Direct Link to Templates & Checklists >>
Developing Healthy Artist/Gallery Relationships
The main purpose of a commercial gallery is to sell art – and as with any other business that an artist interacts with, it’s important to know what motivates them so that a mutually beneficial agreement can be reached.
A good first step for any artists is to understand their own practice before approaching a gallery. How consistent is your body of work? What are your long-term goals? What do you want/need from a gallery in terms of key qualities, services and responsibilities?
A good next step would be to do the necessary research. Who deals with artists at a similar to your stage of their career? Where are they? Are they in close proximity or somewhere far? Who takes care of the practicalities in that case? Who else do they represent? Not liking what you see on their website or in the gallery is a good indication that they might not be a good fit for you, no matter how good they seem on paper.
If you are entering the market for the first time then maybe you need some extra help before you contact anyone. Our aim is to create a comprehensive index list with various potential representatives but for now here is a good starting block (see below).
Don’t get us wrong, you don’t have to work with galleries. Not everyone can grow within a traditional gallery setting. Some people are better off working with peers within their communities and creating events together.
How do you know if a gallery is a good fit for you:
- Vanity galleries. First of all, you should learn to spot the vanity galleries. Our advice is to AVOID them at all cost! Don’t be fooled by promises of instant fame. Vanity galleries prey on many artists who are insecure and afraid to be rejected. Even if you have the money to spend on exposure it will not look good in your resume. A good way to check if a gallery is reliable is to search for lawsuits against them. Several of the galleries below have been sued by artists and changed names several times.
Some of the vanity galleries that our members/friends frequently discuss: Debut Contemporary (be especially aware of this one); The Brick Lane Gallery; Camden Art Gallery (also Galerie 64 Atelier; La Galleria; Parallax Art Fair; Printspace Gallery; Whitepeaks Fine Art; Salons Artoulouse Expo (also Art Sommieres); ArtworkX of Mann; EAGL Gallery, Berlin; First International Italian Biennale of Creativity; Florence Biennale; Global Art Agency. There is a list here but we are not sure how often it gets updated: https://www.artbusiness.com/artist-pay-to-play-list.html
- Agenda. What is their long-term agenda? Is their agenda similar to yours? Are their ambitions realistic?
- Background. What does their background say about them? Is the founder/director experienced in working alongside artists?
- Values. Do their values correspond to yours? This might not seem relevant but imagine that you are a female artist or a non-binary person, a gallery that represents predominantly white male artists might not be a good fit for you in the long run.
- Finances. How healthy is their financial situation? Is the gallery a registered business? You can check the information on https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/06129514/filing-history. You can also check the director, their LinkedIn profile for example. Put yourself in the position of an employer seeking to employ an agent.
- Reputation. What is the gallery’s reputation? Does the gallery exhibit at reputable fairs? Is their website appealing and up to date? Do they organize solo shows or just group shows? Galleries that focus on group shows raise red flags for us right away. Is the gallery followed by quality collectors? Has there been much turnover of represented artists? Have artists’ contracts with these galleries been terminated? What is the reason?
- Focus. How many artists does the gallery represent? How does that correspond to their level of commitment? Is that proportion realistic? Imagine that a gallery represents hundreds of artists but has only one employee. One person cannot possibly carry that kind of workload.
Entering into a binding agreement for global representation and sales should not be the first thing you do in your career.
- All agreements must be done in writing. Anything in writing is binding. This is something that some galleries don’t understand. These galleries will avoid signing an agreement which is why you need to have all agreements confirmed in emails and keep your emails stored so you can easily access them if the gallery goes bankrupt, holds your work for long periods of time without informing you of sales, doesn’t pay you in time or at all. Even emails where you have provided information about your work will count as relevant documentation.
- Decisions you make regarding pricing, care, storage, shipping, etc should be taken jointly and not exclusively by the gallery.
- If you decide to enter a binding contract with a gallery, make it 6 months or 1 year, no more.
- Specify when exhibitions take place, how your profile will be maintained to buyers, etc.
- Make sure your work is Insured accordingly while in the gallery or in transit.
- Upon sales, the gallery should pay the artist within an acceptable amount of days (preferably 30 days and no more than 6 weeks) as soon as they receive their own payment from the buyer.
- One access point is always preferable. The gallery should appoint one person that handles the day to day relationship with you.
- The gallery’s financial responsibilities to the artist should be straightforward. It should state that work on consignment is owned by the artist and cannot be taken by creditors if the gallery goes bankrupt. Artists retain the copyright to all their artwork in all cases even after it is sold. Unless there is a purchase agreement or copyright licensing agreement in place you should never accept copyright claims on your work.
Formal contracts should be signed prior to the start of your representation. Here are all of the possible points that need to be covered. Not all areas may be relevant to your situation. Customize a contract that suits your individual needs.
- Parties Involved in the Contract – (the gallery and you).
- Duration of the Contract – (fixed term, contingent on sales, options to extend the term of duration).
- The scope of the Contract – (media covered, past and future work, gallery’s right to visit the studio, commissions, exclusivity, territory, studio sales, exchanges, charitable gifts).
- Shipping – (who pays to/from the gallery, carriers, crating).
- Storage – (location, access by the artist).
- Insurance – (what is protected, in-transit, on-site).
- Framing – (who pays for framing).
- Photographs – (who pays, the amount required [colour and b+w], ownership of negatives and transparencies, controls of films).
- Artistic Control – (permission for book/magazine reproduction, inclusion in gallery group exhibits, inclusion in other exhibits, artist’s veto power over purchasers).
- Gallery Exhibitions – (dates, work to be shown, control over the installation, advertising, catalogue, opening, announcements/mailings).
- Reproduction Rights – (control prior to the sale of work, retention on transfer or sale of work, copyrights).
- Damage or Deterioration – (choice of the restorer, expense/compensation to the artist, treatment for partial/total loss).
- Protection on the Market – (right of the gallery to sell at auctions, protection of works sold at auction).
- Selling Prices – (should address who bought your work, the selling price, initial scale, periodic review, permission discounts, negotiation of commissioned works, right to rent vs. sell).
- Billing and Terms of Sale – (extended payment, credit risk, allocation of monies as received, the division of interest changes, qualified instalment sale for tax purposes, exchanges/trading up, returns).
- Compensation of the Gallery – (right to purchase for its own account).
- Income from other Sales – (rentals, lectures, prizes/awards, reproduction rights).
- Accounting/Payment – (how often, right to inspect financial records, currency to be used).
- Advances/Guarantees – (time of payment, amounts and intervals, applications to sales).
- Miscellaneous – (confidentiality of artist’s personal mailing list, resale agreements with purchasers, rights of the gallery to use artist’s name and image for promotional purposes).
- General Provisions – (representations and warranties, applicable laws, arbitration).
!! Be aware that these files are mere examples and the information in them must be thoroughly checked and customized to fit your purpose.
Certificate Of Authenticity >> Download
Art Consignment Agreement >> Download
Artist Representation Agreement >> Download
Exhibition Agreement >> Download