Should Artists Show their Art in “Vanity” Galleries?

In a recent interview, I was asked where I saw the  the art gallery business going in the next ten years. This is a very interesting question and could have resulted in an hour-long conversation on its own. Because I only had a few minutes to reply in the interview, I pointed to three trends I see as being very important to the future of the business. I mentioned the increasing importance of self-promotion for artists. I talked about the move toward increasing online sales. Finally, I predicted that we would see a rise in the number of art galleries charging a fee to show and sell artwork. Even as I write this, I can see that there’s great discussion to be had in all of those topics (watch for future blog posts!). It’s the third and final point I wish to focus on here, however.

I frequently have artists write me about their encounters with galleries that are asking for a fee to show work. Last week, for example, I received the following email from an artist:

Not asking for any advice this time. You have been very helpful with that. This is follow up info on a gallery I asked you about a couple weeks ago on N. Marshall. You gave me some insights on how to find out more about them. I did as much due diligence as I could and they seemed to be a traditional gallery, so I flew in to meet with them. They moved to Main Street just before I got there, which I only found out they were doing after I bought tickets. But since that seemed like a good thing, I was not concerned. I assumed it meant they were doing really well. When I got there I drove past their old gallery which was a nice medium sized space with lots of wall space and great lighting. Based on that and the photos they had of the space on the their website,(they have since changed the page) I expected the same set up when I got to the new one. I was in for a genuine surprise when I got there and it was this really small space, which is when I started to wonder if they had” changed programs on me”. If I understand “vanity gallery” correctly, that is what they are running. They charge a large fee for you to hang your work for a month. It does not hang in the gallery the rest of the time. I can’t say for sure what they had going at the other space, but I suspect this is a change in model of operation to some degree. They are offering this to people with more limited, if any, gallery experience that may not understand what they are doing. I realize it is perfectly legal as long as they disclose it all, but they are not up front before you come in. I think I even asked them before hand if it was a traditional gallery set up. I did get a couple things out of it. A great learning experience. Also, they liked my interpretive horses, which you commented on when I asked you to look at my work awhile back. That was a nice confirmation for me about my horses.

My purpose for this is because I think a lot of artists have naive assumptions about more established, well known art districts such as Scottsdale. It frankly never occurred to me that a vanity gallery would open up there.I don’t know why, just something I assumed. My biggest concern was how they were doing financially. You do a lot of blogs and on-line discussions about art and marketing and galleries, etc. It seems to me a lot of artists could benefit from understanding the various types of galleries that exist, the pros and cons of them, and what to try and avoid. I understood as soon as I got there that it was not what they let me think. ( I want to be clear they did not blatantly lie, they inferred.) But I am in a couple galleries and have perhaps done more research than an artist just getting started. Artists should know that location is not a guarantee of a traditional gallery, or even if it is ethical in how it’s run. I also understand galleries are having to try a lot of new ideas to survive, but I think that is a far cry from a vanity gallery. I , for one, would love to see me information on those subjects. Anyways, just an idea for your future reference.

Thanks, Kim J.


Kim brings up some great points. Just to be clear, what she is describing, a gallery asking for a fee to show your work, is the classical definition of what has been labeled the “vanity” gallery. For those readers unfamiliar with the term, let me explain. The idea is that these galleries, instead of taking work  on consignment based on the marketability and merit of the work,  play to the “vanity” of artists. Instead of waiting for their work to improve or waiting until they’ve gained further recognition for their work, these artists are willing to pay the fee to get the exposure.

The concept is similar to the “vanity” press. A vanity press will publish your book for a fee when traditional publishers decline to publish it. I suspect that the term started in the publishing world and migrated to the artworld.

The Art Market is Changing

I actually think our conception of these galleries is a bit outdated. The market has changed, and there are a number of galleries that are charging a fee to show artist’s work, but they are not doing it to prey on vanity. Instead they see a change in the market and an opportunity to create a new business model. In fact, I try not to use the term “vanity gallery”, because I feel it’s taken on a charged and derogatory connotation (I’m using it in this post in quotation marks because I feel the term will be understood more readily by those familiar with it) and I feel that for some of these galleries, the title and concept are no longer accurate.

So what do I mean when I say the market is changing? In past posts and podcasts, I’ve talked about how the internet is opening up opportunities for artists to interact with and sell directly to collectors. This is great for artists who want to promote themselves and manage their own sales. It’s also great for collectors who wish to seek out artists outside of the gallery scene. It can sometimes lead collectors to find good values. These direct sales are putting pressure on traditional art galleries to an extent. While it is sometimes the case that these collectors simply would never have bought artwork had they not been able to buy it directly from artists, there are also cases where the collectors are buying directly from artists instead of buying the work through galleries.

In some cases, the artists are showing in galleries, but the collector then approaches the artist to buy work directly from the studio, cutting the gallery out of the sale. This is especially harmful to the gallery. Now the gallery is paying high overhead to show the work, but not seeing any financial return for the expense. Galleries are dealing with this issue in many different ways. Some are going out of business. Some are working harder and being creative to find ways to provide more value to the artist and collector and earn their commission (I like to think that this is what we’re doing at Xanadu Gallery!). Some are starting to charge a fee to show work.

Instead of thinking of traditional galleries as “good” and fee-for-display galleries as “bad”, I just think of them as very different businesses.

For an artist who wants to focus on creating art and avoid dealing with the sales and business side of things, a traditional, commission gallery probably makes the most sense.

For an artist who wants to do their own promotion and sell directly to buyers, a fee-for-display gallery might make sense. This artist might simply consider the fee an advertising expense.

Do Your Due Diligence Before Working with a Vanity Gallery

Of course, if you are considering showing your work in such a gallery, you would want to make sure that the gallery is offering value for the fee. Simply having a space and opening the doors is no guarantee of exposure or sales. I would recommend that before agreeing to pay a fee to show your work with the gallery, you speak to three or four artists who are showing, or have shown in the gallery previously. Ask if they feel the exposure was worth the fee. Make sure that you understand how the gallery will promote and display your work. Ask how a sale will be handled. Does the gallery also take a commission on sales? If so, you would expect it to be significantly smaller than the 50% traditional galleries ask. I would certainly recommend a written agreement.

Interestingly, this is exactly the same advice I would make to an artist considering showing in a traditional gallery. Remember, you might think that a “vanity” gallery is charging you a fee, and a traditional gallery is not. This is simply not the case. The traditional gallery is taking the fee after the sale; the fee-for-display gallery takes it before. Because there is no guarantee of a sale, this means that in the traditional gallery, the gallery is taking a greater risk if the work doesn’t sell. If you are paying fee to show  your work, you will be taking the greater risk.

Ultimately, this means that a traditional gallery has more direct motivation to promote and sell your work. The fee-for-display gallery also has motivation to sell your work in the long-run, however. If they don’t sell any work, they will eventually run out of artists willing and able to pay their fee.

Another concern I often hear is that artists are afraid that showing in vanity gallery will hurt the artist’s chances of getting into future galleries, or hamper future sales to collectors. I feel this fear is unfounded. If you can generate exposure and sales through the fee-for-display gallery, those sales and followers will be a positive on your resume. It’s unlikely future galleries will even pay attention to where those sales came from.

Share your Thoughts on Whether an Artist Should Show in a “Vanity” Gallery

You’ve heard what I think, now it’s your opportunity to share your thoughts on the vanity gallery. Have you shown your work in a fee-for-display gallery? Was it a positive or negative experience. Did you sell art or get some other benefit from the relationship? Please share your thoughts and experience in the comments below. Please avoid naming galleries or giving gallery locations – I wish to keep this discussion based on broad principles, not specific galleries (I also would like to avoid law suits!). I am particularly interested in hearing from artists who have had positive experiences.

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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, 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.


  1. Jason, how does a vanity gallery differ from a coop gallery? I currently have work in a coop gallery and a traditional one. I pay a monthly fee for the coop space, plus a 20% commission on sales. The traditional gallery takes a 40% commission on sales. Is the coop gallery really a “vanity gallery?”

    1. Thank you Laura Hunt for bringing this up about coop galleries – it was the first thing that came to mind as I read Jason’s very informative and beneficial blog to artists. It’s amazing the wealth of information he has and is more then willing to share with all artists.

    2. Laura, not all cooperatives are alike, but ours offers huge value-added components for the artists. I think this makes it an apples-to-oranges comparison with a traditional “vanity gallery.” For example, in our cooperative we have resident studios, artists are available any time to critique works, we have programs and workshops for the artists to grow the professional side of their art business, we promote the artists, we facilitate the artists’ interaction with customers. It probably depends on the cooperative, but ours is really about helping artists grow professionally both in their artwork and as business people. I would love to hear Jason’s opinion about this too.

    3. This is one of my pet peeves…traditional galleries do NOT “take” a percentage from the artist, a common misconception, unless the artist fails to add the gallery fee over the price he/she wants. I am represented by two galleries. The percentage for one is 50%, so they double my asking price. They deserve that. They have the clientele, the overhead and the employees. The other wants a retail price so I add 40% to my asking price. Nothing is taken from me and none of it cost me…however I was in a coop gallery for six months. It was just as you described Laura and I’ll never do that again…it’s win-win for them and lose-lose for you unless a lot of your work sells.

      1. Well Linda I was wondering. It is not that galleries ” take” or not. I do agree that galleries deserve the commission (whatever is the agreed amount) The fact that the asking price is doubled makes it a bit harder to afford for some people. I have known of people that would like to own my art but can’t pay the price that is applied after is in a gallery but could pay my asking price. So the dilemma is the “asking price” . Is there a real asking price then? it not longer applies once you have the work in a gallery since it is not ethically a good idea to sell that work yourself by the asking price because you will be underselling gallery.

  2. I rarely feel strongly about what other artists choose to do but I say run from vanity galleries as fast as you can.

    I was approached by one in NYC years ago. All the artists in my support community were over the moon at the thought. I even asked the gallery to provide me with names of other artists who had showed there. They didn’t give me any who had completed shows with them.

    Then I sat down and ran the numbers. Including cost of transporting art, myself, hotel, commission on projected sales and packing ant returning art I would have had to sell more than I ever had. I had no following in NYC so would have had to rely on the gallery’s patrons to make that happen.

    A vanity gallery is very different from space for a fee. In that case I assume the gallery is counting on the artist’s mailing list to expand sales.

    That said, if someone from a gallery buys from my studio and I am aware of it I push the sale through the gallery. It’s just right.

    Finally, if you google a gallery you will find out quickly whether artists have had a good or bad experience. Artists don’t tend to hold back.

    Do the numbers on any opportunity before jumping into it!

    1. Thanks for sharing this about pushing sales through your gallery when that’s where your client found you. As co-owner of a gallery, it’s very nice to hear an artist express this opinion.

  3. As long as everything is upfront, I don’t see anything wrong with paying for temporary display space. The artist can arrange to have an opening, invite friends and would be collectors, etc. and generally enjoy the opportunity for his or her work to be seen by a wider audience. Who knows, it could possibly lead to more sales, and perhaps even an exhibition in a more traditional gallery. As Jason pointed out, the art world is is in a state of flux and this applies to the entire retail world. I think that for unrepresented artists the best thing to do is to seize any opportunity which seems reasonable. As a former colleague onece said to me, “nothing comes from nothing, something comes from something.”

    1. Good point Paul. If the artist who is renting the space has an opening and can also be onsite to talk to people who enter, it might just work out very well. I read your comment after I wrote mine.

  4. Interesting blog post Jason. The question you asked “what value do you get for the fee” is important. Will there be professional sales people in the gallery, or just someone minding the desk – it’s my understanding that if the staff doesn’t know anything about the artists, it’ll be difficult close a sale.

    I believe it takes more than a wall and lights to sell art, even if it’s in a gallery district. How could an artist be sure that there is any follow up in a gallery that takes no commission on sales?

  5. I currently show in a gallery which charges a monthly fee, and it has been a very positive experience. a large part of the 150$ month fee pays for marketing. I have been featured in Maine Home and Design Magazine 4 times in the last 2 years. I have been able to consistently show new work on a monthly or bi monthly basis for 2 years, partly because I work hard at it , but also the owner strongly believes in my work. There is a 50% commission, but my sales have definitely increased as a result of the marketing and the gallery. It continues to be a great venue for me, a beautiful space, and a positive learning experience.

  6. Well.. after some more thought, if the artist just rents space for a month, like you said Jason, it could act as a type of advertising. Would the artist be onsite to talk to potential buyers? .

  7. I don’t even consider vanity galleries as an option as they don’t really have any skin in the game. Jason I suppose you are correct about their motivation to sell as they need a track record that their gallery is viable but with the influx of thousands of amateurs in the art market they are likely to find someone willing to pay to show. coops are completely different as they are collectively run by artist. As traditional galleries shrink in number recently I have found another type of gallery that I now avoid. It is a gallery that has no client base and supports itself through classes workshops or framing. These galleries border on being non profits and consequently have no real skill base or drive to sell artwork. Although they love to show artwork as it validates them as being a real gallery. They are sometimes hard to identify but a give away is their promotion of classes and workshops held in a back room or in the gallery space itself (which is dangerous) I use to consider these Vanity galleries with the vanity source being the gallery owner but they need a name to classify them from real sales galleries. I showed in a couple of these galleries and had no sales ever. They also are concerned with having a show on display look perfect to where a sale of artwork wouldn’t be delivered until after the show as to not disrupt the look of the show. I know that real galleries sell work and it is delivered immediately and replaced with something else with little regard to the look of the show. Pseudo galleries may be an appropriate monacer.

    1. I agree with Kevin and was contemplating the same phrase: ” no skin in the game.” Vanity galleries are called that because they prey on the vanity (and naivete) of artists who have not shown in a bona fide gallery. Artists who show in them essentially take on all of the risk in the selling of their art. The galleries have no incentive to really promote the artists or to help them increase their sales and collector bases since their cost of doing business is covered by the artists’ up-front fees. With no stable of continuing artists, these galleries offer nothing to the artist who wants a permanent workable system of support.
      If an artist just wants a wall space to hang his or her work, it’s better to join a collaborative wherein the artist has a say in the operation of the gallery, and the cost is exponentially less (and payable monthly).

  8. Timely post as I was just in Scottsdale checking out galleries last week and was invited to show as a guest artist at one on Main Street. I was very excited as I flew back to Colorado until I got the contract. The gallery would have six paintings for three months. It was charging me $900 to “promote” my work for that time frame and a 50/50 split on sales. I was asking for an exclusive within 100 miles of Scottsdale. I was responsible for shipping to and from the gallery. I politely declined the offer and told her I was unaware of the business model she used and would continue to look for representation elsewhere. It is too bad she wasn’t up front with the business arrangement as it would have saved both of us time. By the way, your mother greeted us as we walked into Xanadu. She was working on a potential sale with a couple but made sure we were acknowledged. Thank you for the post.

  9. I think in this changing market there is no right and wrong – the artist should choose the venue that works for them. A couple points about “vanity” galleries. First, they have almost no motivation to sell your work because they’ve already “paid their rent” by way of artist fees. Secondly, they often “stack” paintings on top of each other, making for a very poor presentation. Some galleries try to squeeze in as many paintings as possible because they often charge by the piece – or wall space. That being said, the fact is, there are fewer traditional galleries out there, and the competition to get in is fierce, no matter what level of talent you are. I say, look to create your own opportunities. I’m having a show this weekend in two penthouse units with 3 other artists – in coordination with the building’s parent company. We created opportunity for ourselves…

  10. Our town has a lively art community AND a beautiful, professional “pay-to-play” gallery, which participates in First Fridays and has “featured artists,” just like the other galleries. They charge a monthly rent for a 10′ by 5′ space and everyone can have a print bin and card holder. They handle all sales and sales taxes, advertising, community organizations etc. , and get 10% of each sale. Most artists do well most of the time, but some artists make no sales and do not find it cost effective. No artists are required to work in the gallery. Each artist is JURIED in by the owner, who is very, very particular. Compare that with a “pay to play” gallery in the larger city nearby, which charges a lower fee, a higher percentage, hangs art salon-style (floor to ceiling, as much as will fit) and requires each artist to work in the gallery x # days a month. Success rate is higher in the first one I described, largely, I think, because it is a more professional presentation. And, finally, if you want to see the future of galleries and “pay to play” galleries, go to South Florida, especially Miami, where one in three is run that way. As someone who owned a gallery, I understand completely WHY.

    1. Hello CJ Shannon,
      I’m a studio/gallery owner in Michigan. I wonder if you would share with me the name of the beautiful and professional “Pay to Play gallery.” This is a model I want to explore and this could be a great role model for me if they might mentor me along. Thank you for your consideration.

  11. Yes I have showed my work & still do at more than one pay up front & they also take a %.
    I am currently at 3 in different parts of the country, sometimes close to another traditional gallery.
    I discovered the fee I believe is to stay a float in some cases.
    Also some are a high % fee structure or they may allow you to become a part of their team with your time you can change your % and your time in the gallery and thus meeting people for special events or possibly other types of work like hanging art and you connect with more people thus exposing you & your art to more people this selling more and your % goes down.
    I thought this was weird until I saw it in several states across the country.
    Often times the galleries who need you to pay are just getting by or in an area where sales are tougher.
    Yeas I have sold some art & yes I do sell more art when I am around participating in events. Some of these galleries are like a co-op gallery in some cases. I’ve also been at galleries where the main artist is very well known & they take up to 80%. They also had high pressure sales & you have an exclusive contract.
    In the end I personally discovered I am my best sales person in my own shops or at an event or show
    However galleries seem to also sell more when I am a regular part off being involved & being seen or creating on location during events or on a regular basis. Sales have always gone up for me when I’m involved…anywhere.
    I also discovered selling shops or galleries in areas of tourism seems to help. People tend to buy more on vacation. Some still buy while just browsing or shopping for art but that still seems to trend to travel some just because they like you and want a little part of you to take home on vacation more than just locally.
    I have not seen any super sales in pay in advanced galleries in fact they seem about the same as other galleries or even a bit lower in sales. I have chosen to be there because some it’s my only option
    Or a shop in an area I tend to frequent & I want more exposure. I see all shows and galleries as advertising as a way to connect and get future commissions quite often.
    I also wanted to comment on the fact people search you out after going to the gallery & it may hurt the gallery… I have not experienced it much & when I have gotten a client with a gallery if the art was in that gallery I still gave them a commission if there were sales and they were in any way part of that… Like if a client tells me ttgey saw my work at a gallery & wants me to bring some of Rhodes paintings over to their home & then buys one… I sell it and give the commission to the gallery if I have an agreement that out of gallery % are different then I uses the % agreed upon. However if they choose something new and do a commission or a piece from my personal collection that may be at a different commission or no commission depending on agreement. Example I painted on location different days in front of a gallery sometimes those personal sales I get 100% at some shops other shops all sales have same %. It totally lt totally depends on the gallery and the agreement, if I’m renting a wall and out selling on my own or part of a special event at gallery or what the % was agreed upon in the beginning.
    In many cases I am happy to have the extra charge for advertising from these galleries which quite often leads to something bigger.
    Also it’s a good way to network and build relationships.
    In the end, I have discovered it’s rare to find a gallery that’s sells you better than you do! Yet they have all helped me on my journey!
    Good luck,
    Noel Skiba

  12. I haven’t displayed my artwork in a Vanity Gallery yet but will probably try it, why not! If the artwork sells it’s a good investment, if it doesn’t sell move onto the next one…

  13. I had a friend who was told that he had to have a show in New York City to be successful. He was a sculptor. He paid through the nose for a vanity gallery show, which in the end garnered him nothing. It did not help is career as an artist at all. Since hearing about this I have avoided vanity galleries and shows like the plague. That has been well over 20 years ago.

    1. I would add that I would be aware most “you have to do this” have little to do with success in the arts. You have to do quality art and believe in the beauty and desirability of your work before anything else.

  14. Before you pay a fee to display your work consider a few things:
    1) Does your art compete with the artist owners? Do they have more incentive to sell their own rather than yours?
    2) Is the cost reasonable for retail space? I paid by the linear foot of wall space and decided I could better use that money to promote myself.
    3) Are fees their baseline business model? Sales are not necessary for their success and the numbers will reflect that.
    4) Is your time required as the primary sales force? You may be a talented salesperson while the next artist sits in the corner, barely says “Hi” to whoever wanders in, then goes back to a book. Sales are dependent on an untrained and unpaid sales force.
    5) Are all displaying artists given the same deal? Other artists were invited to display who had no demands on their time while fee-paying regulars had to show guest work.
    6) Are you being charged three times over? Not only your time in sales, you are charged per piece or wall space, then commission on top of that.
    7) Do they promote your workshops? The owners had prime Saturday workshops with advertising while they squeezed me in on a Tuesday night with a last minute announcement. *grumble*
    8) Have they crammed as many pieces as they could plaster over the walls or does it truly look like a gallery that respects your work?
    If you find yourself answering negatively to any of these questions please reconsider. Your fees could better be used in self promotion and advertising. I found a venue that displays more of my work in a professional setting than any gallery would. The relationship is reciprocal. That, coupled with regular high end markets have served me well.

  15. I find this an interesting point of discussion and wondered if you had thoughts on ‘vanity publications/placements etc’ as well. They seem to be becoming a natural extension of this scenario with people like Artsy and Art Arena (just for example) taking quite a hefty fee to place artists in their publications/fairs etc. I was put off by advice from artists etc saying that paid placements like these are essentially worthless since everyone knows that you are not there from your own merit but when it comes to brass tacks I don`t really see the difference between placing a series of adverts vs something like this…Surely the audience has been targeted pretty finely and it still gains an artist visibility. Perhaps I`m being naiive -it would be interesting to know your thoughts.

  16. Very fair and objective article – and helpful. I always feel galleries are well worth their (high) fee. If you are paying for exhibiting space, the gallery has no incentive to sell your work. They may not even have that most precious of things, a ‘list’.

  17. I have done my research when approached by vanity galleries & art fairs. I was surely tempted as they were both in NY. I asked appropriate and very pointed questions through multiple emails and phone conversations regarding all the aspects of their proposals. But in the end they could not answer all of my questions so I decided their ambiguity and their price tag was too steep for an uncertain gamble.
    Now, more than ever, I want to support the traditional Brick & Mortar Galleries! I also know that artists today have to work really hard at promotion and alternative ways if selling their work while gaining exposure and recognition.
    So let’s all work together to keep galleries open and thriving AND artists selling and thriving!

    1. Good point Betty Jo. I don’t know if serious artist can afford to lose the brick & mortar Traditional sales galleries. Self promotion just takes away precious studio time and money. Art coaches are always harping on taking on a completely different career of marketing while maintaining a professional level of artwork. I don’t think most artist can afford to split their time between the two. Which is why we are represented by galleries at a 50% commission

  18. I belong to a gallery that has a brilliant business model with a “vanity gallery” twist that works extremely well. The gallery has co-op artist’s memberships and associate artist’s memberships and you must be “juried” by the owner for selection in either. The co-op members work a certain number of days per month and pay a 15% commission on their pieces that sell. Associate artists don’t work but pay a 35% commission. All artists pay a yearly fee to belong to the gallery (around $200). Then there is a special gallery room that has 12 shows a year where anyone (member or non-members) can pay a small fee ($50) to hang/display their artwork for one month and pay a 35% commission on any sales. The gallery provides printed invitations for the monthly First Friday openings and the artists provide the show’s snacks. The special gallery shows are organized by a gallery member who is also showing in the special room for that month (limited to once a year for members). The gallery is in a high-traffic area and the new artists invite lots of friends and relatives so the First Friday shows are packed and everyone enjoys nice sales. So, it’s kind of like a “vanity gallery” but on a low-cost scale. I have been very successful in this gallery for several years.

    1. The $200 fee is pretty steep, so I assume that membership comprises experienced artists that are confident they will sell. This is a natural selection process. It’s good that the owner still lightly juries the exhibitors. The option to for a one month show for $50 without membership is a good idea to allow fresh artists to trial the gallery and bring in a new group of friends and relatives (if the new artist works hard to promote the exhibition). A good model.

  19. I joined a Gallery that charges a fee this year, it has been a very positive experience so far. The owners are really go-getters an have appraising and framing offered as well, which gets more potential buyers in the door. In exchange for the fee, they print promo materials, place ads, host art walks with food and wine, and are hosting a solo-show for me in the Fall. Sales just started taking off and while it’s too early to judge how the show might go, I feel like every effort will be made to help it a huge success. I felt like it was worth trying and the commission structure reflects the fee paid. I was in a co-op and it really was not a good experience in terms of sales, at least with the fee-based business model, the owners have incentive to make sales, whereas artists selling other artists work – well not so much.

  20. Hi, very interesting discussion. Personally I avoid vanity galleries and also books and competitions. I hire a whole gallery space twice a year and run my own solos. This fits my life style and I enjoy selling direct. I bear all the risks and all the responsibility for promotion and sales. It works for me.
    I also run a large charity exhibition for artists. They do pay a fee..small to hang but only 10% commission. The exhibition is professional, has a good reputation and a keen following. Usually I know the artists and their work and am around all the time the exhibition is running. I find collectors who buy not from galleries need to have their emotional reaction to a piece of art work confirmed and they also like often to meet the artist or hear ‘the story of the work.’ I think this is very valuable because it informs them about the piece they like and enables them to be knowledgeable about the work when they have bought it and have it hanging on their wall.
    When I no longer want the hard work involved in running your own exhibition I will be going down the traditional gallery route. These galleries want to sell your work and generally work really hard with publicity, mounting the exhibition and selling. Art work does not just sell itself and Rarely from a cupboard or wall in the studio unless you have an open studio.

  21. For established artists with gallery experience I can see how this situation could be a turn off, but for an emerging artist who needs the experience of showing their work publicly and the experience of working with a gallery, it can be a great opportunity. I’ve started working with a gallery nearby that is well established in a very charming historic town on the tourist path. But’s it’s also the kind of place where the locals are hardcore in supporting local businesses year round, the town is also known for their boutiques, farm to table restaurants, monthly (if not weekly) events and the median income is quite high. The gallery is popular and right on the main street with all the other businesses, runs many shows throughout the year and most of the artists have been there for years. The owner and gallery director are also artists themselves and run it much like a co-op (though we are not required to work; they charge a low monthly fee and 30% commission and you have to get juried in).

    I’ve already learned so much from the experience as well as from the other artists (equally valuable as I recently moved to the area and don’t have a local following) and it has really helped me, an introverted self-taught artist who has been selling on-line for years, make the transition to showing my work publicly. Just this past weekend, at the opening of their latest show, I sold two pieces and am bringing more in tomorrow to fill those spaces. I greatly appreciate having this type of opportunity available for me at this point in my career.

  22. Here in the Minneapolis / Saint Paul, MN area, these are called “pop up” galleries, no matter who runs them….artist led, often. It’s a way to use underutilized spaces in main traffic areas for limited times, often with co-op style sharing of efforts, expenses, but with individual profits. I don’t know if any galleries are part of this, not having personally used this possibility of showing my work. This “Pop Up” trend is being utilized and seen across all the arts and crafts in my community, with the emphasis on the variety of “makers” who live, work, and thrive here. There have even been outdoor summer evening Makers Markets sponsored by the city of Minneapolis, with a small application fee. Food trucks, breweries, and arts seem to be the current model. Creative people with creative solutions — gone are the days of isolation unless you want it!

  23. I have been in a vanity gallery. My experience was a mix. The owners were nice and helpful. The space cost and for a fee they also made a catalog of the paintings shown and name tags for the paintings. The negative was it was next to the main gallery and the show was aimed to a specific interest group. There are four galleries for rent for a month, but most of the people come to see the invited shows in the main gallery and then the others galleries are visited. I received few visitors that night because of the main event was very specific.

  24. ~ In my experience the best choice in being involved with a so called ‘vanity gallery’ is “IF” it is a local venue only or you have the time to spend on location in the area. I would never go to the expense again shipping/insurance cost/etc. in being part of a ‘Vanity Gallery’ – out of state where I received nice comments but no monetary return for cost involved. Sure would like to read of the profit vs cost other artist have received in their efforts ~

  25. I plan to try a variation of this model for fYREGALLERY from December 2017. I want to maintain my ability to commission and curate the two shows a year that my gallery has established a solid reputation for mounting over the past 12 years. However, after some soul-searching I think I can make the gallery available to professional artists for hire for the other 10 months a year in a way that is supportive and non-exploitative. I will use the term “self-directed” as I think that the term “vanity” is totally demeaning and unnecessary. If professional writers can now self-publish on line and not be accused of ‘vanity’ publishing, then I believe professional artists can hire my gallery and self-manage their shows and their own follow-up. I agree that we need to try as many models as possible and work respectfully with each other to keep afloat and hopefully grow our total market of collectors.

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