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Author Topic: I got my first offer to show in a gallery  (Read 3644 times)
Justan
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« on: June 08, 2010, 08:06:13 AM »
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They gave me 2 offers:

Option 1 is a 3 month slot. It costs me $50 per month and they take 30% of any thing sold. Not sure how much wall space i get.

Option 2) is a “premiere artist” Where I get a solo show where a large body of my work is featured for a month. After that I get work hung for a year (don't know how much wall space) and they ask that i meet and greet or teach classes 1 day a month for a year. This costs $150 per month.

They also want a 30% commission for any work sold or referred.

Is this about par for the course?



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Josh-H
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« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2010, 08:12:55 AM »
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Quote from: Justan
They gave me 2 offers:

Option 1 is a 3 month slot. It costs me $50 per month and they take 30% of any thing sold. Not sure how much wall space i get.

Option 2) is a “premiere artist” Where I get a solo show where a large body of my work is featured for a month. After that I get work hung for a year (don't know how much wall space) and they ask that i meet and greet or teach classes 1 day a month for a year. This costs $150 per month.

They also want a 30% commission for any work sold or referred.

Is this about par for the course?

That is pretty much the status quo in my own experience - I had an exhibition in Eltham in Melbourne last year - No hanging fee, but 33% commission to the Gallery. I hear they have now changed over to the hanging fee of $150 per month and a 30% commission.
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« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2010, 09:35:10 AM »
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This is unfortunatly, on par with the sign of the time.
Like we do see more and more musicians who pay fee (like a toll) to play in some clubs.

Normally, the serious galleries never ask for a fee (as it should be) but charge more than 30%, but also know how and who to sell and to sell well.
But entering a serious gallery is not easy and if you can exhibit and you are ok with the conditions, that can be interesting.
150/month is still reasonable.

Cheers.
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« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2010, 10:22:03 AM »
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Fred, That corresponds with my own experience. A good gallery won't charge a "hanging fee" but will take a 50% commission on sales. Having been involved with my wife's gallery for ten years in the 70's and 80's I know that 50% is a reasonable commission. Most artists haven't a clue regarding how much it costs to operate a gallery.
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Robert Roaldi
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« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2010, 12:14:34 PM »
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My wife paints and holds occasional exhibits (every year or two). Because she was working full-time till recently, she didn't produce enough work to interest a gallery, so we always did the work ourselves, i.e., find/rent exhibit space, maintain contact lists, send mail/e-mail, etc. She would gladly let a gallery take 50% off sales if they could remove all that from our plate. Unless you're well-know and people seek you out, you need exposure, and buying exposure yourself costs money and time. It takes work to sell, you either do the work yourself or you pay someone else to, there's no escape from that.

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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2010, 02:35:52 PM »
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To me a gallery that charges for wall space is not serious about pursuing sales. It is a dead give away that they are using the artist fees rather than sales to cover overhead. This may be good exposure for you, but I wouldn't count on many sales.
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Justan
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« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2010, 06:05:40 PM »
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Thanks for the feedback.

This gallery is in a popular area. It amounts to an opportunity. I had some reservations about the hanging fee but according to those of you who replied it’s typical. The gallery owners have to make a living to justify their efforts, and they don’t request exclusive representation rights, so I'm okay with that.

My broader goal is to sell at art fairs and community centers but this is as good a way to get my feet wet as any. Not sure about the request to spend a day a month at the gallery...
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Justan
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« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2010, 09:31:47 AM »
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I got more feedback from the gallery.

For my $50 fee (3 month obligation) I get enough space to show 1 framed large print, 1 framed medium print, and several smaller and unframed prints.

For my the “premiere” fee ($150 monthly obligation for a year) get to show up to about 40 pieces for a month. They say I get about 40 linier feet of wall space or whatever is needed to show as much work as I want. After that for the next 11 months, I get the same space wall as the $50 fee gets.

They say they have ample facilities for teaching

Does this still sound like an average opportunity for this kind of thing?
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lightstand
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« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2010, 04:50:50 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
For my $50 fee (3 month obligation) I get enough space to show 1 framed large print, 1 framed medium print, and several smaller and unframed prints.

For my the “premiere” fee ($150 monthly obligation for a year) get to show up to about 40 pieces for a month. They say I get about 40 linier feet of wall space or whatever is needed to show as much work as I want. After that for the next 11 months, I get the same space wall as the $50 fee gets.

$150 x 12 = $1,800 + 30% + all your expenses  Will you (or they) sell enough prints to make a profit or even break even

$50 x 12 = $600 + 30% + all your expenses How many sales needs to be made to cover these costs and give you a cup of coffee at the end of the year?  Is the gallery making regular sales to show promise

I do have empathy that galleries require a lot to keep open, however more and more I think we as artists need to do the simple math to understand our own CODB to know if it's worth it.  Here in the DC area I know some galleries that charge quite a bit more than your numbers, but honesty think the people exhibiting are there more for ego and have a wealthy spouse than to establish a viable career. And I know they are not breaking even on sales at the end of the year.

There are plenty of places to get your work shown if you want a show, university galleries, convention centers, corporate lobbies etc but if you want to make money off print sales then you need to ask the gallery to show a history of actual sales/ how are they going to market your show for you, what's their mailing list,  do they have actual buyers that they feel will be interested in your work? Just like anything it won't be the amount of space you get to show within it will be if the traffic is the right type of traffic that buys and more specifically buys the type of work you are creating

What's average here in DC or NYC doesn't help you because you need to know your own CODB to know if it's a viable situation and if you truly feel the gallery is a good fit for your work
« Last Edit: June 09, 2010, 05:09:04 PM by lightstand » Logged
feppe
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« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2010, 05:33:45 PM »
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Quote from: lightstand
$150 x 12 = $1,800 + 30% + all your expenses  Will you (or they) sell enough prints to make a profit or even break even

$50 x 12 = $600 + 30% + all your expenses How many sales needs to be made to cover these costs and give you a cup of coffee at the end of the year?  Is the gallery making regular sales to show promise

I do have empathy that galleries require a lot to keep open, however more and more I think we as artists need to do the simple math to understand our own CODB to know if it's worth it.  Here in the DC area I know some galleries that charge quite a bit more than your numbers, but honesty think the people exhibiting are there more for ego and have a wealthy spouse than to establish a viable career. And I know they are not breaking even on sales at the end of the year.

There are plenty of places to get your work shown if you want a show, university galleries, convention centers, corporate lobbies etc but if you want to make money off print sales then you need to ask the gallery to show a history of actual sales/ how are they going to market your show for you, what's their mailing list,  do they have actual buyers that they feel will be interested in your work? Just like anything it won't be the amount of space you get to show within it will be if the traffic is the right type of traffic that buys and more specifically buys the type of work you are creating

What's average here in DC or NYC doesn't help you because you need to know your own CODB to know if it's a viable situation and if you truly feel the gallery is a good fit for your work

While covering cost of doing business is an important measure, it's even more important to look at return on investment - or if one wants to get fancy the economic value added - and opportunity cost of displaying at the gallery. The 600+ USD per year Justan would invest per year is by necessity not going to be used for other revenue-generating endeavors, such as advertising on google or making a new website (haven't looked at his so this is not a hint  ). It might be that while the the 600 USD would bring a 10% ROI, putting the 600 elsewhere might have an even higher ROI.

One has to also put value on one's time, which is often overlooked in small business ROI calculations - and is a major factor. Assuming Justan is a one-man business, setting up the prints and doing the optional teaching assignment is time away from shooting and post-processing, for example.

Answer to which is the best option depend on the case, and are amibiguous - but necessary to consider to make a decision.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2010, 05:34:13 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
... For my $50 fee (3 month obligation)...
I'd say it is a no-brainer to go for it. For only $150 (a price of some high-end filters for instance), you get the opportunity to find out if your prints will sell, at which price, and how fast.
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« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2010, 06:42:04 PM »
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I'd say it is a no-brainer to go for it. For only $150 (a price of some high-end filters for instance), you get the opportunity to find out if your prints will sell, at which price, and how fast.

Sorry, but I wholeheartedly disagree. A gallery exhibit is a partnership between an artist and a gallery. In order to be successful, BOTH entities need to make financial commitments to help ensure success. The artist does so with the expenses incurred for creating, as well as presenting, sellable work. The gallery does so with money spent on rent, utilities, promotions, etc. Without such parity, it's too easy for one party, or the other, to shirk their responsibilities.

In Justan's case, as the gallery is taking little to no financial risk (and may, in fact, be making money on the deal) they have little incentive to properly advertise or promote the exhibit.

Also, from reading Justan's comments, I am assuming that he will be just one of MANY artists on display at the same time. This is hardly conducive to making sales. With such a setup, the gallery could very well be financially viable with little to no sales...ever. Does that sound like a good deal for the artist?

As tempting as it is, Justan, I think you should skip it.
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« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2010, 07:12:57 PM »
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Quote from: ckimmerle
Sorry, but I wholeheartedly disagree. A gallery exhibit is a partnership between an artist and a gallery. In order to be successful, BOTH entities need to make financial commitments to help ensure success. The artist does so with the expenses incurred for creating, as well as presenting, sellable work. The gallery does so with money spent on rent, utilities, promotions, etc. Without such parity, it's too easy for one party, or the other, to shirk their responsibilities.

In Justan's case, as the gallery is taking little to no financial risk (and may, in fact, be making money on the deal) they have little incentive to properly advertise or promote the exhibit.

Also, from reading Justan's comments, I am assuming that he will be just one of MANY artists on display at the same time. This is hardly conducive to making sales. With such a setup, the gallery could very well be financially viable with little to no sales...ever. Does that sound like a good deal for the artist?

As tempting as it is, Justan, I think you should skip it.
Please, people! We are spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on our photography and we can not afford $150 to test an idea/opportunity!?

Gallery making money on it!? At $50 a month!? Say you are right and there are many artists on display... how many can there possibly be?... ten, twenty? It is then a " whooping" $500 to $1000 a month for the gallery... you do realize that gallery rents in good locations go into five figures per month (i.e., $10K)? And that is just rent, mind you.
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« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2010, 08:42:51 PM »
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Quote from: ckimmerle
Sorry, but I wholeheartedly disagree. A gallery exhibit is a partnership between an artist and a gallery. In order to be successful, BOTH entities need to make financial commitments to help ensure success. The artist does so with the expenses incurred for creating, as well as presenting, sellable work. The gallery does so with money spent on rent, utilities, promotions, etc. Without such parity, it's too easy for one party, or the other, to shirk their responsibilities.

In Justan's case, as the gallery is taking little to no financial risk (and may, in fact, be making money on the deal) they have little incentive to properly advertise or promote the exhibit.

Also, from reading Justan's comments, I am assuming that he will be just one of MANY artists on display at the same time. This is hardly conducive to making sales. With such a setup, the gallery could very well be financially viable with little to no sales...ever. Does that sound like a good deal for the artist?

As tempting as it is, Justan, I think you should skip it.

Afraid I agree with Chuck. I guess partly because I'm put off by" galleries" that charge for display space. The gallery owner or operator is the one who should decide what gets hung -- based on his knowledge of his mafrket. The answer to that question is regional. What'll sell in San Francisco isn't necessarily what'll sell in Dubuqe. What'll sell in a tourist town isn't the same thing that'll sell in a city. The other thing the gallery owner should be able to do is give you advice about reasonable pricing. It's in the owner's interest to do this honestly. If he over-prices your stuff it simply won't sell. If he under-prices your stuff it may not sell because his clientele feels it's cheap. In addition, if he under-prices he doesn't make what he should on sales.

On the other hand, if it feels good, do it. It's always fun to walk into a gallery and see your stuff hanging on the walls, even if it isn't selling.
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« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2010, 08:44:48 AM »
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Quote from: Slobodan Blagojevic
Please, people! We are spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on our photography and we can not afford $150 to test an idea/opportunity!?

The past few years have seen a huge rise in the number of both fee-based juried contests as well as pay-as-you-go galleries and magazines. Photographers have become the cash-cow of the art world. There are so many photographers desperate for attention (and willing to spend money for that attention) that we're being prayed upon.

Any gallery that charges a "hanging fee" does so because they are not confident in the ability of the artist to make sales. Do you really think it's a good idea to be affiliated with a gallery owner who has no faith in the ability to make sales? Who has no real incentive to properly advertise or promote?


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« Reply #15 on: June 10, 2010, 12:42:01 PM »
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Thanks again for the feedback.

Rather than respond to each, I'm going to grab selected comments that apply to the core concerns I have and reply to those.

…but if you want to make money off print sales then you need to ask the gallery to show a history of actual sales/ how are they going to market your show for you, what's their mailing list, do they have actual buyers that they feel will be interested in your work?

Excellent points. I will find out about these details.

…look at return on investment - or if one wants to get fancy the economic value added - and opportunity cost of displaying at the gallery.

This is a core issue. I've solicited about a dozen local galleries so far. Each says that my work is great or > but each has said that they already have lots of photographers. As a result, I'm not putting a lot of faith into making $ from galleries. I see it as a necessary step in promoting my art. I see a few of these opportunities as being necessary to build a resume.

…or making a new website (haven't looked at his so this is not a hint  ).

Heh, thanks I needed a laff

I'd say it is a no-brainer to go for it. For only $150 (a price of some high-end filters for instance), you get the opportunity to find out if your prints will sell, at which price, and how fast.

This is along the lines of my logic. I'm thinking of renting 2 of these spaces if the gallery owner is willing. While I'm okay to be at the gallery for Art Walks and certainly for an opening, I'm not thrilled with needing to be there 1 day a month. They don’t force the issue but only ask that of the premier artists. OTOH, long ago when I was developing my other company, I did regular presentatons and made good money from those presentations, so the opportunity truly has some legs and it’s a standard for a business starting out.

In Justan's case, as the gallery is taking little to no financial risk (and may, in fact, be making money on the deal) they have little incentive to properly advertise or promote the exhibit.

This is a valid comment in the abstract but based on facts not in evidence. I won’t defend or attack the practice. I will find out how they advertise and promote events. How they promote is the absolute core detail of the value a gallery provides. That aside, I may do it anyway, especially if I can do a show in December!

With such a setup, the gallery *could* very well be financially viable with little to no sales...ever.

Again, a good comment in the abstract but based on facts not in evidence. From what I've seen, the gallery makes a sincere effort to bring in both artists and the community. They appear to do everything that a business should to promote themselves and their products.

The other thing the gallery owner should be able to do is give you advice about reasonable pricing. It's in the owner's interest to do this honestly.

This is a good question and one which I will ask about.

Thanks again!
« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 12:44:32 PM by Justan » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: June 10, 2010, 01:42:17 PM »
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Quote from: ckimmerle
The past few years have seen a huge rise in the number of both fee-based juried contests as well as pay-as-you-go galleries and magazines. Photographers have become the cash-cow of the art world. There are so many photographers desperate for attention (and willing to spend money for that attention) that we're being prayed upon.
That is capitalism, my friend! Whenever there is a need, someone will step in to fulfill it (and make money in the process, of course).

So what? If everybody does it (i.e., "preying" on photographers), are we to boycott it and go back to our caves to do some more "shooting and post-processing" (sorry, Harri, could not resist  )? Or we adjust to the times, pay a small fee, and get published in the prestigious B&W magazine (congrats, btw... no, really and sincerely! )?

Quote
Any gallery that charges a "hanging fee" does so because they are not confident in the ability of the artist to make sales.

Well... duh!

Quote
Do you really think it's a good idea to be affiliated with a gallery owner who has no faith in the ability to make sales?...?
That's the famous Groucho Marx paradox (paraphrased): "I'd never join a gallery that would put me on their walls".

I do not want to make this about Justin personally, so will generalize from now on. We are apparently talking here about someone exhibiting for the first time. So, obviously there is a lot of uncertainty and risk involved for both parties. Gallery owners are running a business (unless they are independently wealthy and do it for fun or as art benefactors)... is it then so strange they would like a new artist to take some part in the risk? And again, we are taking peanuts here ($50 a month for three months).

Or, let me reverse the table: if the artist himself is so confident he will make sales, wouldn't he signal it by "putting his money where his mouth is"? Wouldn't you, as a gallery owner, when faced with a choice of artists competing for your wall space, prefer someone signaling his confidence that way?
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« Reply #17 on: June 10, 2010, 02:17:06 PM »
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B&W only publishes about 10% of the entrants for the portfolio edition, much less for the single image. The fee charged is nominal and well in line with the rest of the legitimate "contests". A better example to make your point (or mine) is Focus magazine, which charges something like $1500 for a photo spread and bio, and turns away very few. Which magazine do you think is better though of in the art world? It's pretty much the same issue with galleries who charge hanging fees.

As for the galleries, I'm speaking from experience not, as Justan called it the "abstract". Take George Barr (blog), for instance. After one of his portfolios was published in either Lenswork or B&W (I forget which) he was approached by a gallery who wanted to exhibit a one-man show. He was responsible for all framing, shipping both ways, half the cost of publicity, and a few other incidentals. At the end of the couple of months run, he sold....nothing. The show cost him many thousands of dollars (in addition to framing and printing costs), yet the gallery took almost no, if any, financial risk. I've heard of others who have suffered this same fate.

Michael Gordon has had his work exhibited in many juried exhibitions and has, like me, discovered that sales from these gallery shows are excruciatingly slow as these types of galleries tend to draw people more interested in looking at photographs than buying prints. It's not an abstract thought, it's a fact of life. I'm not saying that sales are impossible, just that we all need to be realistic.

Hell, I hope Justan sells his entire show and I'm proven wrong. That would be a nice thing to have happen. I'm just pointing out how this is anything but a slam dunk.

Quote from: Slobodan Blagojevic
Or, let me reverse the table: if the artist himself is so confident he will make sales, wouldn't he signal it by "putting his money where his mouth is"? Wouldn't you, as a gallery owner, when faced with a choice of artists competing for your wall space, prefer someone signaling his confidence that way?
Absolutely not. If I were a gallery owner I would want an artist whose work I know will sell, not somebody who thinks their work will sell. THAT is the difference between legitimate galleries who are paid via commission only, and those that take advantage of artists by selling wall space.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 02:23:17 PM by ckimmerle » Logged

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« Reply #18 on: June 10, 2010, 04:37:51 PM »
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To add to what Chuck just said: What George Barr did was consignment. A good gallery may take a piece -- photograph, painting, etc. -- either as an outright purchase or on consignment. An experienced gallery owner normally will buy a piece outright only if he's quite sure he can sell it within a reasonable time. But the markup on the purchase is going to be better than the commission he'd make on consignment. The legitimate way for a gallery to reduce risk is to take pieces on consignment. The artist is responsible to deliver complete, saleable pieces -- in this case prints properly signed, matted and framed. The gallery owner insures the contents of the gallery, including the consignments, pays for the advertising, pays the general overhead including wages of gallery workers, etc., and may or may not bear the price of an "opening" for a new artist. That's why, unless the consignor is a regular seller, the gallery's commission on a sale may be 50% or even more. The consignor bears the cost of producing the complete, saleable piece, and he also bears the time cost of the part of his inventory that hangs on the wall before a sale.

To me, a "gallery" owner who charges for display space and has no voice in what gets hung isn't running a gallery. He's a landlord, renting space on his walls.

On the other hand, with the economy in its present condition gallery owners are going to be very careful and very picky. It's really hard to sell photographs unless you're in New York City, San Francisco, or Santa Fe.
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« Reply #19 on: June 10, 2010, 11:14:07 PM »
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As for the galleries, I'm speaking from experience not, as Justan called it the "abstract"…

You have no knowledge or experience with this particular gallery.

Michael Gordon has had his work exhibited in many juried exhibitions and has, like me, discovered that sales from these gallery shows are excruciatingly slow as these types of galleries tend to draw people more interested in looking at photographs than buying prints. It's not an abstract thought, it's a fact of life. I'm not saying that sales are impossible, just that we all need to be realistic.

Again you are missing the key point and instead laboring over another. Your vantage point is not being discredited. While your anecdotal stories serve as rational examples, you don't know what this particular gallery does. ...but you have provided a hint in a way. I'll contact a couple of people that have shown i this gallery and get their feedback

To the point of selling stuff, while the goal is for consumers to like my work enough to pay for it, I expect that getting a few feet of wall space in a gallery is worth a line of text on my web site that says my work has been in … gallery. It’s a step towards credibility. If some sells that will be fabulous but I don’t have high hopes, for the reasons you illustrated and others.

I think it would be difficult to be successful (read that make a living) selling photography in galleries. I'm sure some do but probably not most, and i'd speculate openly that success in gallery sales would come later in the career. Gallery shows are passive by their nature. i think it was you that pointed out many go there to look but very few to buy. There are way better venues if you’re out to sell.
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