Just how much DO galleries deserve for exhibiting an artist’s work?
Author: Andrea Rosenfeld of Detroit Art & Business Institute
Article re-published by permission
Recently I spoke at an art business event in Detroit and during the Q & A this important and often-asked question came up. The guest posed, “What gallery commission is typical and why do some take as much as 50%? It’s MY work and I don’t want to give up that much money from a sale.”
This is how I responded:
Very important question and one that I’m asked over and over again. Yes, it’s your work and you put your soul into it but once it’s handed over, the Commercial Art Buyers are responsible for an array of things like; constant communication with collectors and artists well before the show is hung, curating, hanging and removing the exhibits + fixing the walls; communicating with commercial project managers and designers; arranging artist talks; finding event sponsors; hiring caterers; creating the marketing collateral; tracking and managing payments; digital promotion; creating the exhibit listing without flaws; and/or placards; training their employees to support the current artists and sales; event insurance and so forth.
Galleries must earn their commission percentage, for sure. A gallery that merely puts art on the wall and waits for someone to walk in or doesn’t learn about the Artists and their artwork to offer educated insights to buyers shouldn’t charge as high commission rate as galleries who actively sell and build relationships with artists.
Commissions range from 70/30 (Artists benefit most) to 50/50 and in every single instance it’s up to the Artist to determine if the commission break down is worth it. The Artist should be doing their research BEFORE applying to the exhibit or accepting representation. You must review their contract, speak to others who’ve sold through the gallery about their experiences and find out EXACTLY what the gallery is going to do to earn their commission %.
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And on the flip side an Artist has to earn their percentage too. It’s not enough just to be “The Artist” with the fabulous piece to sell because there’s an abundance of fabulous pieces to sell. You also have to be a good business partner to the gallery, interior designer, retail buyer and sales rep or they won’t work with you again. Galleries, too have certain parameters they take into account when deciding what creatives to work with and who to show to their collectors. Are you prepared to promote the event, as well? Is your work ready to hang and are you willing to get your work to them and break-down on their timetable? Is your price point on target for the market and will you earn enough after the sale when their commission is removed? You can’t expect the gallery director to also be your business coach: they don’t have the time or inclination.
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