Not all artists are represented by galleries. Many chose not to work with galleries and stick with social media or other ecommerce venues like Etsy. However, many are represented by galleries. The reason many artists prefer representation by a gallery is that the gallery will market their works and do business on behalf of the artist. In other words, many artists prefer to make art over doing the business side of the industry… They let a gallery handle the business parts like marketing and sales.
When I stumble across an artist whos work I like, I immediately ask them if they are represented. I do this as a courtesy to them. If they are represented, I will defer any and all business inquiries (including cost) to the gallery. It is important to let artists do their thing and respect their choices.
Working with a gallery is actually very easy and normally very pleasant. Prices are set by the gallery and artists they represent. Pieces are marked with the price, or the gallery has a pricing sheet you can ask to see. Most galleries are honorable and transparent with prices. If you have been buying art for a while and come across a transaction that just feels a bit sketchy, listen to yourself. It’s fine back out respectfully. I encourage mutual respect in all transactions.
Are prices negotiable? That’s always the fifty-million-dollar-question. Generally, the answer is yes if the piece is over a thousand dollars. However, do not expect a discount. There are so many variables at play with art that price increases and discounts are common. There are also artists who will never discount their work because they don’t need to. Like I said… Do not expect a discount. Ask, but do not expect.
How much of a discount? The discounted amount can fluctuate dramatically depending on many things including current market conditions, age of the piece, the piece itself, how many prints are left, the artist, and on. If this is your first purchase with a gallery, and you are not an established collector, I recommend starting at a request of no more than fifteen percent. If you have purchased from the gallery a couple times prior, try asking for more. If you can walk into a new gallery and show them your collection on your phone and respectfully talk like you know your stuff, you know the industry and do not need advice from me.
Recently I did happen to come across an artist who referred me to an ecommerce site which was not a traditional gallery. It was a site I am completely unfamiliar with. I have no clue how it works. For all I know it could be an electronic storefront for artists. This gave me pause. I don’t do business with people or websites I am not familiar with. The piece I was interested in is not going to be the one that got away but I am curious about the site. I will do some research on the site in the months to come and report back if I find it newsworthy. This could be a new global gallery for artists for all I know. If you happen to have any insight on new and upcoming ecommerce sites, please feel free to contact me.
Have I had a bad experience with a gallery? Yes. Only once. There are galleries I will not do business with but those are due to gossip or an inner voice telling me to avoid them. The one bad experience came due to miscommunication and missed opportunities at correcting both sides of the conversation about the price of a piece. There were extenuating circumstances. Assumptions and accusations were made on both sides. I apologized and don’t feel like I was apologized to. I had done business with this gallery in the past but always had a question mark floating over my head with each transaction. The way I look at it now is I will never again have those questions marks floating over my head again.
Respect is a two-way street. The buyer must respect the gallery and the gallery must respect the buyer. Business is business and if that respect is not granted by both parties, it’s not worth it in my opinion. Gallerists should feel free to stop doing business with disrespectful clients in the same manner I am able to stop doing business with a gallery for not feeling respected.