The Business Side of Being an Artist

well, of course this is a nice thing to get to talk about. since i have now been picked up by 2 galleries (Modern Arts Midwest in Lincoln, NE and AMMO in New Orleans, LA) i find a lot of my time goes for documenting my work, and presenting it to the galleries in a format they can use and understand.

i have been fairly good about keeping my website updated (zkartz.com). i am really happy that i am in control of my own website! (advice: learn how to build and maintain your own website!) i hear complaints ALL THE TIME from artist friends who cannot easily get their work updated. usually they have a friend who does multiple websites for artists for a cheap price. save your money and control your future by taking a course in website building at a community college or something. it costs me about $100/year for my own website (my own unique domain name), and about 1hr/week (average) to maintain it. well worth the investment.

but in addition to the website, i keep Excel spreadsheets of my paintings and collages. keeping a database or spreadsheet of your work is VERY convenient when dealing with galleries. you can note which pieces are where, what has sold to whom, and each has a thumbnail (generated in photoshop to be no more than .9" tall to save file size). those are really painful to maintain but hey - it's my work! of course, if you are rich, hire an assistant!

plan on doing some work that fits in a flat file (if you are a 2D artist). the AMMO gallery for example is only taking collages because of storage problems at their space. but having flat work can get you in the door earlier. as the curator said there - "sacrifice a collage to get a collector". good advice.

anyway, just checking in. i have neglected this forum a bit. i am on FaceBook. if you are too, please friend me.

thanks all! enjoy your summer!

j

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Tags: art, business, zerbe

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Comment by Pamela Weisberg on July 18, 2009 at 1:32pm
I was also approached by one the those "vanity" galleries. I contacted a few of the artist that were either in the gallery at the present time or in the past. The responses I got were all the same. That it was not worth it and they would never do it again! My advice is to be careful and find out about the gallery as much as possible before you make your decision.
Comment by Jay Zerbe on July 18, 2009 at 7:44am
another point - it you are "showing" (aka "renting") gallery space for resume reasons or review reasons - don't you think curators/collectors/reviewers already know the reputation of this vanity gallery? you can't always assume everyone else is ignorant. and the costs of the wall are a big deduction from your profit (if any!).
Comment by Michael Lownie on July 17, 2009 at 2:55pm
Paying a gallery to do promotion is kinda crazy. Some galleries make a business off of charging artists fees to show, I find it insulting. If it's a decent gallery they'll have a following of collectors who make their risk of investing in an artist worth while.

That Agora Gallery in NYC is one; basically you're renting a wall...not getting a gallery's support or interest. I'd say watch out for places like this...there's always other ways to break into the gallery scene, like entering juried shows etc. (Of course, most of those have small fees but a good one is reasonable; like $30 to view 5 slides/ works.)
More than often I find, those pay galleries are the types of galleries who send you emails soliciting your interest. If I'm contacted by a gallery, I google them, look at their site and get background on what they're offering. Make an informed decision. What would you get for your investment in the gallery? I'm old fashioned I suppose, but I'd rather see the gallery invest in Me!
Best of luck!
Comment by Jay Zerbe on July 17, 2009 at 6:31am
there are quite a few "vanity" or coop galleries, both of which ask for money, or sharing the work of watching the space (coop). i don't think either are good choices. although coop is the better of the two. the "vanity" galleries that charge you by how many pieces you have on the wall for how long... quite shocking actually! i just found out about those recently when an artist friend applied to a gallery in NYC. so, fairly common (these days) yes. worth the investment? not for me... but obviously some people think the risk is worth it.
Comment by Sherry Tiger-Landry on July 16, 2009 at 7:13pm
Have a question. I have had 2 galleries, one in New York and the other in South Carolina contact me regarding my work. the only problem is, they want me to front money to help with the cost of promotions, etc. Is this pretty common? Or should i shy away from them. Have not signed any contracts.Thanks for the info regarding websites and congrads to you.
Comment by Jay Zerbe on July 16, 2009 at 5:28pm
looks like you are making all the right moves michael! glad to hear from you again!
Comment by Michael Lownie on July 16, 2009 at 12:35pm
That's really good advice Jay. Congrats on the galleries!
I had my tech guy set up my website through Zenpage and Zen photo so I could manage it myself. It gets you around the html stuff that I could never grasp...at least in the time I wanted to allot.

Hadn't thought of the flat file idea but yes, very good thought. I'm busy doing some mixed media stuff for a show in December but I'll keep that in mind for future works. I myself have trouble storing all my canvases; almost at the critical level!
:)

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