The e-mail subject line first got my attention – “New York Gallery Representation.” I scanned the letter with rising expectations, past the parts about ‘your wonderful art,’ ‘fantastic opportunity to exhibit in
,’ and ‘chance for a solo exhibition,’ to the sender’s identity, a well known pay-to-play Midtown gallery. New York
Knowing well that traditional galleries don’t use such teaser tactics, I was still a bit disappointed. I clicked on the gallery link anyway to learn the details of their ‘offer.’ Full gallery representation with group shows, post cards, magazine ads, museum introductions, would cost $3450.00 a year. In addition, the gallery would collect a 30% commission on sales. If I qualified for a solo exhibition, the costs would be higher. Inquire with the sales manager for rates.
I could not find a section that listed exhibiting artists. Perhaps that list would go on for pages. Looking at past exhibitions confirmed my suspicion that the gallery believed cash to be more important than quality. The art proved to be not terrible but certainly uninspired.
For years, the art community has looked down its nose at vanity galleries. Deemed money grubbing and gauche, their tiny ads were stuck in the back of art magazines. Galleries soon learned there could be big bucks in offering representation to artists willing and able to pay hefty fees. Judging from the numbers of them and their splashy presence in the media, vanity galleries now have a certain amount of creditability.
Two questions popped into my head as I hit the ‘delete’ key. If I pay up, will the gallery guarantee at least one sale? When my gallery run comes to an end, would I list the gallery on my resume? No and no.