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Ashland Arts Alliance Message Board Fine Art › How Much Should a Gallery Charge for Comission?

How Much Should a Gallery Charge for Comission?

Arthur B.
Group Organizer
Beaverdam, VA
Post #: 148
I really don't want meetups announcements to become the place for discussions. They should be limited to attendees, time, place, etc...

However, issues will certainly arise that deserve more discussion. The most recent was the amount of commission a gallery charges. I am in fairly regular communication with artists around the country, and I know of galleries that charge, 30%, 40%, 50%, and even 60% commission. As an arist or gallery manager, I'd love for you to chime in on the conversation.

There is also a movement called W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Greater Economy), which calls for artists to be compensated by galleries for travle, labor for installing their work, lecturing, and the use of their art in marketing.
These are ideas that intrigue me, and I'd love to have discussions about this, and actual examples of galleries doing different things. How does your gallery do business?
A former member
Post #: 301
This is not an easy subject to answer and fraught with emotion. Therefore, I am going to take a rather simplistic academic disjointed approach on how I feel about the subject. I would like to start by stating that it is the job of a gallery to negotiate the highest commission possible. While it is in the best interest for an Artist to negotiate the lowest commission possible. The answer is the free market economy.

Now let’s take a business look at the Gallery and what drives a set minimum commission and what enables galleries to ask for high commissions. A general list would be location, reputation, history (who has hung), revenue stream (the ability to move artwork), foot traffic, operating costs, governance, ease of access, price of artwork, and age of the business.

Looking at the Artist and how he can drive a lower commission. Again a general list would be if the artist is well known and if they move art by their name, if they are just starting out and cannot demand minimum price, if their genre/style is selling at this particular time.

Overall, there is more risk for the gallery dealer than there is for the artist.

Now for a moment I would like to forget about operating costs of a business. Let’s look at the negotiating ability of the Gallery and the Artist. If you think that Gallery dealers are smarter than artists you might have just kicked yourself in the teeth. Also, don’t think gallery dealers are more nefarious than artists. I have known a few nefarious artists inn my time. Since there are good and bad on both sides of the isle let’s assume both are negotiation in good faith. My personal belief is that most people want an honest deal; artists and gallery dealers alike. Sorry, I digressed. Business acumen is important when you negotiate. I would love to see art schools or universities/colleges add courses in basic contract law and negotiation into the art programs. Overall, anyone just entering a field of business (yes art is a business) will be green. Growing pains are a normal part of business. Putting business acumen aside, the gallery’s negotiating points are: revenue stream (how much art they sell), clientele, genre/style, current inventory, risk of new art work, and repeat customers. The Artist negotiating points are: artist’s reputation, does his genre/style “fit” into the gallery, and does their genre/style sell.

To structure my thinking:
Gallery negotiation = operating costs + inventory + revenue stream + reputation + location + settable price + time to sell + fee

Artist negotiation = known/unknown + does their work sell + settable price + time to sell + location

Although the artist and the gallery have some of the same items listed they can argue the same points on opposite ends.

Like it or not Art is a business. Art as a business might not be the core reason for artist to create art but then try to take his work without paying for it and see what happens. I guess the question might be “is 30%-50% (or higher/lower) be reasonable?” I think the answer is probably. If an artist does not want to pay a commission he/she thinks is extravagant, the artist does not have to have their work at the gallery. A dealer hanging work in their gallery and an artist allowing their work to be hung in a gallery is an agreement made between two parities.

...and that is my two cents.

Barbara K.
user 49515302
Mechanicsville, VA
Post #: 32
Yes, I am very much aware of the business structure. And I'm glad that I can freely share ( and am backed by thousands of artists globally ) that a gallery should never equal their value, to the artists work. I am in the mind set of support the ARTIST, more than the "arts"........
Barbara K.
user 49515302
Mechanicsville, VA
Post #: 33
Galleries open, and close, all of the time, everywhere. A *good gallery will take into consideration economic concerns, and care about the Artist. Just noted, a very popular CA gallery is charging 35% commission, because they do in fact care about their artists represented.
I think it is intrinsically and morally wrong for any gallery, or any business for that matter, to equal or exceed their value, over the people who make it work.........I have managed many businesses in my career, both in the private sector, and @ the State level. I do agree with "free enterprise" and yes, it is none of my business how a private business may choose to conduct themselves, as long as they are not hurting anyone, and as a concern citizen, and as a leader in the area arts movements and associations- part of "my business" is to care about the ARTISTS....JUST SAYIN'. And it was unfortunate that I heard from some townsfolk about an area gallery that is charging 50% commision, and does not support the local artists. This is my experience, and also my opinion.
Barbara K.
user 49515302
Mechanicsville, VA
Post #: 34
In addition, I have 40 years experience ( starting at age 15 with the NY School of Arts, called Julliard ) to present day, and am an admin for a group of 6,000 International Artists.

You may not agree with me, and that is super ok!

I do however deserve and demand respect from the members of my MeetUp group affiliates, and will quickly drop out if I sense anything different.

A former member
Post #: 302
Barbra, your last comment “I do however deserve and demand respect from members of…” I do not think anyone has shown you any disrespect. This is an area where many minds and ideas come together. A rabbi once told me that in order to find the truth you need three people to argue a point. I feel this is a good safe place where we can express our opinions, reframe the argument, and help each other see all sides. Many of us are professionals and have diverse experience. I think by bringing in all the experience and diverse opinions we have the opportunity to find our "sweet spots" and make our community great.
A former member
Post #: 304
I would like to better understand the "care about the artist" statement. What do you mean by caring about the artist?
A former member
Post #: 305
Just thinking. Somehow...would a Cost Plus Fixed Fee be more "fair" in determining commission? If so, what should the fee be and how would you determine the costs? One way of looking at the costs would be Wall-Space X Time. But then we could run into issues with paintings that do not sell quickly and could "over stay" the price of the painting. On the other hand if a painting sells quickly the artist would get the bounty from the sail. Like I said...just thinking.
Barbara K.
user 49515302
Mechanicsville, VA
Post #: 36
Many Galleries have membership criteria and annual dues, and offer varying percentages on commissions of sales.. For example Crossroads Art Center charges 25% for members, and 35% for non-members.

An annual membership fee of $45. entitles benefits such as, reduced entry fee's for shows, and bi-monthly Member shows which allows automatic entry of one piece per members show, at a fixed rate.

Crossroads is a very large 25,000 sq.ft multi-spaced gallery representing 225 artists, who rent wall space and or cubicle style group or individual spaces, which are rented based on visibility and traffic flow.

Art 6, a smaller gallery charges a flat 35%.

It seems to be all about location, location. Of course NYC, LA, and larger cities may charge more based on (per capita? ) all of the aforementioned considerations in the above conversations. Interesting discussion!

A former member
Post #: 309
Being a gallery, art studio, and established (I believe) allows Crossroads runs under a different business model than most galleries. Also, over time Crossroads build a huge store front taking advantage of size/discount negotiation. Again, I think it is a great place. When I personally looked into gallery space for a friend I like their model because it has that mix-and-match schedule for fee. When studios, consignment shops, etc. set commission fees I always ask myself “what are the operating costs”. This might be because I always have to look at costs when charging my customer base in order to set a fair fee.

So I guess the big question might be, how do we determine that a particular studio is asking for a fair commission based on costs?

I am still wondering what you meant by “for the artist and not the art”. Can you go deeper into this?
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