Friday, 3 June 2016

Tateh gets an offer to dine upscale in New York City

By Ken Shaw

It’s no secret that New York City has just about the most expensive real estate in the world. Small wonder then that everything from restaurants to art galleries have to charge their customers prices that reflect this expensive environment. This can mean that some diners, and for that matter some artists, can find they are a little out of place. A New York City “gallery representative” recently contacted Tateh, saying:

“I came across your artwork online and I was impressed. As a gallery representative, my job is to discover talented artists who might benefit from the representation services that we offer.”

A New York gallery representative, impressed? This sounded great. It seemed to offer the possibility of professional representation and displaying Tateh’s art, right in the heart of New York City.

And indeed it did - for a price. After a little research I found that the gallery required $50 to consider an application for representation. Fair enough, I thought. It seemed a small sum, an appetizer perhaps, to sort out the wheat from the chaff, those seriously interested in promoting their art and those with only a casual appetite. But then we got to the entrée section of the menu:

The New York gallery also required a “representation and promotion services” fee of $5450, making a nice round $5500.

True this came, like all the courses, with lots of side dishes, including: targeted PR; online promotion; assistance with writing statements; reviews and advice; the space to display online images, and gallery space. But at this point I was beginning to wonder if the representative was genuinely impressed by Tateh’s artwork as she said, or simply farming the Internet for fresh artists to feed the gallery’s corporate pate' machine?

I decided to try to find out. And when the prices of the main dishes were revealed, I finally realized I was in the wrong restaurant. The cost of the courses ran steeply upwards from $5450, through mouth-watering dishes offering 40 feet of linear gallery space at $17,850, to the really exotic signature dish at a heady $65,500!

True, the beautiful signature dish offered some tasty accompaniments, including: 100 feet of gallery space; space for thirty images on the gallery website; a two-page magazine article, and a letter of recommendation to a gallery of your choice. But some dishes can be just too rich for an independent artist used to less salubrious environments.

Tateh’s current portfolio (the portfolio presumably viewed by the gallery representative) has an average per-painting gross value of around $500. Since the gallery apparently takes (in addition to the above fees) a 30% commission on each sale – as a tip perhaps? She would need to sell some 200 paintings just to cover the menu fees and tips.  Now 200 paintings at an average of three feet width, equates to 600 linear feet. Allowing a one-foot gap between each painting would add 200 feet, making a total of 800 feet, or EIGHT times the space offered by the signature dish.

Of course, there is always the option of raising Ivy’s prices to reflect the costs associated with displaying in a New York gallery, but would that be in the best interests of either Tateh, or her clients? Then of course, there is the cost of shipping the paintings to New York, hanging them, and being there to represent her art. And would potential clients be prepared to pay in excess of $4000 for a $500 painting regardless of how well marketed? I decided to decline the offer of gallery representation on the grounds of cost.

All of this made me wonder if gallery representation was a good idea, or if Tateh would be better advised to keep her prices low and continue developing her blog. I think on balance, we will probably persevere.

I would be very grateful for any comments on this article, especially from artists who have experience of gallery representation and how it works. Whether you have made a success of it or otherwise, I would love to hear from you - just use the comments tag below.

If you have an art-related article you would like me to publish please get in touch.

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