” and many purchases are based on consideration, priorities and Investment by the buyer, galleries naturally have their place. It is a struggle to balance creativity and business. Finding the right gallery and enjoying a good cooperation is a win/win for both parties. Personally I have joined a cooperative gallery in a resort area as my first gallery to gain experience from putting my art “out there”. Risky business – making the right choice….

Reply

Susan Corkum June 14, 2014 at 4:07 am

Jason
Here in the Mid West many artists are cutting back on shows or not doing them at all. Art shows are mostly
fundraisers who’s costs are sometimes tremendously high for a minimal return. (weather, advertising, lack of interst , etc.) The availability of online sales sites has made it easier for artists and craftsmen to promote themselves thus opening up more opportunities for lower costs.
I agree that galleries need to be part of an artists marketing plan but not the only plan. Unfortunately as you noted in your article, many artist are not salespeople.
I have talked to art department chairs about offering business classes to their art students so that they can learn to run their business.

Reply

Ted Larsen June 14, 2014 at 4:32 am

Jason, very good points on all counts. Very well done. Ted

Reply

Tim Packer June 14, 2014 at 4:36 am

I totally agree with you Jason. I have found that there is one other benefit that comes from showing in galleries and that is that the price of a successful artist’s work has the potential to go much higher. I would think that this is a result of the enhanced reputation achieved through showing in reputable galleries and the gallery relationships with qualified buyers. I decided about 10 years ago to quit doing the festivals and to give all of my work to my galleries. The first year I did that I earned more than I ever had before. Since then my prices have gone up dramatically and my earnings along with them.
I still sell directly to clients occasionally and it is at the high price achieved through years of gallery sales.

Reply

Jay Durrah June 14, 2014 at 4:39 am

Earlier this week I received an email from a gallery in NY about representation. When I inquired further, they said I would have to pay $3500.00 to have a show. I met with a new gallery in DC about a month ago, and they said their fee was $2000.00. Is this how it works to get gallery representation? I thought if a gallery is interested in your work, they bring you on with an agreed upon percentage. I also sold pieces previously that we’re on consignment.

Reply

Jason Horejs June 14, 2014 at 10:31 am

Jay – this model of pay to exhibit is becoming more prominent, but it is still the exception, not the rule. I wrote an extensive post about this at http://www.reddotblog.com/wordpress/index.php/artists-show-art-vanity-gallery/

Reply

Phyllis Terrell June 14, 2014 at 4:44 am

Jason, I totally agree with you. In my experience, gallery representation has been the key to enhancing my resume and my reputation as an artist. While participating in art shows and festivals is a good way to get started, as an artist I feel the exposure through a prestigious gallery really works best for me. It’s actually very exciting to be approached by a gallery wanting to represent my work. The galleries are the professionals when it comes to hanging the art, correct lighting, making the sales, publicity, and the list goes on. This leaves more time for the artist to create the artwork.
Jason, I always look forward to your art marketing news for artists!

Reply

Bonnie Teitelbaum June 14, 2014 at 5:40 am

I can not be all things. My job is to paint and create the best I can. It is not my job to sell it. This is why galleries deserve the commissions they get. I take the philosophy of “Curly” in the movie City Slickers. “Do one thing well.”
For me that is painting.

Reply

Barbara Lipkin June 14, 2014 at 7:47 am

I agree with Richard. It would be so nice to just paint, and ship the work to galleries to be sold. But to reach that stage… that’s so very hard. On-line isn’t really the answer, either. People want their paintings to be as close to free as they can get. Anything over $100 seems to be a turn-off for most browsers. At least, that’s my experience so far. But I’m still plugging away, following Jason’s advice, so we’ll see how it goes.

Reply

Jean M. Judd June 14, 2014 at 8:16 am

A great blog post, Jason. In my experience, galleries are still a very important part of the selling of artwork. In my view it is one of the main streams of revenue and marketing. My web site, juried exhibitions, solo exhibits in alternative spaces, and other online galleries are all a means to getting eyes on the artwork. Online is ok, but I don’t think any artwork shows as well online as it does in a live setting such as a gallery, art center, museum, or studio.

My textile artwork in particular needs to be see in person to get the true perspective of scale as well as the visual texture. Also being in a rural area does not attract hoards of collectors so I rely on galleries in metropolitan areas to be my sales force. They are much better at the art of selling than I am. I want to be in the studio creating art for them to be selling. I can’t do that if I have to spend half of my time in the sales arena.

Reply

Kirsten Elizabeth Gilmore June 14, 2014 at 11:42 am

Jean–What you said about showing scale is quite true. You can show work in situ, which helps, but that doesn’t always mean the buyer has a good sense of the scale.

Last summer, I had a couple commission a painting based on my photograph of a 3ftx4ft abstract over a loveseat. They didn’t look closely enough at the photo or measure their wall until just before purchase and, so they had assumed the painting would look the same over their full-length sofa. Luckily, we caught this before I had mailed the painting, but it made me re-think the idea that scale is made totally clear by pictures.

Reply

Amos June 14, 2014 at 8:22 am

Art / Sales / And Life follow patterns.
Old sayings follow life.
One that i will always place highly: “People do not buy from strangers they purchase from people they trust”. with that said all of what you have written is true. And yet my career has been moving along at a wonderful pace (18 public art pieces and hundreds of works in private collections) I have not pursued galleries to a large extent due mostly to the fact that I want to develop my art, skills, and reputation to the highest levels. The time for galleries is closer every day that is if galleries accept my body of work and believe they can represent what and how I do it. Bring stainless steel alive does not necessarily represent a chohesive body of work for some, but to me and my collectors there is not one that does not recognize my works as me.

Reply

Sandra Murphy June 14, 2014 at 8:48 am

I totally agree with everything you said Jason. My own goal is certainly to obtain good gallery representation. I believe in the quality of my work, but I have no connections with people in a position to buy it, nor am I a salesperson. I have done local art shows, but they are a lot of work and although I enjoy talking to the people who stopped by my booth and enjoy all the compliments to my work, actual sales have been almost nil. I would much prefer to leave that to someone who both knows how to sell and enjoys doing it. Long live galleries!

Reply

Jennifer Love June 14, 2014 at 8:49 am

I think traditional galleries are very relevant. I am not a full time artist at this point and have found two key truths. As a past member of a co-op gallery – there is a legitimate “stamp of approval” you get by being in a physical gallery location. Collectors feel it if more professional – and that somehow the gallery representation if proof of the artist having quality work that is professional and valuable. Also, the co-op taught me that it takes a LOT of time to properly run a gallery and sell art. This is extra time I don’t have – and every hour spent working at the gallery was an hour taken away from my available painting time. The traditional gallery earns every bit of that 50% commission and it lends legitimacy to you as an artist to say “I am represented by…” Which you can post on your website and other online venues. This gives your web collectors and art festival collectors the stamp of approval on your work.

Reply

Jennifer Love June 14, 2014 at 8:51 am

“is” not “if” in my previous reply

Reply

Stacie Flint June 14, 2014 at 9:30 am

There is room enough for all in the art world; why limit the possibilities? Galleries and the internet both are good options for those they work best for! I love walking in a gallery and viewing art in real life. It is walking into a world that the internet can never duplicate. Who would not want gallery promotion and support? There is just not enough available for the amount of artists working now, so new options need to exist. What ever works!

Reply

Kirsten Elizabeth Gilmore June 14, 2014 at 9:47 am

This is a very helpful perspective. I too often hear either: “do it all yourself” or “leave all the selling to galleries”. A hybrid approach sounds like an artist could have some of the best of both worlds.

For me, that might include the autonomy of selling some categories of paintings myself (sketches, smaller “daily painting” artworks, custom paintings) and let galleries handle the sale of larger work and any custom paintings that came as a result of their marketing.

The idea of having access to buyers who are able and willing to spend more on quality pieces is what convinces me galleries might be the way to go. Right now, my layered, poured abstract paintings improved dramatically over the past year, and I would love to sell those at a much higher price point. But, I fear I may be hitting the ceiling of what price points will work for abstract art on etsy–for me, that has been $550. My own site currently gets little traffic, despite recent improvements and persistent blogging. But, I do have ecommerce enabled and plan to grow that this year. Even so, I doubt I can draw the same audience there as an in-person gallery.

My main hesitation is that going with a gallery might raise my prices beyond the point where I would be able to sell directly (both online and in my local area). But, perhaps treating the price of larger work that goes in the gallery different from the price of smaller sizes of work that I sell directly could help avoid that problem.

Do you think galleries might be willing to split different kinds of work up like that: selling the larger originals and leaving other, smaller pieces for the artist to sell directly?

Reply

Jason Horejs June 14, 2014 at 10:23 am

Kirsten – that might be a possibility – it all depends on the perspective of the gallery owner or director. I’ve known of artists who create a different line of work under a different name, or just using a first name or a studio name to sell the lower priced items to eliminate the potential conflict.

Reply

Kirsten Elizabeth Gilmore June 14, 2014 at 11:25 am

Thank you for those ideas, Jason. I’m excited about this. :)

Different names definitely could help distinguish different categories of work. I would be careful to keep a gallery owner informed of any selling outside the gallery, of course. That’s only fair. I’m considering direct selling of items like small, unstretched canvas painted sketches that are frame-able on a daily painter’s site that would be at a different price point than upscale, cradled wood poured paintings sold in a gallery. That way both the amount of time spent and the cost of materials would be in scale with the price, and I would avoid undercutting the gallery.

Reply

Jim Carpenter June 14, 2014 at 12:57 pm

For me, there would be nothing finer than to have gallery representation. It is a dream – but it feels far away!

Reply

LaMerle Deca June 14, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Thank you ,Jason, for this blog. Self promotion does take a lot of work and that time is better used in the studio.. Finding galleries is another issue. I am finding that difficult also, but after reading your book I have a better handle on that part of art. Galleries can do a better job and I do not mind paying the commission to the gallery who promotes my work. Thank you again.

Reply

Dorothy Woolbright June 14, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Jason,
I have always believed that third party selling is the most effective! When someone says, “I know about this great new “thing” (insert artist or artwork here!) their friends and colleagues listen and usually want to know more, especially if they have some credibility in that area. That and the other reasons you mentioned are all reasons that I believe gallery representation is definitely “a given” for a serious artist! Thank you so much for your thoughtful and timely posts. I enjoy reading each and every one of them..
Dorothy Woolbright

Reply

Mason Parker June 15, 2014 at 2:27 pm

I much prefer galleries over shows, even before reading Jason’s post with more reasons I had not thought of. With very few exceptions and depending on your media, shows are typically one bigassed hassle before, during, and after the thing. You have to apply for them, spend time filling out jury forms every time, incompetent, and even crooked, promoters are common, and the shows are usually on weekends, which doing them makes you feel old. Pack, unpack, worry about stuff getting stolen overnight. Screw that. Presently I only do Cracked Pots at Edgefield every July with my glass art. It’s always on a Tuesday and Wednesday and I do well every time. But even that, it’s 10 hours of sitting in baking sun for two days and saying the same things. And, with my watercolor stationery, I do a few of the kind where it’s a school gymnasium converted into craft show, usually a fundraiser and they not only charge a fee to do the show but they take 30% too, when we are the ones doing the selling.

Reply

John K. Golson June 15, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Thank you for this article Jason. Your encouragements here touch upon some “next step” focal points for me. Upon entering the “world of art”, which I think refers to the marketplace, there was a very real awakening to just how many creative people there are in the world. From the outset I saw the need not only to show but to show well, getting the work into environments that would enliven the theme of the art and feedback into the venue by generating a common message. Plainly, I’m not the only person wanting to show and marketing is not my strong suit. How does one get into clear water in order for the effort to be seen. Just getting to the marketplace feels like an immense challenge. I love the internet, but I’m wondering if a more direct approach like cold calls and pdf catalogs are viable tools.

Reply

Cathy Groulx June 16, 2014 at 7:00 am

When I first decided I wanted to take my painting to a higher professional level, I was affiliated with a local commercial gallery. She was a wonderful guide and we had a great relationship. She found many artists very difficult to work with, and eventually closed her Gallery. Many years have passed and now many of the good Commercial Galleries in this area of Canada have closed due to the poor economy. Most Gallery space is now offered on a’ pay for the space’ concept and the quality of art shown varies immensely. No Benefits like your Gallery has.

Reply

Gary Thomas June 16, 2014 at 8:04 am

Interesting article, Jason. I agree on all of your points, but I have a dilemma concerning galleries. I’ve been working as an illustrator for over fifty years, specializing in sports. I have accumulated al lot of original work that I’m willing to sell now that I’ve retired from the rat-race. I have many other pieces that aren’t sports-related. My problem is finding a gallery that will accept such an eclectic collection of realistic art, done in several different mediums. Can you give me some ideas on which type of gallery or city location I should approach? Even though I have about 20 sports related pieces about my home town (Cleveland) among this group, there doesn’t seem to be much interest here.

Reply

Jason Horejs June 16, 2014 at 8:28 am

This is a tough one Gary. As I’ve written in other posts, consistency in work is going to be an important factor. You may need to break the work up by subject and only submit one body of work to each gallery. There are certainly galleries that have an interest in sports art – a quick online search should yield a list of potential galleries.

Reply

Gary Thomas June 16, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Thanks, Jason. I’ll check out some more galleries on line.

Reply

Donna Hasegawa June 16, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Hi Jason,

I agree, I feel a gallery can do more to promote my work than I. Currently, I am looking for gallery representation. And, I’d much rather spend time in the studio.

Reply

Munza Dhlimi June 16, 2014 at 11:07 pm

Very enlightening! Thank you for this article Jason.

Reply

Cody DeLong June 17, 2014 at 9:18 am

I completely agree Jason, all your points are valid. Just one problem, finding a reputable gallery that will give the new guy a decent display during peak season, and pay on time. Despite building a growing national reputation, winning awards, getting invited to better and bigger events, etc. I have had little luck finding the right gallery. I am easy to work with, reliable, consistent and business minded. My work sells well where it’s show well. Several years in a row of bad experiences have made me almost give up on Galleries. Perhaps it’s time to try again.

Reply

Jean Albert June 18, 2014 at 12:05 pm

How difficult is it to reach the stage were art galleries consider your art? :)

Reply

Steven Klinsky June 26, 2014 at 6:36 pm

In my experience, I found that what I was trying to sell at fine art shows usually had competitors that could under price my work. The customers were there for a certain price, and couldn’t understand the difficulty of what I was doing, compared with other ceramic artists. Some customers were discerning, but most, even though they said they loved my work, weren’t willing to pay for the unseen, extra steps involved. I would try to maintain a customer list/guest book, but very few were willing to give me their information. After 5 years of doing shows ( 25 per year ), I built up massive credit card debt, thinking eventually I would find the right shows for what I was doing. In that time, I found only two shows that year after year were worth the effort… not nearly enough to support myself, or make it worth continuing to travel. Only when I ran out of the ability to use my credit cards, did I stop the madness. Then I realized how much money I was sinking into the gambling fine art show whirlpool. I will say that the fact that I was not making money at shows, actually forced me to evolve as an artist to try to set myself apart. And as I evolved as an artist, my work became more personal and honest. For the first time in many years I fell in love with my work, to the point of not being able to stop… even when I stopped for the evening, new shapes and ideas bombarded my brain. Finally I realized what creativity was about, and how much ‘working from within’ resonated with customers. Now I want to work on new creations every day, and don’t want to gamble with shows… I want to be represented.

Reply

Lynnette June 27, 2014 at 6:27 am

Good article. I am a firm believer in diversification in where you are showing. Galleries are great – when they have active sales people that know how to sell a painting as well as a good client base. And nothing beats seeing your work on the walls of a gallery when they are hung well with good lighting. But at the same time, I can’t trust any one space to sell my work for me so I branch out to different arenas – from online sales to non traditional art venues to open studio tours to the more traditional gallery. I was doing art fairs for a while but they seem to be not as successful for me as of late so I have stopped doing them (Partially I think because my work is in galleries my prices are now higher than the average casual fair attendee wants to spend (which in my estimate is 50 bucks or under – even though I do offer prints in this range too). So you have to adapt and I’m not doing art fairs any more (at least until the middle class becomes a little more stable )

but like with anything you have to find good galleries and develop a relationship with them. I am still trying to find the elusive perfect gallery and I may have to look outside my area to do so.

Reply

Ann Taylor July 7, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Great article and fantastic dialogue from all. I am in art promotions with a local TN. artists, and picking up other artist to promote along the way. Been in communications all my life, but only began in art promotions about 1.5 year ago. Have my most established artist in 8-10 gallery locations, and 1 university exhibit now. Most of the galleries seem to be having a hard time making ends meet also. I believe it is because the economy has struggled. Once this stagnant economy picks up, we will be so busy keeping up with the demands. Establishing the relationship between the artist and gallery is easy compared to the cost of travel to maintain art and relationships in the galleries. As my radius in area expands outward, my cost in travel and shipping cost expands also. The commission to the gallery and artist is typically 50/50%, and my fee and commission requested in addition to that of his sales is a sensitive one. My #1 artist refuses to show at festivals and art shows, as he believes is a waste of time on his part, but wants in as many galleries as possible. I believe working with galleries is most important, because each knows best of their territory and purchasers. I do believe that we should change the approach in getting into galleries. Such as: working with a middle man, (someone in art promotions), with a portfolio of several artist work, presenting all artist and their work by recommendation, which would decrease the time of artist and gallery, in finding best fits. Several artist, working through one rep, establishing and maintaining presence in the galleries could benefit both artist and gallery. After all, time is money. Do most galleries work together in promoting each other, and the artist they represent? The artist not being able to show in several spots in one territory is limiting his reach, unless the galleries work together. What is your thoughts on galleries and territories? Should there be limits?

Reply

Robert De Clerck July 13, 2014 at 8:32 am

My first recollection of me as an artist was when I saw a picture of me when I was in the first grade . My teacher had taken a picture of me standing in front of a drawing I had made. My eyes immediately jumped to that drawing and I was so pleased that it was there for everybody to see. . In my twenties I actually started selling my work . Certainly not enough to do this thing I loved full time. I met my wife, got a regular? Job and settled into my life
The kids came and left . I had cancer twice. At that point I decided to start drawing again this time in earnest. People liked my work…a lot but still not enough for me to go it on my own. Since that time I have had gallery shows once a year . Great feed back but still selling enough was elusive. Happily I draw because I love it and the monetary reward is secondary. My dream/goal is to have my work recognized and published.

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: