...serenity in motion
Contracts, the messy business of being in business.
Galleries will have you sign a contract when you bring in your work. It is to protect both parties from having a misunderstanding. While that is all to the good, the party that writes it, generally benefits the most. Simple contracts are the hardest to break and most galleries have contracts that release them from liability for damages due to acts of god or negligence. There are also clauses that define how long you are represented and what the expectations are. You can negotiate and if you are a consistent seller, you have more leverage.
Always read your contract before you sign. Make sure you have a copy and file it in a place that you can access easily and readily. One 2 drawer filing cabinet holds all of my business files and I only use the top drawer. I keep records on who I am currently dealt with and the history of those in the past. I want to have reminders of why I pulled out or stayed and what sold in the past. There is no point taking landscapes of The Pacific Northwest to a gallery in Arizona unless they have a history of being a good seller.
Keep clear records of your inventory at each of these galleries. When you look at your inventory, you can make sure the work that is on the walls there is a true representation of what you can and are doing currently. It is important that you understand your rights and responsibilities as a represented artist. You want to walk into each business relationship with your eyes wide open and your back end completely covered.
Most galleries appreciate organized and professional artists. If they don’t, they might not be the organization you want to get into bed with. Understand that there is supposed to be a tradeoff for paying a higher commission and it isn’t just about store front. You can be in the best store front in the world but if you are paying 50% for no advertising representation, no active promotion and no insurance coverage; you might not be getting a good bang for your buck.
Don’t be discouraged however, being an artist is very rewarding. In the end, we could be collecting un-employment right now or being paid minimum wage for asking, “You want fries with that?” Weigh the costs and stresses and make the best decision for you. There are programs out there that give artists free business advice and classes that you pay for but are worth it. For more professional guidance in doing business as an artist, consider looking into continuing education such as The Map program offered in Idaho (My Artrepreneur™ Program - Arts Idaho) and Montana (art.mt.gov > Programs & Services > Montana Artrepreneur Program (MAP)). Ask other artists who have been doing the business where they have learned their business savy. They all have taken one class or another at one point and will share when they found something that helped.