Dec 6, 2010

Art from the Heart Vanity Gallery?

Vanity Gallery

New Trend……….Not really!



Many years ago before I got my art into a real gallery I was approached by a man at one of the exhibits I was in asking me if I would like to be in his “gallery”.
Being at the point where I wanted this more than I wanted to eat, I immediately jumped at the offer…………..big mistake!

The gallery was in a great location, a very popular upscale shopping mall where lots of tourists and local people with money shopped.

I got all my art together and off I went….happy until I got there and found out the real skinny on the gallery. First of all it was a very nice place to show my work, and they (the owner and saleslady) loved my work ok........ so far so good! Then I was told that I would have to “pay’ for the space….uh….pay? Did they say “pay”?
Yes that is what they said; I had to pay a monthly fee for the "honor" of being in their gallery. This was my first encounter with what is known as a “Vanity” gallery.

Well I am not that stupid or vain, so I didn’t show my work in that gallery.

The vanity gallery is gaining popularity again, it is not new, and they have been around for a long time. So what exactly is a vanity gallery?
These galleries are an outcome of co-op galleries which I will cover in another article.
They usually charge a monthly fee or a one time sum for an arranged exhibition or wall space.
One of the biggest difference is that most co-op galleries will take the time to jury their members. In the vanity gallery anyone can get in, that is if they pay. You see, the gallery owner makes his money off the artists rather than from sales to the public.

Now let’s take a look at why this is not the gallery you want to be in. First of all vanity galleries have no motivation to sell your art. They don’t have to spend time and money cultivating collectors, why would they? It does not matter if your work sells because they already have their money.They often promise a “one person” show to lure the artists to sign up.
In the traditional gallery, it is up to the gallery to advertise you and promote you and if the artwork sells, the gallery makes a profit and the artist is then paid. They take time to select artists that they think will sell and boost their gallery’s reputation. It is not easy to get into one of these galleries, your art has to be good and you have to have a good resume’.

Most professional critics and art reviewers have a propensity to avoid the vanity galleries as they know that the art can be any quality, usually low quality, good artists never have their work showing in these.
What I find so disturbing is that there are so many enthusiastic artists that will actually pay to be in a gallery. Artists hear me, it is not worth it! Don’t sell out here, you may not sell one painting and be highly in debt by the time your contract is up. Not only will you have to pay rent you may be charged with things like hanging charges, catalogs, web listing, advertising etc.
They may offer you a Solo exhibition and charge a big fee for it, plus I have heard that some may even take a 10-15% commission!
Most legitimate galleries show work based on worth, it seems to me to be quite dishonest to try to appear to be this sort of gallery while all the time you are in the rental business.

Unfortunately, the internet has taken a lot of the great galleries away, and we now have more and more online galleries. We also see more low quality artwork coming into the vanity galleries. Artists want to be accepted and have their work in a gallery and because they want it so bad they often become victims of unscrupulous people who want to just make a quick buck and have no real interest in promoting great art.

When I finally got my work in the galleries I felt like I had been accepted because my work was good art and something that they wanted and not because I had paid them a large fee!

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