Commercial Galleries and Dealers

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The decision to show your work in a commercial gallery setting can be a smart career move that has the potential to bring your work to a large audience, to bolster your own name through association with the gallery’s name, as well as to open up previously unavailable opportunities for collaboration with other organizations, galleries, and artists. For an emerging artist, ongoing involvement in the arts community, as well as a credible history of exhibitions (though not necessarily a long history) is an important step toward lending you the kind of credibility a commercial gallery would seek before investing in you and your work. Dealers will often approach those artists they are interested in working with, which, for you, means keeping your work visible through your involvement in the arts community. Failing this, it is also acceptable practise to contact the gallery itself. If you choose to go this route, you should visit the gallery and attempt to meet the dealer informally. This will give you a sense of what the space and the deal are like. If you are happy with what you saw, give a follow-up call indicating that you would like to send in a package of your work for review. Include some high-quality images of your work, a CV, an artist’s statement, and a self-addressed stamped envelope and follow-up shortly with a call to the gallery asking if you could arrange an appointment to meet with the dealer. If exhibiting in a commercial gallery is the right step for you, it is important to remember that involvement with a commercial gallery is first and foremost the beginning of an artist/dealer business relationship, one that should not be entered into carelessly. If you feel prepared to embark on such a relationship in terms of your work and level of professionalism the next step is research. This means first understanding who you are dealing with (the dealer themselves as well as the organization they represent), and then laying out, in a contract, the details and expectations of both parties in the relationship you are about to enter. Some of the areas it will be important for you to give proper attention to are listed below:
Will the dealer have exclusive rights over your any or all of your work?
How often will you be given solo exhibitions
How will shipping costs, framing costs, insurance costs, documentation costs, and invitation and other publicity costs be handled?
Who will choose the work for your exhibitions and who will be responsible for its display?
What is the commission rate, how are prices determined, will discounts be allowed and to what extent?
How soon after a purchase will you be paid?
What kind of reproduction rights will you allow?

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