Art Shows

by Armand Cabrera

Art shows are hitting new lows these days. The worst offenders are front loaded with fees. They take money for a jury fee, a handling fee for stored shipping materials and even a hanging fee in some instances. I would never pay to hang my work, I don’t care what the venue is. These shows make their money off the fees. Many galleries now keep themselves in existence with these kinds of scams.

If you allow the show to recover all its money before the show opens then there is no incentive for the show to be promoted or to bring in collectors. Which brings me to another little scam where galleries ask for the collector lists of their artists. Never relinquish your client list to a venue. A venue that has no clients, charges you for space and doesn’t promote you in anyway is worthless to your livelihood as an artist and your career.

In my opinion there is nothing professional about these venues and you’re better off renting a public space for a night or weekend and advertising and hanging your own show or a show with a group of like-minded artists.

A lot of artists hold the opinion that it is an honor to show alongside other juried artists. Many times a gallery show will pay a nationally known artist to show at a venue from the upfront fees they collect. It’s sort of like an anchor store at a strip mall; they pull in the other stores. Big name artists are given spots or paid to show to get others to pay for the chance of showing with them. If you are juried into a show you’ve earned your spot no need to feel someone is doing you a favor or you’re lucky.

Art is hard enough, don’t let people take your money or take advantage of you. Shows need good artists; good artists don’t need shows. Participate in shows that support the artists and their work and take a percentage of sales; this way the expense and work is shared by the venue and the artists.

11 thoughts on “Art Shows

  1. Thanks to both of you. The best thing for any process is to shed light on it. When shows and galleries become more demanding while providing less services artists need to consider all of the benefits and risks before participating.

  2. Appreciate the commentary on this subject, Armand. Many artists are fearful to speak their mind concerning gallery action, but in this economy where show organizers can get desperate, you have to protect yourself and watch out for advantage takers…in any business of course. Painter beware.
    BTW, did you get the DC stuff I sent?

  3. I really, really appreciate these words. I'm slowly learning about having some self respect when it comes to what I do and it feels good to hear someone else say some of the things I am often thinking.

  4. Very good article and so true! We need to be very careful which shows & venues. More effort is put into a venue by the sponsor when we don't pay for it.

  5. Hi Armand,

    I've stopped entering "art" shows. In my part of the country they have become "craft" shows. There is nothing wrong with selling craft work, but fine art and bird houses or silver tea pots soldered on copper tubes or bent forks is not in the same league. The difference in price makes my work seem to be priced way out of line.

    I got fed-up trying to sell my artwork with kids running through my tent face painted and screaming at the top of their lungs.

    The art shows here are juried, but when people selling store bought aprons with patches sewed on them get juried in the "art" show, I just shake my head.

    I decided to just sell through galleries. My trouble with galleries is the cost of the frame. Are we (the artist) supposed to just eat the cost of the frame? Most galleries take 50%, but my retail price includes a frame. Is that something you negotiate up-front in your contracts with a gallery?

  6. Wyn,

    Anything is negotiable. Galleries don’t deserve 50% unless they pay for services like local national advertising. Some of my galleries pay for the frames and some don’t. I make sure that when I consign my work, as part of the contract they sign off on the frame, if it is damaged then they have to fix or replace it at their expense. Most galleries are honest about this but some aren’t, and when I asked them to fix obviously damaged frames it ended the relationship, but they still paid for the frames.

  7. I had a gallery owner return a very nice painting recently. At the time I wondered why she returned it before giving it a chance to sell. It wasn't until a few weeks later that I noticed the frame was damaged. I'll let this gallery off the hook once, but if it happens again. They get to buy a new frame. My opinion of them has dropped several notches…

  8. A good read, but I have one question. Can you give an example or two of the type of show you are talking about in "participate in shows that support the artists and their work….." Thank you for your answer and time. P.S. Your work is beautiful.

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