Arts On Galleries Taking Half, Or, How Good Is Your Seattle Dealer?
posted by June 27 at 12:59 PMon
Ed Winkleman has a brave post up on his blog today, about why galleries split the profits of sales with artists 50/50.
He dives all the way in, including a list detailing a typical dealer’s expenses, beginning here:
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Gallery/Artist relationship is, not surprisingly, the most controversial aspect of any relationship in any business: money. Specifically, the 50/50 split of sales between the artist and dealer. Many folks outside the gallery system will look at that split and be amazed, I’m sure. The artist is the creative genius, the artist spent years in art school, the artist is the one putting it all on the line for the public to take pot shots at their vision. In other professions, like acting, managers only get 15% and agents only get 10%. Why on earth does the gallery take 50% of the money? The short answer is because it costs that much to promote the artist’s work. The longer answer is, well…a bit like the adage about watching sausages being made. The following is a very unromantic discussion, leaving out issues such as how much the gallery believes in the work or how important the artist is to the world. Those things do matter, but I’m taking a wholly bottom-line view here to provide the most objective analysis and hopefully most useful information toward understanding this.
Winkleman spends the post justifying why galleries should take half. But he also gives a nod to artists who feel this is highway robbery:
In general, I find the artists most upset about the 50/50 split fall into one of two categories: 1) they don’t understand the business that well (and many of them have never had full-time representation) or 2) they have a bad relationship with their gallery (i.e., their gallery is not doing enough in their opinion to earn the 50% they’re taking). This second category of artists can also be broken down in two groups: those who are correct in their assessment that the gallery is not doing enough for their 50% and those who may not understand that the gallery is still behind in the deal in terms of recouping their investment and is actually doing more than their fair share for the 50%.
Normally, comments about art on this blog are limited to ad hominem attacks and mouth-breathing disses that date back to the impressionists (“I coulda made that”).
But maybe I could hear from some artists actually represented in Seattle.
Does your dealer take half? Do you think it’s fair? Have dealers in Seattle stepped up their promotion enough to leverage the new publicity Aqua Art Miami gives to Northwest artists? Who’s the hardest-working dealer in town?
I have no reason to believe that Seattle dealers are lax in their duties, and I’m making no accusations with this line of questioning. But while Ed’s being brave…