Saturday, February 19, 2011


"Small Treasures"   
© JLicsko    18"x24"     oil on canvas
     Have you ever wished that you could find someone to take over the business side of your art, and leave you to focus on just the creativity? I'd bet my first born the answer is yes. Well, forget about that dream, and face the fact that nobody cares more about your wallet, and your goals than you do. The successful artist takes care of his own business.

     Most simply put… your job is to supply the art; the gallery's job is to put your work in front of collectors and the buying public, and get you the money. It can get a lot more complicated than that, so ask questions before you agree to leave your work with them.

     Commissions vary. Non-profits may only take 30 or 40%. They are usually not aggressively sales oriented, so while you may get more, you may not sell much. There are a few galleries that want 70%. Before you start screaming, just know that some of that commission may be because of extremely high rents in the most valuable real estate areas in the country. For some artists, it may work out well. Most often, you will pay 50% commission, and for that you should get some services. Determine what's important to you. Ask questions. Will you be expected to pay for publicity, show opening expenses, invitations cost, etc? More often than not, it's all negotiable.

     While your basic good gallery will pay you in thirty days, the annoying ones pay you within 30 days from the start of the next pay cycle.  Still, if they have other positive qualities, and the artist is disciplined, it can work.  Occasionally, a dealer, will buy the work from the artist.  Usually, those dealers will take an additional mark up percentage in their favor, and for some artists it works perhaps because of the volume of sales.

     Some dealers will be so happy to tell you they sold one of your works, they will call you immediately. The best galleries put a check in the mail the same day, or within a few days of the sale.  These galleries know that most artists live close to the edge, and paying them quickly means they usually get the best work, and keeps their artists loyal. 

     Others, particularly if you are not in the same locality, might not ever tell you your work has sold, using your money until you discover the work is not in the gallery. At that time, they will tell you, they have just collected the money, and now they will be able to pay you.

     Dealers to be most cautious of are those in financial trouble. They may sell your work, not pay you or the other artists, then declare bankruptcy. I have experienced this. The loss of your work  may be prevented by having a clause in your consignment agreement that states "the title of the work transfers to purchaser only when the artist has been paid in full".  To be sure you are fully protected, check with an art attorney.

     For more valuable information on artist/dealer relations and so much more, visit Allan Bamberger's website Art Business .com.


  1. who needs to go shopping with a painting like this on your wall to delight you? it has all the elements that entice!

    your post on dealers and dealing with them was very interesting. i have recently given some of my work to an art shop/ gallery and am watchign to see what they do to promote. so far, the paintings have been given a good spot in the gallery. we havent discussed some of these issues and it made me think perhaps i should when/if one sells.

  2. I was aware of the things you spoke of here but the addition of the clause in the consignment agreement stating that title transfer only when artist has been paid in full is new to me, an an excellent suggestion. As you said, of course, it isn't a guarantee, it only "may" protect you, but it is not a bad idea of have such things in writing.
    Your painting is luminous and beautifully composed.

  3. Rahina, what you say illustrates my point. In the future ask these questions before you leave your work in a gallery. There are enough good galleries out there, you will find one who sells and treats you fairly as well.

    Karen, I was told about this by another artist after our mutual gallery went bankrupt. Her work was returned, ours was not. Since then, I have it in every consignment agreement and have never had to test it yet. Only one gallery has objected, but when I stood my ground, they conceded.