Future for commercial galleries not so bright

Posted 16 July 2020 03:43 PM

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Commercial Galleries no longer the favourite outlet for artists

We’ve been running a survey for the past 3 months asking artists:

-       Where do you get most sales from now?

-       Where do you think you will get most sales in 3 years time?


At first glance the results show a massive movement away from commercial galleries. That is:

currently 37.5% of artists say they get most sales from commercial galleries. But, only 21.4% say this will be the case in 3 years time. Some of the key reasons for this movement away from commercial galleries can be attributed to:

-       50% commission is too expensive

-       Preference to control sales and output via their own channels

-       Growing popularity of online sales platforms

-       Detrimental impact of COVID on commercial galleries

Despite this trend, a number of artists currently using commercial galleries as their primary sales channel intend to continue using them in 3 years time.


As emerging artists are quite capable of working with online platforms and channels their reliance on commercial galleries for sales obviously lessens. Having said this, artists currently with a commercial gallery believe that they will still be selling more work with a gallery in 3 years time.


The move away from seeking representation in commercial galleries by artists isn’t necessarily a problem. Galleries won’t feel a chill until collectors make the move as well. And this is probably the danger for commercial galleries - collectors are becoming more comfortable purchasing works online. And if artists are willing to sell their work for less online, because of lower overheads then commercial galleries will be negatively impacted.


Sentiment - Artists’ Comments from our survey

Intend to sell outside the commercial gallery network

·       I don't want to give a gallery 50%

·       Can’t afford to pay a commercial gallery 50% commission.

·       I am actively networking on Social Media and having a wonderful response, I sell my pieces as I display them on FB

·       If i continue to improve, then people who like my work will seek it out (directly with me) or buy it at exhibitions. I don't actively paint to sell.

·       Too much commission paid to galleries for works on consignment. And online is growing especially due to Coronavirus

·       Don't have to pay commission to anyone

·       Because I will earn the total amount for putting in the same effort for marketing etc

·       Galleries take too much money and time and control subject matter

·       Most control and stability

·       There is far more reach with an online gallery, especially one that already has a large client base

·       The building of my website store will increase sales in that area

·       more exposure with Art Prize Exhibitions More Prize money on offer for Art Prizes Increase in number of Art Prize Exhibitions

·       Overheads and framing costs - then gallery commissions on top...

·       Sell everything I paint....usually 1 a week

·       I think I need to get up to date and control my prices, adding the the dealer's commission is putting my work out of reach for the average punter.

·       Ideally I would be selling works through my own channels, but that assumes you have lots of followers/big reach/money for paid advertising. The convenience and reach of platforms such as Bluethumb open you up to much bigger audience that you may not otherwise have access to.

·       It is happening as more Galleries are closing clients feel like having a vip experience with the artist


Intend to remain within the commercial gallery network

·       Desire to work with a gallery

·       I think once you get over a certain price point ($2000) art dealers are the only way to sell? That’s been my experience anyway

·       I'm a printmaker and intend to exhibit with specialised print galleries

·       I was owner of a Gallery until recently (nothing to do with CV19). In my experience buyers prefer to see the actual artwork and may make several visits before committing to a more expensive piece. Online doesn't give them a good idea of colour or size. Many people struggle to visualise the piece in their home with just a set of measurements and a picture - no matter how accurate.

·       Long standing relationships with well known galleries has been the bulk of income from sales for 20 years

·       previous successful exhibitions run this way


General comments

·       Historically this [galleries] is where my best sales occur, but whether the galleries will survive this crisis remains to be seen.

·       The GFC has affected everyone’s income in the visual arts since 2008. The bottom of the market has fallen through hence my decision to move out of the arts and into academia.

·       When you're an emerging artist it's difficult to be seen, and without winning prizes, the more respected galleries rarely notice you. Online seemed like an obvious choice to try and find an audience. I also exhibit in a good artist run gallery once a year, and do very well. I chose Bluethumb because I can create a body of work for an exhibition and still service my online gallery. They have an option for work to be seen on their website but not available for a period of time, which allows you to withhold work for an exhibition or enter a prize, which can give rise to commissions. I think you have to do everything - have an online gallery, a website, post to instagram, enter prizes and take part in bricks and mortar exhibitions. Over time, I've developed a good rhythm with it all and don't find the business side of being an artist an intrusion.

·       Until you win an art prize or get representation at a gallery the artist has to cold canvas their work, Instagram and online platforms are also highly competitive and requires a whole new set of skills that might be harder for generations older than Gen Y

·       Finding lower priced artworks sell quicker so will try and bring my production costs down and find cheaper materials to use.

·       because people are always looking for what's new and there's no newer work than submitting works with an art society exhibition.

·       As I become more successful with my arts practice and become a finalist in more prizes, this is likely to happen, and also I feel in 3 years time it will be in more commercial galleries too.

·       For a wider exposure to art collectors.

·       I do not want to mix commerce of art and making of art -

·       History. It all depends on the price level/reputation/provenance of the work and the artist. Low level priced works tend to be considered as decorator consumables and they largely sell from online galleries whereas collector and investment art sells from bricks'n'mortar galleries.

·       Covid 19 restrictions have defiantly caused these changes.

·       I own a gallery and art store and have seen a market shift

·       Past experiences have led me to make this choice.

·       In my experience sales occur across a range of venues including commercial galleries, art prizes, website enquiries, online e-news and public galleries. But they rarely occur without a relationship being developed with the buyer. Art prizes are not the most common point of sales, but they are venues for interested buyers to see my work and become familiar with it. Relationships will always be key; points of contact including art prizes form part of the mix which establishes the perceived value of an artists work, their reputation within the industry, trajectory (if you win the prize) and frequency of seeing the artists work - familiarity.

·       These are currently where my sales are from at the moment and where they have been growing in this area. I would also definitely consider through an art dealer as an area I would like to consider, because there is a need to broaden the amount of people I can reach and develop relationships with.

·       More consumers purchase here.

·       Growth of online and personal artist owned galleries

·       I have shown in good galleries in Sydney, Adelaide, Rome and New York but all of them have now closed, so, I organize and Mount my own yearly shows from my Studio.

·       I see many other artists have success with Instagram but haven't taken the plunge myself yet!

·       I am making a transition in my career. Making a focused effort toward making and selling more art work.

·       Understanding the place art and art as investment has in the recessive economy- people will not invest now when the world is shifting to a service economy. Artworks sales will be tied to regenerative arts practice and commitment to the land, creating ecological well being and Indigenous Knowledge.

·       Experience over many years. The artist is the attraction as much as the work.