Below is an extract of an article by ‘Spike’ from the latest issue of Tubes magazine – Spike is the resident critic of painters Tubes magazine.
Artists to read the full article. You can register as ‘preview’ reader on line (free to read full magazine) by emailing Tubes with your name and email putting ‘register me’ in the subject line. A password protected link will be emailed back to you. firstname.lastname@example.org
Vanity (pay for exhibition space) Galleries, are they worth it?
…..so, what is an alternative to the favoured High Street galleries for the artists who cannot break the cycle of rejection, (however reluctant that may be, from a Galleries viewpoint). The so called ‘Vanity’ galleries have been around for decades and over the last two decades they have sprouted up everywhere, in one form or another. It is rarely they that are bothered or (overly) concerned about the quality of the artists work, the ones who wish to pay them for their space.
This type of gallery is in the business of renting ‘the space only,’ usually in a well located high street shop, for a profit. They use a branded banner on the outside and send out invitations of ‘applications,’ usually from commercially acquired mass emailing lists of artists, ones that are gleaned from, you guessed it, Social Media platforms. Some advertise directly on mass media or other social media with attractive wording that will entice the Artist to go one step further and start a conversation with their ‘curator’ (read Salesman). It’s only when you actually read the ‘deal’ that you discover that it will cost a ‘shit-load’ of your own money, that you begin to temper the ego and dreams of exhibiting in a gallery with that of your own financial reality.
Those who are brave and drown out the ‘money’ objection, one being screamed at them for all corners, convince themselves that they will ‘break even’ financially – if only given the chance to show their work, but usually they have either, miscalculated the cost, or are unaware of what it takes to ensure a reasonably successful ‘selling’ exhibition. Or they simply cannot get past the artistic ‘blue-sky’ thinking syndrome. Not so long a go I did a cost analysis of exhibiting in a ‘pay-for-space’ gallery. This was based on an out of City centre location, (in the UK) with reasonably accurate costs for space, marketing, transportation and so on. The final figure came out at a cost for a 5 to 6 day solo exhibition of around £3500 ($4,800). Major City centre space was nearer double that price, when I looked further into it. That’s a lot of painting to sell, based on the market average price for a half decent sized canvas for an unknown painter, at the lower (attractive) ‘stip-end’ market price level of around £350 each (circa $500), So is it worth it? Just for friends and family to rub ones ego and confirm you are a good artist?
How about selling on the web and creating a virtual reality exhibitions on your own website?
Sure, but I would suggest for that to be really successful, (i.e. selling on a regular basis for a consistent period of time) the artist will need a very good e-commerce enabled website (i.e. one that is not cheap to acquire and maintain) – And spend a great deal of time making strategic posts on social media – Or hire someone to do that specific task, and with a regular advertising budget. In this case I would suggest an annual budget for Marketing and PR of in excess £3000 per annum, for doing it all yourself, or £5000 to £8,000 annually, to hand this ‘job’ over to a professional full time SEO and art marketeer to do it for you. Who will no doubt, not give you any guarantee of a return for your money.
How about entering Art Competitions to gain recognition?
Why not, if you can live with the rejection element, nine out of ten times of entering the ones that, according to their pre-publicity, ‘give You the chance of lifetime’ to be internationally famous. Let’s be honest here, it’s a bit of lottery. The important thing to remember is, who does the judging – Usually there is an academic, a curator, another well known person who knows (not a lot) about art and the winner from the previous years competition. So the winning entries are somewhat vacuous in their preferences because of their own bias to one form of art or another. There again, if you actually ‘Win’ or come second or third, what does it bring you? – Well if it’s a National Competition’ then about 15 minutes of fame and a commission from the sponsors of the Competition, and loads of Facebook likes and messages of congratulations (ego gratification again). Plus, maybe 3 minutes on a You Tube video interview or a feature in your local newspaper. The rest of the smaller comp’s are really a bit like Vanity Galleries, except they don’t make as much money out of the ‘customer’. It can cost around £30 to enter three paintings to an ‘average’ competition – And if you are short listed you have to physically take your paintings to a central point – for ‘further judging’ and then schlep them back again (when rejected), which can cost you up to ‘whatever’- depending how far away you live form the nominated place of ‘drop-off’. The on-line ‘competitions, to my mind, are simply a money gathering exercise, full stop. And, again only in my opinion, are really not worth bothering with (unless they are free to enter of course).
If my experience(s) of ‘unknown’ Artists exhibiting endeavours, ones that I have come to discover or hear of the experiences of, over these last 40 years in the Art world, sound to be full of negative thinking and perhaps a little depressing, well that may well be true, but I have tried to be down to earth, and look at the whole arts selling ‘ball game’ realistically. To balance that train of negativity and on a more positive note, there is another and, I think, a far better way of exhibiting your Art at a reasonable cost, but perhaps entailing a lot more personal effort and time from the artist. It’s not a new idea, but one worth looking into….. (continued in the next issue of painters Tubes magazine)