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Are Commercial Galleries Essential to Artists?

Are Commercial Galleries Essential to Artists?

Ian Davenport at Paul Kasmin gallery, Photo by by j-No. Courtesy Creative Commons

Valerie Atkisson | ArtBistro

Additional Agreements

Many further agreements can exist between an artist and a gallery and can vary between the two aforementioned examples. For example, a gallery in the area may be interested only in showing an artist’s work in that city or geographic area. This leaves the artist free to seek further representation in other locations.

Keep in mind that many galleries will be slow to enter into a binding contract early on in an artist’s career. Most times they’ll want to show the work for a group or one solo show to see how it goes before taking on representation. This being said, any gallery show is a good opportunity to get your foot in the door and every effort should be made to make your time with the gallery both constructive and lucrative.

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Ed Winkleman, owner of Wikleman Gallery in Chelsea says, “Not every artist needs or should even be affiliated with a commercial art gallery. The system works really well for some and not at all for others. Because many commercial art galleries are good at generating press for their artists and exist to place work in prominent collections, though, I think there is a somewhat misguided view among younger artists about how essential getting into a gallery is for their careers. It can be essential, but there are plenty of artists with galleries (even very high-profile galleries) whose careers are no better off (in fact sometimes worse) than many artists without galleries that I know. The key is to find a gallery that’s a good match for your art and aspirations, NOT to find any gallery at any cost to your pride or goals. If no gallery is well suited, then find other means of pursuing your dreams.”

Why would an artist want a gallery or a dealer to represent their work? There are several reasons:

They Will Market Your Work

One of the advantages of having a gallery represent you is that in return for the cut they receive of your commission, they will promote your work. Common practices of galleries are to send out announcements, write a press release and distribute it to the press, pay for the opening reception, pay for the shipping of your work to and from shows (if included in the contract), handle requests from press and others for images, and information about your work. This frees you up to focus on making your work rather than promoting it. However, that being said, all artists have to promote their work even if they have gallery representation. Most galleries appreciate the efforts of their artists to promote their work through making connections in the art community, referring buyers to them, and generally showing up when ask to at functions that will help sell the work.

Prestige of the Gallery

Some artists are more famous than others. Some galleries are more famous that others. Which came first, the famous artist or the famous gallery or dealer? It is a chicken and egg question. It would be great to be picked up by a famous gallery just out of grad school, but that happens to just a few artists. Galleries have reputations and you should be pay attention to them. A well thought of gallery can be a great boost to your work no matter if it is a local or national gallery.

Next: Galleries Will Sell Your Work →


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