As a former gallery owner, I heard that or similar questions all the time. Why do galleries take 50% of what your work sells for? Wouldn’t I make more money if I just sold it myself? Gee, I should be a gallery owner so I can make a bunch of money!
Time to dispel those rumors. Let’s start with the gallery side of things. As an example, let’s say I own a gallery that costs me $3000 per month in rent. That’s how much my tiny 600 square foot gallery in Laguna Beach cost me. And that was just the rent. Now let’s say that I can fit 30 paintings on the wall at any given time. So, $3000 rent divided by 30 paintings equals $100 per month for each of those paintings to take up wall space.
Now, let’s add on all the other expenses. There’s light bulbs (lots of them), electricity, employees, insurance, advertising, brochures, mailing lists, postcards, postage, food for exhibit openings, security service, phone, etc. There’s another $2000 per month. Grand total of $5000 per month to run this business. That means I have to sell $10,000 per month of your artwork just to break even.
So what do you get in exchange for that 50% fee that you pay to the gallery?
- A person who is dedicated to selling your work every day, seven days a week.
- Publicity (I even managed to get several of my artists on the TV news)
- Exhibit openings
- A dedicated display that shows off your work to its best advantage.
- Following up with customers to get them to buy more
So, yes, you could sell your work yourself. You could spend hours writing press releases. You could open up your home and have an exhibit. You could do lots of art shows. You could cultivate a large mailing list of potential buyers. There are so many things you could do. But these things take a lot of time. And, when does creating your art fit in?
If it sounds like I am ranting, it’s because I am. Most artists have no idea how much work, time, and effort a gallery puts into getting your art sold. I hope this brief glimpse into gallery expenses will shed some light on why a gallery takes that 50%.
Now, if you’re interested in learning more about getting your art into galleries, go buy my e-book: The Shy Artist's Guide to What Galleries Want.