Need advice on Gallery representation

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by Dan Dozer, Nov 7, 2010.

  1. Dan Dozer

    Dan Dozer Subscriber

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    I've just about got my first real portfolio put together and am thinking on looking for gallery represenation. Note that I live in an area with a huge number of galleries which exhibit all sorts of artistic media - some do represent photographers.

    I haven't ever worked with galleries before so what should I expect? I've heard that commissions are now up to 50% and possibly more. When approching galleries, should I have unmounted prints in a folder, or should I bring a good representation of matted/signed prints ready to show. Do galleries typically mount/frame the artwork themselves or is this something that the artist normally does. What other things are there that I'm not thinking about?

    I know that there are a lot of you out there who are represented by galleries, so any advice would be appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Dan
     
  2. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    Some galleries are willing (or prefer) to look at a cd, and if they like the scanned version, then see prints. I'm curious to see the responses you get.
     
  3. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    They want to see prints, unmounted. As for framing, some galleries do it but they make you pay a lot more than its worth (squeezing artists on framing is often their main source of profit), so basically you are always responsible for framing. Yes commissions are around 50%, though some are less and a few are more. Expect that most of them will have absolutely no desire to talk to you and will act as if you, the artist, are little better than a cockroach running across their floor. That attitude is counter productive but very common. It usually takes knowing an artist already represented, or knowing a staffer to get them to talk to you, though in smaller cities thats not the case.
     
  4. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    You need to do a lot of research. It's important to find a gallery that is a good fit for your work. Many galleries have submission guidelines on their websites, and often prefer to look at your work via CD. If they are interested in seeing prints, then bringing in a portfolio of unmounted prints is fine. Yes, generally, 50%. They are usually responsible for the marketing costs (and their own overhead, rent, staffing, etc.), and you are responsible for making the pictures, and increasingly, for the matting and framing. It's best to set your prices for prints only, and they take the 50% from the sales of prints. At the moment, I have one gallery representing me, and if someone wants a print, I will make it when they order it. It's a good investment to have a show "ready to hang"... in other words.. 20 or so prints framed and ready to go. These can be your exhibition prints that aren't necessarily for sale (artist proofs if you edition) and fill orders as they happen, or have the extra prints in your or the gallery's flat files.
     
  5. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    It's best to set your prices for prints only, and they take the 50% from the sales...

    Suzanne - so, you share 50% print sale with the gallery and recoup the framing cost (with or without profit) directly with the client?
     
  6. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    The commission usually comes off the total sale price. So, if you sell a framed photo for $500, the gallery takes $250. Since you paid for the framing, matting, and the cost of the print itself (cost of your paper, chemicals, or ink if its digital), your profits are far less than the gallery's. The gallery will say, well we have overhead to pay too...but so does the artist.
     
  7. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I don't offer the frames for sale... only the prints, and my agreement between me and the gallery regarding my prices is for prints only. If, however, the sell a print that is framed (though I'm generally interested in keeping my exhibition prints on hand, and not sell them), then he'll charge the client for the frame, but won't split it 50%, and I'll be reimbursed for the cost of the frame.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 9, 2010
  8. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    When it comes to framing, usually the galleries want you to provide the display samples that go up on the wall pre-framed, but they will handle framing for the customer (and make 100% of the profit on the framing) because the framing is where they have their greatest profit center, not the artwork itself. They're just being cheap by asking you to frame the work on display for them because that's one more investment in overhead they don't have to make. Once you have an established sales record with them, that MAY change (if they know you're going to sell out the show, then they MIGHT comp you the frames or do the framing for you at cost).
     
  9. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Yes, and I view the investment of the frames and a set of exhibition prints was a good thing. Without it, I wouldn't have had the shows that I've had, and have been able to show work on quick notice, had a good exhibition prints ready for any juried opportunities that came my way... which ultimately led to the gallery's interest.

    Now, we'll see if they can sell some prints (I've only been with them for a since the summer), and I'm scheduled for a show in Feb. My work is not necessarily an easy sell either, I don't think... a little too documentary for many collectors, so we'll see.

    And I'm not in the framing business, and don't want to be!! If they can do the framing leg work... more power to them.

    All this said... I don't think selling prints is a viable way to make a living, (unless your just extraordinarily hip or something) just an avenue for a little extra (to pay for more film and paper!!).

    Good luck.
     
  10. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i have shown work matted ( 4ply backboard and 8 ply windows, NOT drymounted ) in archival boxes ..
    i have also shown in a leather bound presentation book, and i have shown loose prints,
    and web-images. it all depends on the gallery and what their expectations are.

    some galleries want to see the work unframed / unmatted. they will pay for all framing and matting themselves.
    others want to see the whole presentation ahead of time. when i part owned a gallery years ago ( in the 90s )
    we didn't care one way or another, we had expectations that the artist present his / her work in a professional manner and they did.

    good luck with trying to get representation .. from the galleries i have spoken with in the last few months
    it is a very-difficult time and many aren't even looking at "new work" for 18+months ...

    maybe that is just my neck of the woods ( boston + new york )

    have fun !
    john
     
  11. Andrew Moxom

    Andrew Moxom Member

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    The advice from John and Suzanne is right on the money. Be prepared to be flexible, adaptable and also grow a thick skin!! There will be many No's before there are YES's.... The reason being that this community has taken a beating financially over recent years. They will pick and choose what's right for them. Taking a gamble on an unknown is also not something that happens very often anymore unless you are well connected. Most galleries or art curators have to see what you are capable of first, and as you are gradually able to make inroads, and demonstrate successes, galleries may then start to see you are serious, and take you on. It might be part of a group show at first or for a limited number of images. Or a juried competition. Over time your name will become familiar to these people. Try alternative avenues like state and local art fairs. Adaptability is key here.

    Presentation for interviews also varies as others have said. My limited experience so far down this path has had me having to create CD's of print scans and provide actual mounted prints for show. It depends from each individual gallery or curator to another. Like I said, be flexible, and do what the gallery/jury requirements ask for. Often times these days, there are fees to even enter juried shows with no guarantee of success.

    Other things I am seeing is that more and more places want narrative for the images they show. There has to be a background and a context behind the images you make that drives you to make them in the first place. Explain that with a cover letter and artists statement. Be passionate about what you are doing and why, and more importantly, be prepared to talk through this in detail during your presentation to the gallery. It has to come over as a complete package.... Sell it as such. Lastly and not least, a well established photographer once told me...... "Don't quit your day job!" YMMV.... good luck.
     
  12. lightwisps

    lightwisps Subscriber

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    Gallery Owner

    I own a small gallery in the Ottawa, Ontario area. We sell quite a bit of photography, so I do have some first hand knowledge.

    First always make an appointment and see about their requirements. Not only is it the polite way to go, if the gallery is busy they will not have the time to look at your work.

    We will only look at work that is framed and ready to go. We also found that we cannot sell many digital prints.

    Yes we do charge 50% but running a gallery is bloody expensive. In addition of the usual lights, heat, etc, the insurance on the art costs an arm and a leg.

    I wish you the best of luck. Just be prepared and show only quality prints.

    Don
     
  13. Dan Dozer

    Dan Dozer Subscriber

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    Thanks everyone for your feedback - it is all very helpful. This is all sounding about like what I expected to hear. My father was a water color painter and I had some exposure to galleries many years ago. First things first, complete my portfolio and then start contacting galleries. In the mean time, I need to start canvasing the galleries in the area (well over 100) and see where opportunites are. I sure hope I don't need to do the art fair circuit.

    Also - I have "day job" which is why I can afford to do my photography. I'm hoping that others will enjoy what I do and I can start to get some outside funds to help pay for my "hobby".

    Thanks again to everyone.
     
  14. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    That will be the biggest stumbling block. Galleries are not in business to help amateurs pay for their hobbies. They want to represent professionals, which means people who do this full time. Thats part of having a commitment to the work that they require. The exception to this being people who teach art; though they 'work' for a living, its work in the arts.
     
  15. Sethasaurus

    Sethasaurus Member

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    I only have experience with a few galleries.
    That is - I've exhibited in one that was absolutely hopeless and I've observed how a 'real' gallery operates.

    I know it costs money to run a gallery and I'm sure they are looking for work that is ready to show. Obviously, the easier your work is, the happier you are (unless you're a logger or something), BUT...
    the two girls (manager and assistant) in the gallery jumped at the chance to exhibit my prints and then when it came to the crunch, did next to nothing!


    The most important thing is to have good presentation but also to make sure that buyers are invited! My experience was not great as I had a large crowd, but it was about 90% people I'd invited personally, friends and family. Wait, it was more like 95%.

    Then I looked around again the other day and noticed (too late) they also sold candles and soaps and T-shirts. What was I thinking?

    In the end, the gallery got a big fat percentage of nothing.
    A lesson learned...
     
  16. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    If they sold nothing, they made nothing, unless they charged you a fee to mere;y exhibit. You should beware of places that do that. Legitimate galleries charge a commission on sales, not a fee to exhibit. That way they HAVE to try to sell your work or they don't make money either.
     
  17. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    chris

    there are lots of galleries that charge a fee to exhibit, and they are legitimate.
    sometimes they are called " vanity galleries " .

    in the boston area there was a space called the zeitgeist gallery
    and he showed work of an awful lot of people who had the $$ and didn't have
    ( or didn't WANT ) traditional gallery representation.

    john
     
  18. Sethasaurus

    Sethasaurus Member

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    They were working on commission only - 25% - which was quite agreeable to me.
    It was quite puzzling that they made no effort apart from printing a copy of my artist's statement and inviting about 5 people.. It really is a puzzle that I spent every ounce of energy on this right up to the opening (to the point where I was weak with hunger) and they didn't adjust the lighting or even hang one solitary picture.
    Again, a lesson learned!