What Does a Gallery do?

In other words, what do they do "to earn their money"?  

So often, we are either directly asked, or get the distinct impression, that somebody thinks galleries are a rip-off -- that somehow they're benefiting at the expense of artists, making money doing nothing but sitting at our desks.  

It is, as you can imagine, one of my biggest pet peeves.  

I love my job, my business, my relationships with my artists.  But, there have been those few that have come and gone, or new artists looking for representation, that bring up that exact question.  It makes be bristle.

All my years of experience come into play in choosing the artist, the artwork, the pieces to show, and how to best promote the artist.  We (as a gallery - Hali or any intern or employee) inventory, market, prepare shows, store, haul work back and forth for shows, clients and display locations, market some more, build client relations, travel to sell, prepare and send out proposals, etc.  It's rare that a sale is made from a walk-in (or some random client).

 So besides the fact that we bring this experience and expertise to the table, we also have the responsibility of a gallery/retail space.  

Just think about that for a minute.  Any store, any space, has overhead and expenses.  We, and all small businesses, are encumbered by a myriad of taxes, expenses, etc.  

Before I go off on a tangent, let's just look at a few of the expenses galleries have to deal with:

Rent, utilities, salaries  (and the related benefits, taxes, etc.) or commissions (employees, interior designers, trade organizations, etc.), office (including printers, paper, ink, etc.), internet connection fees, graphic design services, website design services, cell phone service, travel expenses, meals and entertainment, opening expenses, insurance, commissions (to employees, interior designers, trade organizations, etc.), bank fees, credit card fees, equipment rental or purchase, write-offs, etc.  We have to collect and pay sales tax, CAT tax (a tax for all business on inventory), file BWC and unclaimed funds reports, pay income taxes, file all appropriate forms, paperwork and reports (or hire a bookkeeper to do that).  And, on top of that, we have to somehow pay ourselves.  And usually, because we own the business, we have to carry our own health, life and other insurances (if we're even able to get them).  

Now let's think about one of the benefits of having galleries in your city . . . Where else can you, as a customer, go to view the work of artists from all over the world in one space?  Would many of you be able to travel to all parts of the world, visit artist studios, be prepared to purchase on site, and arrange for your own shipping and insurance?  Probably not.  Nor would you be confident enough to know that what you're buying (without the advise of an expert, perhaps caught up in the moment of being in an artist's studio) is "good".  How would you find all the artists you'd like to see?  At this point, it looks like a full-time job, doesn't it?  

Bigger question, would artists be receptive to people dropping in their studios all the time?  Probably not.  They wouldn't be able to get any work done.  And many don't like dealing with people -- not that they don't like people, but because the retail public is demanding, time-consuming, and sometimes just stupid (or dishonest, or criminal, or rude or worse.)

There, I said it.  Sometimes the retail public is stupid.  Example:  I am routinely asked if "I did all of this", as somebody waves their arms around the gallery.  Seriously?  . . . I sculpted (in wood, bronze, glass), I painted in various media, I worked on paper -- and not just in one style either -- I changed my style and technique multiple times?  OBVIOUSLY, that's ridiculous.  And a ridiculous question.  But let's give people the benefit of the doubt -- maybe it's a one-person show that's up (and there are artist-owned galleries around now).  

And more on the retail public . . . how many people TOUCHING the art (or poking it, or tapping it, or bumping into) do you think it would take before a piece is ruined or dirty or damaged?  And who do you think has to pay for that restoration, cleaning, repair or even take the loss on a piece that's completely ruined?  The gallery, of course.

We are a business, and we, in particular, are a damned good business.  We represent amazing, talented, professional artists who are constantly challenging themselves, evolving.  We search out and bring some great artwork through this City.  And we manage all of that (all of the "business" stuff), and all of the relationships with our artists (many of whom have become friends as well), while maintaining relationships with our clients (many of whom have become friends over the years).  Throw in the out-of-town shows, the off-site shows, the leases, and all the other things we do outside of the gallery.  And then, we "do" retail.  So when a random person walks in, or an artist walks in, just know . . . 

I'm not just sitting there doing nothing.  I earn my money, and I'm proud to be the owner of Muse Gallery.  




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