Besides what was mentioned - it is often the act of the inclusion into a reputable gallery that is the sole justification for selling your works at gallery prices.
I don't see the percentage as a major issue. If a gallery is selling alot of your work to big collectors for alot of money, well that's access most artists don't have on their own.. Worth the 50%. On the otherhand, if the gallery doesn't have the clientel, and is selling a handful of works.. Well the 50% on 2-3 works hurts and will barely cover the framing expenses. But still.. the gallery is hurting over the issue as much as the artist. An artist in this situation can complain and keep painting. A gallery in this situation consistantly, will go out of bussiness.
I've shown at several galleries over the years. Current gallery is selling fairly well for me. They are earning their 50%. Some galleries that I showed at in the past simply didn't have the clients to sell enough work. I knew this was likley the case going in. Sometimes I did OK, sometimes I took a bit of a hit, but at the time, I was not in a possition to get the attention of the more reputable galleries that have a well established client base.
Artists need to understand that most art careers do not consist of finding a gallery and instantly selling out most of their shows and making a good living. This process takes many years and usually involves working with a few different galleries to find the right fit and the right market for your work. In my case it took about 9 years before I found a gallery I'm happy with that is selling well. It takes many people longer and alot of artists will never see any real level of success.
50% comission on a good gallery is money well spent. If they can start getting six figures for my work.. I'd give them 60%.
For most retail, a 50% markup is pretty much the norm (with the exception of a few types of items typically used as loss leaders). The artist/gallery relationship is a little different than wholesaler/retailer. It's more intimate, the product is much more personal to the artist, the gallery has the potential to give the artist's career a boost, etc. But the same economic rules apply. Looking at it this way, the 50% cut doesn't seem unreasonable.
artists tend not to be economists or use their brains to operate in the world of economics.
Economics frighten me. I think I'll teach.
I don't find the customary 50% cut a problem, in certain instances that is.
When a hardworking, reputable gallery builds an artist's show up a 50% cut seems perfectly just. As an artist you're paying for professionalism and ultimately the success of your show.
However, I think it's wise to note the huge number of emerging artists who have yet to gain gallery representation and will show in any space available (coffee shops, clubs, or other spots that function as part time galleries) either out of necessity or lack of other opportunities. Many of these places also take a 50% commission when, in most cases, all they are doing is providing the space. These are situations where the artist doesn't get what they pay for, and that's not fair in the least.
Having seen both sides of the coin I don't mind forking over 50% of my money if I know the show is in good hands, i.e. the money making kind.
if a gallery takes less than 50% i usually think they aren't worth showing in.
the 50% cut is well know to collectors as well. often when dealing with an artist outside a gallery relationship they ask "is that wholesale or retail?" if you say it is retail they want a 50% discount. here is where the ethics kick in. the artist, however well or poorly, is now acting as his or her own gallerist by promoting the work, arranging shows, and following up on potential clients.
the fols asking for a 50% discount can usually afford the retail. for that artist, that 50% usually makes a real difference financially. dealers usually offer clients a discount from 10-20% to shepard a sale through. it would be wise for non gallery artists to do the same.
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