Saturday, June 27, 2009

Paying Entry Fees to For-Profit Galleries a Bad Deal for Artists

Isadore Gallery in Lancaster, PA, has put out a call for artists, “2009 Juried / Invitational Ceramic Cup Show.” They charge a $20 entry fee. Not an exhorbitant amount. Submission is by CDs only. The juror is a well-known potter. What's not to like? Only this: the gallery is a commercial venture. The business people who are running it are saying in effect: invest in our business. If the juror likes you work, we will show it for about a month. If the juror doesn't like your work, we will not show it. In either case, we get to keep your money. If we happen to sell something, we will give you a percentage of the price. But we think we won't sell very much, which is why we are asking for money from artists up front, before we even take a risk.

There is not evidence that this gallery is anything other than honest. But this is not a good deal for artists. The are some other galleries that operate this way but no other kind of business does. Imagine manufacturing cars or T-shirts or running shows and having to pay a store to look at your product, keeping you money if they didn't want to handle it, keeping you money and holding on to the product for a month if they did what to offer it for sale and then giving you back your product after a month if they didn't sell it.

No, other businesses buy your product outright, at wholesale. If it doesn't sell to their customers, they take the loss. The exception is consignment stores - which include most legitimate galleries -- which represent a very tiny proportion of all the retail outlets. They offer your product without buying it from you first; if it sells you get more than you would have at wholesale; if it doesn't sell, you get it back and they have not lost more than their normal overhead. But they didn't charge you to look at it first.

The main problem with selling anything on consignment, aside from not getting your money up front, is that the store owner (gallerist, proprietor, whatever), has a lot less impetus to sell your item than if he or she had already paid you for it. If that person has already gotten money from you, there is even less impetus.

1 comment:

  1. I agree 100%. I have a friend who served on the board of a community art org. as well: he tells me that they made 85% of their annual operating budget from entry fees for their national show.

    What an insult to artists.