Don't Call Me an Artist


Getting Paid as an Artist – A Realistic Point of View

Best Case Scenario: 3 Months

I submit work to a gallery, they review it within 4 weeks, the love it, and ask me to show. They don't have anything lined up for next month so I'm their guy. The show stays up for a month, all of my artwork sells, there aren't any billing issues, and the gallery cuts me a check. 3 months...

Worst Case Scenario: 8 Months / Forever

I submit my work. The gallery might not even respond. If they do, 6-8 weeks before I hear back is common. If they run their business well, they'll have shows lined up at least a few months in advance. Let's say they like my work, it gets hung. A few paintings sell, but there are billing delays (there are always billing delays). I finally get a check 7 or 8 months from now. And that's IF they like my work.

The gallery system is slow. What to do about this?


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  1. I’ve thought a lot about this issue, and I think the answer lies in the online space. Unfortunately, that would require people to buy sight unseen, and I think people have a limit on how much they would pay in that case, and only extremities would work (example: yeah, I’d totally buy a $100 print online because it’s not a huge deal if I don’t end up liking it. Or, think about the opposite end of the spectrum (and over phone rather than online): people buy from auction houses only having seen images in a catalogue, but the places are established as are the artists).

    I think the only way an online gallery could work (now. I have high hopes for the future.) is if the photographs of the work are perfection, and the site is amazing and manages to mimic the gallery environment in essence, say, with exclusivity. Maybe you have to be invited to join, for instance. You’d need to create an online experience or destination.

    Some museums let you create online galleries using images from their permanent collections. Why can’t you do this as an artist, gallery owner, or curator…and sell from it too? You could have your cake and eat it too–set up an online “show,” but also have your entire inventory on view too–traditional galleries cannot compete.

  2. This is an interesting idea, Angélica, and one that could drastically reduce, or even eliminate the time it takes to actually get paid.

    I agree that people have a limit to what they would spend ’sight-unseen’ and that $100 probably approaches that limit. If there were a way to verify, or somehow give the work a stamp of approval from an established critic, gallery, auction house, or museum, you could greatly increase the acceptable upper limit price on works sold online. After all, doesn’t a work immediately increase in value as soon as an expert (gallery owner, let’s say) deems it ‘good enough’ to take up space on their wall. There’s inflation along with that endorsement – and every endorsement thereafter. But that is a much larger issue.

    I’ve recently checked out some online gallery websites, but they don’t tend to be very exclusive. Anyone with anything they consider art can upload photos of their work and try to sell. This is commendable, but I think the complete lack of selection process brings down the perceived value of every piece of work on the site.

    I very much like the idea of setting up one’s own gallery, complete with entire inventory, but I think the virtual show would need to somehow replace the value that is lost by the digital transition. After all, there’d no longer be free cheese and wine on which to nosh. Might the online realm do something better? Perhaps a live ustream event that takes the intimidation out of approaching the artist and asking questions about the works. Who knows! The possibilities are definitely out there.


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