338. June 15th…..Gallery Pay Day…..what you really make on a $2000. Painting and the reality of the artist…..

“Door at Fort Mason” 2008

“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.” – Amais Nin

a most universal day…the 15th of each month…when gallery owners write out commission checks to the artists that have made some sales over the last month…something I know I wait anxiously for….

there is an unspoken rule when approaching a gallery…..much like the understood expectations of a first date…certain things are assured to happen while perhaps others things are not likely to happen…the understood gallery commission is 50%….that covers all of the necessities and functions of the artist being part of the gallery stable….advertising…shows…postcards…..publications…..etc….gallery owners will tell you it is not cheap to operate a successful gallery…and they are right…..

now on the flip side of that…when a show is up…the unknowing art browser…often does not realize that the artists only gets half of every sale….I’ve often heard comments like…”wow…artists….make a lot of money”….and when the actuals are really broken down…..a painting that sells for $2000.00…appears as though the artist makes one thousand….and yes they do….but like the gallery….artists too have enormous  expenses…cost of materials….labor…time…studio space….education…..yet unlike a gallery…the artist doesn’t have another entity to split another 50% with…so the burden of production and production costs rest solely on the manufacturer…the artist….

lets just say an artists produces 40 paintings per year….realistically 4 of them are really worth hanging….on the outside 10…..the others were  a variety of experiements….and lets say those paintings sell for two thousand dollars a piece in a gallery….there is twenty thousand dollars…that gets divided by two….you can see where this is going quickly…..and let’s say the artist works on a 30% net profit….or an incredible grand total of money in pocket of……(here’s where the drum roll comes in) $3,000.00 per year in livelyhood……….so to produce ten times that amount in net profit….the artists needs to be selling roughly…….$300,000.00 worth of paintings per year…..which translates to 100% of 100 paintings selling each and every year…..there in lies the dilema……the inability for most artists to make a living at a career that one should  be able to make a living at……a successful gallery owner in Santa Fe once told me for an artist to make $50,000 per year they need to be selling between 150-200 thousand dollars worth of paintings a year……

so what is the solution….there are an endless number of solutions…yet they are all much like trying to solve a complicated  math problem with a stick and a few handfuls of dirt….shall we list a few……

1. become more prolific
2. become a faster painter
3. raise your prices
4. get into more galleries….see #1
5. market your work yourself….see #2
6. hire an agent….they take 15%….gallery takes 50%…that leaves you with 35% or $350…..from $1000 painting…based on our model…your net would be $105.00…don’t spend it all in one place…..
7. show only in co-op galleries…see #1 and #2
8. become wealthy in some other way…donate paintings for tax deduction…
9. buy into the notion that poverty is to an art career as wingtips are to a suit
10.paint for the sake of art…and know wealth will not follow you into the posthumous realms


I don’t know the answers…..and I don’t know if there is a solution…what I do know positively is that art is designed to be seen….and the artist is not necessarily part of the visibility…..rather we are the ones that work in tandem with the painting….bounce stuff off of eachother…..until it works…..my solution is what works for me….and that is simply develop relationships with other artists that are doing what I truly want….to be doing…continue my marriage to the galleries I am with….and most importantly realize and know….the economics are a part of this process…..and to find and rely on those galleries that have my highest interest in mind….develop a symbiotic relationship with them…..so it gives me the opportunity to……just paint……


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2 thoughts on “338. June 15th…..Gallery Pay Day…..what you really make on a $2000. Painting and the reality of the artist…..

  1. I appreciate the thoughtfulness that every post you make carries with it. Life is a puzzle. Sometimes I think it is lunatic. Mostly, though, it seems to work out all the kinks. I relate to what you write about being a painter. It resonates in many ways with my experience of being a mom. These are truly labors of love and I think once we agree to painting and parenting there is only going forward with it into the great unknown.

    I have a deep and abiding respect for painters. One, because I am not a painter, and Two, because it takes real strength of spirit to wear the Painter’s mantel. I don’t have the temperment for it.

    All I can say is THANKGOD for painters! Doing the job that others cannot! Bless every molucule of your efforts, Robert. The best thing of all is you are using your life and the gift of creativity you were born with. If I were God, I’d give you all gold stars 🙂

    Like

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