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Old 07-13-2019, 03:36 PM
Tirawen Tirawen is offline
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Lightbulb How do they make a living?

I've approached a local gallery with my work and they're interested in taking a few pieces. I've been really struggling to get any visibility online so I'm trying the traditional gallery route, if only to get rid of those pieces to make room for better, new work.

I've looked at their existing artists of the same skill level (who are in the middle of their career instead of the beginning), and this gallery is listing a beautifully framed oil painting that's 12 x 12 inches for £400 / $502. Other pieces from artists of the same calibre are listed for similar prices.

Now, considering that the gallery is probably going to take at least 35% commission, and that the frame itself cost at least £50 / $62 (probably more actually), I really don't know how they're making a living. It leaves them with a profit of £210, before any taxes are taken away. If you want a bit above minimum wage for your work, it means that the painting they make has to be made in around 3 days (if they work 8 hours a day). That's fine if you're doing a small looser piece, but some of these pieces look like they took at least 3 days to make if not more.

This gallery is located in a national park. It's a low income area for locals but draws in tourists that have plenty of middle class money (boats, golf, holiday homes ect). What do you think of all of this? It seems to me that these galleries are not capitalising on all this money that flowing around on the streets around them. I just wonder how these artists make any money. Are they just selling the products of their hobbies? Is it worth going through this gallery at all?
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Old 07-13-2019, 03:56 PM
ik345 ik345 is online now
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Re: How do they make a living?

It is very likely that the second phrase in your posr explains that all. It applies to many.

I recently clicked on a link in a WC member sugnature. Snall acrylics, well done. Many of them under $100. But... If someone does not rely on that financially, why not? The only bad thing is that those paintings won't be appreciated a lot, and one day will end up on some yard sale.
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Old 07-13-2019, 04:40 PM
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Raffless Raffless is offline
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Re: How do they make a living?

They dont. They get excited that someone wants to buy their paintings. Thats the fuel to want to paint more in the hope one day they get more famous. Its like an investment. The gallery says have you got any more. The artist says yes but the price will have to increase.
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Old 07-13-2019, 05:02 PM
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WFMartin WFMartin is online now
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Re: How do they make a living?

You asked if it is worth going through this gallery at all, as an artist. I'll say it is! Most galleries are asking 50% commission, or even more for the higher class galleries, such as in Scottsdale, AZ.

However, I often wonder how the galleries make a living. the truth of it is that most of them don't. I don't really know what the "secret" is to getting art in front of the specific public who are likely to buy it.

That is the reason that I generally shun putting my work in galleries. I've had a great deal of success showing, and selling my art in other venues. I've sold about 4 paintings out a barber shop, and 3 to the barber, as commissions that he used as wedding gifts. For those he sold in his shop, I gave him 20% commission, as I recall.

I also hung work in a local coffee shop, where the owner asked for 25% commission. She sold about 11 of my paintings in total, so she proved to be well worth that 25% commission.

Restaurants, coffee shops, theaters, doctors offices, veterinary offices, banks, schools, motels, are all possible places to show, and sell your art, and most of them do not ask for nearly as much commission as galleries do.

But, to answer your question, I do not understand how either artists, OR galleries make a living at selling art.
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Old 07-13-2019, 06:08 PM
Tirawen Tirawen is offline
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Re: How do they make a living?

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFMartin
But, to answer your question, I do not understand how either artists, OR galleries make a living at selling art.

Lol. Indeed! Good to hear about your sales in all those venues I think a lot of gallery owners are rich people who bought a building and are running a hobby business.

It seems to me like local artists are missing out because some of these galleries don't know how to show paintings to high clientele. They call the place a gallery but push jewellery and scarfs which then makes the place look like a craft shop within as well as outside. It doesn't say 'paintings sold here' and if you show something that's £20 then it automatically makes anything over £400 astronomically expensive. Great for selling the cheaper priced items but bad for painters.

Last edited by Tirawen : 07-13-2019 at 06:10 PM.
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Old 07-13-2019, 06:47 PM
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Re: How do they make a living?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tirawen
Lol. Indeed! Good to hear about your sales in all those venues I think a lot of gallery owners are rich people who bought a building and are running a hobby business.

It seems to me like local artists are missing out because some of these galleries don't know how to show paintings to high clientele. They call the place a gallery but push jewellery and scarfs which then makes the place look like a craft shop within as well as outside. It doesn't say 'paintings sold here' and if you show something that's £20 then it automatically makes anything over £400 astronomically expensive. Great for selling the cheaper priced items but bad for painters.

My feelings exactly! When you consider submitting your art to a gallery, you need to first understand if you are dealing with "arts and crafts" situation, or a more high-end venue. It has to do with the clientele, primarily. If the gallery is offering craft work at $20 or $30, primarily, the clientele won't likely be even interested in considering a fine art oil painting priced at $400!
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Old 07-13-2019, 11:15 PM
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Re: How do they make a living?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tirawen
I think a lot of gallery owners are rich people who bought a building and are running a hobby business.
It's more complicated than that, but yes, virtually all of them lose money for one reason or the other, some drastically. Some do so for twenty years or more.

When I lived in SF, somewhere around 97% of small businesses within the city lost money, and this figure rarely fluctuated more than a couple of percent a year. And yet they continue. Funny, huh?

There's always more to small businesses than meets the eye. They're never what they seem.

Typically, the pathetic small SF galleries are simply mechanisms to keep the wife or favorite catamite happily occupied in thrilling ego theatre and out of some wealthy guy's hair. That's worth a lot to him and maybe it contains the added benefit of functioning as a tax dodge.

Or, someone is burning up their trust fund. Or, weaseled some grant money from a foundation. Or...whatever. They're not real, no matter how long they've managed to keep their lights on. They're just living out their grandiose fantasies.

For a gallery to make an actual profit, it has to be a serious professional organization with lots of capital dealing in investment-grade works, say upwards of $50,000. Beyond that point, they expertly contrive to essentially rig the market for favored artists to produce ever-increasing prices and commissions. They're very good at what they do and are the biggest sharks in the sea. There are a lot of swindles of all sorts, as the Art business presents so many nifty opportunities for running them undetected.

"The Art business is not about Art -- it's about business."

In all my years living in NYC and SF I saw plenty of gallery owners at every level of game and I can say positively that I never encountered a single one of them who didn't make my flesh creep.
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Old 07-13-2019, 11:24 PM
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Ted Bunker Ted Bunker is offline
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Re: How do they make a living?

There's a special Ring in Hell for gallery owners and gallery managers,
...somewhere near the usurers and the perjurers.

And we will not discuss the sexual shenanigans ...
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Old 07-13-2019, 11:34 PM
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Tony11214 Tony11214 is offline
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Re: How do they make a living?

Try putting your work on EBay.
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Old 07-14-2019, 05:16 AM
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Raffless Raffless is offline
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Re: How do they make a living?

Another thing to the OP thread starter is why should anyone pay £400 for a painting by an unknown artist? If anything its overpriced. Nobody cares about your art only you. Until you make a name for yourself that is. So no i dont think the gallery is being unreasonable.
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Old 07-14-2019, 12:41 PM
DaveCrow DaveCrow is offline
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Re: How do they make a living?

It is not the artist seeking a 12x12 in a $60 from for $400 with a 35% commission rate hat I really wonder about. That artist is still making a profit, albeit a small one. It is the artist selling the same painting for $150 or less. I can understand this for someone who is just starting to show work for sale and has absolutely no experience or following or someone for whom painting is primarily a hobby. But someone who actually wants to make money selling art?

I have seen works for sale that I am sure are priced at less than the cost of canvas and frame, and that is before the gallery commission.

I live in area where art is cheap. So cheap in fact that most of the artists of quality choose to avoid the local market completely and pedal their works through galleries in cities as much as 8 hours or more away. It is well worth the hassle of travel and transport to be able to add one or often more digits to the price.
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Old 07-14-2019, 01:31 PM
TomMather TomMather is offline
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Re: How do they make a living?

The starving artist is still an apt description. When I get frustrated about low sales, I remind myself that Van Gogh sold perhaps one painting in his lifetime. That is little consolation if you need the money, but a reminder that painting is something you do because you have a passion for it, not because you want to get rich. A small percentage of painters might become critics’ darlings and make a good living at it, but those people are the exception and not the rule.

Fortunately, in my case, I don’t need to sell my work to support myself. My sales help defray the cost for art supplies, classes, etc. I’ve sold about a dozen paintings commission free over the past year or so, offsetting some of the costs — much more so than my other hobbies.
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Old 07-14-2019, 03:57 PM
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Re: How do they make a living?

Quote:
Originally Posted by HaintBlue
... When I lived in SF, somewhere around 97% of small businesses within the city lost money, and this figure rarely fluctuated more than a couple of percent a year. ...
In SF, you don't have to be a small business to lose money. Uber and Lyft are doing it right now! Also, combined state and local governments in California are over a Trillion dollars (with a capital T) in debt. Then there's the feds...

But let us not forget that the art gallery is a relatively recent invention. A quick search reveals that public art exhibitions seem to go back as the mid-1700s in France, and the early 1800s in England. The exhibited works may or may not have been for sale; they were primarily there to establish the reputation of the artist, for future commissions. Indeed, prior to that, virtually all art was done on a commission basis, or by having a supporting client. I do not know the details, but it would not surprise me if the artists of the 1700s and 1800s paid galleries to show their works, as an advertisement for commission works.

Even now, a lot of places that exhibit art (see Bill's above post about coffee shops, barber, etc.) are really used by the artist as a way to attract commissions. Pet portraits seem to be popular, at the local level.

When it comes to "investment" art, let us not forget that in many nations, there is a tax break for donating art. The more the art is supposedly worth, the greater the tax break. As far as museums go, a lot of the public, however lacking in artistic sensibility, will pay more to see things that cost $100,000,000 than they will pay to see things that cost $19.95.

If old British murder mysteries are any kind of guide, there was a time not so long ago when Lord Obsolete the XXV would work a deal with the government to donate the painting in his ancestral mansion to museums, to escape paying an exorbitant tax. Wouldn't a museum prefer to say that it received over $8,000,000 worth of art, rather than some useless old portraits of Lords Obsolete XIV-XXII ?
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Old 07-15-2019, 12:42 AM
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Re: How do they make a living?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pinguino
Pet portraits seem to be popular, at the local level.
I would rather die.

Quote:
there is a tax break for donating art. The more the art is supposedly worth, the greater the tax break.
The way this typically plays out is that the highly-publicised generous donation takes place after a very discreet assay quietly advises the present owner the work is unquestionably a fake, worth about scrap value. Occasionally a second, post-donation examination by the recipient's underwriters uncovers the fraud.

He tends to keep and sit on the genuine work while it accrues value.

Everything's a racket.

Last edited by HaintBlue : 07-15-2019 at 12:47 AM.
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Old 07-15-2019, 02:16 PM
Tirawen Tirawen is offline
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Re: How do they make a living?

Had a look inside the gallery today. Friendly staff. Downstairs is mainly crafts, scarfs, clothes, jewellery and ceramics. Upstairs is the gallery. Quite a few paintings are stored on the floor due to lack of space. I think it's a bad idea to do this. It doesn't show much respect to original art if you leave a £400-£600 item on the floor. I think psychologically it sends a message of 'This isn't worth very much so we've just left it on the floor' or 'We've just left this here because we don't know where else to put it'. Can you imagine £400 jewellery being left on the floor?? If you thought an item was beautiful and valuable and worth some respect and attention, would you display it on the floor, leaning on to the wall? It makes the gallery look like an afterthought. They might as well call themselves a 'Gift/high-end craft shop with some paintings' otherwise.

We went through an informal discussion where it seemed to me that they expect 12 x 12 inch paintings to be around £250. She pointed out to other artists they currently stock that sell nicely framed oil paintings at this price as a guide. The commission is 36% + VAT. This leaves the artist around £150 once you consider that framing would be at least £60. That £150 has to cover time spent packaging and delivering said work to gallery and the time spent creating it. To pay myself minimum wage, this would mean a painting time of no more than 2 days. Not very much time! Depends on what kind of technique it is though I guess. To get rid of old pieces that might be otherwise thrown away, this is ok, but otherwise, I don't think there's a sustainable future for me there :/

Last edited by Tirawen : 07-15-2019 at 02:21 PM.
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