Ask A Gallery Owner | Pricing, Framing, and Approaching Galleries

Approaching Galleries

I received an email from an artist who had taken one of my workshops on working with galleries and am posting his question along with my response here. Names and locations have been withheld.

Hi Jason,

Hope you are doing well? Just wanted to say again how beneficial I thought the workshop was. I am close to finishing the book and that has been really valuable as well….the book provides the information in black and white, so if I need to re-fresh my memory about something you discussed, I can find it in the book. I have a couple questions and wanted your feedback. I will try to keep it simple and direct, as I am sure you are very busy!

My first question is…..I am presently working hard at addressing my prices. I have done a bit more research on the issue and have given it considerable thought. I like the price per square inch formula, but I am unsure how to include the framing cost. I originally thought of adding the framing cost onto the price of the painting, but then realized, my framing costs may fluctuate….depending on how I frame them. For the past 2 years, I have found a frame I like and planned on continuing to using it exclusively…. it really address my aesthetic and is a high quality frame for a good price.So, my question is, should I lump it all together? Meaning, figure out a price per square inch that includes the framing costs or, should I keep those things separate and just factor in the framing on each painting? It seems to me that by factoring it in all together, keeps it simple and easy to keep track of….but I am unsure. What are your thoughts on this?

My other question concerns approaching galleries. I have found 1 maybe 2 galleries in _________ that I would like to approach as my “local” gallery. ___________ is also a consideration, but I have a painter friend who, frankly is stiff competition for me, and I thought it might be best to stay away from ____________, and go for _________. I wouldn’t be able to do both anyway, because of the exclusivity issue? (I would think….because the distance between _______ and _______ is about 150 or so miles apart.) In addition, I would think that I would want to approach one gallery at a time and get the yes or no before approaching a different gallery. I am a bit concerned about what you would do if both seemed interested, (what a great thing that would be!!)…. I would assume I would choose the gallery with the best feel and relationship.

I would really appreciate your thoughts when you get a chance!

warm regards,
G.D.
Artist

My Reply:

Thanks so much for the email.

Let me take your questions in order.

Pricing: I really like the idea of you trying to stick with the consistent framing both from an aesthetic perspective and from a pricing perspective – as I said in the workshop – consistency is critical. As far as factoring the framing cost in, I suggest that you hard-wire it into the formula, not add it on top. Galleries are going to want a retail price from you and that will need to include the frame, so it will simplify your life if it’s included. If there is some variety in pricing depending on the size and moulding being used, factor in the highest possible cost – that way you are covered and will have a little higher profit margin if framing costs are lower on some pieces. As an example, you might have a 30 x 40. If you find that your competitors are averaging about $1.75/ sq inch (just a random example number) your retail would be $2,100. Say your framing cost was $250 and the gallery commission 50%, your net would be $800 (not including your other material costs, etc.)

As far as approaching the local galleries you might find that the proximity to _________ isn’t a real issue – but always a good idea to check with the galleries once you start working with them. I wouldn’t worry too much about the competition issue either – let the galleries decide if they feel it is too close in style or subject. If ________ could be a good/convenient market for you, you should pursue it. ____________ is big enough for the two of you!

I also wouldn’t wait for an answer from one gallery before approaching another – with just two in mind the chances of both accepting aren’t high, and should that happen you can then decide which you feel is the best fit (email me if that happens and I will give you suggestions of how to let the gallery you don’t go with down easy). This is a bit of a numbers game and I would rather have you targeting 20-30 galleries to get 1 to represent you (the odds may not be quite that low, but you want to cast as broad a net as possible). There may not be nearly that many galleries appropriate for your work in __________, but I would bet there are within your 250 mile radius.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions or would like to discuss further. Sounds like you are ready to spring into action, which is great!

Jason

What Advice Would You Give?

Agree? Disagree? Have additional thoughts? Please leave your comments below.

 

Thanks so much for the email.
 
Let me take your questions in order.
 
Pricing: I really like the idea of you trying to stick with the consistent framing both from an aesthetic perspective and from a pricing perspective – as I said in the workshop – consistency is critical. As far as factoring the framing cost in, I suggest that you hard-wire it into the formula, not add it on top. Galleries are going to want a retail price from you and that will need to include the frame, so it will simplify your life if it’s included. If there is some variety in pricing depending on the size and moulding being used, factor in the highest possible cost – that way you are covered and will have a little higher profit margin if framing costs are lower on some pieces. As an example, you might have a 30 x 40. If you find that your competitors are averaging about $1.75/ sq inch (just a random example number) your retail would be $2,100. Say your framing cost was $250 and the gallery commission 50%, your net would be $800 (not including your other material costs, etc.)
 
As far as approaching the local galleries you might find that the proximity to _________ isn’t a real issue – but always a good idea to check with the galleries once you start working with them. I wouldn’t worry too much about the competition issue either – let the galleries decide if they feel it is too close in style or subject. If ________ could be a good/convenient market for you, you should pursue it. ____________ is big enough for the two of you!
 
I also wouldn’t wait for an answer from one gallery before approaching another – with just two in mind the chances of both accepting aren’t high, and should that happen you can then decide which you feel is the best fit (email me if that happens and I will give you suggestions of how to let the gallery you don’t go with down easy). This is a bit of a numbers game and I would rather have you targeting 20-30 galleries to get 1 to represent you (the odds may not be quite that low, but you want to cast as broad a net as possible). There may not be nearly that many galleries appropriate for your work in __________, but I would bet there are within your 250 mile radius.
 
Please let me know if you have any additional questions or would like to discuss further. Sounds like you are ready to spring into action, which is great!
 
 
 
JasonThanks so much for the email.
Let me take your questions in order.
Pricing: I really like the idea of you trying to stick with the consistent framing both from an aesthetic perspective and from a pricing perspective – as I said in the workshop – consistency is critical. As far as factoring the framing cost in, I suggest that you hard-wire it into the formula, not add it on top. Galleries are going to want a retail price from you and that will need to include the frame, so it will simplify your life if it’s included. If there is some variety in pricing depending on the size and moulding being used, factor in the highest possible cost – that way you are covered and will have a little higher profit margin if framing costs are lower on some pieces. As an example, you might have a 30 x 40. If you find that your competitors are averaging about $1.75/ sq inch (just a random example number) your retail would be $2,100. Say your framing cost was $250 and the gallery commission 50%, your net would be $800 (not including your other material costs, etc.)
As far as approaching the local galleries you might find that the proximity to _________ isn’t a real issue – but always a good idea to check with the galleries once you start working with them. I wouldn’t worry too much about the competition issue either – let the galleries decide if they feel it is too close in style or subject. If ________ could be a good/convenient market for you, you should pursue it. ____________ is big enough for the two of you!
I also wouldn’t wait for an answer from one gallery before approaching another – with just two in mind the chances of both accepting aren’t high, and should that happen you can then decide which you feel is the best fit (email me if that happens and I will give you suggestions of how to let the gallery you don’t go with down easy). This is a bit of a numbers game and I would rather have you targeting 20-30 galleries to get 1 to represent you (the odds may not be quite that low, but you want to cast as broad a net as possible). There may not be nearly that many galleries appropriate for your work in __________, but I would bet there are within your 250 mile radius.
Please let me know if you have any additional questions or would like to discuss further. Sounds like you are ready to spring into action, which is great!
Jason

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

10 Comments

  1. Jason, great answers. My experience is also that it is a numbers game, more galleries approached = more galleries accept. I am very glad to see your answer to the pricing question, it is very helpful information.

  2. Hi Jason, I love your blog and want to thank you again for all the information. I took one of your webinars and am now addicted to StatCounter, which was a very useful tool in a successful search for gallery representation. I live in the Southeastern U.S. and when one of my galleries announced it is closing, I started looking for one to take its place. As I was trying for some of the bigger markets in this region, I did all my research on line, and noticed that most of the galleries posted their submission requirements and preferred an e-mail submission over a mailed packet, though I’ve had success with that in the past. Anyway, having StatCounter on my website allowed me to see exactly what the gallery owner looked at after receiving my submission. I could tell which gallery by the city/location…one, I was dismayed to see, accessed my site with his iPhone and didn’t even look at the art! The big surprise was that five of the six galleries I contacted DID click the link to my website, but seemed to be more interested in my show history and bio than in looking at enlarged views of the artwork. I know you advocate an in-person approach with galleries, but if that’s not possible, I want to recommend an e-mail with sample images attached as well as a website link over filling out a gallery’s website submission form. Whenever I am gallery hunting, I always agonize over which art to include in my submission, and I much prefer them to look at my website and choose work. Anyway, I’m busy packing five large paintings to ship to a gallery in Charleston, SC–a great art destination. I’d like to wish your artist correspondent good luck in his/her search!

  3. Hi Jason,

    I really appreciate what you do for artists and the advice and support is priceless. I have to admit that I am very shy about approaching anybody or any gallery. Even if I have a list of questions and I’ve rehearsed my speech, I get all tongue tied and brain dead when face to face with gallery owners.

    I do exquisite charcoal landscape drawings of New Hampshire scenes. A lot of my pricing is in the matting and framing. I struggle with pricing and am always second guessing myself.

    My question to you is in regards to pricing. I had a gallery ask me to lower my price and when the piece sold and they took their 40%, I didn’t even make my framing cost. I later found out that they had put a price tag double what I’d asked for which meant they not only got their commission, but that double price. Somehow that feels like they are double dipping. Another place had done that, too. Is that normal for some galleries and is it ethical?

    Thank-you,
    Sasha

    1. The gallery should provide you with an inventory of artworks they hold, including the retail prices that will be charged on the ticket. Any variation should be discussed with the artist. Selling the artwork at a higher price should be disclosed to the artist (a copy of the sales invoice is given to the artist which will show the price at time of sale). As a gallery owner, what happened to you with these galleries makes me furious !

    2. I had a gallery in New Hampshire charge higher than the agreed retail price a couple decades ago. I found out through one of my collectors who saw the painting priced much higher than my normal price range. I asked for a copy of the sales receipt and I pulled out of that gallery. The owner wouldn’t answer my phone calls.

      This is a sign of a dishonest gallery owner. It is not a common practice and may even be illegal to raise the price of the artwork without the knowledge and agreement of the artist.

      Going to court can be messy and costly. You would need to prove that the work was sold for more than the set retail price and you didn’t get 60% if the sale price. I’d just call it a costly mistake and get your work back.

      I ask fellow artists who show in a gallery what their experience has been before starting a partnership. With most galleries, there usually isn’t any foul play.

  4. Hi Jason,

    Unfortunately, I have not had the time to be able to take any of your webinars. I am intrigued by the comments on consistency. Working with charcoal on paper, I tend to use different sizes as I buy big sizes and get 4 to 6 drawings with my favorite workable size between 6 x 9s and 11 x 14s. That means my framing is of various sizes and I use different mats, raised mats, double mats and different types of frames.

    Would you say it would behoove me to choose one or two sizes and stick to those?

    Also, would you have any suggestions about selling charcoal landscapes? I am not finding much of a market in NH although I get a lot of praise. My on-line research doesn’t show anything like what I do.

    Thank you for doing what you do,
    Sasha

  5. Jason, I don’t frame my paintings but use gallerywrap canvases and paint the endges in a solid color corresponding with the painting. What do you think of not framing paintings at all? In my locale, the frames/framing is very expensive.

    Thanks very much!
    DD

  6. During my painting career, I’ve never been able to afford traditional framing except in a few occasions where it was really necessary, ie, pastel paintings with glass and (usually) simple metal frames.
    What I’ve done consistently with my oils on canvas is to use a good quality wood stripping (1/4″ x 2-2.5″) the stain or paint as the work dictates. Luckily my husband has the tools required to do this for me. It’s simple, more affordable and I’ve always felt that if/when the client wants to frame it with something more, they will have specific tastes in that regard.

  7. I agree with consistent framing and including the framing costs into the price of work to be exhibited for sale, with one exception – commissions. I tried to negotiate commission prices by including a framing estimate. I found my actual net profit was attenuated after the true cost of framing was rolled into the final price. This, due to many factors; mostly time and materials and frame selection. Now, I simply quote proposed commissions as “before framing, taxes, and shipping.” That makes it clear to those that commission the work that they are responsible to pay the extra cost of a more expensive frame of their choosing.

    Love this blog, the videos, the book, and community of shared interest – thanks so much for putting it all together! Eric

  8. I would like to add a thought regarding the artist’s concern about competing with the similar artist.
    I’m new to the visual art scene but have had success getting published with the literary arts. After following this blog, it seems to me that the gallery scene is no different than the publishing industry in its basic principles. My publisher signed someone from my lit scene because they had success with me and figured two of us would drive sales.

    Whether it’s a book, a painting, or a hamburger, there is strength in numbers. Think: a McDonalds being across the street from a Burger King, a shopping mall, the Beat Generation, or an artistic group like the Surrealists or the German Expressionists group Die Bruke. This is why David Bowie produced likeminded artists like the Stooges, Lou Reed, and Mott the Hoople; he was positioning himself with these artists in the public eye. There is strength in numbers, and you can actually drive business by becoming associates rather than competitors as long as you aren’t directly copying each other.
    I’d embrace the similarities and let the gallery decide if two is a crowd.

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