Art Gallery Territories

by
Armand Cabrera

Before you agree to be represented by a fine art gallery, many things need to be discussed with the gallery. One very important matter is the “territory” the gallery will control. Many galleries ask for an area of fifty miles from the gallery. In some large metropolitan markets, like San Francisco or Boston, a gallery may ask for a 100 mile radius. This makes sense because of the geographic spread of a large city. When the gallery runs local advertising, the reach of that advertising is usually within the “territory”. In some rural markets, galleries only ask for a few miles for their coverage. Knowing and abiding by the boundaries and limitations of your gallery’s representation will go a long way in creating a mutually beneficial relationship with your gallery.

Giving the gallery the “territory” means the gallery receives a cut of your sales in that area. It also means you will refrain from having private shows in that area, unless you have the gallery’s permission to do so. This prevents artists from participating in plein air shows, craft fairs, art and wine festivals, Open Studios, etc. in the territory, thus diluting the galleries ability to make money. I usually ask for the right to participate in two shows a year within the territory, although I rarely use that privilege.

 

The newest twist in requiring a territory for a gallery is the internet. Even though the internet has been around for years since Al Gore invented it, e-commerce has only finally trickled down to small businesses (galleries) in the last five years or so. Before that, no one expected a small business to have or maintain a web presence. Now most businesses require a website in order to stay competitive. Most people search for galleries using their computer or PDA and expect to be able to see art at any time of the day or night, no matter what time zone they reside.

I have heard of galleries demanding that their artists have no websites. In addition, some of these galleries require that if their artists insist on having a website, the site can only display examples of their work and not any artist contact information. This is an unreasonable demand. To allow a gallery to control your internet presence is giving the gallery the territory of the entire world! Unless a gallery will guarantee enough sales to support you and your family, there is no reason to agree to such unfair terms.

Most galleries tend to be regionally focused, selling only local scenes. I paint a much broader range of subject matter than any one gallery is willing to sell, so it makes sense that I post all of my work on my website, link to the gallery that has the paintings, or refer the customer to myself, if I have the work in my possession.

Why do some galleries insist on controlling their artists’ websites?Primarily because some artists are dishonest with their galleries. The artists are contacted by the potential buyer about a particular painting that is located at a gallery. Often the customer has seen the painting on the gallery website. The customer contacts the artist, hoping for a substantial discount by purchasing the piece from the artist. The artist undercuts a gallery by pulling paintings to sell directly to a client. Most galleries will discontinue representation of the artist if they discover the artist is being dishonest. Pulling paintings from a gallery to sell to a customer is the equivalent of stealing from the gallery.

I control my website. My partner, Diane Burket, maintains the Armand Cabrera website and we split the site into different categories, including:Artwork For Sale By The ArtistArtwork For Sale By My GalleriesWorkshops & Classes
My Contact Information

The artwork for the galleries has a link to the gallery showing the paintings and also the gallery contact information. If a client contacts us directly and asks about a painting consigned at a gallery, we direct them to the gallery. This is the only way to share an internet presence of your work. Through my website, I extend the galleries reach to new, potential Armand Cabrera art customers. Because of my press, standing in the art community and hard work, my website gets more traffic than most of my galleries’ websites. It would be foolish for my galleries to demand I take my site down or eliminate my contact information. I am an ethical, honest person. Removing my contact info or taking down my site would only hurt my gallery’s business.

So, please be honest with your galleries—but stand your ground. A website is a very important tool for an artist and for your galleries. Support your galleries by linking to their websites and being an honest artist.

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Gallery Contracts

by

Armand Cabrera

When negotiating with a gallery, make sure you have a written contract. Honest people realize a contract protects both parties involved; if it is worth discussing it is worth putting in writing. Never assume anything about a business or people you don’t know. Not everyone will agree on what is fair and what is not.

Don’t let contracts put you off. While it is possible to have a successful partnership without a contract, by not having one you risk the loss of your inventory to unscrupulous people or unforeseen circumstances. Remember, you can agree to anything you like. A contract is just the written form of that agreement nothing more.

Contract items should include who pays for shipping artwork to and from the artist, framing, advertising and mailings. Negotiate what the commission percentage is for the gallery and how much they can discount, if at all. Set the retail price for your work. Make sure the gallery has a time limit on when they pay. A good gallery should pay immediately and no later than two weeks. Art work is consigned, it is your money and they have no right to hold it without your permission.

Decide with the gallery what their territory will be. Include the right to show in one or two group shows a year that might be in that area through a Museum or art organization. Paintings consigned to the gallery should always be hung in the showroom not stored in the back. State these things in writing.

A clause to dissolve the agreement between the two parties is also necessary. It should state clearly how much notice is needed to terminate the contract and how any unpaid money or debt is handled. Once you sign an agreement you are bound by the terms. This means not undercutting your sales and prices.Limit the terms of the contract to one or two years maximum. Some galleries have a hard time with an artist’s success as much as their lack of it and you will outgrow some of your galleries as your prices increase. It has been my experience that there are willing buyers for quality work at every price level. Don’t be afraid to move on if you feel the gallery is holding you back. My belief is the marketplace will let you know if you are doing the right thing.

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