Ask a Gallery Owner: To Display or Not to Display Art Online When Working With Galleries?

In our latest “Ask a Gallery Owner” segment, I address an insightful question from Alison, a dedicated subscriber about showing art online when working with galleries.

Alison’s Question:

“One question I have concerns conflicting opinions I received regarding putting art online. The first gallery owner I talked with in Sonoma, a great gallery, told me that Gallery owners don’t want to see the artist’s work online – that it devalues it. They want to have exclusivity with regard to the opportunity to represent the work in their gallery.

This contrasts with a recent art agent who contacted me saying that they need me to have a website up and running with the art available so that they can share that with galleries that they contact.

I understand that if one gallery is showing some of the art – that we would not show it on a website at the same time.”

My Perspective:

Alison’s question is a common one in our digital age. The role of an artist’s website has become increasingly significant in the art market.

While it’s true that some gallery owners might still adhere to traditional views regarding the online display of art, many enlightened gallery owners see the value in this modern approach. They recognize that online exposure can actually complement their efforts in the gallery. Showcasing an artist’s work on digital platforms does not detract from its value; rather, it amplifies it, drawing additional attention and interest. This broader reach can attract new visitors to the gallery, expanding the audience for both the artist and the gallery. Forward-thinking galleries understand that in today’s interconnected world, online visibility is a powerful tool that can enhance their mission to promote and sell art.

When it comes to exclusivity with galleries, transparency is key. If certain pieces are represented exclusively by a gallery, this can be clearly stated on the website. This maintains respect for gallery partnerships while still leveraging the website’s reach.

Your website can serve dual purposes: it can be an accessible platform for the public and a professional portfolio for gallery submissions. The goal is to create a balance that respects gallery relationships while maximizing the artwork’s exposure and accessibility.

In conclusion, an artist’s website is an invaluable asset in today’s art market. It’s a dynamic space that can adapt to various needs, from showcasing art to forging new connections in the art community.

Leave a Comment!

Share your experiences with showcasing your art online while collaborating with galleries. Your insights and stories are invaluable to our community. Do you have any questions or topics you’d like me to explore in future posts? Please comment below with your thoughts, questions, and any challenges you’ve faced in the digital art world. Your input not only enriches our discussions but also helps me tailor future content to your interests and needs. I look forward to reading your comments and engaging with your perspectives!

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.

12 Comments

  1. As a gallery owner:
    if we have and artist’s work in the gallery and the artist shows it online (either website or socials), it must be priced the same and say
    “available from …….. gallery” with links to the appropriate gallery page etc.
    This is clear and simple and works for everyone 🙂

    1. That includes FB and other social media. Should complement the gallery’s work and website, and support it with links, etc. Not to mention using your website (and FB, etc.) to amplify their advertising for your shows!

  2. I post art on my site but everything my gallery carries I put a sentence about their exclusive rights to sell those pieces even when not on their brick and mortar site. I believe be they can directly link to the gallery from my site
    If their inventory changes so does my info
    They are totally exclusive within 50 miles
    Other galeries also have done the same and I also publicize anything they may do as group shows, which include my work

  3. As Jason has said before: “Never Under Sell Your Gallery!” – the prices must match or everyone’s integrity is gone. It should be common sense to never do this, but once an artist crosses the line – they certainly will not be invited back. Gallery owners also talk to each other. Word will spread. Big NO NO.

  4. I made it clear which paintings were available through the gallery I was with for many years, and which were available through my home studio via my web site and social media. I was NOT going to stop selling work through my home studio when the gallery I was with was not doing the full range of promotional activities that other galleries in the area were doing for their artists-! To be fair, the commission that gallery took was lower than that of the other area galleries, but I felt it was reflective of the limited kinds of promotion they were doing. As for pricing, the gallery I was with emphasized to prospective collectors that paintings in the gallery were sold “at the artists’ studio prices”, and I could never figure out what exactly that meant. The reality is that if I sold a hypothetical painting through my home studio I would get 100% of the “studio price”, whereas if I had sold the same painting through that gallery then I would get just 60% of the same “studio” selling price.

  5. As a very longtime gallery owner, I expect that when I represent an artist, I will represent ALL of their art. We are partners. And I try to build their career, as well as sell what they create. If they have no other galleries, I will be their exclusive representative. However, I want them to have a super webpage, professionally done with a great studio photo and artist’s statement and as many of the available works on it as they wish (no sold or old works, please). And a statement that refers all buyers to me. A wonderful webpage is one of the things that a good gallery uses as a selling tool. In the case, however, that there are multiple galleries, then the webpage should instead specify something like: “If you are in _______ please go to _______Gallery and ____webpage to see my art; in _________ region, see ________ Gallery and ____ webpage, etc. etc. depending on what is in the written contract executed by the Artist and the Galleries. The reason I have these expectations is that in return for being included and referred on the artist’s page, I have agreed – in the written contract – to publicize and make every effort to sell their art. And I also have a very expensive location in an art center to maintain, on the walls of which I hang their work. And depending on the artist, I may also do framing, perhaps shipping. If the artist does not think this is a reasonable exchange, they should not sign the Agreement to begin with. If further along, they do not feel I am meeting the terms of the Agreement, we should part company and they should remove their art. However, two important points: first, webpages, properly done, are terrific for galleries; and second, an artist is either gallery represented, or they sell their own art, but imho, they cannot do both.

  6. I would love to have a gallery take responsibility for selling all my art but that doesn’t seem to exist in my area at least at my price points. So my work is often in short term relationships with galleries putting on exhibitions. I continue to show these pieces on my website but switch to purchase through gallery and provide a link. I generally promote pieces that are in these shows but never sell privately while they are in a gallery. I also never undersell galleries.

  7. I have a different problem. One of my prints, limited edition, printed large, is hanging in a modern furniture gallery. The owner feels that placing a rather high price for it is somehow appropriate, but it’s far higher than I ever charged.

    A lady saw a smaller version in a small co-op gallery and we started talking about size and price (she wanted one that was larger than the one she saw). I told her about the large print and its price; and I felt I couldn’t undercut that price. She did not want to go anywhere near that price, so I offered to provide an unframed, open edition, print for much less than the one in the furniture gallery. She bought it and had it framed. Total cost to her was probably half the other one.

    Comments, please. Was I out of line?

  8. My website allows me to include the location of a piece. This could be a commercial gallery or a venue where the art is on display in an exhibition. In the case of a commercial gallery I change the purchase link to point to the gallery’s website. If in an exhibit the purchase link results in an email to me, so I can refer them to the selling venue. Pieces in my inventory either link to my online store or an email to me, if it is not yet in my store.
    The galleries have been happy with this approach because I am augmenting their advertising and realize I have more work than they can manage. My pricing is consistent for all my work regardless where it is presented.

  9. If you have your own website, do you show work that the gallery has turned down or has returned because it didn’t sell? And if you do, do you show the work that’s at the gallery and their prices along with the other work but at different prices? How does that work? Or should you show prices all at gallery prices?

  10. I have a story about this. I am currently in an exhibit at a gallery. 60/40. My work was put on an online site called Chairish. It is IN the contract that they do this. An $8k piece was listed at $11,600. Offer of $6499 came in. With a 30% commission to the site. Gallery owner accepted. Informed me of the sale. I was flabbergasted that half was accepted at first. And ended up accepting $4k because it was a large sale. Piece was shipped within 5 days and no longer viewable at show. Issue: owner Asked me about a previous piece which I declined it. But did not ask me about this one on Christmas Eve. Thoughts? And 2) how do you feel about work leaving a show before it’s over? Thank you.

    1. Congratulations on your recent sale. It’s always a significant achievement to have your work appreciated and purchased, especially at such a notable value. I understand the situation with the gallery owner was less than ideal in terms of communication. Ideally, there should have been a discussion about the sale beforehand. However, I also see the perspective of the gallery owner wanting to capitalize on the opportunity—sometimes, making a sale promptly can be crucial in the art world.

      Regarding the removal of a piece from a show, while it’s preferable to have the artwork displayed throughout, the ultimate goal is to sell the work. If a sale occurs, it’s a positive outcome, and we can always consider replacing the piece in the show. It’s a delicate balance between exhibition integrity and commercial success, but the latter often takes precedence.

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