Exclusive Agreements with IGNORANT Galleries

Exclusive Agreements with IGNORANT Galleries

Photo by Simon Howden

Photo by Simon Howden

One of my artist friends was asked to put her art in a high profile gallery in Miami Beach, Florida.

Excited, I said “Great!  This could be big time for your career!”

Then she told me why she had to turn down this great opportunity…

She had made a mistake last year and signed a 5-year exclusive deal with a single gallery in Laguna Beach, CA.  Now she couldn’t show or sell her work anywhere but there.

WHAT DOES EXCLUSIVE MEAN?  In this case, she signed a contract that says that she can ONLY sell her art in that one gallery (they only have one location) in the ENTIRE WORLD!  For FIVE YEARS!

Why would a Gallery want to hold their artists captive like that?

There’s only one reason – IGNORANCE.

Here’s why an EXCLUSIVE AGREEMENT WITH A GALLERY is bad for everyone, including the ignorant Gallery Owner:

1.)  SLOW GROWTH:  By not allowing the artist to grow by showing in other galleries in other cities, the collector base of the artist won’t grow

2.) THE MORE THE ART IS SHOWN, THE MORE VALUE IT GAINS:  By having a presence in other galleries, sales of the artists’ work would actually INCREASE in this Gallery, not decrease

3.) WEAKENS THE RELATIONSHIP:  The artist comes to realize that they are in a bad contract, and this harms the Gallery-Artist relationship – the Gallery eventually gets a bad reputation amongst other artists

4.) LOWERS VALUE OF THE ART:  Showing in only one gallery for 5 years can lower the value of the art in the mind of collectors (“you only show in one gallery?”) – Gives the appearance of a lack of interest in the work of the artist

THERE’S ONLY ONE REASON TO SIGN AN EXCLUSIVE AGREEMENT:  The Gallery is paying you a hell of a lot of money during the time period of the agreement.

What I mean is this:  Some agreements that are exclusive include a Guarantee that the artist is paid a minimum dollar amount every quarter, regardless of what sells.

Here’s an example of a Guarantee:  The contract states that the artist is paid $25,000 minimum every quarter, if their share of sales at that gallery chain falls below that amount.  If the sales go above it, than they get that higher amount.

And if you do sign an exclusive, be sure that the gallery is a chain that has locations in ALL of the major cities.  (This is not likely to find.)

My artist friend just missed out on a huge opportunity to grow her sales as an artist and to show in one of the top galleries on the East Coast.  All because she signed a very bad agreement.

Moral of this Story:  NEVER sign an exclusive agreement UNLESS they have a guarantee that pays you so much that you don’t care to show in other galleries.  But remember:  This can hurt your career in the long run as well, because once the agreement is over, then you start over again.

If the Gallery insists on some type of Exclusive:  I recommend giving a Gallery an exclusive in their own town only (so you can show in galleries elsewhere).  This way you are giving the gallery assurance that you won’t show across the street at their competitors, and at the same time are free to continue to grow your collector base in other areas.  And your galleries benefit from this as well.

ALSO:  Always include a “get-out” clause in ALL your contracts that state that if they don’t sell a certain dollar amount of your work, you have the option to cancel the contract.  (This way you aren’t tied to a contract that doesn’t make you any sales.)

I want you to be successful!  Read what you sign, only sign what you agree to, and remember that ALL contracts are negotiable.  Every single one of them.

Spunk BrophyMaria “Spunk” Brophy

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  • Heather
    Posted at 20:14h, 17 September

    great piece Maria. Good to know, I’ve heard about a few galleries like that and the artist’s are not getting paid and stuck. thanks for the info!

  • ronald arteaga
    Posted at 11:19h, 12 September

    Muchas gracias por los tip

  • ronald arteaga
    Posted at 11:17h, 12 September

    Hola les escribo desde venezuela…Y creo que cometi el mismo error pero yo me case con una surfboards factory llamada Kannibal surfboards desde hace mas de 10 años estoy trabajando para ellos y no e pintado para otras fabricas a pesar de que demandan mi trabajo… Me parece que el consejo a avierto mi mente hacia otras espectativas Admiro mucho el trabajo de drew y quiziera tener algo muy parecido aca en venezuela

  • nathan
    Posted at 17:27h, 09 September

    Interesting. I would be curious to know which gallery that is in the SOCAL area so I can avoid it. It is amazing how the surf art community gets treated since we are such a new genre of art. I have found that selling art on your own means you get 100% of the profits. For instance if I put it in the gallery, I either need to take half of my normal profit to keep the same price point, or I need to charge double to get the same profit. Some galleries are worth the exposure, but if they can’t guarantee some sales performance for a certain time, it isn’t worth it.

  • Patrick Parker
    Posted at 11:13h, 09 September

    Thanks Maria! I have currently been added to a gallery in Laguna (Drew is in the same relocated one), and this question might arise. Great insight on what could/will happen with agreements. 🙂

  • Ashleigh Dickins
    Posted at 20:06h, 07 September

    Great piece Maria! Definately something that should be kept in mind. And when it’s something so dear to you on the line and there’s a contract involved, for crying out loud have a lawyer look at it. So many people I know have saved so much trouble just by having a lawyer look at a contract they have that most people don’t bother and just sign. (biggest one is car purchases.) Of course, these people all have Pre-Paid Legal, but I feel eventually all of America will just like Europe does now. Retweeting this =)

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