All relationships require some understanding of expectations between the parties. This is especially true for the sensitive relationship between artist and gallery. For an artist seeking feedback or guidance, their gallery is often the #1 source of info. And for galleries, the artists they represent are their main source of income, while also contributing to the longterm reputation of the gallery. Both sides have expectations - here are some I've compiled from years in the industry.

It is reasonable for an artist to expect the following from a gallery:

  • Artwork sales, at a rate that was either previously discussed, or can be explained
  • Full payment in a reasonable amount of time (30 days post-sale, or at the agreed-upon interval)
  • Artwork exposure in a physical gallery space - “Wall time”
  • If sales are strong: contributing factors that could help the artist keep that momentum.
  • If sales are slow: Possible reasons or explanations relating to the slow sales. (All good artists will experience highs and lows in sales)
  • Positive feedback from staff or clients that could increase studio success or lead to more sales.
  • Group or solo exhibitions within the gallery, or connections to exhibition opportunities elsewhere.
  • Promotion on any channels that the gallery uses (social media, paid opportunities that may be shared with the artist)
Art Toronto 2017 featuring Michelle Nguyen, Chris Temple, Jill Greenberg, a sliver of Darlene Cole, and Tom Burrows. Bau-Xi Gallery booth.

Art Toronto 2017 featuring Michelle Nguyen, Chris Temple, Jill Greenberg, a sliver of Darlene Cole, and Tom Burrows. Bau-Xi Gallery booth.

It is reasonable for a gallery to expect the following from a represented artist:

  • Steady artwork production on a schedule that was previously discussed
  • Conversations in advance about any major changes to practice (aesthetic, styles, production speed) A gallery must know this in order to properly market your current and new work.
  • The artist should not be in competition with the gallery regarding sales - in most cases this means not selling direct to clients, and allowing sales to go through the gallery.
  • Artwork should arrive to the gallery in exhibition condition. Photos should be framed and ready to hang, paintings should not be wet. You may have other arrangements for framing etc, but know that if a piece that is ready to show, is more likely to be hung and sold. It is more challenging for a gallery to present unframed paperworks and photos that live in a drawer.
  • The artist should be willing to respond to feedback that can increase the saleability or quality of the artwork
  • All artwork should be made using archival-quality materials, and artists should be willing to provide some loose guarantee on the material stability.

If you feel that I have missed some crucial expectations, I'd love to hear it! Comment on the related Instagram post, or email me at alissalsexton@gmail.com and I'll include your comments if you wish.

1 Comment