Selling Art Through Galleries- My Advice

I recently received an email from a fellow RedBubbler and thought I should share my response…

DISCLAIMER: this is just my opinion and advice so don’t take my word as gospel!

Hi Jo,

I ’discovered ’ you on Red Bubble and love your work..

You mentioned you work for a gallery that takes work on consignment.

I’m interested in getting some of my work into galleries but don’t know how to.

My stuff is here…

So just wondering if you have some advice??

Cheers & thanks,

Hey M

First thing is you will notice that the footer of this email has all my phone numbers- please do not hesitate to call me and we can have a proper conversation about this. I have a lot of artists ask me about this and am only happy to help out.

I have found that the best way to get your stuff into galleries is to do what you have just done- send an email with a link to your work. Your webiste is basically your CV in the art world – it doesn’t have to be flashy (and redbubble is totally appropriate) but having work that loads quickly is important. You will be lucky if a gallery spends more than 1-2 minutes looking at your site.

The other thing you can do is to print out samples of 5-8 images of your work, a biography or artist’s statement and any quirky info that could be used to market you. Put this together into a CV or folio and make several copies. Then you do the door knock thing. If you take this option be aware of a few things- Gallery staff at some places (certainly not us though) can be quite snobby to artists who come off the street and try to sell their wares. I suggest being pleasant but do not try to take up too much of their time. I’m more receptive to a “here’s a copy of my folio, here’s my contact details, i’d love to have a chat some time but obviously now isn’t the best time for you- maybe give me a call if you’re interested?” than a lengthy rehearsed sales pitch.

Each gallery will have a slightly different way of doing things. Some will ask for a tax invoice when you bring in art and they will just pay you when it sells. Other will ask for an invoice only once something has sold and they may or may not request a consignment note when you deliver your art. Other places do 90% of the paperwork for you but these are rare. We keep a running file of what work you bring in and if anything gets returned to you because it wasn’t selling. Then if something sells we call or email you the same

While I’m on this I should mention that some galleries will not deal with you unless you have an ABN. GST normally doesn’t make a difference but I have heard of a couple of fussy places who have insisted on dealing with GST inclusive artists only- go figure?

The other thing that changes between galleries is the mark up of your work. In some of the artist run galleries you can get a 30/70 split of the sale (with the artist being better off). Other places will rip you off majorly and mark up your work by more than 100% and therefore will get more money than you do when it sells. Don’t let people bargain with you for your cut and THEN try to add 10% on for GST- insist on bargaining on the final price inclusive of GST. I make this bargaining process sound difficult but the truth is most places have a policy about how they split things and you either take it or leave it- my advice is more to show you the difference between money grabbing and artist appreciating!

Which brings me to my next point- look at the attitude of the gallery. Some places are really picky about what you give them to sell which can mean that they either have no idea OR it could mean that they know their clientelle really well. You just have to be good at reading people to wrok that one out. The places that I would steer clear of are the ones who don’t seem to fussed by what you give them or don’t really care about having a biography or any information about you. They should be interested is selling ‘you’ as a product as well as your stuff. You have to balance out the financial side of things with the personal side.

At our galleries we go 50/50 on sales which is considered a bit high. The upside however is that you get a mini cheering squad who will rave about your amazing talents to anyone who glances at your work sideways. We don’t have artists complaining about the higher mark up because we make up for it in branding and promotion you. This is a call each artist has to make for themself.

If you’re stuff is considered sellable (which is decided on a case by case basis) we will give it a decent chance of selling- normally I put new stuff on display straight away or in the shop window. Then we see hwat the reaction is. Sometimes we find out very quickly that there is no interest, or everyone loves the image but thinks it is too small, or red, or badly framed or whatever. We aim to have open lines of communcation with our artists so that they don’t keep sending us stuff that no one wants! But in the end if after 4-6 weeks things are not going so well I send things back and invite the artist to try again if they begin experiementing with a different syle or medium.

I certainly invite you and any other RedBubble artists to contact me about selling work through our galleries. We are always very keen to see what people have got to offer.

Jo O’Brien

Work: +61 3 9349 4333 (Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday)

Work: +61 3 9827 3338 (Monday)

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