First, my thanks to the 3 of you for your thoughtful comments on this topic. I pondered your feed back for some time as there is a very real practical element to the topic. There are opinions i agree with and some i do not.
I want to indicate that my comment about selling for half the cost of what my works sell for in galleries applies to my print bin sales. I did not state that previously. My mistake.
As Iím sure all will agree, a contract details the terms and conditions of an agreement. No detailsÖno agreement. Failing a contract, a gallery has no say whatsoever about what an artist does. The reverse is also true. In the end, a gallery is just a reseller of products. Iíve seen about the same wholesaler-reseller contract phenomena endlessly over the 25 or so years in my day job. Some resellers do offer a good opportunity. Bill provided an example of that. Some do not.
Öproviding just a marketing platform for you, free of chargeÖ
With reference to my own experiences, I agree galleries provide an opportunity to present and sell works. They may or may not do marketing of the works with their email list. Their efforts may or may not produce positive results.
The statement that it is free of charge is 100% wrong. There is a real and substantial cost to the artist to show at a gallery. This includes the cost of the artistís materials, the artistís time, and most importantly but less tangible, the artistís opportunity. And then there is the part about having the artistís products tied up by the gallery for months on end. Add to this the time and costs invested at openings, answering follow-up questions, providing cards, and so on. These all have very real costs associated with them. That you perceived this as ďfree of chargeĒ is beyond silly. Itís up to you but you will help yourself by reconsidering your opinion.
Also my experience is that the opportunities available to newbie artists are vastly different than those reported by established artists. This is not surprising. Galleries have their own agenda. Galleries seek to profit from the artist. Galleries do not or need to ask permission or seek approval of the artist to do so as long as itís covered by the contract. That is why contracts exist. Well, whatís good for the galleryÖ.
If you look at pricing from a customer's point of view would they pay a bit more to purchase from a nice carpeted showroom with perfect lighting while sipping wine -- or slogging across wet and muddy grass to reach your outdoor tent?
I donít have an answer to this. The galleries my works show in do not offer wine, except cheap stuff sometimes at openings. They do not offer perfect lighting. None have carpet. The shows Iíve been in are inside, and often warmer than galleries. I think the warmth comes in part from thousands of people looking to buy, and in part from the organizer who has already made $$ from the vendors booth sales. And the main point is the galleries donít charge ďa bit more,Ē they charge 100% more.
I plan to add carpeting to my booth in the near future, as soon as I get the time to visit a carpet storeÖ.
Iíve looked into a lot of retail photography sales over the last couple of years with great interest. The last couple of shows Iíve done demonstrates pretty clearly that the sweet spot for print bin items is a lot lower than what the galleries Iíve contracted with have insisted upon. That is their mistake. It was also my mistake for going along.
I previously asked one of the galleries that show my works to drop their retail price for print bin items. They refused. In truth, my contracts do not give me control over their pricing. If they can get what they ask, thatís great, but frankly, their greed damages me and them in a big way due to lost sales opportunity.
This detail probably plays a hand in why so many galleries fail. Galleries refuse to make their price points attractive to the average buyer. I donít know why that is, but speculate that the convention of a 100% markup plays a large role. In the broader world of retail sales, this expectation is way out of line.
And yet, many new artists happily go along with over-pricing their works. The prospect of returning a lot of $$ per item is appealing, after all.
Cold hard facts:
What Iíve learned in the 2 shows Iíve done is that when I price my print bin works competitively, sales are good and I make a profit. The galleries that show my works do not do this.
During these shows, Iíve been asked by more resellers about their selling my works, than in several years of email solicitations on my part to lots of art gallery owners. By resellers I mean art galleries, big box stores, resorts, other shows and yada, yada, yada. This is great for me as it has opened doors not there in the past. Time will tell if some of these opportunities are good ones.
When I hook up with resellers in the future, Iíll be more assertive over both the retail price and the margin I offer to them. At this point, the galleries who show my works insist on a 100% markup. I will never again agree to this.
All that aside, in the foreseeable future, Iíll still offer bargains my fair exhibitions. There is no reason not to do so.