More Bad Things Galleries Do To Artists & Bad Things Artists Do To Galleries

Previous entry on this subject here.

Bad Things Artists do to Galleries

The below anecdote actually happened to a Washington, DC gallery at the time located in Georgetown:

The gallery had given a show to a local (at the time “hot”) DC artist who was a painter (I say “was” because I haven’t heard of the dude in years).

The artist was supposed to deliver and help hang all the paintings on a Wednesday, in order to be ready for the Georgetown third Friday openings. He did show up on Wednesday with about 50% of the work, and brought some more (freshly finished) on Thursday and to the gallerist’s horror, even brought some more on Friday, and even as the show was opening at 6PM, was adding the last painting touches to several of the works.

Needless to say, several of the oils were actually wet by opening time at 6PM.

On opening night, it was crowded (let us not forget that this was a very “hot” painter) and someone apparently rubbed against one of the paintings and smeared some of the oil paint on the canvas.

Now the gallerist is faced with a very irate person, demanding that his suit be cleaned (it eventually had to be replaced) and with a furious artist, demanding that the gallery pay him in full for the damaged painting.

If I am to believe the gallerist, the case actually went to court, where the judge threw it out.

Now that I think about it, since most gallerists in the DC area heard about this escapade, no wonder that this artists ceased to show anywhere in the DC area!

Bad Things Galleries do to Artists

Many good, reputable galleries also run a framing business at the same time, as the job of keeping an art gallery profitable or even breaking even is quite a heroic task. When a bad gallery which runs a frame shop and a novice artist get together, trouble happens. I know of several instances where the following has occurred:

The artist and the gallery agree on a show, and well in advance set the date for the opening, publicity, etc. The artist inquires about framing and the gallery responds by saying: “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.”

And so well before the opening, the artist brings all of his/her work in, they discuss mouldings, and the gallery does all the framing.

On opening night, if the artist is lucky, several pieces sell. At the end of the show, depending on how much work sells, instead of a check for his commission, the artist gets in the mail a framing bill which lists the total framing costs for the whole show, minus the artists’ commission, and because of the high cost of custom framing, a deficit in favor of the gallery’s framing business.

The way to prevent this from happening is by always having a contract that spells out all details of the business exchange between the artist and the gallery. Needless to say, the artist should have asked a lot of questions about framing prices, overall costs, and payment procedures.

In most cases, custom framing truly raises the expenses of an artist’s show, and while reputable framers will do a great job to work with people to arrive at a clear goal, just handing an entire show to a gallery’s framing business must require a lot of good communications and understanding of prices, debts, what happens after the show, etc.

Framing is an art by itself, and if the artist in my example is lucky, he/she may end up with an expensive lesson, but at least a set of his work in nice frames. I know of at least one artist who didn’t really get too involved in the moulding selection process, and to her horror on opening night discovered her artwork framed in gaudy, gold rococo frames.

To make matters worse, she didn’t sell anything at the show, and thus after the show ended up with a huge framing bill and about 20 framed watercolors in really ugly expensive gold frames that belonged to the 19th century.

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  1. July 29, 2008 @ 12:44 pm

    Claudia Brookes Said,

    There is another, industry-wide problem regarding the issue of framing costs. I believe that the fairest thing that galleries could do regarding framing would be to set the commission on the unframed work only, and make a separate allowance for the frame/framing itself so that that the artist doesn’t have to give the gallery back 40 or 50% of the cost of the frame when the piece is sold. I have heard of only a couple of out of the many thousands of galleries that have taken this enlightened approach. It is definitely a problem for artists to underwrite their frames for the gallery this way; even a small watercolor sent to a framer can cost a couple of hundred. I have heard of artists ending up with a negative balance when the piece is sold, and I am sure that there would be a record of many of instances of this happening if only more artists were aware of their true costs. As the price of the piece goes up, the ratio improves so that the framing is not so great a part of the cost. Therefore, this practice tends to hurt emerging artists (and watercolor artists, whose peices are generally priced lower) disproportionally.

  2. July 29, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

    Lenny Said,

    Good points… there are also what I called “guerrilla tactics” to framing that can reduce framing costs by 80% provided that the artist plans the framing timeline and learns a couple of very basic things…

    This is part of my “Bootcamp for Artists” seminar that I have taught for about ten years…

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