Art gallery evaluation sheet – January 17, 2003



Art gallery evaluation sheet

(RG note) Print out this printer-friendly page for each of your current galleries or those you think you might approach. This is a confidential paper for your eyes only. Use your own judgment, intuition or the information and experience of artists already associated with the gallery to assign a number for each of the following topics. For example, in the first one, 1 is a poor rating — 5 is tops.

Click Here to View the Evaluation Sheet

Now ask yourself the following questions:

Which of the above gallery characteristics are most important to you?

Of the gallery characteristics that you found to be low—are these enough to turn you against dealing with this gallery? How much are you willing to put up with these shortcomings?

Is there some single reason why you will deal with this gallery anyway? Is this reasonable?

Is there some single reason why you will not deal with this gallery? Is this reasonable?

How much of your thinking with regard to this gallery is emotional?

Are there any positive factors not implied above that make this gallery desirable or suitable for you? These factors might include a proven ability at networking, high prestige, association with other galleries, access to targeted or special-interest clients, established relationships, complement to galleries you already have, relatives in the business, love interests, proximity and convenience. Try to name what these factors might be.

Are there any negative factors not implied above that make this gallery undesirable for you?

These factors might include fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of losing control, fear of manipulation, fear of commitment. Does your intuition tell you anything about the people of the gallery or how you might run into trouble at this gallery? Try to name what these factors might be.

This gallery evaluation is designed to get you thinking about what you need in a gallery. As you may have gathered, galleries are remarkably different from one another and can change from day to day and year to year. At any given time ten percent of the galleries are doing ninety percent of the business. Be strategic. Know that you have a choice. Human relationships—how we treat others and how others treat us—are the basis of thriving in this world and are just as important as the art we make.

Further notes:

After looking at and using this evaluation sheet, several artists were asked to state the sort of questions and concerns they have about gallery relationships. Opinions ranged from straight cash-flow interests to thinking along the lines of idealistic lifetime commitments as in a marriage. Some threw light on other areas they thought artists should be looking at. Here are some of them:

I want to know if they have any drive or passion. I want to know why they are in the business. What is the motivation of the dealer? To make money at all costs? To flip already successful artists? To find unknowns? To build careers over a lifetime, to phase out of the business, to pass on the gallery, to hang work they like, to live the art lifestyle, control, celebrity, power, support of the arts, feature local talent, go international, restore heritage, get in on a trend, capture a market? Be important? Scrape by? Do it for love? Do it for money?

I want to know is this a risk-taking gallery? Does this gallery blow big bucks on marketing schemes, take chances on emerging artists or stick to what works?

I want to know if the gallery people have any taste. Are they discriminating? I like to look at the other artists represented. I want my work to be unique in their stable.

I want to hang with the professionals—the better artists that I admire.

I want an art dealer that will take care of everything, including me.

I want to know why artists leave this gallery. Also, if artists have been around for 30 years, why?

I want to know why some galleries have a lousy reputation with artists and yet seem to keep going and be okay with the general public.

It’s important to ask what the gallery requires of you – and does this mesh with your overall vision. What kind of commitment are you prepared for, exclusivity, inventory, demos, artist talks, framing, shipping, installation? Are you comfortable with this?

Is your goal with this gallery a short-term wait-and-see or a long-term home and working partnership?

Is this gallery growing, expanding, taking on better artists, proving itself, improving its reputation, experiencing a rebirth, growing up, working out its kinks, changed ownership or directorship, renovated, etc. What about gallery ambition? Does it suit my goals? Advertisement, marketing, client base, national, international presence, youth, experience, appeal to a certain demographic, art fairs, publications, reviews?

Does this dealer have friends and allies? Enemies? Has she exhausted her clientele? Is she cultivating friends and clients? Is she on the phone? Is she all business and no heart? How do you feel when you are in the gallery with other people? Is she working for you? Are you included or excluded?

How creative and driven, and open is the gallery to new ways of thinking? Are they troubleshooters? Can they pull stuff out of their sleeve when necessary? Are they thinking up unique ways to support and promote their artists?

I’m interested in the general quality of exhibitions and presentation. I’m thinking of walls, nails, frames, invitations, spelling, letterhead, advertisements, personal presentation. Is there a conscientious effort to present the work at a standard you feel comfortable with? How much support material does the gallery prepare? Is this important?

How well does this gallery service its clients? Framing, going out on approval, shipping, delivery, hanging, layaway, exchanging.

I want to know if the gallery is discriminating in the size and quality of its stable. How do they choose their artists? (tried and true, already established? Or “I show what I like?” and everything in between)

I will deal with pretty well any gallery that wants me.

All I want is a gallery that will leave me alone and send me cheques.


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