Saturday, 29 October 2011

Gallery commissions - and pricing your Artwork

The other day I ran into an interesting piece by Barbara Joy Smit, Art Agent. Although her article is written from the 'gallery side', I could relate to it and wanted to share it with you (although it is not specifically about aquarelle) because I think it's always good to be reminded that even artists should sometimes think businesslike!
But - the article is in Dutch. Barbara gave me permission to use it anyway - so here's the gist.
And click here for the original article.
  
As you probably know, galleries usually*) ask a commission for every artwork they sell. And often, artists add the amount of the commission to 'their' price.
But maybe that is not such a good idea after all:
A client, who has seen your work in a show, contacts you because he is interested to buy - and likes to know your price, or if you are interested to give a discount. The client comes to you, it is his initiative, so you don't have an obligation towards the gallery... or do you? Or - the client buys a piece in a gallery and later visits your atelier and sees similar work for much lower prices. Or talks to a direct client of you who paid much less... Painful! Won't make anybody feel good.


Now a gallery is a commercial company and they want to make a profit, so they ask a commission. Your own price is probably roughly based on materials and hours, but you haven't included commission because up to now you have sold directly to your clients. If the gallery's percentage is deducted from your price there's not enough left!
Likely your message to the gallery will be: the commission is going to be added.


OK - ask yourself: how much have you invested in marketing to sell your work? What does your work space cost, do you have a website, do you participate in tradeshows, do you have a portfolio, flyers, business cards? These are costs that you have probably paid out of your 'hours'. You have paid for them yourself but it actually makes more (business) sense to make these costs part of the sales price.

As a professional artist you are also an entrepreneur. Look at a loaf of bread you buy, you don't just pay for the ingredients and the baker's salary, there's also a calculation of the bakery's rent, the delivery car, the write-offs of the ovens, the insurance, the accountant etc etc... everything is included in the price of your bread. If a baker does it, why shouldn't you?
You should incorporate your business cost, the money you pay in order to create and sell your work, in your price - and when you outsource the marketing and sales of your work to a gallery, they make these costs. So it's actually logic to give that part to the gallery. Which by the way doesn't mean that you can't negotiate!

When you sell your work through a gallery, you actually hire them, which makes you responsible for the cost. And when a client comes to you, he will pay the same price. No difference where he buys your creation. Do you see the added value of exhibiting in a gallery? Then follow the advice - keep your sales prices the same everywhere!


The world of art is small. Being loyal towards your galleries is very important. Going behind the back of the gallery with one of his clients can really harm your reputation. It may bring in a bit of extra money on the short term, but it can also really damage your relationship with an interesting point of sales...
Of course you can deal with clients yourself. But do the right thing. If the client came through the gallery, contact them and thus build on a worthwhile relationship.


Last but not least, price consistency is easier! If you keep your prices the same everywhere, you create stability in 'your' market and you don't have to keep track, you can put prices on your website and in your flyers. And - it's just more professional.


*) there are also galleries who ask a fixed sum upfront. They are called ‘Vanity Galleries’ because usually they have no selection and everybody can show there, and sales have no influence on their income. Journalists and art critics take these galleries less serious, which doesn’t mean that you cannot use them!

1 comment:

  1. Good article. Makes a lot of sense.

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