As an art gallery entrepreneur, artists frequently ask what I expect from an artist. Getting your foot in the door is one thing, but after representation is offered, the difficulty many artists have is staying on course with the gallery. Too few artists understand that their long-term success in a gallery depends on one thing – “building a strong relationship”.
When two people come together, one business and one creative, the expectations need to be clear from the start for the relationship to thrive. Much like marriage where opposites attract, the relationship becomes an opportunity to learn from one another and appreciate each other’s strengths.
Entrepreneurs assess opportunities and weigh the risks. They are planners and have financial goals. A new artist is a risk but their potential is important to the gallery’s goals. Depending on the artist’s potential, the gallery determines how much time, money and display space to invest. The artist gains an advantage when he/she comes to the table not only with potential but with commitment, personal goals, and core values that align with the gallery.
There isn’t anything more disappointing than having invested in an artist who decides to leave shortly after arrival because they decide to promote their work in a different way or do something else with their lives. Research also shows that the absentee artist and one-hit wonders are disappointments that make galleries cringe. Galleries are also super cautious about artists who are capable, but show signs of limitations, are unreliable, change style frequently, or simply behave unprofessionally.
From a business perspective, I appreciate artists who have some knowledge of business and recognize what a successful business partnership involves. Those lacking business experience need to show a willingness to learn and accept the terms of their new relationship. Everyone values artists who understand their role in the partnership, even in times of hardship or adversity. The relationship can only blossom when players are cooperative.
After an artist lands a position in a gallery, he/she cannot assume everything is peachy because time has passed without major issues. An artist needs to be attentive because the gallery is ALWAYS looking at the future if they want to be in the future. Being a silent partner does not make a good partner. Relationships will continue to advance when responsibility is shared. Communicate with your gallery and take time to ask how to make improvements. There are artists out there as qualified as you and ready to take your spot, and galleries are ALWAYS looking for opportunities to improve their future.
Successful partners share prosperity and enjoy a rewarding, long-term relationship. It’s not just about getting along, but showing mutual respect for what each brings to the table. Frequently gallery owners describe their ideal business relationships with artists like friendships. Personalities have to match. “It’s easy to love great art work but when personalities clash, a business relationship will never work.” It doesn’t have to be a love-fest but partners do have to get along and have respect for one another.
Here’s a few tips to keep your gallery happy and forge a relationship that will stand the test of time:
- Become familiar with the gallery’s history, plans, and philosophy.
- Get acquainted with all staff members and help educate your representatives about your technique and background. Stories sell art!
- Make promotion of your work easy for the gallery. Provide quality images and full descriptions, videos, schedule live demonstrations, and keep up with the gallery’s social networks.
- Stay engaged! It only takes minutes to call or send a text message and keep communications open.
- Be flexible about pricing and willing to work with the gallery to make sales. Do not let someone else’s advice convince you to increase your prices. Trust your gallery; they have knowledge that can guide your strategic plans. An inappropriate price increase can push your prices too high resulting in lost sales. Be aware that it is far better to sell everything at reasonable prices than nothing at unreasonable prices.
- Ask your gallery what they need for their clientele. Never deliver new work without approval or push work that is not wanted.
- Keep requests to a minimum and never make demands. Remember, you are not the business owner and the owner is responsible for the bottom-line.
- Keep in contact without overdoing it. Ask the gallery how often makes sense to “check-in” if you are unsure. Some might want to communicate every week while other gallery owners are comfortable with once a month.
Stay positive and remember to recognize all the work your gallery does on your behalf. Send us tips that work for you too and they will be shared in a follow-up post.