The article below was written by Robert Genn who has given me permission to reproduce it here…Genn is a Canadian artist of international repute who runs an art listing site called The Painter’s Keys…
Huffington Post art critic Mat Gleason thinks the art business is stuck in 1966. “Artists have traditionally consigned artwork to galleries,” says Gleason. "When the artwork sells, the gallery and the artist split the sale 50/50. When the work doesn’t sell, the artist gets the art back.
. . How hard is that? If the gallery cannot afford it, either they should find an artist who will sell them work for what they can afford or they should get out of the gallery business. Of course, when galleries buy art, it works for the benefit of the gallery too—they can mark up the work 200 percent if they like. They can buy 10 paintings for $100 each and sell them for 20 grand each."
Genn..Mr. Gleason may be an art critic but he doesn’t understand anyone’s best interests. His system guarantees that artists stay poor. It’s not good for the dealer either. Dealers who buy art from living artists tend to go broke with weighty inventories of stuff they can’t sell. But the main reason artists shouldn’t sell their work to galleries is that artists lose control of their work.
Believe me, Mat, artists are getting smarter. More and more artists are their own best handlers—they manage their distribution, their retail prices and their futures.
Consignment is by far the best system. An artist’s efforts can be taken back and moved to other galleries—perhaps to ones with a more favourable commission structure. Not everyone is hanging out at 50/50 these days. With consignment you can even get stuff back and send it up the chimney.
On the other hand, Mark Kostabi is one of the current breed of artists who seems to have successfully closed out his dealers altogether. He claims to make a handsome living using eBay and other inexpensive venues.
While dealing direct with collectors and through the Internet may have its virtues, I prefer letting someone else tell people how good I am. Besides, I like moving around and doing the work much better than standing around talking about it. Artists with a stable of motivated galleries are free to follow their noses, limit their commercial thoughts and contacts, and deliver at will.
PS: "Ending lending is beginning winning." (Mark Kostabi)
Esoterica: Particularly since the 2008 financial shakedown, I’ve noticed a lot more art buyers are contacting artists directly. Internet savvy and well-informed, they are often people who seldom go to commercial galleries but have a particular desire to get to know artists.
Pleasantly, they are not necessarily looking for deals. It may be that more people are trying to “think smart” these days—similar to the millions who now do their own research and buy stock and bond investments online. In real estate, commission-free “For Sale by Owner” is popular once again in some areas. Among art collectors and artists alike, individual empowerment and self-management might be the new normal.
What do you think of both sides of the question?…should galleries buy your work outright the way other stores buy inventory, or is selling by commission the best way, or does selling directly to the public the ideal way?
I can think of pros and cons for all methods…Janis