Backyards, 2007, Oil on Panel, 12x16
I thought I'd write a few posts this week concerning gallery relationships. Generally I don't discuss the specifics of this topic publicly, but there have been a few developments on this matter for me recently and since most artists will deal with these things at one time or another, I thought I'd finally go through some of it. Without naming names of course. Heh.
If one were to look at the list of galleries that represent my work on my sidebar or on my website, it might look as if I am very successful based on having seven (it was nine at one point) galleries showing my work. While I am doing pretty good all things considered, the list IS a bit misleading. One gallery is only open during the summer. And several galleries actually sell very little of my work, for various reasons, that I don't really think are related to me.
However, I have left two galleries in the last year. One was a co-op gallery in a very small town, requiring a small fee to be paid each month. This was one of the first galleries that asked me to join them and they actually sold a number of my pieces at first. After awhile though, sales dropped off and after looking at my records, I found that I was only making a very small profit there. I might have stuck with it except for the other work that they showed declined in quality which was frustrating as I wanted to be included in a better group of artists, not worse. And the real clincher was a very poorly organized group show that I found myself embarrassed to be included in.
The other gallery was in a large city and I really wanted to stay with them. The director had come across my work on the internet and contacted me. How great is that? They sold a few things, then it just dropped off. We tried different things, imagery, colors, scale, but my work just never really took off there and I don't know if it was the gallery or the city. I stayed for a long time (two years) because I liked the director and they were so good to work with. They paid in a timely manner and very carefully packed paintings that were shipped back to me. But finally after a year without one single sale or being included in any events in the gallery (such as group shows), I finally decided I should leave. It was all amicable; after all, what gallery wants a non selling artist around anyway?
To be honest, I still have a few galleries that represent me, who don't really sell too much of my work on a regular basis. But a sale here and a sale there and things add up to a half decent income. And so far, each of them offers me a good reason to stay, whether it's an opportunity to participate in a group or solo show, or to be included in a particularly challenging event such as a themed show. I also feel some loyalty to them because they all gave me a shot when I was trying to get started. And the local, seasonal gallery really doesn't sell much at all, but I like to support them by participating. Plus they have given me a listing in the annual Art in America gallery guide for two years now. Heck, I'd probably sleep with someone for that!
Anyway, I'd be interested in hearing some of your experiences regarding how long and why an artist should stay with a gallery if sales are lackluster.