To prepare to speak before the Dunwoody Fine Art Association today, I wrote out a list of options available to artists when it comes to the business and marketing aspects of running an art business. That list included options like getting representation at an established gallery, exhibiting locally and nationally, teaching art classes and workshops, creating a product line and mass-producing something, hiring an agent or promoter, getting published, setting up one’s own e-commerce website, self-promoting via email and Twitter, and public speaking. Then I made a list of what I do and what I like most: having an open studio with a storefront, representing other artists, exhibiting locally and nationally, paying someone else for e-commerce website hosting, writing a blog, and public speaking.
I realized that my favorite activity on that list is representing other artists–that is, selling other artists’ work on consignment. I have heard such horror stories from artists about how badly they are treated by galleries and shops that I decided 1) never to allow someone else to sell my art and 2) to treat others how I would want to be treated. Artists deserve more respect than they receive. It seems as though people think artists are blue collar workers without union representation and too stupid (or hungry) to care about how badly they are treated. Gallery and shop owners often don’t maintain inventories of the pieces they carry, don’t notify the artists when pieces sell, don’t pay commissions on a regular basis, break or lose artists’ work with no remuneration, etc. I am appalled by this, so I have set about to make a difference.
I am representing three artists currently, and I have a legally binding agreement with each one. I promise to pay them their asking price when a piece sells, and I set the sale price at 1.5 times their asking price. I collect and pay all sales tax. I notify the artists at the end of each month when I have sold their work, and I mail them a check for their asking price. I do the best I can to promote their products, and I pass out their business cards. I am every bit as happy when one of their pieces sell as I am of my own. This really is the best part of what I’m doing right now.
Here are representative samples of my current consignees: