The Internet and Running an Art Gallery

Below is a comment by gallery owner Carrie Horejs from an earlier post called Running an Art Gallery. She talks about some of the challenges that the Internet is creating for the old artist/art gallery relationship. She raises some interesting questions..

My husband and I have owned and operated Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ, and online since 2001. In fact, we opened September, 10, 2001. The next day, with the horrific events of 9/11, we thought we were goners. Of course, the economy of then was nothing compared to the difficult times of today. However, our sales are up from last year by 40 percent (2008 being our worst year yet).

My point in writing this comment is to say we have noticed a dramatic shift since opening in 2001. Back then very few collectors thought to look on the Internet for art or artists. Now, it is second nature to go to google for everything, including researching artists. A collector walks through our doors, falls in love with the artist, goes home and Googles the artist and then commissions directly from the artist. I’m not saying this happens all the time, but several months ago we, by accident, found out about a $200,000 commission that went directly to the artist after the purchaser had discovered his artwork in our gallery. Rather than become bitter, we got smarter. Why shouldn’t the internet work for both artists and galleries.

Now, before we represent artists in our Scottsdale gallery, we require they join Xanadu Studios where they show their work online through our site. Every studio artist shows in our bricks-and-mortar gallery on a rotating basis, but only top-selling artists show on an on-going basis and get shows devoted to them. We’re not sure it’s a perfect system yet, but we’re evolving with the times. We’re requiring more from our artists who promote themselves through personal websites and blogs (which, is like all of them).

I often wonder how other galleries are dealing with artists who have gallery representation but continue to self-promote. I have been known to secret shop gallery represented artists. I contact them through their emails on their personal websites and inquire as to whether they have any studio pieces available. Not once has an artist directed me to his or her galleries for purchases. I fear galleries will dry up if they don’t smarten up. Then where will collectors go to see art in person?

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Just one quick comment – just because an artist doesn’t direct her to a gallery doesn’t necessarily mean the gallery isn’t getting a commission. Artists may pass on commissions (full or agent rate) to the galleries if it’s clear a customer came from there originally. Some clients prefer to visit the artist. You can’t quite judge everything from email, or even if the sale is made through the studio.

    Much of it comes down to the contract and also trust between artist and gallery. :)

  2. It’s easy to generalise about anything including galleries. I know several that promote a few favourite artists but who also show a bunch of other artists because they sell and bring in the money… even though the reason for the sale is the promotion done by the artist… who gets to pay full commission for this privilage. One of my favourite artists is Nicola Slattery and her web site at has several links to galleries representing her work in London, Scotland and Dublin. Not one of these galleries has a reciprical link back to her web site!

    Many artists will be only too familiar with the experience of giving their best work to a gallery that promises so much only to find six months later the gallery owners tastes and attention has moved on and the artists work languishes in a stock room gathering dust… until of course the day the artist sends along a prospect and hey presto… the work comes out blinking into daylight once more.

    There was a time when galleries made a commitment to an artist to buy a minimum number of works at a fixed price for a fixed period of say 3 or 5 years. In return the artist agreed everything went through the gallery. Now virtually every gallery wants stuff on sale or return with the artist bearing costs of transportation, framing, etc and then paying 50 to 60 % commission plus VAT(TAX). No wonder collectors who are aware of this start to approach artists directly to cut a better deal for themselves and the artist.

    If galleries want to survive in this brave new world they need to adapt and offer artists something special cos the answer to the question “Then where will collectors go to see art in person?” is simple… artists are capable of hiring the increasing number of gallery spaces for hire and putting on their own shows and they can also take stands at art fairs like the absolutely brilliant one held each year in Brighton UK – see for yourself at:

    There are exceptions but in my humble opinion there are lots of galleries that artists need in the same way a dog need fleas and ticks.

  3. I think the contracts have to be looked at again, especially with those artists that are marketing savvy.

    The old way of doing things is fine for many artists, but with the interent it is now possible to do away with galleries completely. It’s more work for the artist and not everyone can be bothered, but for those that persist it can be financially and personally rewarding.

    I think it’s good that art galleries are now forced to get creative to keep artists rather than taking their commissions for granted.

  4. Ouch, fleas and ticks Earl? Galleries will love that

  5. I usually offer the gallery a percentage of any sales outside of the gallery if the customer found me via the gallery.

  6. I knew it, I knew it. I said this would happen and it did. Sneaky art dealers!

  7. Interesting read Karl :)

  8. Just because an artist has a blog and a website doesn’t mean they do not have a very healthy respect for their dealer. I have both and I have never made a sale my dealer didn’t know about, get their particular percentage or whatever was proper. Which means I tell them about sales initiated through my site, ones I made.

    I think any artist who has been around the block will do the same. At the same time, no one can expect a dealer to do all, to create an artist’s career. That’s a myth for the most part. No one really takes care of you. You create your own career. Bearing this in mind, you use all the tools available. My dealer can only show so much of my work online, for instance. But my site shows the full spectrum. It just makes sense.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Ah ha – yey for the internet,
    maybe this means artists just might retain control over their art and just maybe with all the money they will save on ‘not paying’ hefty gallery fees they can then buy or lease their own gallery to present their work and maybe with other artists (this is happening more and more).

    I think the days of the money hungry gallery owner sitting on their laurels is drawing to a close (apologies to any who are not greedy and grasping – umm are there any? )

    My comments here will probably do me no favors as an artist (student of art actually) but it disturbs me greatly this side of the art world.

    What does she mean “where will people see art if their are no ‘private’ art galleries?”


    Galleries should be free to the public anyway and there should never be exhibition charges either or we will just continue to create this terrible class division between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. The ‘haves’ continue to get the best of culture and the ‘have nots’ stay in the dark, or only get to see art via computers, television, etc …. New topic THE GREED OF ART.

  10. Earl is right. Back in the day, Gauguin had a contract and sent everything to his dealer for a yearly stipend, artists just wanted to work as everyone else did, not make a killing on hyping themselves as investments. Vollard made a fortune, going into Cezannes studio and buying everything, so be it. We just want to work and have a steady income, just like everyone else. NOT make a killing. Thats for Wall Street types, artsits are suposed to have some values outisde of commerce.

    I hope things change, i sell my prints with no numbering, anyone who wants one can get it at a very reasonable price, what does being unique or rare have to do with enjoying art? Is it investment like an old postage stamp, or mental, physical and spiritual vitality?

    Art got off Purpose long ago, and I hope the internet does change it. Those who just want the lifestyle of art, who want to sit on their ass and Vogue as Artistes, Dealers and my favorite word, Gallerists, what the hell is that? Curators, what the hell do you need a curator for in a gallery? Just hammer in a nail and stick it on the wall, I dont need concepts and written journals to appreciate art, as anything that needs them is not art at all.

    No, the art world is a mess. it needs reforming, and I mean that, RE Forming into another beast. Where aristes work to prove themselves, to get to a large audience, not just a few rich collectors as the gallerists want to hang with them in a spoiled and isolated world. Dealers gotta do a much better job promoting art, instead having turned it into a gilded ghetto. Get more involved. Lower prices, find art that intelligent people can relate to, and find emoptionally stimulating, not fluffing up ones ego.

    Stuff the galleiry walls with work, let the viewers decide what is good and what they want, not be sold by a buncha over educated parasites. Back in the day few ever had one man shows, stop waisting huge amounts of wallspace for postage stamp fetishes. Stick it on the wall, and let the viewer judge for thesmselves, instead of the absurd academic rantings and justifications for crap.

    Other see it, just cant believe they are being sold a buncha swampland, and so walk out. They dont know what to make of it, not that they dont understand the work, they do far better than the gallerist. They just cant believe this is what is being offered now. And so dont come back again. Only art school grads come back, the brain washed. Real folks are just amazed, and repelled. Its not hip anymore, Really, never was. Stupid is never cool. And as the comic said, You cant fix stupid.

    art collegia delenda est

  11. I have a personal website now, but when I’m in a Top Gallery I will direct clients that contact me directly to my art dealer. As an artist I want to focus %100 on producing, let the art dealers spend all that time to promote, market and sell my work

  12. I agree with Earl too. Exclusive representation of an artist is at best mythical anyway.

    The gallery’s job is to sell work the gallery holds! Beyond that we’re into special clauses – free access to the artist’s studio, possibly trust private collections, etc. This is just greed on the part of a dealer and a way of hiding from competition. If the dealer isn’t selling enough – preventing others from selling isn’t going to make the dealer’s record look any better.

    TIP – if you can’t sell don’t hoard.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Could someone please tell me in which industry you’ll leave your work in consignment and wait to be paid after it has been sold? Relying on your gallerist to tell you it has been sold. Keeping track of all the works left in the gallery, should this be the job of the artist? Is this practice sustainable for the artists? Isn’t it time that gallerists invested in artists and then sold the work? Wouldn’t it then be more appropriate that the gallerists ask whatever price they desire or feel their investment is worth?
    I wonder how all the previous generations of artists who suffered from poverty would react to an opportunity as powerfull as the world wide web!

  14. It’s a shame that artists too have fallen prey to the great god Greed!
    However, not all have! I very much appreciate the work that is involved with running a gallery and if anyone contacts me regarding a piece they have seen on a gallery website, or in a gallery, I ALWAYS refer them to the gallery. It would make no sense otherwise. A gallery connection is long term, not something to be thrown away on the chance of a direct sale.
    A recent example: a quilt museum in California was contacted by a patient in a hospital – she had seen one of my quilts in the hospital and would like to purchase a piece, did the museum know who I was? (she had no internet access). The museum contacted me and asked me if it was all right to give her my phone number. I contacted her and showed her how to access my website ( The piece she liked was in a gallery in North Carolina – so I told her how to contact that gallery. She asked if she could purchase it from he, and I replied that she should buy it from the gallery. I then contacted the gallery and we agreed that the museum should receive a finder’s fee also (which we split). My feeling was that I’d made a sale, and made good connections with the gallery and the museum. Good connections and relationships are worth $$! Elizabeth Barton

  15. this is an interesting blog post. the commments are interesting and illuminating, too.

  16. I think the phrase “studio pieces” makes all the difference. That means works in the studio not at an artist’s gallery. Had the inquiry involved a specific painting that may have been in a gallery you would or should have been referred to the appropriate gallery if the work was not in the artist’s studio. However any inquiry should include the artist’s gallery representation.

    My ideal situation would be for galleries to handle my sales and marketing and I spend my time painting. The checks would roll in and I’d never have to print another postcard or pay another jury fee. However this is not very realistic for most artists. Galleries make money if they sell any of their artist’s work. I only make money if I sell my work. So I send out promotional mailers and enter shows all to help my career. If I solely incur time and expenses to photograph my work, research appropriate exhibitions, pay jury fees, and ship paintings, should I then route the sale from that effort to my nearest gallery? Or if I research interior designers in Boston and print, and mail them postcards and brochures should I refer them to a gallery in another state?

    In my newsletters and website I always mention my galleries/exhibitions. Artists should be honest and refer clients to their gallery if that is how they found their work, but galleries can hardly expect artists to sit back and wait for the next sale. I see several successful galleries where the gallery website will link to the artist’s website to let clients see a broader range of work. This is a benefit to all parties.

    I notice Xanadu charges “membership” fees to exhibit artist works on their website. It is an unfortunate trend that seems to put all the financial burden on the artist instead of the patron.

    A good gallery/artist relationship should benefit both parties and be based on trust.

  17. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. I am fiercely loyal to anyone who is behind my work.

  18. This burns me, man. A relationship I had with a gallery mutually ended because of their completely unfounded mistrust of me. From the get-go they were leery of me promoting myself online. OK, so here’s a brick and mortar gallery that’ll promote to it’s email list and it’s local audience. I’m supposed to not do anything myself for the rest of the world? Come on. You’re requiring MORE from the ARTIST?

    The brick and mortar gallery’s job is to match buyers with sellers. Seth Godin has talked about the role of middlemen and the need for them to offer value in addition to merely showing the work. Customers of the gallery should feel like they have a special relationship with the artist because of the gallery’s relationship with the artist. The customer shouldn’t feel prevented form connecting with the artist directly, that’s why some people buy art and probably why most art is sold at gallery openings when artists are there to meet.

    I know most galleries I go into, not just in Scottsdale, usually feel impersonal. There’s a little artist statement and maybe a portfolio for each artist. I know there are financial and spatial restrictions, but presentation is everything at a gallery. That’s why it’s a brick and mortar presentation in the first place. Have a kiosk in the place with a way to contact each artist directly, but through a service provided by the gallery. It’s prety damn easy to give artists an email[at]gallery[dot]com. YOU should do MORE to facilitate customers feeling connected to the art and artist.

    Now, another gallery with whom I still have a relationship, has been very forthright with their needs. Their contract is very VERY well thought out to be extremely fair to both parties, and clauses were added at my request. I’ve had them several times put me in basically direct contact with customers who wanted commissions. Yes, they have trusted me. That’s the point of the contract.

    But you can’t expect an exclusive deal online with an artist if you’re a brick and mortar gallery and your focus is split between local and online marketing. By forcing artists who want to be shown in your brick and mortar gallery to be only online in your online gallery, you’re asking them to shoot themselves in the foot. And making them from the get-go feel mistrusted.

    If a customer who sees work in your gallery and then contacts the artist directly, isn’t that your responsibility to facilitate the connection, not try to cut it off? It sounds like you’re faulting artists for something unrelated to them. If you want the customer not to be in direct contact with the artist, then it’s your responsibility with that side of the connection, that between you and the customer, not that between you and the artist. But I’d think you’d want your customers and your artists to feel trusted from the start. Then you won’t have the self-fulfilling prophecy of both going behind your back.


  19. I didn’t read all of these comments but I have a couple of my own experiences to offer.

    About eighteen months ago I was contacted by a man from Texas who was interested in one of my paintings. The painting he had in mind was showing at a gallery here in Maine. He saw it on MY site, not the gallery’s. The man in question found me online, not through a gallery.

    I directed him to the gallery’s website. But this matter goes further than this. The painting in question had been hanging at the gallery for a while and I was considering bringing back to the studio. I could have done so and said nothing to the gallery.

    However, I wanted to do my potential collector and the gallery a favor. You see, the gallery where the painting was showing has a policy of not raising prices on works already hanging. But my prices HAD risen and, if I had brought the painting back to the studio, I could have charged a higher price! I chose not to and even let the man from Texas know he’d be getting a better deal if he bought it from the gallery.

    Crazy of me? Not to me. I see it as honest business.

    On another occasion (before the Internet) a man came to my studio after finding my work at a local gallery. He found things here he liked but he wanted a discount. He apparently thought he could get one by dealing with me directly. I told him I’d give him one only on the condition that he also buy something from the gallery.

    After I mentioned the direct purchases made here to the gallery, I was told…”We’ll let it go this time, but something will have to change in the future.” I wasted no time in letting them know that they wouldn’t even have had a sale at all if I hadn’t directed the man to buy from them first!

    On top of that, I had no contract other than a simple consignment sheet. Nothing was in it at all covering “range of representation” or anything like that! No kind of “exclusivity” at all. So the gallery had no room even to speak on the matter.

    As for the purchase of the painting first seen on my site, I have a strong relationship with the gallery in question…one I want to keep intact. And the other gallery that thought they “owned” me… I no longer show with them at all.

    Trust is a two way street. If you want to have it, you’d better deserve it.

  20. We’ve had art in various galleries, and we know what the gallery owners have to do to promote it. It costs them money in advertising, space rent, and events.

    We appreciate the work that the galleries do for us, completely. So if I get a commission that came from one of the galleries ads or from walking in the gallery, I always, 100% of the time, pay the gallery. Even if they didn’t know about it. It’s having integrity. And in return, the gallery owners are good to us, too.

    If I get a commission that doesn’t come from the gallery, then it’s direct.

    I think this is fair practice.

  21. In response to Maria Brophy. How do you know for certain how a collector discovered your work? Even if it is not reality, the perception exists that when you buy direct, you are getting a better deal. It is very easy for a collector to say they found you on the internet. This would not even be a lie if they first discovered your work in a gallery and second found you online. Yes, we gallery owners work tirelessly to establish good relationships with collectors. But there isn’t much we can do about the very real perception that buying direct is a better deal. In an ideal world what you are suggesting would be perfect. Galleries get commissions when the artists are discovered through them. But today’s reality does not allow such certainty about where the collector really discovered the work. In today’s business climate a solid business plan has to have transparency as well as trust. After reading all of these comments, I am more convinced than ever that the relationship between galleries and artists must evolve.

    The internet is a wonderful world changing technology. The world has opened up to artists. But with this comes many challenges as well. How do artists distinguish themselves among the millions of other artists also online? For this, bricks-and-mortar galleries will remain a relevant part of the marketing mix for artists in that they help collectors with the sifting process. In addition, galleries provide an experience for collectors. The gallery business is a very personal one. Our collectors become personal friends as well as repeat buyers. I believe artists and galleries can and will continue to work together in mutually profitable relationships if we accept that the internet has changed everything and we too must change. Change is good!
    Carrie Horejs
    Owner Xanadu Gallery.

  22. Phoinix says:

    Boo-hoo art stores! If you delivered what you SAY you deliver – then artists and collectors wouldn’t have evolved a separate sales channel.

    The presumption that you, as a retail outlet, could demand that artists should modify their sales strategy in any way, is a truly insulting level of arrogance. To cover your incompetence and inability to sell artwork, you need your artists to scale back their more effective efforts? Yeah right. Keep dreaming on that paved road to bankruptcy.

    So what, exactly would you DO in exchange for that exclusivity? Would you meet targeted sales numbers? Would you accept lower commissions? Would you pay appropriate licensing fees for such an agreement?

    Artists who already have a full-time job creating high level work AND still outperform you at sales deserve the money. You don’t. People come into your store but you can’t close a deal? Why is that? Pricing, attitude, incompetence? That seems to be your problem not mine.

    A gallery is nothing more or less than a retail outlet for unique hand-made (usually) collectible products. If you can’t produce sales greater than my own, I’m not going to pay you anything. And if you can’t compete with my studio then you have no buisness selling anything.

    I really, truly loath and despise the kind of person that, after I have invested years of incredibly hard work and massive risks, wants to step in and collect the benefits without actually earning them (no you don’t work anywhere near enough to get %50). All the while acting like they’re God’s greatest gift to art.

    Its interesting that the very few decent art retailers that I know of are run by working artists. And they don’t pull the usual tricks that the rest do. And they get treated with fairness and respect by their artists – because THEY get treated with fairness and respect.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I can name at least 50 artists who have a higher traffic ranking than the Xanadu website. Including myself. Your site is not even ranked in the top 100,000! Art News Blog has more traffic. Basic fact is that many gallery represented artists have more traffic and a larger fan base than the galleries that represent them.

    Why? Because galleries were piss slow in adapting to the internet. They joked about it when artists started going online. Now the joke is on them and on you. So your answer to that, your “evolution”, is to lock your represented artists into exclusive eCommerce contracts on a website that hardly anyone knows of. Will you ask them to take down their blogs and personal website next?

    How many art fairs has your art gallery been in? Scope? Pulse? Bridge? Frieze? Art Basel? If you have not had booths at any of these contemporary art fairs your gallery is not worth much to artists in the first place.

    Instead of charging your represented artists a monthly fee for your shoddy eCommerce venue perhaps you should pay them a fee for having exclusive rights to the eCommerce of their work?

  24. I’m not sure how you measure traffic ranking Anon as Alexa is useless. I know of two sites getting the same traffic, yet one is ranked 100,000 and the other 50,000.. big difference for the same traffic.

    Artists do have more of an interest in promoting themselves and usually do it better online than galleries though.

    I have barely touched my art site nor promoted it in a couple years but it still gets around 500 visitors per day. So artists that are using social networking sites, have a blog attached to their site, and are actively promoting their work are going to be getting a lot more visitors than me.

    Saatchi Gallery seems to be one of the few galleries around to take advantage of the internet. I’m not saying all galleries should be like Saatchi online, but he is trying something new.

  25. Anonymous says:

    You might think that Alexa and other traffic ranking sites are useless but it is how companies judge the value of a site and often times content. Cafepress bought Imagekind partly because of how well they were listed in traffic rank on those sources. People often assume that high traffic means that something is great about the company or person. A site ranked a million or something is low on the pole. Use a combo of traffic ranking sites and Xanadu is still listed in the millions. They don’t have the presence they think they have. Artists can gain better exposure by themselves online using blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Digg.

  26. Anonymous says:

    My point is that they are saying they can bring traffic and hint at being aggressive with online activity. Obviously they are not. So their represented artists are paying a fee for an exclusive contract that is very one sided. Wonder which artist on the list had the $200,000 commission. Stop to think that maybe she is making these numbers up to attract interest in her site.

  27. Anonymous says:

    A gallery ready space in NYC or in a good part of Chicago can cost $4,000 to $8,000 per month. Lot of times the owners will rent for one month contracts if they know it is just for an exhibit. Get enough artists involved and each could combine resources to rent a space and have a four exhibits in one month each getting a week long show in groups. Promote on Facebook and Twitter and who knows how many people might show up. Artists don’t need galleries as much as they think. They just need to work together and combine resources. If the bigtime art galleries won’t exhibit you the next best thing is to rent a space near them to make them notice.

  28. Thomas Del Porte says:

    I find it interesting that the gallery owner mentioned the narrowing opportunity for the artist, but what did they offer in return?

    I would sign a contract with regards to my web page if I felt it was worth it, but I would want a clear understanding of what I was getting in return.

    If the gallery was doing their job, they would know what I was working on and what was up on my web page… that way if a client wanted something that they didn’t have in their building they could make sure they got the sale.

    Remember, we BOTH work on commission. Trust and honesty are paramount. If someone contacted me and said… I saw your work at ________, and I want to contract you for something else…I would feel obligated to pay the gallery. With that said… If I did the selling, I want the commission. So maybe if the artist is required to deal with the public, then they should get paid part of the commission, just as any sales staff of the gallery might.

  29. The comments here show a great deal of animosity between artists and the galleries that represent them. No one has mentioned that the artist/gallery relationship is a business partnership (generally a 50/50 partnership). If this partnership is treated in the same manner as so many commenters here seem to treat it, than, yes, the traditional gallery system is dead. Funny though… I am constantly amazed at how many artists approach galleries seeking representation.

  30. That definitely seems like a strange situation :/

  31. Anonymous says:

    Most are 50/50, but it is 50/50 for the art that is exhibited at the gallery. Not all work. Not works in the studio. Why should an artist share profit from art sold from the studio. The business arrangement involves just the represented art at the gallery or should unless the artist is a total dupe or the art dealer is stuck in a 1950s frame of mind. Today artists exhibit at more than one gallery and those galleries only share cuts if art that was exhibited at one gallery is used in a show at the other gallery. They leave the studio work alone. It is naive for an art dealer today to think that a collector only learns about an artist from her website. I searched the name of soem of the Xanadu artists and some of them show up higher on the page than Xanadu itself. So it is very possible that a few of the artists are more known than the gallery itself. I never heard about the gallery until reading this rant. And to the artists at Xanadu congrats you are exhibiting at a vanity gallery that people have never heard of. You should at least go for the gold of vanity galleries and land a show with Agora in NYC.

  32. The thing that got me in the Xanadu’s owners last post was the quote: “Our collectors become personal friends and repeat buyers.” Does she share the collectors names & contact information with the artist? As I have found most collectors would probably rather have a personal relationship with the Artist who created the work instead of the gallery owner.
    I have had a gallery contact me to represent me but will not share the name of any one who purchases my work with me. I could understand this if the gallery had purchased my work outright for resale. But I still own the work and have to look after my own best interests. In my opinion a gallery is now just another “service” I can use to sell my work, not a place that will “make” my career. A gallery should work for me, and they should be competing with other galleries to be able to get the opportunity to sell my work, not the backward way the gallery systems works right now. Yes the status quo in the relationships between galleries & artists is changing and I say “IT’S ABOUT TIME!”.

  33. 1. It is a new world out there. The internet changes everything. Anyone can contact me from any where. How do I know they saw my art in your gallery?

    2. Galleries whine about artists on the internet, but I have rarely seen a gallery have a good, dynamic, up-to-date website, let alone a comprehensive, full year marketing plan for promoting their artists.
    Too many galleries think having four walls, paintings on the wall, a frame shop in the back, a mailing list of local doctors and lawyers and a door for customers to come in makes it these days.

    3. Bottom line: Galleries can only expect to sell the art they have in their gallery. Or they a commission for the artist.

  34. Anonymous Artist says:

    For five solid years I worked tirelessly promoting and selling my own work on the internet. I also managed to have two children in that time. I challenge anyone to that.

    I’m web savvy. An early adapter to all the tools available to make things easier.

    If you want to be an independent artist managing your own career on the web, then you’re wearing two hats: artist and entrepreneur.

    After so many years of constant, endless checking email and status of every single lead or potential sale… I wore out. Plain and simple. Exhausted.

    I was relentlessly pursued by galleries offering representation. I always puffed up my chest and laughed at them… seriously, don’t they know what era we live in? Duh, it’s the internet or nothing now.

    One gallery was more relentless than the others. And after many conversations, I realized that the interest in my work was honest. I fantasized about never checking my email again, only focussing on the work in the studio. No more pretending I was some sort of internet art-star. I could just quietly retreat to the studio and do what comes naturally.

    I gave it a shot. The gallery I’m with knows I could sell my work on my own so we signed a deal for them to purchase my work, a guarantee on my income, my bills are paid, their bills are paid. I send them paintings, they send me money in return. I send them better paintings, they send me more money.

    I now get to strictly focus on quality, making the best I can. If anything goes sour, they know full well my capabilities on the web.

    I think with the crumbling economy, the real artists will emerge, the real galleries will stay put. Everything else will just get cleared out and put in their place.

    Galleries will catch on, they’ll get better and better at maintaining websites and promoting their artists. In fact, for every gallery with a terrible website, there’s probably 200 or 300 artists with awful work and horrid websites.

    What makes an artist think that a blog, a website, a Facebook and Twitter account will lead to success? I think sitting in the studio perfecting your work is what really counts in the end.

  35. Anonymous Artist, I like your post. I do however get a bit suspicious, if you are a internet savvy star, why are you posting anonymously?

  36. Anonymous Artist says:

    Josephine, it’s me, Suspicious Anonymous Artist with to much to say here…

    I’ve worked way to hard on my presence on the web to take risks. Anything that can be perceived as negative isn’t my goal. However, I think it is important to share knowledge and wisdom gained through experience.

    There’s the convenient “Anonymous” option available, and that can mean more truthful comments. It can also mean someone is out to sabotage and scream and yell, but it’s more than obvious that’s not my goal.

    I am very lucky to have been offered the stipend from my gallery. It is rare, like I’m living 100 years in the past or something. And it is another reason for me to choose anonymity as the arrangement is not something offered to all the artists represented. I learned fast to keep the arrangement under wraps. At this stage in my relationship with my gallery, we have mutual respect and I don’t want to lose it.

  37. Understandable. It’s just that it’s always nice to put people’s comments in context of their art, what kind of galleries they deal with, their sales tactics. All sorts of nosy stuff. Having that info available can make it impossible to comment honestly though I imagine.

  38. Anonymous says:

    All interesting comments and points. However, despite believing that galleries do deserve much of their commission (which may seem high at first), I do believe that with this current downturn/recession/depression and the rise of technology, the relationships between galleries and artists are going to dramatically change.

    Better put, the relationship between buyer and artist will dramatically change, the Internet, as it is with most things, being the starting point.

    I think we’ll see more artists in the coming years either managing their own marketing and sales or recruit the help of an agent or manager, similar to the way film is run today. Websites like Artmo | Art Market Online / (I find a lot of great introductions to artists I haven’t heard about before here) will likely begin to represent individual artists instead of solely dealers and art galleries, acting like a curated online gallery without the high overhead associated with physical galleries today.

    However, I say give it two or three years before anything dramatic happens. This economy and downturn is here to stay for a long while, and as the galleries continue to close their doors, it will be the innovative dealers that find a way to stay afloat. And my money, of course, is on the adoption of a new role and one that utilizes the Internet much more than it is today.

  39. Anonymous says:

    I am a collector who is constantly checking the net for artists we have seen in galleries. Maybe we are not the norm, but my wife and I constantly return to the gallery that was showing the artist. The best thing is that even if the gallery is out of State, with the net, it makes a relationship close. We enjoy our gallery relationships, as the net never can give you that personal feeling of really knowing the artist as an owner can. We also have been fortunate on some occasions to meet the artist of works we purchased.

  40. I haven’t seen many galleries post to this, so I thought I would. As far as the web goes, we have an up to date website featuring the art of our various artists. We love it when our artists have websites! They are a great way for artists to market themselves, however…for us to accept an artist to the gallery who has a website, they just cannot have a direct e-commerce site. This means that they can have all of the hullabaloo except a “shopping cart” and posted prices. We do NOT deter them from selling from the studio. Calling and e-mailing about art pricing is a much more personal experience any how. We do not even have an e-commerce sight for our fine art.

    We also have our artists sign a contract that states that they will not sell works from their studio at prices lower than the gallery. If we can break the stigma that collectors can get a better deal from the studio we wouldn’t have these issues. AND why would an artist want to sell a painting for less than they could get for it anyway?

    If an artist is doing better on their own than they are with us than by all means do what is best for you. We just want people to recognize the importance of art in their lives.

    The thing with the web is it increase competition with other galleries already. We don’t want to be competing with out artist too. People are looking for a deal, I don’t blame them. BUT, if one of your collectors is pitting 2 of your galleries against each other, and then that collector calls you directly and you offer it to them for $500 less, than you have just devalued your entire body of work. We want to see artists succeed. We even have a workshop that teaches artists how to market themselves effectively.

    But again, a reputable gallery will allow you to have a personal web presence, but selling at “direct prices” is just shooting yourself in the foot. We have these implemented not for vanity or greed, but because we understand the business world, and we are looking out for our artists future.

  41. Crazy of me to do so, but I opened up a small gallery in Chicago recently – summer 2009. I’m also a beginner artist, but am also finding that I love being a gallerist.. Why is that? I pay a monthly rent even if I don’t have any sales. I push to make sure that my web presence is there on a daily basis. I network with individuals who can generate leads for me – ie send customers into my door. I charge a less than normal/usual commission due to being a start up, and my companies credo is to also give a portion of profits to “communities” at risk.

    My deal with the artists is simple – either party can walk away from the other at any point in time. If they wish fuller marketing and to see their name in lights, then we have to discuss how to afford it on the “maybe” the sales might just cover the extra cost.

    While paperwork exists and all the t’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted, its still our word that keeps is going tokeep the relationship going.

    My point? There are “have’s” and “havenots”…. If you wish to produce art and are a lousy sales and marketing person – then you should produce art and trust those that you work with.

    If you are an excellent sales and marketing person and are willing to expend monies for “all” things on the “maybe” it might sell – then you should.

    I think it’s not about “co-existing” – its about ensuring that you work with those that you trust, and a partnership is developed. Worrying about “maybe” making a little more money”, or the other person taking advantage of you just then wouldn’t exist.

    I might say something else in the future – but i do look the artist in the eye and say that we are in a mutually beneficial relationship – if they work around me, I can then say goodbye, and tell all my friends. If I do the same to them, they have the right to do the same thing.

    So my motto? – run my business with honesty and openenss – sell art that I like, and from artists that I like dealing with.

    I found that part is much easier than “worrying”.

  42. Several months ago my wife and co-owner of Xanadu Gallery, Carrie Horejs, made a comment here about the changing nature of the gallery/artist relationship. The resulting discussion turned out to be quite a firestorm of controversy. While I think the drive of her post may have been somewhat misunderstood (or perhaps not) I think the discussion that has ensued has been interesting and some very valid points have been brought up by artists in response. If anything, the heat of the discussion only proves Carrie’s point about the widening rift between some artists and galleries.

    Just a couple of quick updates. Your readers may find interesting a recent feature from NPR’s All Things considered: Artists Make Money By Forgoing Traditional Galleries. To a certain extent, the story would validate what some of the artist’s were saying in response to the post. Can artists make money outside the traditional gallery system? Absolutely. Is it easy? Doesn’t really seem to be all that easy. The artist’s featured have chosen not to show in traditional galleries and are showing and selling in retail venues, co-op galleries and on e-bay, but, because they can’t sell enough to sustain themselves have to hold down additional jobs.

    If this is the great revolution everyone is talking about it seems to leave something to be desired.

    I recently conducted a survey of artists on our website and while it is certainly not scientific, the results were interesting. Artists showing in physical galleries average $12,375 in anual sales, while artists showing only online averaged $2,589. Obviously these figures reflect the fact that many respondents are not selling much at all, either in galleries or online, however, the averages for artists selling over $50,000 per year were even more telling. These artists were selling on average $72,640 through galleries and $21,625 online – and artists in this category ($50,000 +) who didn’t show in any galleries were making far more money on the show circuits than online.

    Again, the survey is not scientific – these figures are drawn from just a little over 300 respondents at the time of this post – but the results match the anecdotal evidence I have found among the artists I know. (If your readers would like to participate in the survey they may do so on our website at

    Is there a revolution coming? Yes, the internet is absolutely changing the art business, and I agree, that galleries have to adapt if they hope to survive and prosper. I love the business, I love helping the artists I work with reach their goals in selling their work. As Carrie mentioned in her post, we are working to innovate new ways to make the relationship work for us and for our artists. I welcome suggestions from your readers on how artists and galleries can work together so we may all prosper.

    J. Jason Horejs
    Xanadu Gallery

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