The Debate Room

Well after a little consideration I decided to tell you about my experience in the past 20 yrs of painting - namely the experience of dealing with 'Dealers' and 'Galleries'. (And yes they are two different things to deal with.)

First off - Dealers.

How many artists have walked thru the doors of a Gallery to face the Dealer only to be turned away? All of us at some point. If you haven't don't tell me how you bribed them! The Dealer I refer to is usually the owner of a gallery, privately owned and run by one or two people. My first proper experience (when I had actually got some semi respectable work) was encountered with a door opening a jar and a frail looking woman poking her long nose out thru the door and telling me she had just closed and to come back tomorrow when the owner was there. Which I did - only to find Actor, film producer, novelist Brian Forbes and his wife Nanette Newman. He pondered briefly over the work and accepted them into his gallery - which led to many sales and so forth. Awesome, nerve wracking but helped my early part of the career.

Other dealers weren't so forgiving. Some to be frank should not be selling art or come close to anything artistic. They don't know their 'product' or how to market it! Yes dealers that is YOUR job! I had one insane dealer who conned me into paying for marketing in newspapers, payment for brochures, wine on the opening show - in fact I can't remember anything they actually did for the 40% commission they gained on sales. I hear a cry from dealers saying - hey but we provide the space and clients! Well to be honest most artists can hire space cheap enough and from my experience most of the 'clients' that turn up for the shows don't buy and are mainly friends of the dealer and artist.

You may think this harsh (and please do leave your comments) but I can say from my own experience that most buyers, genuine buyers purchase works ahead of the show or after - not during. One because in reality even though they may drawl over your work they don't want the humiliation of waving a cheque book or credit card or to be under the influence of cheap alcohol in front of a crowd.

One good dealer I knew used to be up at 7.00 am every morning and in his gallery by 8.00 am. Doors were closed 'til 9.30 am but he was busy emailing his 10,000 client base list. Yes 10,000 - He'd built that up over 10 yrs. (i.e dealers take note please - he'd used his noddle and marketed his gallery to people not just the art.) He had 6 shows per year from memory and most were sell out shows and he turned over so he claimed about 1 mil pounds of sales each yr.

Note: he also only dealt about 12 artists work. the artists generally exhibited about 30 to 40 works in a show every 2 yrs. Most were sellout shows. If any were left it was only 2 or 3 which sold over the course of a year.

Having read numerous biographies on well known artist like Manet, Monet, DeKooning, Picasso etc you'll notice one common thing took place with these guys. They all had an agent/dealer who patroned them to some degree. Why has that stopped? Is this the reason why so few 'master' artists are around? Or if they are around they are lost with no exposure?

What do you think? Do you think most dealers actually do their job of marketing the artists work?
Dealers - what's your perspectives on this? Patrons of the arts - What's your views?
What can artists do to get beyond this point of artist/dealer problematic relationships?

[I am not saying I don't have good relationships with dealers by the way - just raising things I've have experienced or seen over the 20 yrs in the industry and want your feedback.]

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