The traditional or conventional means of selling or marketing art does not work, hence the term “starving artist”.
It is extremely difficult and time consuming to gain gallery representation, despite the artist’s “talent”. Even with a “shoe in”, an endorsement from an American art icon (Wayne Thiebaud), I found the process daunting, frustrating, even humiliating, and certainly not profitable. The good news is that challenges can present opportunities to create new solutions, and that is what inspired my business.
Galleries operate on terms of consignment, a speculative arrangement. This means that the artist only gets paid if their art sells and the artist generally cannot sell anything themselves that is on consignment with a gallery. An artist can not even sell their work from their website.
This is because galleries demand exclusivity to all sales within a geographic region, whether or not they generate a minimum amount of sales and even though it is an illegal practice. Once an artist’s work does sell they receive 40%-50% of the retail price, or even less if the gallery owner negotiates a discount with the collector. Most often, the artist eats the discount.
The artist is handcuffed and prevented from expanding their sales. If they work with a gallery they can only work with one gallery in a geographic region, a region defined by the gallery of course. If an artist works with a gallery in a distant region they often have difficulty recovering their inventory or payment if the gallery folds or simply decides to help them selves to it. Galleries are successful in enforcing these terms because they have a long list of artists waiting in line for a chance to be “discovered”, artists who do not yet posses the skill or the confidence to operate a business and market their own work.
Every artist I have known, including myself, has had galleries sell or lease their art without paying them and they have had their art damaged or “lost” without receiving any compensation. The traditional art business model is good for galleries; it’s bad for most artists.
This is not to say that all galleries or art consultants are bad, but like most companies, this company’s policy is to only engage in terms that are profitable and avoid those that are not.
Ann Rea Incorporated is often approached with opportunities for “exposure”. These “opportunities” include the invitation to donate works of art without compensation to non-profit auctions and without the IRS benefit of deducting the donation, all for the sake of insubstantial “exposure”. Aside from the cost of supplies, the IRS disallows artists from deducting donations of their art.
The second most frequent opportunity for “exposure” is the invitation to use or profit from Ann Rea’s intellectual property, with no payment in exchange for “exposure”. Reproductions and licensing currently represent 63% of this company’s revenues to date. Giving away these profitable assets does not support creating a profit and it muddles the development of a brand.
When I was considering pursuing art full time I interviewed several successful artists. I remember one in particular telling me that in order to succeed I “must take the reins”. That is my recommendation to other artists. Understand and respect your value and find a market for it.