Monday, July 6, 2009

Beware the Galleries who hang ALL work submitted!

Some galleries play on the desperation of artists to have their work seen. Whilst its a good idea to get your work out to the public as often as you can, we need to be careful (and sometimes skeptical) about what it is that the gallery is offering.

I recently entered a widely publicised competition that promised that all works would be hung in return for a small (ish) entry fee (about $60 for three works, more per work for less). I only entered because I could tell my Melbourne mailing list where to find my work, keep a presence in a newly formed relationship with that state, and therefore, have an excuse to keep in contact with them as I only recently collected their names.

Artists were to pay the fee, pay for delivery and pick up, apply a commission to sales (so far, normal), the gallery would advertise and a prize would be awarded. However, once entered, a call came from the gallery to provide my mailing list, so they could include my database in their mail-out advertising the show (not supplied - but how many artists did?). They then asked for volunteers to hang the show (so no labour cost to the gallery). They got thousands of entries, so Lord knows what it looked like when hung, especially using untrained volunteers. The show was duly won by a worthy artist and works continued on the wall for just two weeks. Yep - that's right, only two weeks. The next art prize starts after that - so far, another three have been advertised.

I figure the gallery made a minimum of $44,000 plus commissions on sales in that two weeks.

In the meant time, I received emails asking for my return address if the paintings were unsold (already supplied, but supplied again); emails advising the winners (only their work was put up on the website) and emails asking me to forward an invitation to my database, emails advising up coming competitions and shows. The exhibition ended.

Then I got an email saying they "thought" they had never received my entry!!! The time lapse between sending the entries (much earlier than the cut off date) and the time I was advised was approximately 6 weeks.

I had emailed them the day before mailing the paintings to say I would enter and the cheque was with the work, so that they might keep an eye out for the parcel. They obviuosly got that email, evidenced by the flood of emails following. Why didn't they follow up about receipt? Beacuse they said, they received thousands of entries within the space of days...but my work was sent early.
If they couldn't process the works and entry forms and cheques properly, how come they could process one email telling them my work would arrive and use it for all subsequent email contact (including asking for my database)?

My work (three of them) was valued at $1800 but it seems I have no recourse or way to check their story, as the post was unregistered and the cheque has indeed not been presented.

So now I have a situation in which my (new) database was told about paintings in an exhibition that I didn't show (and I exposed them to other people's work), I was never up for the prize, could never expect a sale, and the delay in notifying me means I will probably not retrieve the lost paintings. The gallery admitted to inadequate process, but does that help me? They pocket $44, 000 plus commission on sales, gain the extended database of the participants, have no extra costs (delivery, staffing etc) and hang work to look like a "bad fete" and get paid handsomely for it.Do they have an incentive to get their processes in order?? I think not.

So if you care how your work looks when exhibited, and more importantly, that you can trust that work will be exhibited when sent (or that you will be told that it wasn't received), catalogued for the price list, sold and paid for, and not "lost" (possibly to volunteers because slack security was exercised) don't bother entering these shows.
Have you got a horror story? Post yours here


  1. I entered a Melbourne show recently that sounds alarmingly similar. I haven't recieved my works back yet (COD) so we shall see if I have a similar experience as you. Wish me luck!

  2. Thanks for yet another informative post, btw. You have a really great blog here.

  3. Thanks a lot! ....Let your friends know!



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