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Published in Columbia Daily Tribune, 1 January 2006

Hey Gallary Man!

In the coming months I'm going to be doing a series on how different local artists have tried to market their work, and the successes and failures they've experienced in doing so.  As background for this from the perspective of a former gallery owner, I thought I'd go over some of the questions I've had on this subject, and let my alter-ego GalleryMan answer them.

Dear GalleryMan:  OK, so, I'm like this artist, OK?  And I want you to show my work.  When should I bring it by?  - Clueless.

Dear Clueless:  Um, here's our protocol sheet.  Every gallery has a protocol sheet.  Ask for it, then go by what it says.  No, really.  Going against the protocol sheet just shows that you're likely to be a pain to work with, and no gallery needs that kind of grief.

Dear GalleryMan:  I got your protocol sheet, and followed it in submitting my images for your consideration.  You've had my submission now for a whole week - when will you get back to me?  - Impatient

Dear Impatient:  Every gallery is flooded with submissions from artists who want to show there.  Give it a month or more (it might say how long they'll take to consider submissions on their protocol sheet), and don't be a pest or they'll toss your submission.

Dear GalleryMan:  I can't afford to have my artwork framed before bringing it to you.  Can you just tack it to the wall?  - Broke

Dear Broke:  Two-dimensional artwork always needs to be framed, unless the gallery specifies otherwise.  Just use a simple frame and a simple non-color mat.  Sculptural works should be able to be properly displayed as delivered to the gallery.

Dear GalleryMan:  I really take my time with my artwork, and only have two paintings available.  But they're really good!  Is that OK?  - Slowpoke

Dear Slowpoke:  Any gallery will want more than just two pieces.  The public always wants a choice, and the gallery needs to have sufficient inventory for each artist to replenish after sales.  Build up a large enough selection that the gallery can choose what they'd like to show.

Dear GalleryMan:  So, I'll give you, say 10% of any sales if you sell my work, deal?  - Negotiator

Dear Negotiator:  Sorry, our commission is 50%, and that's non-negotiable.  Most galleries in the Midwest have commissions somewhere from 40 - 60%.  In New York, galleries will charge up to 75%.

Dear GalleryMan:  So, when do I get a solo exhibit?  - Diva

Dear Diva:  Unless you're already a very well established artist, the chances are most galleries will want to carry your work for a while to make sure it sells before investing the resources into doing a solo exhibit.  And most galleries plan their exhibit schedule at least a year in advance, many several years out.

Dear GalleryMan:  Who sets the prices for my work?  You?  Me?  I want to get as much out of this as I can.  - Greedy

Dear Greedy:  Any gallery will want to get the best price possible for your work.  Usually, the artist and the gallery work together to determine a price.  The artist has the final say what price they want their work to be sold for; the gallery has the final say whether they want to carry the work at that price.

Dear GalleryMan:  So, you wanna carry my work on a trial basis, see if the public likes it.  What now?  - Inexperienced

Dear Inexperienced:  The gallery should offer you a short-term contract.  This contract can be very simple, but should specify that you own the work, that the gallery is trying to sell it for you, what the commission rate is, and when you should expect payment for any sales.  If a gallery does not have a contract, be leery.

Dear GalleryMan:  Say, do you know this gallery in KC?  I had a bunch of my work there, and I know several of them sold, but it's been six months and I still haven't seen a commission check.  What should I do?  - Scammed

Dear Scammed:  Got a contract?  OK, good.  If they haven't paid you by the time specified in the contract then you should contact them.  Call first.  If you don't get a satisfactory answer, send them a registered letter, asking for an accounting of all funds due.  Many galleries are under constant financial pressure and are sometimes "slow to pay."  You need to be vocal about making sure you get what you deserve, and should end your relationship with a gallery that pulls this on you more than once or twice without good explanation.

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all work © James T. Downey, 1993-present
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