Sunday, August 22, 2010

Art Galleries -- Whats the problem? Why do artists have to pay to be seen?

I have been seeing this trend in a lot of art galleries where they charge to view your work to participate in shows.  I often wonder why this is an accepted thing for artists.  I mean don't you think it would be weird if actors had to pay $25-$50 for every audition they went to-- or how about people looking for jobs.  Wouldn't we think it was strange to pay to have job applications reviewed by say, Mc Donald's or Gap? So why do artists have to pay?  It is just accepted as part of the requirements of being an artist-- and the sad thing is lots of really good artists do not have the money to continuously enter shows.  One of the more outrageous entry fees I have seen, was one where you had to pay around $100 to enter and if you were chosen in the top entries you had to pay another $200 to be reviewed.  I wrote a letter asking what the point of all this money was-- and the response I received was so ridiculous.  They said if they charged a high fee -- the artists would be taken more seriously... Really?  No, what you mean to say is that you can rip off artists and make shit tons of money. 

I don't know what a solution to this is but would love to hear ideas on how you think it could be better, and what you as an artist would like to see.

Oh-- and PS -- if you are a gallery and you are charging to review portfolios AT LEAST take online payments and submission-- get the hell out of the stone ages!


  1. This is a weird element in the art world. I enter shows where there is an entrance fee often, sometimes I get in, sometimes I don't. I don't think I have ever paid a gallery to review my work though.
    When I go gallery looking I do a lot of research, I visit the spaces if possible and if not, I research them online and check to see if I will fit into their "stable". I enclose a paid return envelope with my submission so I get all my stuff back and when, as it usually does, it comes back to me, I just put the next gallery name on it and send it out.
    I think that some spaces finance their operations though show fees and such, but you have to decide as an artist if you think this is a good idea. My feelings, after a recently terrible experience with a space like this, that closed and still has my work, has lead me to feel that it is not the option I want for my work.
    I know from working in a high end art field where we bring artists in from all over the world, that the level I wish I could get to, is not accessible to most (even me and I'm making the stuff). From what I have seen and this is not just negativity, people who come from the highest levels of the economic bracket get in a lot easier than those who don't. It is not always true, but its at least average.
    So I guess for the majority of artist I know, the choices are limited. I suppose it boils down to the idea that if you are going to pay, do the research and check the space out to see if it really worth it. Even then, you might get stuck as I did, with a good space that just closes abruptly.
    As a final note, I know that there a mags. out there that you can pay to get into. One of the ones I have always considered sends out free copies to curators. We have 3 curators at my work and I have seen them carrying these pubs. around, so I asked what they thought. The response was mixed, some look, some just chuck it out. Maybe this happens with the paid reviews as well. I don't know.

  2. FROM Chad Christopher Dixon August 22 at 1:14pm
    I tried to post to that wall thing you sent.. wouldn't work for me,, just post this for me..

    I have to agree on this topic.. I absolutely can NOT stand how people think they can just rip off artists and charge them a fee of receiving a % from every piece I sell in there gallery.. (usually 35% for me) And that is a huge insult to me.. I'm doing all the pain staking omg detailed work.. and they try to rip us off and make money off of our talents..
    These people are scammers.. they have no talent.. so they try to steal some from artists and think that they are smart and talented.

    I think there should be a system where if artists are going to put there works up in a gallery.. and the owner needs to receive some sort of money for keeping the showroom/gallery up and running... than why not have taxpayers ...(which is all of us) put money together for something which would allow artists to take turns or even collaborate many works being shown by several artists all at once..

    I have no clue.. I would love to try and sell piece's of my work.. but if i'm selling something for 500$.. I want all that money!! PERIOD!!!

    I sold a piece of mine for 4k once.. But I think I didn't have to pay the tattoo studio any of it, because the person who wanted to buy it, called me.. I went to the tattoo place, took it home and sold it to her later in person..

    Artists live a hard road.. the people who say they are trying to help us out, just want to fcuk you over...

  3. I feel blessed by working as an art gallery assistant and therefore knowing there's NO WAY an artist should pay to exhibit, for one simple reason: those who need you to pay are the ones which are sure not to sell your work: you are their profit, not your art - and you're surely not getting any fame by exhibiting here: if they know they won't sell, it means they don't know "big cheeses"
    Also, other galleries you might propose to in the future will see those "paid" ones and immediately think "gosh, this one needs to pay to exhibit, no way" (believe me, it's my job). Sorry for my bad English, I hope everything to be easy to understand :D

  4. I was recently offered an exhibition opportunity in San Francisco, and I was totally excited, waiting for this gallery to call me back, come to find out they wanted me to pay them $400.00 a month to show my work, and take a commission of any sales and I had to pay for all the shipping, bua hua ahahahah! NO WAY, and the worst thing was that they kept calling and emailing me even after I refused. I just knew off the cuff that that was a rip off scheme. It is like the donation scams, we get nothing as we cannot write it off our taxes but the same people, year after year expect me to donate a piece, sans publicity or any kind of kick back the artists way. No thanks folks, I am not here to be used.
    The hardest thing is that artist are expected to enter juried exhibitions in order to beef up resume and CVs but we are often unable to afford to enter shows, I am a single parent, dropping $30-100 on shows that I may not even get into is just not in my budget.
    Galleries who do the promotion and have the connections are interested in making money from selling your work and should get a commission, they are selling for you, but you should NEVER have to pay to be in an exhibition.

  5. FROM
    Cody Hooper

    Galleries make money off of artists..thats what they are in the business to do. What I dont like are the online scammers that pretend to have these contests every month and do the same exact you really thing they are having a contest or just taking money from an artist trying to be seen or make a little prize money?

  6. I've been a professional artist for 30+ years and started out finding a good local gallery that represented me for 24 years before she retired. During the first 10 years occasionally entering juried shows that required a fee up front just to be juried - sometimes getting in the show - sometimes not.
    My opinion is that this is something necessary in the beginning of a career in the arts but shouldn't be the only way you get shown. Find a good gallery that handles your work in a professional way. Be persistent in pursuit of that representation. If you are good that persistence will pay off in the end.
    A good gallery or 2 or 3 will eliminate the need to pay others to show your work in mediocre (most of the time) group shows.

  7. Sure, I never enjoyed paying the $30 that it normally takes to submit your work to one of these juried shows but I realize that there is so much competition in the art world that we have gotten to the point where, sometimes, talented young artists are forced to pay money to have their work seen in galleries.

    I am firm in the belief that you can spend your entire life making relevant, even brilliant work and live your life in obscurity. What's worse yet is the thought that some people with Van Gogh syndrome are out there creating brilliant, relevant work and unlike Van Gogh their work will never be discovered. Not in their lifetime, not ever. The art game is harder than the steel game and steel is pretty hard.

    Look at my situation. I graduated with an MFA from La Universidad Polytecnica de Valencia in Spain and I came back to the United States about six months ago. Now, how do I go about getting my artwork shown? My artwork is not decorative. That excludes more than half the galleries out there and about ninety percent of outside venues. Forget about libraries. Forget about cafes.
    Which galleries can I exhibit in then? Only the ones that feature a style somewhat similar to what I make. Out of the galleries that don't exclusively sell decorative art which ones do not place some kind of reliance on one time art buyers who want something fancy to hang in their living room?
    Out of those galleries, the ones that are not living room warriors, which galleries don't have a full stable of artists to take up the majority of a galleries time and money. Oats are expensive and in a world where old horses can pull a gallery better then young horses what good am I if I don't have some name recognition or a resume that shows that I am continuously exhibiting and in it for the long haul?

    Well, after about 4 months of living in the United States as a recluse I began to get a little bit frustrated. I thought to myself "here I am, working in obscurity, what good is it to make artwork in the dark” I needed some encouragement, I needed to keep my resume active. It is dangerous to quit exhibiting for long periods of time. So I decided to reach out and search for opportunities. I have been able to show in a couple of juried shows since I started looking but there have been several advantages which I think made the experience of looking for, applying to, and forking out money to apply to juried shows worthwhile to me.

    1. It is very motivating to know that hundreds of people saw my artwork. My long term goal is to affect people consciously or subconsciously. Knowing and seeing hundreds of people pass through a gallery to look at my art work let me know that it is actually possible.

    2. I sold a drawing. The money covered the expenses of the juried shows.
    3. It was uplifting to know that someone liked my drawings enough to pay a decent amount of money for it.

    4. I was invited to participate in another show by someone who saw my work in a juried show and wants one of my drawings for a show that he is putting on.

    5. Who knows who else saw my artwork and who will remember me in the future. Maybe an opportunity will come up, as one already has. At least one person has told me that they saw my work and memorized my name.
    So, when you keep in mind that the world is not fair and that the art-world is no different it won't be so difficult to see why juried shows are not so bad after all.

    Well, I have been chronicling my juried show experience on my blog. If you are interested in learning about what the last few months has been like for me as I applied to and showed in juried shows you can find my blog at"

    or link to it from my website:

  8. I did not read all the comments above as I was thrown for a loop with one in particular regarding galleries charging a percentage to show an artist's work. Do you think art galleries opened their doors to show your artwork to the public for free? I won't beat a dead horse as this subject has been talked about on every blog ten times over, but if you want to receive 100% of the selling price for your artwork, setup your own private studio/gallery, arrange showings at restaurants and coffee shops and maybe hop on Craig's List.

    Owning an art gallery that has never charged a single fee to an artist for reviewing their work or any of the other fees I have heard galleries charging, I feel the percentage we take on sales is more than deserved.

    Last thing, you mentioned how you essentially used a tattoo parlor to exhibit your work but when the sale was going to happen, you picked up the piece and sold it on the side. You also referred to people who sell your art that take a percentage as "scammers who have no talent....think they are smart." As someone who sells art, the last thing I think I am for getting in this business is smart. Its not easy for anyone, so quit your whining and sell your own work. The art world is not growing in popularity, and the last thing it needs is an artist giving people even more reasons to avoid art shows, gallery openings or even purchasing artwork at all.

  9. When I was in grad school at UNT in the late 90's,this practice was something that was becoming evident to us students. It was also something my professors warned us about, "If there is money up front, turn and walk away." It is called taking advantage of desperation and the need to be seen. Galleries make money off of us....nothing wrong with that. In fact, the good ones usually pump a lot of money into us through PR. But to pay someone to give you the time of day? Just say 'no thanks" and walk away.

  10. Chad Christopher Dixon, I completely agree with you, you have no clue. The system you are describing already exists. It's called a museum, and it is filled with works by artists who knew the importance of representation by an art gallery. I agree that galleries should not charge upfront fees, but why would you not want to compensate them for the work that goes into selling you art? A coffee house makes its money selling coffee, not art. Any money made off of art sales is extra, and requires little or no effort on the part of the coffee house. An art gallery depends solely on selling art to survive. Thus, a great deal of effort, time, and money is spent on promoting artists and providing a nice environment for artists to showcase their work, which is still no guarantee that it will sell. The harsh reality is that original art sales are on the decline, and it is not just due to the economy. Technology has given retailers the ability to offer mass produced high quality art pieces at very affordable prices. Someone once said the best way to stop being a starving artist, is to stop being a greedy artist. This seems true now, more than ever. Good luck finding a place that will show your work for free, and nice job "scamming" the Tattoo place out of their share of the $4000. How pathetic.