Saturday, September 25, 2010

Art dealers from hell Part 2

The following was found on

As in any profession, most art dealers and art galleries are entirely reputable, responsible and considerate of everyone they do business with. Unfortunately, a despicable few are anything but. So in honor of that small but sleazy cadre of scumbuckets, what follows is a list of bullet points-- behaviors to watch out for and hopefully to avoid. Knowing how to identify and avoid art-dealing jerks keeps them from infecting your life. Here you go...

* Art dealers from hell constantly tell artists how important they are and how important their galleries are (the inference, of course, being how unimportant the artists are). They rarely pass up an opportunity to proclaim their magnificence.

* They tell artists they're doing them huge favors by showing their art.

* They insist on controlling and micromanaging the careers of their artists even to the point of making creative decisions for them. This may even include interfering with successful or longstanding preexisting business relationships. When a dealer doesn't allow you to make you own decisions, that's trouble.

* Bad art dealers want a cut of everything-- even transactions taking place within previously established relationships.

* They refuse to negotiate and instead dictate everything. If they have this attitude with you, they likely have it with other artists, dealers and collectors as well. Inabilities to compromise or be flexible are often detrimental to the success of a gallery... as well as to its artists.

* They're almost always too busy to meet or speak with their artists, mainly because they have much bigger deals they're working on.

* They give evasive answers to matter-of-fact questions about gallery policies around shipping, insurance, how and when artists get paid, whether they've sold any of an artist's work, how much they're selling the art for, where unsold works of art are, and so on.

* They don't pay their artists on time. Interview artists represented by any gallery that you're considering showing with. If you find out that they owe money to either one or more of their artists, ask those artists why. Nonpayment is almost always a bad sign, unless within the accepted guidelines of a contract. Nonpayment coupled with refusal to either negotiate or discuss the matter is typically a terminal sign. And don't think the situation's going to be any different for you than it is for the other artists. Delusions are never conducive to your success as an artist.

* They don't tell their artists in a timely manner when art sells, but instead wait until the artist asks, and then they'll put off telling them for as long as possible.

* They either keep pieces of an artist's art for themselves or sell them, and then instead of returning them when the artist asks for them back, they claim they already returned them. (In other words, make sure you have complete records for all consigned artworks and that both parties sign off on every single sale or transfer.)

* Without telling their artists, art dealers from hell raise prices beyond the agreed upon values and then pocket the extra profits for themselves.

* They ask artists to substantially reduce their prices for no apparent reason, and give little or no indication of how that may or may not affect sales or the commission percentage that goes to the gallery.

* They sell an artist's art for below the agreed upon value without telling the artist or advising the artist first that they'd like to give a buyer an additional discount, and then either ask the artist to take correspondingly less money for the art, or simply pay the artist less money.

* When bad art dealers get into financial trouble, they keep selling their artists' art but stop paying the artists for it. If you stop getting paid for any reason, act immediately and get something in writing from the gallery about how and by when they intend to pay you. If they won't give you that, prepare to evacuate.

* Even though the artists they screw often leave their galleries, unscrupulous dealers will keep those artists' names on their websites, making it seem like they still represent them. Before getting involved with any gallery, always check with a good number of artists on their website to make sure they're actually represented by that gallery. If they're not, find out why-- and watch out.

* They trash artists who leave their galleries, even though those artists may have had excellent reasons for doing so. If an art dealer badmouth's one or more artists, it's best to contact those artists for their sides of the story. Far too many artists take everything that comes out of art dealers' mouths as gospel. You need as much information as possible from all parties involved in order to make intelligent decisions.

* They don't know how to handle art or they handle it carelessly. Make sure you watch how a gallery handles art. Do they know what they're doing? Do they have a casual attitude? Do they know how to pack and ship it? How a gallery handles art is not only a key indicator of their experience in the business, but even more importantly, of their respect for art and artists in general. That said, if you make fragile or difficult-to-handle art, be sure to provide instructions on how to care for it. Don't expect the dealers to know everything, especially if your work is unique or unusual in some way.

* A corollary to the above is that art dealers from hell have a history of returning unsold art to artists in worse condition than they received it. As if that's not bad enough, they often say nothing about it to the artist, and never suggest that either they or their insurance companies will pay for the damage.

* The most contemptible dealers tell artists exactly what they want to hear, whether or not they have any experience showing or selling the art. They promise the moon, tell artists they'll make them famous, bump up selling prices, AND THEN require them to sign contracts giving the gallery the exclusive rights to sell the art everywhere. If you encounter a dealer like this, tell them they can have their rights for three months or six months, or some other reasonable period of time-- and never internationally-- maybe regionally or even statewide, but never beyond that. Never sign away the rights to represent your art for extended periods of time-- say longer than a year-- unless the gallery proves that they can sell your work, and that they're easy to work with. Even then, take it step by step. A gallery has to prove that they can make good on their promises before you enter into any serious long-term agreements.

* A corollary to the above is that after making huge promises, bad art dealers don't follow through-- or can't follow through. For example, they double or triple your prices (or more), nothing sells, they give you your art back, and you're stuck with an overpriced inventory and a damaged reputation.

* They have a history of getting involved in legal actions-- from either side-- either them going legal on their artists or their artists going legal on them. Or they regularly threaten legal action or talk about what they'll do to anyone who doesn't go along with the program. These are not people you want to do business with.

* Even though they may be brand new and basically untested, they act like they're really important, a going concern, and will have no problems selling your work.

* The dealer has a reputation for strange or eccentric behaviors or for making life difficult for their artists. Again-- don't think you're going to be the exception, no matter how wonderfully they treat you at the outset.

* Bad art dealers often give ultimatums. For example, they'll actually tell an artist what to make, how many to make, how large it should be, and so on, the implicit message for the artist being not to make what they want to make, but rather what the gallery thinks they can sell the easiest. Dealers can certainly suggest what might have sales potential or what directions an artist might explore, especially once a good working relationship is established, but they should never insist that artists make particular types of art. There's a fine line here between being demanding and being supportive.

* Bad art galleries offer artists artificially low stipends or advances to create art, then take control of that art outright and give the artists nothing more for it, no matter how much they might end up selling it for.

* They tell artists they'll take care of the numbers, inventory, payments, and all other business matters, and not to worry. You better worry! And you better keep track of every single work of art you consign. Anytime a dealer is cagey about providing this kind of data, that's a sure sign of problems down the road.

* They don't want to give consignment sheets or any forms of receipts itemizing and detailing each individual work of art they receive from an artist. They refuse to put monetary details in writing including agreed upon selling prices, how discounts are handled, commission splits between the artist and gallery, payment schedules, and so on. Verbal agreements on these matters are never enough!

* And last but not least, they sexually harass their artists or employees or make persistent, inappropriate or unwanted comments, remarks or advances.

So there you have it. It's certainly not everything, but hopefully enough to get you started. Remember-- be vigilant and attentive at all times, trust your instincts, and the most important part: Don't ever let anybody push you around. Now get out there and get successful!

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