Saturday, May 05, 2007

Working the Gallery

One of the places I show my work is at the Morro Bay Art Association Gallery in Morro Bay, about an hour and a half north of where I live. As part of the deal there you must work a 4 hour shift each month while the show is on that your work is entered. 4 hours is not a lot of time if you live in or near Morro Bay but for me it becomes and all day thing doing it. 3 hours drive time plus getting ready to go up there. I make the best of it by using the drive to collect reference photos for future work.

The good part of artists working the gallery is it keeps costs down to run the Guild or Association gallery....the bad part is that not every artist is a good salesperson...which is the goal of the gallery, selling the art created by the artists members. I would say at least half of the artists I know are pretty shy, introverted people....not the type who commonly get jobs as salespeople. Another downfall to having the artists do the selling is that most of us don't know each other, we don't know what type of work we all do nor anything about the specific works in any one show.

I've had someone call me at the gallery and say "I'm calling about John Doe's painting of the horse and wondering if he has any other works there?"....Naturally, with about 50 members I don't know a John Doe, I didn't know he had a piece with a horse in the current show and I now would have to ask this person to hang on while I run up and down the gallery, two floors!, searching for some of his other work. See what I mean? On that day I would be a terrible salesperson.

Normally, a gallery has people who work there and know what they have on the walls and who painted it. They also know how to get more of that artists work should someone call to ask for more.....this generates sales as well as making the gallery appear to have at least competent employees who like to sell art as a career.

I'm all for increasing membership dues and entry fees and just breaking down and hiring someone to do this in exchange for more time to create art and having a gallery run like a business by business oriented people. I'm not business oriented....I'm the guy with the goofy visions in my head when looking at something the next guy looks at but who manages to escape the vision part of know, the typical artist who sees more than just what's in front of them. We see color, drama, texture, gorgeous lighting effects, atmosphere where most people see the sun going down which means they'd better step on the gas to get home before their dinner gets cold. I think in terms of imagery where a business oriented person thinks in terms of a good day at work from making $1200.00 in sales generated by their efforts. Their head is filled with thoughts of Bottom Line, Profit Margin and Gross and Net Incomes....that's the person an artist needs around them to succeed....or at least pay the bills.

I don't think most artist-run Guilds or Association galleries will ever make really good profits unless they go with a more business-like run situation. Artists are not going to become salespersons if their lives depended on it. The artist is going to make the attempt to sell art and will sell art but not like a salesperson can sell art. I hate to toot my own horn and I think most artist hate doing that. I'm not overly extroverted either. I can't imagine flapping my arms about whipping out complimentary comments about how much vision I have and how I have created work that will one day be worth far more than the buyer is about to pay for it.

I think Guilds and Associations are content with offering the community a place to show the work of their local artists and if they make a few bucks for operating costs and to donate to the local school art program then fine. The local artist finds a place to show their work, get some well deserved kudos and once in a while make some money to buy more art supplies. I suppose this is why artists who want to seriously make money from their work eventually submit work to privately owned galleries in the attempt to become gallery represented. Naturally, private galleries have higher standards so most artists will eventually move on to shove the balance of their best work in these galleries.

Still, I think there has to be a way to increase sales from the galleries of Guild and Associations. So I'll try to be a better salesperson and also do better work to enter....the latter is the part I do best.

Part of the Morro Bay Gallery


Leslie Pease said...

Great way of using travel time. I try to remember my camera every time I leave the house!

Interesting perspective on galleries and salespeople. Something to definitely keep in mind with future galleries. Thanks!

Very nice gallery. Seems to have the right atmosphere to attract a good fine art buying crowd. GOOD LUCK!

Ron Guthrie said...

Hi Leslie,
Morro Bay has a great Association Gallery...first class. I'm just posting thoughts here on why I think it makes more sense to have someone better equipped to sell the art after the artist creates it.

I take my digital camera with me on most drives. It takes a lot of shots to get just a few really good ones. The time sof day and weather usually determines what your going to get. I really like getting out there right after a storm finishes up and before the clouds are gone...and anytime close around evening.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Hi Ron, I came through Les's blog. I agree with what you say about artists selling. Only a very few are really good at the business aspect of it. I'd pay higher dues to get better help as well. I also think that 50% is a lot for the artist to give up, jacking the prices into the stratosphere while I just want the paintings to be sold for a reasonable sum, to make room for new ones.
Of course, I would paint them anyway so it's sort of a moot point. But the $$ would be nice to have.

Ron Guthrie said...

Hi Mary, Thanks for taking the time to visit and post your thoughts. Thank God I haven't had to pay that high of a gallery commission yet. My highest has been 40%, lowest...15%.
Owning your own gallery is the only way to sell without handing someone else part of the money....but then there is always the overhead involved. Choices are pretty limited when it comes to selling art for what you'd like to get for it. That brings up setting prices and that's an arguement that can go on forever! hahahaha.