Galleries: A mixed blessing

I have always sold my work directly to my customers. There is a sense of control that comes from dealing directly with the buyer. You talk to them, they talk to you. If they are not happy with something, you can address it face to face.

Recently, I have been working on getting some smaller pieces into various galleries. I thought this would be a good way to get these pieces out there without having to spend so much face time trying to sell items that would be tagged at less than a grand. But after seeing the paperwork and realizing that, as often happens, the content provider ends up at the bottom of the food chain.

For example, one very prestigious gallery that recently accepted some of my work took over a month just to get the consignment form to me for signing. When I read their terms, they were nothing like what I had been told by one of the gallery owners. Like that the split was 50/50. The way it is spelled out in the agreement, the gallery can charge up to 2-1/2 times the artist’s price without upping the artist’s share. So the actual split can be more like 40/60 or even 30/70.

Another caveat gives the gallery 45 days to pay the artist after the item is sold. This is justified by a 30-day return policy with payment being made to the artist “no later than two weeks after the end of the 30-day period.”

I’m working on a few guidelines for dealing with galleries that I will post later this week.



  • Jim Lovell says:

    Galleries try to get as much as they can out of you if you let them. Make your own consignment document where you specify a reasonable split (usually 50/50) for small items. Remember that this is a do not have to accept their terms and they yours. If you stuff is good and sells they will go with your more reasonable terms. Also make sure you cover what I refer to as ” The People Choice”…that being stolen work of yours….the Gallery should pay you for any “lost” items. Make sure you spell it out. I usually control the retail price telling the gallery what to sell the item for and that we split the profits 50/50. If you don’t and you have a greedy Gallery they will use your great work as an attraction to the public and really don’t care if they ever sell it !!
    You could always get a suede shoe attorney to draw up a consignment document for you also. I know a lot of artists that have been screwed by Galleries over broken and stolen work that was in their possession. Be careful…the nice guy Gallery guy suddenly becomes a SOB when he has to pay!!

  • Great article! Very interested reading more.

  • David says:

    My business is in a very similar position with retailers. My approach was to allow them to exploit my product for six months, and I hated every minute of it. However, if I was selling directly to the customer for ex. $1000.00 and store was successful at $2000 it told me my direct prices were too low. So now I set my prices between $1500-$2000. The extra profit makes up for the lact of business or 20 emails I average with each customer. This being said I have a new retail strategy for this year.

  • I prefer to sell through consignment galleries. By contract I set the retail price. While the contract states that I am responsible for lost/stolen or damaged product I have always been paid for any lost product. I have never had any damaged product returned to me. It helps that all my consignment galleries are <100 miles, so there is regular face to face contact with the owner or manager. I have several galleries I have been in since 1995.

    The objections I have to wholesale galleries: 1. There is no contract where I set the retail price. 2. The gallery will not buy enough stock for a good display so the product does not sell. 3. Resupply and rotating stock is at the discretion of the gallery, so it never happens. 4. Because most galleries have exclusive marketing areas, it can be very difficult to move to a different gallery in the same town.

  • Bob says:

    Very interesting stuff. I have never worked with a gallery before, but I am thinking of trying one. I appreciate all the points being brought up. Thanks for the great information. bob

  • Man, talk about a great post! I’ve stumbled across your blog a few times inside the past, but I usually forgot to save it. But absolutely not again! Thanks for writing the way you do, I truly appreciate seeing somebody who actually has a viewpoint and is not just regurgitating junk like the majority of other writers today. Keep it up!

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