Now that you’ve done the leg work, researched the gallery and gotten an appointment to present your work as I discussed in Part One of Approaching a Gallery article, what are the important things that you need to discuss at your meeting and what should you bring?
The most important thing of course is to bring your work that you wish to sell. If the gallery has requested specific items, make sure to bring in a good selection. You need to have at least five to seven of each item to make a nice display. You can also bring more with you and leave it in your car. Then if you are asked for more pieces, you will have them readily available. You should have an inventory sheet listing all of the items, how many of each you will leave with the gallery and the retail price of each item.
Each of your items should have a hang tag that tells your story but it should not have any of your contact information on the tag. Galleries do not want customers reading the tag and then trying to contact you directly. The tag should have room for pricing but you’ll need to work with the gallery on whether you should price the items or whether the gallery will price the work. Bring a few extra hang tags just in case one gets lost. Also bring business cards and any other information cards that need to go with your products.
If your items need to be displayed in a certain manner to sell well, you might consider bringing a display rack that the gallery will use to show your work. Again, you will need to discuss this with them but many galleries will appreciate the offer. Think about ways to make it easier for the gallery to sell your products. Do you have signage that will help sell your work? Bring that along and see if they want to use your signage. Some galleries will make all their own signage but many don’t.
Bring any other written information that you have such as an artist statement, brochures, postcards or resume. You may not need any of these items but it will be useful to have them in case the gallery does want the information. You might also check to see if they need any digital photos for adding to their website. You can bring those on a CD or offer to e-mail them to the gallery after the meeting. You should also bring your own consignment form just in case the gallery doesn’t have one. Most will but if they don’t, bring your own already filled out and ready to sign. If they won’t sign it, I would not put my work in that gallery. You have will have little recourse at all to get your work back if you don’t have a signed agreement. You can find consignment agreements online. Here is one I found at Law For Art.
Once you’ve shown your work and the gallery has decided to take all or a portion of your items, you need to ask questions about how they handle consignment. What is the percentage that the gallery takes? When do they pay for items that have sold? The standard is to pay for items sold in the following first week of the month. So if your items were sold in June, then you should be paid no later than end of the first week in July. What happens if a customer damages an item or if one of your pieces is stolen? The gallery should be responsible for any damage or shoplifting and should pay you the amount that would have been due if the item was sold. All this information should be in the consignment agreement. Take the time to read it and make sure you understand it before you sign.
Where in the store will your work be displayed? If items sell, how often do they want you to bring in new work? Check to see if it is OK to come in periodically to rearrange or switch out work that isn’t selling with other pieces. I think it is important to stay in contact with the gallery. If you live nearby, check in occasionally to see how your work is selling. Get to know the gallery staff. The more they know about you and your work, the better they will be at selling it. Developing a good relation with the gallery is key to selling more of your work.
Ann had asked about why a gallery/store takes your work on consignment versus buying it wholesale. Some galleries only take work on consignment. Others do both. Many times it is in the way you approach the gallery. If you are tentative and don’t specifically say that you sell on a wholesale basis, the gallery will often tell you that they will take your work on consignment. This is less of a risk to the gallery because if the work doesn’t sell, they can give it back to you without any investment lost. If you want to sell you work on a wholesale basis, then your approach to the gallery should be made in a professional wholesale manner. You should contact them and give them information about your work with a wholesale price list and make it clear that you want to sell your work to them wholesale. If the artist tells me that they only sell their work wholesale and I want their work, I will buy it wholesale. If I am not sure that the work will sell well, I will either not order it or I will offer to carry it on a consignment basis.
I would love to hear any of your experiences in approaching a gallery and if you have any questions, I’d love to find an answer for you. Also, if you have any specific topics you would like to hear about in future Marketplace Mondays, let me know.