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This is a follow up to a previous post about art scams and shady sounding art consultants. There is another element that I feel artists should watch out for, Vanity Galleries aka "Pay To Play Galleries." Now before I list my experiences, let me say that I find no fault with any artist that takes charge of their career. Every artist I know has self funded group/solo exhibitions, flown to an art fair or exhibition on their own dime, or put in serious unpaid hours setting up their show at gallery. A DIY attitude is essential in this business. Yes, doing all the work is exhausting, but how else will you learn? And if you're serious about making this your life, you better strap in and get to ready to work your ass off. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and go back to school for something practical like accounting or dental hygiene.
What I'm talking about here are galleries that you must pay to exhibit your work in. You essentially rent the space, rooms or the whole gallery, pay for catering, pay for promotion, shipping your work to and from the gallery, insurance, annnnnddddddd you're still supposed to give the gallery 20-50% of your sales! Many of these galleries also have "Open Calls" for group or solo shows that require a non-refundable submission fee.
"But Jeff, what's wrong with renting space at a gallery? The place is already set up and they have a network! Plus it's in Chelsea, right in the heart of the gallery district!"
To which I say, " Fine. But keep in mind this word, QUALITY. If ANYONE can rent space at this establishment, what does that say about their program?"
Granted, plenty of top notch galleries show bullshit work, and if it was an option I might sacrifice one of my kidneys to put on my own show at David Zwirner, but that's not how the art world works. Human beings are funny in that we don't value things that are easy to acquire. The more exclusive an object is, the more its' perceived value.
If you have done your research and you really believe that a vanity gallery is right for you, go for it, but my advice, keep it to a bare minimum. From my multiple conversations with artists and art advisors, too many vanity gallery listings on your CV will seriously hurt your chances of showing in more prestigious places. You would be much better off just putting on your own events. Nothing makes galleries want you more than the belief you don't need them!
So here is a gallery that contacted me out of nowhere, with a decent introduction:
Exhibiting in Florence Italy sounds nice. However my spidey sense is already tingling.
I put a great deal of time and thought into the look and feel of my website. I have tried to make my own website user friendly, easy to navigate, and sleek. So when I see gallery website that looks thrown together or out of date, I almost always dismiss it. If the gallery doesn't take their own website seriously, how serious are they going to be about the careers of their artists? Take a look at the website of the above gallery and tell me what you think. And remember when I mentioned quality? I will just leave this here:
When I scrolled down, I found a PDF attachment which confirmed my suspicions:
The Gallery offers all the necessary facilities to guarantee the success of the event:
- Print of a brochure-invitation that will be sent to all our customers and collectors, art critics, etc. both by regular mail and via email. Each artist will receive an amount of this brochures.
- The Press Office will provide for advertising in the newspapers and magazines such as "Arte Mondadori", “Il giornale dell’arte” and "Flash Art".
- The advertisement of the exhibition will be added to the homepage of our website, it will remain online for the duration of the exhibition.
- The information about the exhibition will also be added to YouTube, to the major web portals of art, like "Exhibart" and to social networks (Facebook and Twitter).
- The Opening night will be filmed by Toscana TV and will be aired as a part of the program “Incontri con l’arte” (‘‘Encounters with Art").
- The Gallery will implement the best sales strategies, informing visitors and customers about the artists and their market prices.
- This Opening will be a special event, with some novelties: o Conference/Meeting about the exhibition (There will be journalists, art critics and artists). The artists of the exhibition will have the occasion of visiting the Novecento Museum of Florence.
The cost of participation in the exhibition including all the services listed above is 1300 € including VAT.
The artist that will confirm their participation to the exhibition before June 30th 2017 will receive a discount of 10% on the fee.
The payment methods will be described in the contract that will be sent you upon confirmation of your interest in participation in this exhibition.
Keep in mind there is no mention of shipping or insuring of art work. Scroll down to the bottom of the PDF you get this:
- 1. The artist will take care of the charges for transporting the artworks, for the incoming and also for the outgoing. We have an agreement with the international courier MAIL BOXES, which will give you the best shipping and the lowest price.
- 2. The Mentana Gallery can advise you for your stay in Florence: Hotels and restaurants which have special agreements with us.
- 3. All this information will be given at the time of your adhesion with us.
- 4. The Gallery could also be the representative of your work in Italy permanently.
So I would have to pay for crating my work, shipping my work to Italy, pay for additional unexpected fees, insurance, pay for a hotel, pay for food, pay for the roundtrip flight, pay to have the work shipped back if it does't sell AND pay 1,300 Euros just to exhibit?
Even if your self respect weighs less than a humming bird fart, how could you think the above scenario was a winner?
Granted the gallery only takes 20% of sales, but unless I sell out the entire show and take home $20,000 USD, I'm loosing money. I would rather have the gallery take 50% and handle all the rest, because that's why galleries take half.
Another gallery/art organization based in London contacted me for basically the same type of thing. And I cant remember exactly when it was, maybe 2015, but another well known vanity gallery in NYC that rhymes with " La-Bora" contacted me through my website with a similar intro. And like the other art " galleries" they loved my work and welcomed a an opportunity to work with me, but I would have to pay a $50 portfolio review fee. Which is odd because, if you took the time to write me an email through my site, you have already seen my portfolio.
I'm not sure how to end this post. Maybe something inspirational and cute picture of a kitten inside a sandwich.
My beautiful, wonderful, consciousness shaping artists, you are are worth so much more than you could possibly know!
DON'T FALL FOR VANITY GALLERIES!