Gallery fee-splitting


Dear Artist,

Something a bit unusual happened to three of my dealers last month. I realize now that it’s part of a trend that challenges how galleries operate. While there are several variations, it goes something like this:

An art collector, loyal to a given dealer, wants to purchase the work of a certain artist, but doesn’t see exactly what he wants in the dealer’s inventory. Going onto the all-pervasive Internet, he finds something in the inventory of another gallery, in another city. The two dealers chat on the phone and agree to share the commission. The common solution, but not the only one, is for the originating dealer — the one with the customer but not the work of art — to have the target dealer ship the work to him. If and when the sale is completed, the originating dealer sends a cheque to the target dealer for (generally) half the commission. There’s not as much profit for either dealer, but the system rather effortlessly gets the work sold, and the customer is happy.

At other times the target dealer handles the sale, framing, delivery etc., and sends the agreed percentage along to the originating dealer. It has to be realized that dealers have traditionally stood guard over their customer base and mailing lists. They may also have maintained a stance of exclusive isolation, as well as not being willing to split commissions. Believe it or not, a few galleries haven’t noticed that the Internet has become the killer tool for collectors in search of art. Savvy galleries understand what’s happening, go with the flow, reap the goodwill, and profit.

This brings us to the artists. These days, creative people who would thrive economically need to have a presence on the Internet. Generally speaking, a variety of quality outlets add credibility to an artist. The value of the Greater Internet Gallery for both current and resale works, together with published and consistent prices, leads to collector confidence. I’m a believer in stand-alone artist’s websites that direct visitors to the artist’s dealers. Other connectivity, such as the free Painter’s Keys Art Directory with its unique shadow pages, quietly and respectfully ensures high search engine placement and better collector traffic. Currently, our own Premium Link Listing — for which we do charge an annual fee — is proving to be even more effective. Artists and dealers alike now find themselves in a Greater Global Village where new connectivity is happening and new cooperation is necessary.

Best regards,


PS: “Art is my vehicle through life; may we share the ride together.” (Ron Wickersham)

Esoterica: Any successes that I’ve had have come about through amicable partnerships. Teamwork is part of any game, including the art game. “The great renewal of the world will perhaps consist in this, that man and maid, freed of all false feelings and reluctances, will seek each other not as opposites, but as brother and sister, as neighbors, and will come together as human beings.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)


Gallery co-operation
by Peter Shulman, New York, USA


“Blue Dancer # 8”
acrylic painting, 30 x 40 inches
by Peter Shulman

Your letter has brought back memories from long ago of gallery co-operation and sharing. In the mid 1960s both of the galleries I showed at in New York City regularly sent my work and that of other contract artists to Cape Cod during the summer months. The gallery on the cape was owned by Walter Chrysler and was located in Provincetown. I do not know the monetary arrangement the galleries had with each other but it did not affect my percentage of the sale. This was a solid way for galleries in the city to keep business going during the summer months when sales faltered because collectors were away.


Website is courtesy
by H. Margret, Santa Fe, NM, USA


ink, pastel and casein drawing
by H. Margret

A website is like a phone number for the artist today. Last year, I was rejected from a gallery in Vail, Colorado, on the grounds of my artist website, which they saw as “competition.” Well, the galleries come and go for most of us; we remain artists and must also have websites, as an act of courtesy for our audience. Since when have good manners for the customer become “competition?”

Maybe that’s why so many galleries come and go. They kill their own goose and then blame the lack of golden eggs on the artists and market. Artists need never defend their right to treat their audience well… and a website is courtesy, as well as business. Regarding fee-splitting, it’s been happening in real estate forever… why would the art brokerage business be any different?


Traditional galleries on the way out?
by oliver, Austin, TX, USA


abstract, photo manipulation
by oliver

Business practices change over time, however the Vanity Gallery has been around a long while the one where the artist rents the space to display their own work. Rightly or wrongly vanity galleries have a poor reputation — although I believe the first impressionist show was paid for by the artists in that show. Street fairs are usually the same as well — the artist pays for the booth — but then the work in most street fairs is not considered the best either.

I have been struggling with the notion of paid-for artist web sites as being equivalent to vanity galleries or street fairs and keep coming up with the same answer — they are. What I can’t figure out is if the traditional gallery is going to become a thing of the past.


Working with the Web
by Clint Watson, San Antonio, TX, USA

Fee-splitting is only the beginning of the trend. The Internet is creating a paradigm shift in marketing across all industries. Trends such as the growth of broadband access, better server applications, better security practices, and more users who are comfortable using the Web have created a situation where online commerce is now truly possible. The art industry has definitely been affected and this is a trend that I believe will only escalate. Seeing these trends, I left the traditional art gallery where I was part-owner to pursue a career helping artists and galleries market themselves online. I’ve created a system that lets artists and galleries create individual web sites. As the artists build their web sites all of the works are also placed into a centralized “market” for collectors to explore.

Artists who don’t host their web site with me may place up to five works into this developing “market” free at WebArtSites. I envision a future containing a network of inter-connected art sites so that when an artist uploads an image to his own website, it would immediately appear on multiple sites across the network. The site that sells the artwork would earn a commission. The important thing is for artists and galleries is to see the trend, realize that it is not going away, and figure out how to work with the trend, not against it.


Making choices available
by Len Sodenkamp, Boise, ID, USA


“Swan Falls, Idaho”
oil painting
by Len Sodenkamp

It only makes sense that collectors looking to acquire art from a predetermined or selected artist would want to see every available piece. Makes even more sense that dealers would be happy to network in the best interest of both the customer and the artist. As an independent business owner, when I hear something like this the wheels start turning. Dealers should jump on this like a big dog. Promoting to a client aggressively that this or that artist has a web site. Galleries would provide several in-store monitors located in a private area were the client can sit and view the artist’s web site. By allowing the client to leave the gallery without concluding the transaction would be a huge mistake. The minute a customer leaves the store 50% of their chance to close a deal left with them. Incentives must be offered to clients who would otherwise go home and arrange an acquisition with another gallery cutting the original gallery completely out of the deal. It could be as easy as slipping in a CD of the artist’s available work for the customer to view a slide show, eliminating the need to even go out on the Net. Then the dealer could go out and find the selected work and make the transaction. Music stores today have stations with headphones that allow the customer to play selected works of the music they are interested in. Just imagine galleries where you could prompt a monitor and see the complete inventory of an artist’s work.


Dealers of the new millennium
by Dawn Smith, Scottsdale, AZ, USA


“Animus; Grid Study”
original artwork
by Dawn Smith

I dealt with a gallery in Panama that insisted any artist they repped who had a stand-alone website, had to take it down. No telling how many international sales they missed when collectors from the artists’ home country couldn’t locate their favorite artist’s work in another. As far as the collectors knew, the artist was not currently producing.

I hope these co-operative dealers of the new millennium will be richly rewarded with a loyal collector base. And thanks for your great directory and these “clickbacks.” I’ve met some lovely people through your site.


New World questions arise
by Gloria Coker, Newport News, VA, USA


“String Section
acrylic painting, 24 x 36 inches
by Gloria Coker

What about finders fees to gallery owners who send an artist a client? For a piece of art that is not, maybe has never been, in the gallery or becomes a commissioned piece? What about clients who see an artist’s work first in one or more galleries and then explores the artist’s website, then contacts the artist directly. This a brave new world.



Science of mind
by Joy Gush, New York, NY, USA

The Science of Mind by Dr. Ernest Holmes about the life of Edgar Cayce tells us our thoughts are like seeds when planted in the soil of the subconscious mind. They move to create in our lives. That is why we are advised to keep all thoughts positive for the benefit of humanity, and not to disturb the growth with negative thinking. The good or the bad will manifest in our lives depending on our choice of thinking. And remember this: All thought is creative and will return to us multiplied. As we give so shall we receive. (The Law of Giving and Receiving)


Setting standards for digital entries
by Arlene Woo, Honolulu, HI, USA


“Asian Gate”
original painting
by Arlene Woo

Do you have any suggestions for setting standards for submitting digital images of paintings to paintings to jurors of shows? Our watercolor society has been requesting slides but we are getting fewer entries of late and are wondering if digital images would be easier for our members. Of course, we realize that monitors would show images differently and perhaps not as the artist intended. Thanks for any guidance you or your readers may offer.





Don’t crush my fragile little ego
by Karen Vande Vyvere, Edmonton, AB, Canada


oil painting
by Karen Vande Vyvere

I am going through some angst. I have decided that’s part of painting — part of me is very negative — who do I think I am? — I’m no painter, blah, blah. That’s countered by the fighter who says — why not me? If I work at this very hard and commit myself, then maybe in a number of years I can do this. This plays out in avoidance of those who want me to paint for them (I can’t do this — I don’t have a clue what I’m doing) Start selling yourself girl — begin by selling to yourself. I delayed sending this — in asking a dealer (who hasn’t seen my paintings but who represents my fiancé). She told me that if I’ve only been painting 3 years or so I’m nothing but a hobby artist who can’t ask for much for my paintings. My fiancé wants me to charge what he makes. Then I thought about the position I’m putting you in. Look at my paintings and tell me what I’m worth… but don’t crush my fragile little ego.

(RG note) Thanks Karen. We are all worth what we think we are. You have ability and humility. Now you need to go to work. Price your paintings very reasonably to start and the world will pay for the finest education of all — self-education.





Contemplating the Night

oil painting
by Bonnie Mincu, NYC, NY, USA


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