The rise of vanity galleries


Dear Artist,

A few emails have arrived lately from artists asking about the sudden appearance of vanity galleries in their areas. Vanity galleries levy a fee to each of their artists or for each piece exhibited. As most of these galleries work on a lower-than-standard commission rate, artists can be in a dilemma as to whether this arrangement might work out better in the long run. While art sales may be slower these days, a regular inflow from artists’ pockets can begin to cover gallery overheads.

The situation is compounded by the current overabundance of eager-to-exhibit artists and, believe it or not, the overabundance of artists with willing cash.

Some of these vanity galleries have a complex list of charges for each service rendered — start-up fees, web presence, catalogues, unit hanging charges, etc. At first look it’s a rip-off; on second look it could be a significant model for the future.

On the positive side, the system puts downward pressure on commissions. Traditionally, it’s been the high commission (generally 50 percent) that puts a strain on art investment values. Comparative investments like real estate come in at 4 to 7 percent, while common stocks can be had for less than 2 percent commissions. The investment-minded collector of living artists has to wait a considerable time for some art to decently appreciate. The art of dead artists is another matter — if you happen to be dead, your work can change hands for as little as 10 percent. Nice thought.

On the negative side, vanity galleries tend to bypass the impecunious up-and-comers who may really have something to offer. Further, the very idea of mining artists rather than buyers is a miserable one, particularly for artists. Most artists of my acquaintance give these guys the brush-off; a few have accepted paying up front as part of the new reality.

Proper commercial galleries represent artists they are keen on, not those who will pay them to hang their stuff. While we all know there is not necessarily a correlation between quality and saleability, the hard cold fact is that artists are always entering the market with substandard art that also just happens to be difficult to sell. Vanity galleries will see these folks as their natural prey.

Best regards,


PS: “There is nothing so agonizing to the fine skin of vanity as the application of a rough truth.” (Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton)

Esoterica: These days, artists are doing all kinds of creative things to thrive. The “home show” is making a comeback. This is where an artist secures a friend’s upscale home and makes it look like an art gallery for a day’s bonanza. A nice touch is when a favorite charity is included in the party. With direct sales, the artist is better able to facilitate future trades and price increases to a growing number of favoured collector friends. This still leaves something on the table for the 10 percent boys who will spring into action after the artist has gone to the big studio in the sky.


Share the Risk
by Paula Christen, Winthrop, WA, USA


“Emmy’s place”
watercolour painting, 17 x 23 inches
by Paula Christen

As an artist, I want to feel that the gallery that represents me enjoys my work and feels strongly enough about my paintings that it is willing to share in the risk. Having a cushion of cash each month may have the gallery breathing easier, but maybe too easy. Let’s suggest that the galleries pay the artists a monthly fee and adjust their commission. Thanks for your insight!



Profit or Greed
by Tamsin Stead, Phuket, Thailand

And so the negation/dumbing down continues unabated in the name of profit aka greed. Not that there’s anything wrong with profit, but there’s a lot wrong with greed, which is the only motivation for these so-called galleries. Just take a look at some of the ‘guaranteed’ hangings of art paid to be hung and you will see how depressing it all is. At least the images used to have a certain interesting graphic quality. Now it’s mostly awful. Just think if the only art in any medium were that which was paid to be shown or published by the artist! What a horrible vacuum that would have left our aesthetic sensibilities.


Pay to show
by Paul Kane, Bloomington, IN, USA


original painting
by Paul Kane

Increasingly, I like the idea of paying to show. I don’t like relying on someone else’s judgment and motivation, unless I happen to make that special connection. I don’t plan on waiting for that. But if I’m going to pay to play, I want to run my own show, at my own gallery (it can be in a temporary space), and/or participate in a co-op gallery.

(RG note) Thanks, Paul. The rise of vanity galleries is part of a greater phenomenon that is overtaking all media. Creative people are working more independently and doing what is necessary to promote themselves. The music industry, for example, is no longer in the grips of a few big labels that control our listening habits. Indie bands now rule and build their own following independent of the big guys. The best example is the rise of self-publishing — writers and authors now realize that with the Internet they can promote and sell their self-financed books effectively and inexpensively. To say nothing of publishing online, modern printing equipment makes books incredibly inexpensive to produce, thus leaving more margin for the creator and less for the shiny suit boys in the corner offices. In the art business, with the Internet now providing 30 to 40 percent of the sales from many brick-and-mortar galleries, armchair collectors are savvy to images and names they feel they want and actively scan the Internet in search of them. While I don’t work with any galleries that charge me to hang, I’m currently aware of considerable sales to collectors who do not know the dealer (often in another city) nor do they care about the deal the artist and dealer may have cut.


Vanity galleries get lazy
by Elsa Bluethner, Sunshine Hills, BC, Canada


“A22 – Night Cap”
oil painting, 20 x 16 inches
by Elsa Bluethner

A first time gallery owner decided to charge a monthly fee to participating artists. She promoted an artist every month with a prime location in the gallery and some advertizing. I pulled out soon after she put this program into place. More than half the time I went to the gallery, the doors were closed. There was no note indicating she would be back in 10 minutes and no certainty that the hours posted on the door were ever honoured. She was more motivated and excited to get things sold and moving before she was charging this fee and would go so far as organize exhibition events out of the gallery as well.




Helping artists get a leg up
by Sharon Cory, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

This is definitely a model for the future, much like vanity presses have become commonplace for authors who have difficulties publishing their work through the normal channels, or simply want more control over the final product. Far from the galleries looking for naive prey to feast upon, it’s often the artists who push their way onto the walls in their desperation to have their work displayed. I charge a nominal amount ($25 a month) and take a low commission (10%) at my gallery. I’ve never approached anyone but am inundated with requests from artists to display here. At the beginning I couldn’t say no to anyone but I toughened up as piles of mediocrity began to build up in the corners. I have no qualms about telling someone that they need some instruction, that the price is too high, that the work needs to be framed properly. Some people are grateful for the crit sessions, others less so. I recognize this need for public display as a driving force in some people, as strong as the need for food or sex, and am happy to do my part in helping artists get a leg up.


Co-op gallery
by Suzanne Northcott, Fort Langley, BC, Canada


mixed media, 48 x 36 inches
by Suzanne Northcott

Here is another model for showing work independently. Two artists, Betty Spackman and myself, got together four years ago to found an artists’ collective called The Fort Gallery. The mandate of the co-operative venture reads: “The Fort Gallery is a community-based, nonprofit, artist collective that encourages and supports individual development and exploration in contemporary art.” Artists pay a monthly fee which pays the rent and the manager and receive a three week solo space and participation in two or three group shows in the course of the year. Commission on sales is 30% but the emphasis is not on sales but rather on artistic freedom and support. Each artist has an opening and then, at the close of the show, the members gather to hear about the work and offer critique. The quality and the variety of the work, currently ranging from painting to sculpture, photography and installation, is exceptional and there is a very strong sense of community.

There is 1 comment for Co-op gallery by Suzanne Northcott

From: Glenis Gray from Flaxton, Queensland, Australia — Mar 23, 2009 your Lucy!!


The human dilemma
by Amanda Jackson, Lincoln, UK


“Ballet Pointe Shoes”
oil painting, 18 x 24 inches
by Amanda Jackson

At first glance the vanity gallery would seem a no-no, a backwards-facing business model where the imperative to sell is lessened and the long term nature of the artist gallery relationship undermined. Nevertheless I am assured that brand manufacturers now pay for shelf space in UK supermarkets and incorporate this cost into the price per unit and we cannot deny the effective online shop front and market / auction space rental model. Our dilemma is actually a human one. Marketers may tell us in abstract terms about our granular market: hundreds of thousands of artists and individual collectors, all with our own idiosyncrasies and low production/purchase rates — we’re hardly Heinz.

The collector who visits a beautiful gallery with well informed staff who actually love the art on offer is buying this experience along with their “investment” (the painting they are buying because they will love to live with it and receive a greater reward from that than the bank interest they forgo). Personally I feel it is enough to provide a gallery with sale or return stock — I am bearing some of the risk in their business already by doing this. Paying to hang is a crazy gamble, a distant voice reminds me “the house always wins.”


Respect for a job well done
by Jeffrey Hessing, Nice, France


“Red field”
original painting
by Jeffrey Hessing

I have always been against vanity galleries for several reasons. First of all, the money is flowing in the wrong direction. The gallery is profiting from the artist rather than making money from collectors to support the artist. The gallery also has less or no motivation to sell, having already made money from the artist or at least having covered their costs. That puts the responsibility on the artist to bring people in and sell, which is the job of the gallery. If you are the one who is bringing in people and doing the selling, why not bring them to your studio? If your work is good, find a gallery that appreciates it. The sincere enthusiasm of a third party is invaluable in selling your work. If you can’t find one, keep working and keep looking. In my experience the more a gallery invests in me through shipping, invitations, publicity, catalogues, champagne, the more will be sold. Also, the more money other people make from my work, the more I make. Finally, in defense of galleries who take 50%, about 20 to 30% of that goes into their overhead, rent, utilities, staff… so their profit margin is often only around 20%. I have tremendous respect for the gallery people who do a good job. Bless them.

There are 2 comments for Respect for a job well done by Jeffrey Hessing

From: Kenneth Flitton — Mar 25, 2009

Thanks Jeffrey. Couldn’t have expressed it better.12

From: Rick A. Pilling — Mar 27, 2009

I agree entirely with Mr. Hessing. In a general sense a power relationship has been forming between artists and galleries – placing entirely too much power in the hands of the gallery. Vanity galleries represent the worst of this imbalance, existing on the assumption that artists will (or even need) to do anything they can to show their work, even if it is not in their best interests in the long run.

As Mr. Hessing has so aptly pointed out: the job of the gallery is to sell your work for you. It must be in their best interests to do so, and in order for this to happen, they must share the risk with the artist. Individually we are far too inclined to think of galleries as our only hope, and thus hand them whatever power they demand. As artists we must always keep in mind that we are the source: galleries are nothing without the artwork they show. Any gallery worth its salt is aware of this and will approach the business as a collaboration with those artists it represents.


In Praise of Vanity
by Brett Busang, Washington, DC, USA


“Porch, Seminary Avenue”
acrylic painting, 16 x 30 inches
by Brett Busang

I would write a sequel and call it “In Praise of Vanity.” While you ably dissected the vanity situation for artists who are not terminally delusional, there is an almost inexhaustible supply of artist wannabes who have to go somewhere because, for them, exhibiting is far more rewarding than noodling around in a studio.

Vanity galleries are the perfect solution for such people — who generally have more available cash than the rest of us. They don’t care for, or conveniently forget, the opprobrium of a paid situation and are able to spin it off to their friends as an invaluable opportunity, or some such thing. In my world, such people would be forced to paint houses or tend bar. But in a less-than-perfect cosmos, vanity galleries serve a socially redeeming purpose because they siphon such people off. I’m certainly not touting “legitimate” galleries as the be-all and end-all of solutions, but they’re presumably around to serve the needs of slightly more serious people. That they generally are not is a topic for another day.


Mighty fees
by Anthe Capitan-Valais, Flourtown, PA, USA


“Meteora Sunrise”
oil painting, 16 x 20 inches
by Anthe Capitan-Valais

I have been recently approached and I am not sure, as some of the fees involved seem to make it along the lines of a vanity gallery. The artist is asked to pay a portion towards the website, quarterly catalogs, marketing, and rents. The website is a one-time-only fee for as long as you are connected with the Gallery of $29 an image post up to 10 images and no fees for changing images. There is a $60 fee for submission of work each month that your work is in the gallery and a catalog fee on a quarterly basis of around $129 for each publishing. There is only a 30% commission charged on sales in gallery and 40% commission on web charges. I asked the gallery director if it was a vanity gallery and he questioned my asking him. He said his understanding was that a vanity gallery didn’t bother to sell the work and that their gallery actively works with corporations and clients to sell the work. They do not insure the work either. I really do not want, nor can I afford to be in a vanity gallery. However I need to sell to keep on painting and I know that several of my local galleries have been closing due to economic times. I thought maybe that is why this gallery is forced to ask the artist to help shoulder the burden. It does have a full time sales gallery director along with interns who help market and push sales.


Artists pay to exhibit
by Sidney Chambers, East Sussex, UK


“Inexpiable Truth”
original painting
by Sidney Chambers

I took part in a vanity exhibition in Leipzig at the end of last year and it was, on paper, very successful. But it was guaranteed to make a loss for me as I travelled over to Leipzig for four days for the private view and knew I would not recoup this expenditure even if I sold all my three works.

I regarded it as networking on a big scale and an entry into Europe, on this level it was successful. The press was there and a major local art critic came to the show. In Germany these shows occur throughout the year, and they get television coverage.

It is so easy on spend money on promotion and not get much for it, but if one is careful with their choices of what galleries they choose, this can work. It is not so different from the Biennale system which also charges entry fees whether one’s work is accepted or not. The National Portrait Gallery in London had a photography show and charged 10 pounds per entry, maximum ten entries. They had thousands of entries submitted and ultimately exhibited just 64 prints in the exhibition. I entered 10 prints and felt cheated when I failed to get in.

I did win a medal of excellence in Germany which was as a result of votes from the public at the exhibition, for this alone it was worth it.


Artist opens gallery
by Val Romanow, Winnipeg, MB, Canada


original painting
by Val Romanow

I read your recent letter with great interest. I don’t believe that I am a “vanity gallery.” I invested some of my hard-earned savings and opened a small art gallery in September of 2007 with the view to offer art by several established and emerging artists. My commission was 25%. I am an artist and illustrator myself, and realize the blood, sweat and tears that go into producing art and was thrilled to offer a venue to showcase the work of my artists. I spent nearly $50,000 in gallery set-up, advertising through arts magazines, art shows, security, insurance etc. Needless to say, it simply was too expensive to market the art the old-fashioned way and I closed the gallery within a year. I have now opened an online gallery which is located at Ruby Lane, an antique, fine art and collectible online Mall.

What I learned through this process is this:

— Advertising through traditional Art Magazines is very expensive and produced no return and very little recognition for my artists or the gallery.

— I would have had to charge a commission of 70 to 80% to even come close to covering my costs.

— The cost and ease of doing business on the Net far outweighs any advantage to having a storefront unless you are in a high traffic tourist spot.

— I have been shocked at how inexpensive it is to advertise through RubyLane both on the Net and in hardcopy design magazines.

— The exposure for our artists is so much wider and will go a long way in getting them established.

The deal I have with my artists is the same as in a storefront. Everything is sold on consignment with my take at 25%. They are not charged for my overhead because my overhead is manageable. I take great care in presenting their art online as professionally as possible. With the money that I save on overhead, I hope to have several shows locally at nice venues around the city to further showcase their art. I love doing what I am doing and I believe the world needs art and artists. I realize that I won’t become rich, but I am having a great time.

We are in such a profound period of change in communications and it is changing the way we do business and look at the world.

There are 2 comments for Artist opens gallery by Val Romanow

From: P.Y. Duthie — Mar 27, 2009

Thank you for your letter. Ruby Lane sounds interesting! How can I find out if my art would be suitable?

From: Anonymous — Jun 26, 2009


The drift into mediocrity
by Walt Meldrich, Kirkland, WA, USA


“Cathedral Rock”
oil painting, 18 x 24 inches
by Walt Meldrich

In the vanity galleries some sincere and committed artists are being exploited to support the hobby of a few who can afford to pay to have their work shown and want to belong to a small club. The good ones that make the mistake of joining eventually leave, even if they afford to stay. On the other hand, I know of one co-op gallery that has a reputation for excellence (Carmel, CA), but as much as the idealist in me wants to believe that it can be replicated everywhere, I suspect this is perhaps the rare exception. The drift into mediocrity is a self-selecting process. It turns out that “vanity” galleries are not and won’t ever be the answer because there is no compelling reason (like profitability) to either set very high artistic standards, and/or to learn how to run a gallery as a business as long as there is the “overabundance” of people who are willing to pay to show their art whatever their level of accomplishment. Another part of the problem is that I (along with many others I’m sure) thought that once I achieved a certain level of accomplishment there should be some shortcut to getting my art shown, especially after being rejected by a few conventional galleries and being turned off by the 50% commissions. I really think that 50% commissions is outrageous, but that may be what it actually takes for galleries to stay in business these days.

There is 1 comment for The drift into mediocrity by Walt Meldrich

From: Helen Opie — Mar 24, 2009

Paying 50% commission to a gallery who sells your work is a good deal: they meet their overhead and have money to promote more work, yours and others’, and you get to spend more time actually painting, not peddling your paintings. If you sell, they’ll push your work because they need that commission. If they don’t push, they do’t sell, and you may have wasted time with them, but only time, since you only pay when you sell.


Everyone pays a fee
by Joyce Fournier, Toronto, ON, Canada


“Cashmere sweater”
oil painting, 20 x 16 inches
by Joyce Fournier

As an international artist and galley owner in Toronto, I think there is most definitely a place for the Vanity Gallery. Perhaps there should be some better explanation of the term vanity gallery. The term has a negative connotation and is not always a negative way of doing business. While some of these galleries do charge artists exorbitant fees to exhibit work that is of questionable quality, many such galleries would be best referred to as Exhibition Galleries, where artists who have work that is of a high calibre are invited to display their work within a specific theme. The Exhibition Gallery offers a great option to independent artists who are tired of waiting for their submissions to be accepted by traditional commercial galleries and would prefer to spend more time creating. Exhibition galleries also meet the needs of independent artists who may not enjoy doing the ART EXPO’s at convention centres due to limited funds, excessive workload, etc. Suggesting that Vanity Galleries carry work of lesser quality is not necessarily always the case. All art deserves to be seen, and exhibition galleries allow artists, who can go unnoticed indefinitely, an opportunity to thrive and feel good about their abilities, as well as feel part of a group of artists. In fact many such galleries operate in a similar fashion to co-operatives only that the artists do not need to share in any of the work and the work is usually of a much higher quality as there exists a curator or director who has the artistic experience to run the process.

As an Artist and also and individual with a degree in business and 20 years of specialty sales experience, I cannot emphasize enough to my artists the importance of taking control of their art career. Exhibition galleries, those who are run by reputable, talented, and caring staff, can make all the difference in the artistic development of their artists, from offering sound advice on marketing, to website creation and improvement to business planning for the future, to offering the artists a professional location from where they may make sales (a big improvement to their basement). These services are not always offered by traditional galleries who take 40% to 50% commission on art sales. Exhibition Galleries are simply offering a service to their artists. A good Exhibition Gallery can assist artists to move forward in their career as well as offer the opportunity for traditional commercial (retail) galleries to view these artists’ work.

With globalization, many artists are taking their art careers into their own hands and no longer feel the need to get into traditional galleries as the submission process is time-consuming and in many cases quite demoralizing to the artist. Hence, the emergence of the Exhibition Gallery (Vanity Gallery). I strongly disagree that Vanity Galleries prey on willing artists with money. While this may be true of some, most such galleries would go out of business if they did not have appropriate standards with regard to the quality and integrity of the work they show.

I do not agree with your last paragraph suggesting that Proper Galleries represent artists they are keen on. They represent artists who have work they think they can sell. That is basic business sense. There are many wonderfully talented artists who may wait a lifetime for a Proper Gallery to represent them. These artists become bitter, demoralized, and find it difficult to start to exhibit, let alone sell, their work. A Vanity Gallery, or Exhibition Gallery, offers these artists a service and works with them to move forward in their art career — really no different than paying a fee to attend university to obtain a credential for one’s resume and future success.

There are 5 comments for Everyone pays a fee by Joyce Fournier

From: Joy Engelman — Mar 23, 2009

I agree. I am a curator at a commercial gallery as well as an artist with a long career spanning some 35 years or more. Vanity galleries do have a place in the system and are a great place for artists to showcase what they can do. We need more galleries, co-operative, vanity or commercial, regional and private, more galleries……

There are a lot of artists who ‘practise’ the arts for many, many years and never get to realise their dream of having an exhibition and a vanity gallery can provide a venue for them to show their works. As the artist pays for the space, it would be sensible to assume that the artist has a feeling that their work will sell to cover costs as to hold too many shows that the artist has to underwrite time and time again without sales, surely would weed out the deadwood.

As well, many artists do not necessarily want to sell, but wish to communicate their ideas visually to an audience and listen to the comments about the work. Not all artists ‘have to sell’ and the idea of making art for the sake of ‘selling’ is in itself a travesty.

Art is first about communication and to communicate, the artist needs a venue. Who pays? Does it matter whether it is the artist, the gallery, the government? Isn’t it more important that the artist gets a chance to show, discuss, talk about and share his/her vision?

What is this modern mentality of ‘money first, second and third’?

Where is the art for art’s sake?

From: Don Cadoret — Mar 24, 2009

I agree in that these galleries have a place. I would suggest though that we avoid the term “vanity” in the future and allow ourselves the honor of being involved in co-operative galleries where the marketing and potential profit is shared. If serious craft artists can do quite well in the co-operative model than why can’t other artists succeed in the same environment? Of course they can! Like any business decision (of which there are many for artists), be wary of pitfalls and be willing to learn from mistakes. That’s what makes Painter’s Keys so valuable for all level of artists.

From: Silvia Forrest — Mar 24, 2009

Thank you both, Joyce and Joy for your well articulated responses. I like to think about the changes in the business model we are living through as similar to what ocurred in Europe when the Impressioninsts first organized their own show in response to the rigidity of the “Salon” system which then controlled who could and who could not exhibit and what works of art were considered acceptable.

Change is always unsettling but also unavoidable.

From: Robert M. — Jan 26, 2013

Living in South Florida / Miami area i’ve experienced many Vanity Galleries. There’s ONE major problem from any artists point of view with these galleries. Artist pays many of the bills, yet time after time for months i’ve seen that MOST if not all of these type of galleries do not leave any lights on in their display windows when they are closed. Most important point here is that most of these types of galleries are closed most of the month. They open 2 , even one day per month on a Saturday. I can’t county how many times i’ve driven by these galleries where desperate artists have paid 100’s several thousand dollars to display there – yet the gallery hardly opens. If you’re an artist ask yourself if it makes sense for your art to be on display somewhere only once or twice per month when it’s YOU that is paying their electric bills and not only are they rarely open, they don’t respect you enough to set up a light timer for their window so at least your art can be viewed by the public since they are so often closed.

If an artist EVER pays to show in a vanity gallery he/she should at least pick one that has some decent open hours. Key thing to remember: Vanity galleries want more artists = more money and they often rotate your art during the time you have been told you’ve paid for. Your art is often rotated from the gallery walls to the back room so they can charge as many artists as possible. The fact is that almost all ‘vanity galleries’ are nothing more than a manipulative product handler’s scheme to make a profit off the artist only, not any buyer of art. Most important question that must be answered by any artist who considers spending money to one of these type businesses is: Please show me in writing what hours you will be open while my art is displayed here. & 2) Once you see that they are open once a month from 7pm to 11pm on ‘Art Walk’ you can then examine how desperate you are

From: valerie norberry vanorden — Feb 02, 2013

This is similar to self-publishing, just to put your work in the hands of others. I know I paid for a table at a flea market in order to “show my stuff”. It wasn’t the right venue, right across from the gun and knife dealer, but it was an experience. Aired out my portfolios. Sold a little stuff. People kept showing me their tattoos because that was their present exposure to art.




Pallas Athena

acrylic and gouache painting
by Joe Bergeron, NY, USA


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Edwin Pointer who wrote, “As the economy tumbles, so the vanity galleries will tumble. Very few emerging artists will be able to afford a vanity gallery unless there is some guarantee of sales.”

And also Claudio Ghirardo of Mississauga, ON, Canada, who wrote, “Vanity galleries don’t tend to ‘push’ your work as the costs are covered, while ‘regular’ galleries, who focus on commission, will ‘push’ your work as a way to keep the income coming and most of them tend to believe in the artists’ work and will do more to find buyers and sell.”

And also Joy Halsted of Gloucester, MA, USA who wrote, “I entered a juried contest in a gallery in New York. I got in, but when I learned from some older and wiser professional artists that it was the ‘kiss of death’ as it was a ‘vanity gallery,’ I got out. They were angry and rather surprised that I didn’t want the ‘glory’ of having my work shown in New York, no matter what the cost. Plenty! Collectors know the responsible, reputable galleries.”

And also Lynda Pogue of Toronto, ON, Canada, who wrote, “I’ve never had more exposure or better press (and some excellent sales) with any other gallery than one who has the monetary confidence of being able to focus on publicizing the artist rather than focusing on raising funds for the rent, heat, water, payment of salaries.”


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The rise of vanity galleries



From: Lynda Hartwell — Mar 19, 2009

As with every other aspect of trade, I suspect the internet is turning the art business on its head. Internet galleries proliferate as buyers are reassured, “Worry not, if it doesn’t go with your couch, you can return it.” I don’t know what the future holds for the bricks-and-mortar galleries, but I like what’s happening on the web. Everyone has an equal chance of having their work seen. Anyone can start a blog. Talent always sells, whether the artist is dead or alive. I see great art selling off the net every day, and at decent prices too.

From: Patsy Tyler — Mar 20, 2009

How true it is that there is no correlation between quality and saleability. Many years ago I ran a shop that sold art prints and posters. What never ceased to amaze us was the plain ordinary posters that outsold the attractive ones, for example a plain brown horse’s head against an impossibly bright blue sky, as opposed to a beauty of a white horse running against the wind.

And the customers who came in with a swatch of curtaining fabric: “I want an art print in these colours”.

I will never paint to order, no matter how hungry I am!

From: Darla — Mar 20, 2009

It all comes down to giving people a way to get what they want, and charging what they will pay. Vanity galleries give artists a place to show their work. Whether the cost is worth it, is a separate question. Regular galleries are no bargain, either. Patsy Tyler commented that she would never paint to order, no matter what. That’s a noble sentiment, but portraits and other commissions are painted to order (maybe not to match the drapes, though!).

I would like to add that as artists, our job is to give people what they didn’t know they wanted until they saw our paintings!

From: Susan Avishai, Toronto — Mar 20, 2009

How timely! I was just invited to submit 4 large pieces into a 2-week group show in Toronto for an upfront smallish fee ($350), with the gallery taking only 30% of sales. They’ve been in business for 5 years and the space is lovely. Is this a vanity gallery? Seems to me not unreasonable that the artist shoulder *some* upfront cost in this economy. It’s a lot cheaper than the weekend blockbusters that Toronto has hosted this month (those can run the artist more than $2K). My cost covers a few ads, emailing to 2000, and opening refreshments. Still, I wonder what I might not be seeing. Anyone have any thoughts to help me decide?

From: March — Mar 20, 2009

In my neck of the woods — south shore of Lake Erie — home shows are still rare. In my recollection there has been only a single one in five years, and that for a ceramicist. I’ve been to home concerts, usually for singer/songwriters or interpreters of traditional musics. Occassionally an artist’s co-op will emerge, but some of these have proven uneven at best and at worst derelict.

I like my art in person, and prefer to use the internet only as a reference, or to browse the greater market, not to buy. On the other hand, many of the local commercial galleries are hamstrung by local economics (working class, rust belt), and don’t get the best local artists, who find their way out of town. Additionally, local tastes can run to stylized watercolor florals and stop there. The successful local gallery owner might push the envelope a mite, but knows where the market is and caters to it. Many artists (wannabe’s, amateurs, young, and developing) are often very discouraged. Not everyone can move to New York, Toronto, or Paris.

I think this situation pertains, to some degree, in a lot of small and moderate size urban areas. We — even those of us living in them — regard them uncharitably as cultural wastelands.

The vanity gallery — arguably positioning itself less as an agent and more as a marketing services company — can fill a need for the commercially marginalized artist, particularly in commercially marginal markets. It’s a matter of getting visibility and a springboard to launch a career, or at least giving a languishing dream an opportunity at “the bigs”.

From: Carol — Mar 20, 2009

Vanity galleries seem to have their place, serving the needs of many and I know of successful ones for all involved. I sense an underlying feeling that galleries are the enemy, taking more than necessary from the artists. If so, why don’t more artists go the co-op route? note: perhaps we don’t need museums, either. We can all go on line to enjoy.

From: Jeanne Jackson, Manhattan Beach. CA — Mar 20, 2009

Beware of vanity galleries wherein the owner is also an artist whose work is in the collection. Guess whose work will be pushed when a potential client walks in the door?

I’ve had a much better response by holding art shows/sales once a year in my own studio and the surrounding garden. People apparently enjoy this personal touch as I’ve had close to 500 people attend the last three annual shows held between the hours of 10AM to 4PM on one Saturday in June. Admittedly many of these folks show up to see the garden but often they end up buying. Whatever works. Good thing there is plenty of parking in the neighborhood.

It’s a lot of work to prepare the show, design the flyers, spruce up the garden, and oversee the publicity. The publicity alone can take up a goodly portion of a month. Publicity packets must be submitted at least two weeks before the event and should include an article covering all the particulars, artists bio/statement, and some decent photos on disc.

I also impose on a few of my more charming friends to help me meet and greet those who show up and to make sure no one walks off with anything without paying.

In our current economic situation, art sales are one of the first things to drop off the radar. Set your prices accordingly if you want it to move.

The good thing about holding your own show is that you’re in charge of everything. The bad thing about hodling your own show is…you’re in charge of everything.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Mar 20, 2009

There are a number of vanity galleries in our area. Some of them actually sponsor “competitions” which charge an entry fee to participating artists which both pay for the prizes and support the gallery owner. I hope this isn’t the way of the future.

I joined my local artist’s coop, which has an attractive gallery and some talented members (all of them juried, though unevenly). To my surprise, it basically functions as a vanity gallery, with little effort to promote member artists, and a great deal of attention paid to developing and promoting an annual community art event which enriches the association itself with little benefit to the bulk of the artists. Emphasis seems increasingly to be on faux folk art styles for the tourist trade. Though nominally a “coop,” it was run by a select group of people with little input from others. I withdrew my membership after one year. I learned that the artist turnover is quite high, and I readily understand why. Other artist coops may be set up better.

Resigning was actually a relief. I feel unrestrained to let my art develop in its own direction. As for exposure, I’m exploring options: setting up a website, going on gallery explorations in other areas (where art is less a tourist commodity), arranging personal shows in public spaces… and maybe even a private home, if I can find the right one. Keeping my eye out for creative opportunities.

From: Karen McConnell — Mar 20, 2009

Regarding ‘home shows’ – I am wondering how many artists who choose to do this are aware of public liability issues which this might entail. Even group shows now require proof of insurance in order to be accepted into a show. Several popular and long-standing local events like home and garden shows have, at various times, fallen by the wayside with these costs being prohibitive.

From: Rick Rotante — Mar 20, 2009

I’ve known of “Vanity” galleries for some time but unaware of this title. Several of my artist friends routinely exhibit AND in addition pay commission monthly for the space. The gallery is completely self-serving and has little to no interest in the “paying” artist except for collecting their pound of flesh. My take is if you have the money and are willing to humiliate and delude yourself … go for it. Many artists will never find their way into a gallery any other way. But it’s one more way to get your work out there, but be warned the commission and rental space may eventually equal if not pass the original selling price. If that happens you will be losing money on your work and only helping the gallery.

On the up side, it looks good on your resume to say… “your in such and such gallery.”

From: Robert Redus — Mar 20, 2009

Hopefully through this unstable economy, galleries and Vanity galleries alike will feel the pressure enough that they will need to restructure and become much more realistic to continue doing business. I show my work in a few galleries and have found the responsibility of the gallery sales people is to sell art, not exclusively my art but the art within the gallery. The level of loyalty from the gallery to the artist is by no means equitable, and seems the artist is the one working for the gallery rather than the other way around. I question the high percentage on sales and especially in vanity galleries, when generally they provide nothing more than wall space, a staff that is usually unknowledgeable and really are nothing more than a retail outlet for a group of artists that often can not get their work into mainstream galleries. I read an Interview recently with Saatchi, he said selling art is not really about selling anything of quality; it is more about selling it because he can. His recent acquisition from the Royal Academy is evidence enough of this mentality. I feel artists should be working on taking back the control of their work, by doing group shows organized with other artists, Internet site, and any way to generate sales and eliminate the large chunk taken by the galleries. The provincial mentality is long dead and really if people are buying art to match their couch or a particular color swatch, we as artists are responsible for representing what our society is doing and we should be doing that. Doing what we love is most important, making a reasonable living doing that is not much to ask for….

From: Diane Edwards — Mar 20, 2009

As a Director of a Co-op Gallery, I took offense at some of the statements in this letter. First of all, getting your art into a Gallery that pays for everything in this economy is only for those of us that are really good selling artists. I found your comments to be rather condescending to those who don’t occupy the same plane as you do. You were probably talking about those galleries in big cities who are asking for thousands, however, a lot of people who read this probably feel that you mean any gallery you have to pay something to show in. Artists learn so much from a good co-op gallery. They learn to work with others, market their work, show their work and what sells and what doesn’t. It’s a good education for many to learn how to be professional. However, I agree, once you are a professional you should probably get into some of the bigger name galleries. But, if you can show your work well, sell some and enjoy the cameraderie, it’s certainly better to be in a co-op gallery than to have your work hung in the back room…or, even worse, piled up somewhere where no one gets to see it and your frames get damaged!

From: Renee — Mar 23, 2009

As long as artists support vanity galleries they will continue to exist. There are alternatives. I’d like to see more successful artist-run, cooperative galleries. I’d like to see more artists educating themselves on the business of being an artist. Artists can now take advantage of the plethora of empty retail spaces now. More artists today are using the Internet for promotion, their own web sites and social networking. I’d like to see more artists taking charge and playing a more important role in the business of art.

From: Joan Bazzel — Mar 23, 2009

What could be more vain than to qualify yourself by the type of gallery which accepts your work! Isn’t it too bad that business as usual galleries (@ 50% commissions) are threatened by so-called “vanity” galleries where any artist can display the work they choose to display without having to pander to art snobbery and biased gallery owners. I say Hooray! for so-called “vanity” galleries (I’ve never heard them referred to by that moniker)…and a creative chance at catching the buying public’s eye. No rejections, no exclusivity clauses, no brown noses!

From: Ginger Concepcion — Mar 23, 2009
From: Norman Ridenour — Mar 23, 2009

I have been pulled into using these galleries and lived to regret it. The first problem is, they get their money up front, therefore they have no motivation to sell, much less promote any of the work they show. They hang the work and shrug their shoulders if it does not sell. The same problem exists with the web marketing galleries and the catalogue compilers.

The second problem you mentioned, quality. If you pay you hang, no matter if you do dreak or not. But then I have been to so many regular galleries, New York, Carmel, Scottsdale, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Prague, Paris, Milan where the walls were hung with crap – because it sells.

Here it is worse, an artist rents a space, installs a show, does the promo, hires a gallery sitter (and that is about all they do) and hopes.

There is no easy solution.

From: Juanita Smith — Mar 23, 2009

I am a relatively new artist entering the art market. I have displayed my work for a time now and haven’t sold anything. Part of the problem seems to be the rather hefty price tag attached. I have my pictures professionally and archivally framed (pastels) with double mats. The cost for such a framing is around $150 up to 225. When the sponsoring gallery prices my work, of course, the cost of framing has to be figured in at my end. So…for example… if I want to get $100 dollars for the artwork itself (not to mention materials, gas, travel time, phone calls, etc.) and $200 for the framing costs, I have to walk away from the sale with $300 in my pocket. Now The gallery gets 40% and so that is tacked on (another $120) bringing the total to $420….. but that isn’t the end of it. We are up to $420 but as near as I can figure it the gallery will get 40% of THAT total amt. or roughly $168 making the sale price: $468. While that doesn’t sound like a huge amount in the current economy this is prohibitive for most people for a no-name artist. Is all of this pretty typical? And what’s an artist to do?

I am not in the art market to make money but rather just to make expenses and keep the clutter down in my studio. In the face of this drain on my budget I keep doing it, though, because I love it.

From: June Tucarella — Mar 23, 2009

Your summation of Vanity Galleries, to me, was right on. I belong to 3 Art Leagues two of which are having shows in April and May in a fine gallery. It will be interesting to see if there are sales. This Gallery sends notifications to all clientel and charges only if a buyer charges a sale a minimum fee. no comm. the league gets 10% on sales. I find that abstract pieces attract the public more

than ever, and probably sell more especially to the yuppies…..You can view some of my work just goggle june tucarella artist, and the first intro, click on to my art. Let me know if you get it. Meanwhile keep positive, good art is always the best, even if we keep it in the closet for awhile.

From: Terry Gilecki — Mar 23, 2009

It seems whenever times get tough the creative schemers come out of the woodwork. These schemes are usually innovative but sometimes unnerving ideas, designed to squeeze out enough new money to keep a failing enterprises afloat. We see it all the time. Problem is, they are not a “phoenix rising from the ashes”, but usually have less to do with integrity or substance, are more likely to lower and dilute our standards, and shake the very foundations of systems that have worked so well for so long.

Reputable galleries take a financial responsibility and risk in the artists they represent. That greatly helps to insure that their buyers are going to benefit from their knowledge, experience and reputation, and that the artists who deserve and earned a position to be promoted, get it.

I think commercial galleries that are paid by artists to display art will undoubtedly hold “how much the artist is willing to pay” in the balance. Any artist who is seriously willing to pay for this “service” should “cut to the chase” and consider completely self promoting and retailing their own art. After all, do artists want or really need a middle man whose ‘loyalty’ is sold to the highest bidder?

From: Charlotte Ensminger — Mar 23, 2009

I’m wondering if you know anything about the following ateliers that offer painting workshops in Europe:

Atelier Stockholm

Moulin de Perrot in France

Many thanks for any info you might have.

From: Susan McCrae — Mar 23, 2009

Lately I’ve been getting some ‘invitations’ with price tags from European galleries, Biennales and the ‘book & collections’ producers. Some of them have found me through the posting on Painter’s Keys by the way. They each claim to want to exhibit my work, for a fee of course – usually 700 – 1,400 Euros. They have websites and appear to be legitimate, but how can one really tell these days. I don’t have the money right now and haven’t bitten yet. But supposing I did – Any advice on this?

From: Ron Grauer — Mar 23, 2009

There are many varieties of vultures sitting on limbs overhead just waiting… some are bad some are good… it’s hard to separate ’em sometimes.

From: Kate Jackson — Mar 23, 2009

How then do you categorize co-op galleries? Many of the better artists in our community turn their noses up at the local co-op, in existence for over 25 years. However, for me, it’s been a dilemma. I’ve achieved a good majority of my local sales through the efforts of the co-op which resides inside the Arts Center… and at least it is a place to send ‘locals’ and out of towners besides bringing them all to my home gallery. It has played some measure of a role in “getting my name out there.” There is always the website, of course, but it doesn’t generate sales like the actual in person viewing I think! So, co-ops… are they vanity galleries? (I do think some people pay their dues and keep the gallery afloat for years while others DO reap some sales to offset the cost of their dues – not exactly fair across the board).

From: Suzette Fram — Mar 23, 2009

Charging a fee is sometimes a necessity. I am part of an artist-run galleryand studio space. We have 5 resident artists and we have a large gallery reserved for guest artists each month. The thing is, we all pay rent to be there, so why would we let someone else use our best space free of charge? We charge a modest fee for a one-month show ($200) and the commission rate is very low (15%). The thing about running a gallery is that there are a lot of costs, and someone has to be there all the time. The time alone is huge investment. So please, don’t make out the guys who charge a fee as the bad guys. It’s a changing world. Artists want places to show their work and there are a lot of different ways they can make that happen. Paying a fee to be in a gallery is just one of them.

From: John Ferrie — Mar 23, 2009

I have been marketing my work for over twenty years. I have come to the conclusion that art galleries are two steps below the used car salesman. They take an artist’s work on consignment and try and sell it. Meanwhile, the artist is usually under a restricting “exclusivity contract”. Bla, Bla, we all find our way. But these Vanity galleries are something that has risen in the art world over the last few years. Artists have this bent perception that once they are with a gallery, the contract of fame and fortune will come. These galleries make most of their money by charging the artists memberships, rental space, internet space, commissions charges, a large percentage of any sales and all sorts of other hidden charges. The gallery owners seem to know that artists have “hope” of being with a gallery and artists will hitch their star and a great deal of cash to this pipe dream. It has been my experience that artists often stop creating once they are all set up in these spaces. There is no curating, no through line with the collection and no specializing in what they show. They just want cash. In one section you will see some nice paintings, but beside that is decoupage and crochet’d kittens. In this day and especially crummy economy, artists need to be careful and frugal how they work. If not, they might be buying a “wonderful vehicle that was only driven once a week by a little old lady who drove it to church!”

From: Sharon Will — Mar 23, 2009
From: Carol Lyons — Mar 23, 2009

In the ’60s and ’70s vanity galleries were a no-no for serious artists and people who knew about the market. The word was out that reviewers and critics would not consider them of professional level because anyone willing to pay could get their work exhibited.

Now, vanity galleries don’t seem to be looked down upon. To the viewing public it is not of concern. Also, circumstances have changed so much over the years with the computer, where anyone can have their own website, exhibiting to the world and possibly selling.

This is not to denigrate work on the computer. There is wonderful work out there, including art which I always view on Robert Genn’s site, and other sites too numerous to mention..

It certainly helps to increase an art reputation to be in a prestigious or museum collection and is a definite boost to an artist.

From: Jack Dickerson — Mar 23, 2009

I am not an expert in this area, but I receive these emails as well. Vanity Galleries really make no bones about what they do. They are making money without the pressure of actively selling the art — probably because they have neither the desire nor the knowledge. If they can continue to pull in enough up-front paying artists, then they can make their money without having to sell. They have no passion for the art or the artist, and no preferences when accepting artists. This is totally contrary to the meaning and essence of art and what it means in a universal way to society. However, these vanity galleries will remain, as long as there is a group of desperate artists out there who are willing to pay to have their work shown, as opposed to earning it through daily education and the intense work it takes to become good. It is like any profession: it takes a lot of hard work and determination to become really good at what you do. There are no free lunches along the way. As Cervantes said, “Those who play with cats must expect to be scratched.”

From: Carol Morrison — Mar 23, 2009

This is an issue that has bothered me for a long time. I live in a relatively poor province (Nova Scotia) with a varied and beautiful countryside that is attractive to artists, yet has many communities that are relatively cheap to live in. We therefore have an abundance of gifted artists, but relatively few buyers. Even the very few galleries in Halifax have a hard time keeping going, while it is even more difficult for those in smaller communities, especially in this economic climate. (One of these, Zwicker’s Gallery, has some of your work). I have attached an article I found when first looking into this issue a few years ago (By the way, the NYFA has many useful articles that are available for artists). It points out that many galleries already expect artists to help with costs, which is certainly true in my area, although not to the extent suggested by this article. Also, it suggests that the cost of showing may be looked at as an investment that might be worthwhile. I have found that it is very difficult to break into galleries in large cities in other provinces, because they already have many local artists beating down their doors. The only way I may be able to show my work in these large centres might be through a vanity gallery.

From: Brad Greek — Mar 23, 2009

I’ve noticed more and more of these Vanity type Galleries popping up in my area as well. Some rent space, with small commissions on all sales. Some have various plans for different types of vendors. The true galleries are disappearing here, leaving our options limited, with little possibility of them taking a chance on an unknown. I feel that it does give many artists a venue to show their work. And takes the pressures off the gallery to force sales. But it also takes the determination to makes sales a less priority for the shop owner. I’ve entered into a couple of them for the exposure and possibility of an occassional sale. We are artists, we jump through all the hoops to find the right paths.

From: Anne Marie Brown — Mar 23, 2009

You are right – there are many artists out there who want an outlet, and my solution is to establish artists’ co-ops where everyone can have an affordable space to exhibit their art. Vision is the thing we hold dear, and what will lead us from here.

From: Michele Hausman — Mar 23, 2009

I recently received an email for a vanity art book called Best of America oil painting. The cost of entry is $40 and the email said I was “guarenteed a spot in the book”. The offer is tempting because the entry fee is reasonable but then of course you have to buy the book with 199 other artists’ work in it. Just wondered what you thought. Perhaps investing in making my own art book is a better use of my images.

From: Rick Smith — Mar 23, 2009

I would think every gallery has to be judged on its own merits. I know of one “vanity” gallery that shows contemporary work that no one else would handle and wouldn’t be able to do so based only on commissions. I’ve also known of regular galleries that would rob you blind given half a chance. I’d rather deal with a vanity gallery that charges you an honest fee than a regular gallery that makes you go two falls out of three in order to get your money out of them.

From: Joyce Goden — Mar 23, 2009

Save your money, and work on your craft. Shouldn’t they be paying us to hang our work.

When it gets right down to the honest truth do you really want to tell your customers that yes you have art hanging in a gallery but you had to pay them to put it there.

ps. I’ve been painting long enough that I can, and will mix and paint the color of a sofa, drapes or a persons eyes.

From: Joy Engelman — Mar 23, 2009

I am endlessly amazed how artists expect to paint away their hours ( a joyful experience) then want to sell the works without paying anything towards the costs of making sales.

If it is so easy to run, manage, own a gallery, then why aren’t you all out doing it?

I curate a local gallery (as well as having been an established artist for over 35 years now). I have sold through commercial and very exclusive galleries under contract in the past, home shows, local co-ops, web site, art auctions, local shows and competitions: you name it, I’ve done it! And yes, I would add a vanity gallery to my arsenal to help me move my art! It is all necessary and relevant! I have sold over 1000 paintings in my life which has given me a good life! And I still sell!

A gallery has to cover, electricity, rent (or loss of rent to someone else), insurance, fees, rates, repairs, rubbish removal, management etc etc and maintenance and that’s before the show. Then there’s invitations (design and print), database build, press releases (they have to be researched and written), publicity, TV, radio, local and national media, Hanging systems, hanging the show, manning the show, sales and records keeping, supper (nibbles and wine), cleaning etc etc……and guess what….none of this is FREE!

You get to enjoy a days work in the quiet of the studio, a chat with the framer, and a delivery to the gallery……

It is worth every penny of 50% to market you as an artist and your work. The gallery (vanity, regional or commercial) gives you a credibility you don’t get out of your front door.

So please, have respect for all of the marketing systems available to you as an artist and understand, the shows not over until it’s sold! (or given away!) You get what you pay for in life and in art!

From: Brigitte Nowak — Mar 24, 2009

There are options, besides vanity galleries, for artists who are establishing a career: many libraries, community centres, churches, etc., provide exhibition space for novice artists, with various degrees of curation. In these venues, it is up to the artist to develop, and execute, a viable marketing plan, send out press releases, invitations, plan an opening, and possibly sit the “gallery”. By doing this, the artist gets a feel for what is involved in running a commercial gallery, (and may appreciate the value that commercial galleries provide for their 50% commission) however, the costs may be significantly less than those associated with vanity galleries; the downside is difficulty in bringing in clientele beyond the artist’s own circle, but it may give the artist the opportunity to show a body of work that may be less commercially viable than that normally handled by commercial galleries. Other career-development options may include the “art rental and sales” component that some museums and public galleries provide (the work of contemporary artists is displayed, usually in the gallery’s gift shop, and is available for rent or sale to gallery members and businesses). Unless they are true “art stars”, or arrive on the art scene with a mature and compelling vision, artists must assume some responsibility for building their own careers, however they go about it.

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Mar 24, 2009

Joy, I totally agree with you. Traditional galleries usually earn every bit of the commission they charge and have valid reasons for the commission. Vanity galleries can be the right beginning for an artist if they have done the research on the particular vanity gallery and find everything reasonable and above board. But, no matter what route the artist takes to get their work out there, they must be personally involved in the promotion of their work. It helps the gallery — whatever gallery.

Research — that is the key to finding the right outlet for the level of your career. Get your work out there if that is your goal. Use the organizations and club shows, personal venues, vanity galleries, retail shops, traditional galleries, home shows, etc. Know what you are being asked to do and do it well.

I think Robert gave us much to think about and information to research in this tough economic time.

From: Joyce Goden — Mar 24, 2009
From: Suzette Fram — Mar 24, 2009

As I was reading all these wonderful responses and came to the display of art from your ‘premium listings’, I realized that I always see the art featured there, and some of it I like, and some of it I don’t, and really, these artists have paid a fee to have a premium listing and be featured, so what is this? A VANITY WEB LISTING??

I wish selling art could be like selling widgets. The store BUYS what they think they can sell, if they don’t sell them, it’s their problem and they have to discount them in the end in order to move them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way for artists. Running a business costs a lot of money and why some feel that they can have their work shown, promoted and sold at no up-front cost, is beyond me. Only the most saleable (not necessarily the best) artists will make it under that system.

I bristled at the comment on the vanity gallery being the ‘kiss of death’. Those ‘IN’ people in the art world can be so snobbish. I guess we can’t all be in this elite group, otherwise it would not be elite, would it.

The world is changing. We need to adapt to survive. That is life.

From: Joyce Goden — Mar 26, 2009

Work on your craft and work on your marketing.

Between 10 and 30% of your profits should be put back into advertising.

Thousands of people cruise through the Painters Keys daily, (premium listings are 8.33 USD per month=advertising), There are other online sites that get thousands of visitors daily. Does any vanity galleries get even close to these numbers? I think not.

ps. Snobby IN artists don’t post here, the seasoned artists that do are here helping others, even the ingrateful ones.

pss. Frame shops will sometimes take a portfolio full of paintings, (they get 50% plus the frame job)-a good place for getting out there and making some money.

From: June Stratton — Mar 26, 2009

I am an artist, gallery owner (Savannah Georgia) and I see both sides of the coin. I show in my gallery and in other galleries. I gladly give up 50% to dealers. I know the expense of running a gallery and the rewards you receive by having someone else represent your work. Most galleries do not make a lot of profit — this notion that galleries are greedy is false.

The other artists I represent in my gallery get promoted continuously to clients and get recommended to other galleries that may help with their careers …I am passionate about their work. These connections that galleries make are important. The galleries that represent me promote my work continuously. You can not buy that.

I feel strongly that having a gallery invested in you in some way is more valuable than the 30 days or however much you might be paying for. I would never pay to play.

From: Bubba McDonald — Mar 29, 2009

Perhaps it’s me but a Vanity Gallery gets your name out there and a place to hang your stuff. If I were to use one I would only consider the Vanity gallery a temporary stopping point and would spend my extra time drumming up support and trying to sell my paintings and using the gallery as an accessory to selling. I would put a time limit on how long to be there and work toward the goal of locating a better gallery to hang my stuff in that is commission based because paying someone to hang my stuff is eating into my profits (if I had any).

I think a Vanity Gallery can be a startup point on the road to riches, fame, and immortality. :o)

From: Rick Rotante — Mar 30, 2009

Lets face facts. Most of us (artists) make lousy salespersons. In fact, the whole process of marketing is a chore and time consuming, and I might add, for me a bit demeaning. We can have an endless discussion on that topic some other time. Like the many who post here, I’ve been the gallery route with the same disastrous results every time.

Selling your art, like the telephone, is a necessary intrusion on your valuable creative time. Who wouldn’t love to sit in a studio or be outdoors painting til the cows come home?

My reality is this- if I could find one honest dealer with mutual interests in getting a fair deal, I would jump at it. The final analysis is we, as people and not just artist, want a fair shake and not be cheated, swindled or have the wool pulled over our eyes. The underlying purpose for selling is survival.

When I sell on my own, I adjust the price if it looks like I might lose the sale. I give the gallery the same right to do so. I just need to know they did their best to get top dollar. Simple. I wouldn’t mind a monitory split in the gallery’s favor if they were honest with me.

After all, we are really mutual partners.

From: Jennifer Moore — Apr 02, 2009

You know, as an artist who is just beginning to consider bringing her work to the marketplace, I would turn places like this down. I’m a lifelong art appreciator, and I come from a line of them. I fully believe that art should make it into galleries based on merit alone. I will show my work. I will pay to put it into shows and competitions; however, I will NOT pay to put it in galleries.

I will present my work to the world via my own online shops, and interested parties will either approach me, or they will not. I will accept either outcome (though I do favor one over the other) as the correct one for my work. Some will like it, and some won’t.

None of that will stop me from creating it.

JenniferLynn Productions

From: Patsy Tyler — Apr 14, 2009

It is a while since Darla said: “Patsy Tyler commented that she would never paint to order, no matter what. That’s a noble sentiment, but portraits and other commissions are painted to order (maybe not to match the drapes, though!).” I should have explained further: I was thinking of the type of request: “A nice landscape with turquoise in it” – the kind of person who hasn’t a clue. I find it stressful enough, without someone who knows nothing about art telling me I haven’t matched their drapes. ;-) I love painting portraits, but would tend to paint only those faces that appeal to me; not on commission.

And I completely agree with you on this, Darla: “I would like to add that as artists, our job is to give people what they didn’t know they wanted until they saw our paintings!”

From: James — Dec 21, 2010

What profound arrogance can be found in these responses. Almost everything wrong with the art community could be summed up here.

From: aleatoric art — Jan 10, 2011

Really! I am totally and completely confused now.

From: Harrison — Jan 26, 2011

I am an avid art collector, and not a gallery owner. But in their defense, many of the works that I have acquired would not, had they not been in the “vanity” gallery. These were new and undiscovered artists. Also, everyone says dont pay to hang your work, but are willing to go to large art expos. These are simply large “vanity” galleries themselves. Sounds like this is more of simple mindedness and ego than reality. I myself prefer these galleries, as I get real work. Galleries that get high commissions force sales upon us for the fee, which is the exact opposite that you as an artist should want, unless, you are as what you call the gallery owners that charge to hang your work.

From: Tom — May 25, 2011

I worked hard on a series after looking at a gallery site that was progressive and a right fit to my work. In short I was ‘accepted’ and told that I was one of the very few culled from the myriad of artists sending in their work.

Then the fine print began. I would be charged a $275 exhibit fee and $30 installation fee. All to hang my work for 27 days.

Needless to say, it was more an irritant than a disappointment because while the “hit” was after the ‘acceptance”, it gave me a chance to back out. At least the gallery I checked out before going to this one was upfront about their fee. it was on their first page.

It sounds more and more like bait and switch. They build up your work, then hit you for money.

From: Kit — Nov 28, 2011

I have been invited to take part in an exhibition organised by a gallery that represents me here in NewZealand and shown in the Agora gallery in New York. This is a Vanity gallery.

I have not been asked to contribute money although the cost of shipping is supposed to come out of sales. As far as I know the NZ gallery is picking up the tab. I dont know how many artists are involved but I expect it to be many.

Any comments? Is this a good idea or a waste of time and energy. I’ve read the comments about Vanity galleries and am now quite concerned as I have the paintings ready to send. I dont want to make a big mistake as I can see that my exhibiting at Agora may be a turn off to more serious galleries in the future.

From: Ale — Apr 09, 2012


I wish I could hear from you what ever happened with your experience with Agora Gallery N.Y. I have been contacted recently by them and at first (obviously naive) I got exited, the sum they are asking for their services is so high it made my head spin! seriously is outrageous! since its a lot of money for me I did a little research on the matter and came across the so called term “Vanity Gallery” now I am confussed, not by the rules of the game cause honestly I believe all ways of doing business are suitable for all kinds of people but it was a turnoff to read that most serious art collectors, look down at this venues cause they will take any bodys work who can pay the fee and not quality work of serious commited artists, so please any help??

From: Rob S. — Feb 11, 2013

As for Florida i’ve found that every Vanity Gallery i’ve seen here simply does not open more than 2 to 4 nights per month, many only 1 night (Local ‘Artwalk’ as in MiamiDesignDistrict). Is it not amazing that they charge often 600 to $1000.oo or more yet can’t leave their gallery window display lights during some of those times when they are closed on a timer at least several nights per week, after all the ARTISTS have prepaid the gallery’s electric bill. One large M.DesignDistrict Vanity Gallery charges over 1000.oo and that’s not for a very long time, they are open what seems to be 1 night per mo. though i will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s 3 nights cause i don’t check constantly but i know an Artist who has been given all their costs by the owner who is also an Artist. An additional problem is that there’s no prices on the paintings and no one showed any interest in telling me and several visitors any info on the art or costs – AND THIS WAS ON THE 1 NIGHT THEY WERE OPEN. Gallery’s and locations have costs for sure, but if Artists are charged UP FRONT – there should be plenty of effort put into keeping the place open more often AND KEEPING THE DISPLAY LIGHTS ON SO HUMANS CAN ACTUALLY SEE THE ART MORE THAN 1ONCE PER MONTH :/



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