Owning and operating a gallery seems like a luxurious position full of fun and exposure to cool people. Well, that may all be true, but it certainly isn’t all of it. There is so much more to this wonderful career people who visit don’t have a clue about. I’m sure the folks who operate galleries love it, or they wouldn’t stick with it. But it is hard work no doubt about that.
Most of us will never own a gallery, nor do most of us want to. Artists want to exhibit in galleries to enjoy the exposure, a cool place to exhibit work, and luxuriate in the lime lite for a bit when you are privileged with a showing. That is the true dream of most of us. We value our gallery acquaintances and friendships formed with gallery owners over time. Its good to find a good gallery that likes your work and who are willing to give you perpetual showing dates for your work. This takes a lot of stress and headache off the artists. This is a great thing if you can get it. If you do, value this connection as they are not easy to come by.
Many of the galleries in the bigger cities are very – shall we say “exclusive”. Some will not even give the artist the time of day they are so booked and indulged with established artists of notoriety. They don’t want to be bothered with common folk like most of us. This is a league all its own. If you aren’t selling your work for thousands of dollars you may as well not even go there. The commission rate is so high it will eat up all your profits. I guess it doesn’t hurt to try these galleries if that is your goal. Otherwise, I would personally stay away from those. It is entirely up to you and your objectives for your work.
Some of us have had gallery practices class in college. This is a great course to take to understand the workings of and actual mechanics of operating a gallery. You will learn a little of the business and marketing skills, and also practical hands-on experience of hanging a show. Getting a show ready to exhibit is probably a little more complicated than most people give it credit unless they understand the work that goes in putting things together, hanging paintings, exhibiting sculpture and the rest of the details of this business.
Another big issue of owning a gallery is dealing with the artists. Believe me, this is no easy task. I have heard horror stories about people who want to exhibit then leave you hanging by not showing up, not bringing enough work or too much then insist on hanging it all. But the kicker is irresponsible artists who don’t show up at all with the work, then there you go, no work no show.
Commissions is another issue and keeping all of the business of sales, taxes, and payments records in order to satisfy the government when tax time rolls around. The paperwork with all of this plus agreements and contracts can be a headache if you aren’t careful and attentive.
Glamorous as it seems, running a gallery is no picnic. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to make it all work successfully. However, it is a satisfying experience and can be quite lucrative if in the right area with the appropriate artwork. If this is what you would like to try, it never hurts to dip your toe in the water and go for it!