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Archive 2013 · Running a Gallery
  
 
Stephen Elms
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Running a Gallery


Ok I know this is a very open ended question and there are a thousand different variables, but for those who have run a photography gallery, have you found it a worthwhile endeavor? I don't mean showcasing your work in an existing gallery, I mean opening your own gallery and running it as your business. I've had a very intriguing offer but I'm not sure if it is something I'm prepared to chew off as it would involve a whole career switch. I'm just looking for some general thoughts from anyone who has run something like this.

Thanks.



Sep 13, 2013 at 08:19 PM
shaunmlavery
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Running a Gallery


be prepared...good friend of mine did something similar and unless you have deep pockets or something else that is bringing in money, be prepared.

I say this with the utmost respect for both him and you. He did great and simply decided his family time and free time to pursue are was more important at his stage in his life. Now, where you are at, I have no idea esp. considering the "offer on the table." If it is nice, go for it! I had great times at his gallery with shows, lending a hand, meeting people, etc.

Best of luck!

p.s. His was built from scratch. If this is a stable place in the community already and making money...



Sep 14, 2013 at 12:08 AM
cineski
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Running a Gallery


What Shaun said. The world has changed and the image is not worth $ anymore to the consumer (and a gallery deals with consumers). I have a friend who owns a gallery in an uppity gallery town and he's barely scraping by. It's so sad. He can't even get people in the door with festivals going on. It used to be that wine would at least get you an audience but that's being cracked down on by the tyrants. And like all image based business, 1% of your time spent is dealing with those images. It's politics, schmoozing, stroking.


Sep 15, 2013 at 01:20 PM
Stephen Elms
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Running a Gallery


Thanks guys I appreciate your insights...such a big commitment!


Sep 15, 2013 at 09:20 PM
williamkazak
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Running a Gallery


I go to a local art gallery every thursday night for the acoustic music jam session and potluck. It has become a community of artists, musicians and their friends meeting in the gallery for some fun. A five dollar admission charge keeps the lights on. This gallery always shows oil paintings, sculpture and photography. There are regular art opening shows as well. Some of us bring our cameras and practice our act on the performers and each other. We post to Facebook and PR the place so that everyone knows what shows are coming and they can see what they missed if they were not there. The musicians play for free and are happy to play for a receptive audience and try new material.


Sep 16, 2013 at 05:05 PM
cineski
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Running a Gallery


While this sounds like an amazing time, in the grand scheme of things this is not the way to run a profitable gallery. Most artists are not going to be buying gallery art.

williamkazak wrote:
I go to a local art gallery every thursday night for the acoustic music jam session and potluck. It has become a community of artists, musicians and their friends meeting in the gallery for some fun. A five dollar admission charge keeps the lights on. This gallery always shows oil paintings, sculpture and photography. There are regular art opening shows as well. Some of us bring our cameras and practice our act on the performers and each other. We post to Facebook and PR the place so that everyone knows what shows are coming and they can see what they
...Show more



Sep 16, 2013 at 09:52 PM
 

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RustyBug
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Running a Gallery


Artist's helping artists is cool indeed ... but does it attract open wallets with discretionary income or project value or close sales?

Somehow the idea of a "potluck" and jam session gallery that runs as a self-sustaining, profitable enterprise doesn't quite gel from what I've seen. We've got one similar to that in my area, but it is being funded through a grant till it becomes self-sustaining ... I don't think it's gonna make it. Plenty of activity and smiles on event nights, but that activity doesn't translate into much in the way of $$$.

The artist mecca vibe just seems to attract more starving artists competing for the same $$$ with no way of really drawing in a discretionary income demographic ... i.e. how do you attract your target market?

Field of Dreams @ "If you build it ..." often times resonates within us. But I'm inclined to think that unless you have a plan for bringing them in, they won't come. And once they do come, will they buy unless you can sell or have something truly spectacular. I mean, even Ansel Adams has to work at perpetual promotion.

I'm inclined to think that the core of running a successful gallery is marketing and salesmanship. Without those in play, I fear it to become a self-funded exhibit rather than a successful business. Wishing all the best, but still looking at crack the code to putting other people's money into your wallet.



Sep 16, 2013 at 11:43 PM
Paul Mo
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Running a Gallery


Setting up in a town or city with known collectors is almost essential, but if there are existing collectors there's likely already a gallery catering to them.

Collectors are who you need to both seduce with your ambience, and respect deeply for their being.

Most of the revenue I have seen through photo galleries has come from shadowy, very private collectors who are supporting and following the career arcs of talented emerging and existing artists - buying their Polaroid transfers, ambrotypes and the like.

A lesser amount of sales comes from cheaper works bought by 'randoms'.



Sep 17, 2013 at 03:50 AM
Paul Mo
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Running a Gallery


cineski wrote:
Most artists are not going to be buying gallery art.


True. We trade with one another. We seldom buy.



Sep 17, 2013 at 03:51 AM
Daniel Smith
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Running a Gallery


Having had two galleries in past years, if you want to try it then do so.

IF..., you don't mind sitting around waiting for people to show up. Unless you are doing studio work in the back or custom framing you will spend most of your time waiting for folks to walk in the door.

Many 'look' with their fingers so you need to be ready with cleaning supplies and towels. Some decide to straighten the pictures on the wall - you have to watch for this so they don't drop a print. Little kids are not supervised by parents too often and get into mischief.

Then, will you show figure and nude work? Anything graphic that might offend some in the community? It can cause problems.

Will you have school groups coming through? This can be a good way to get to parents with money to spend. Working with local schools to visit art shows can be a good way to increase traffic and expose the work to those you want to come back. Showing the images of local school kids and groups brings in many who would otherwise never set foot in a gallery.

How do you deal with the bums, homeless and wino types?

Small works that can 'walk off' can cause problems - so insurance covering exhibits has to be upfront with all those who put work in the gallery. WRITTEN contracts area must. You have to specify drop off and pick up times and hold to them. As soon as you get sloppy you start getting problems here. How do you handle sales - AFTER the showing? Folks who saw the image on your walls, contact the artist and wait til later to buy it so they can get a deal and avoid paying your commission? If you can't figure out how to handle this you will lose too many sales - but at times they may well be customers you are better off without.

Contests bring in a lot of folks. Recurring contests with a particular theme over a few years get known and garner visitors and entries both. A small fee for entry helps defray costs - and can help pay an outside juror who adds a bit of interest to them at times. Doing something highlighting local happenings or locations, in conjunction with the Chamber/schools/business/government can pay big dividends. Any kind of community involvement can mean more visitors and more sales.

One major help is a good mailing list. Well designed mailers, postcards and the like going out to clients, friends of the artists and other galleries and associations can pay off. Make sure they are well designed, clean and feature your logo/location prominently. If you can make them consistent so they are recognized as coming from your gallery every time they go out it will pay in the long term.

Good luck - it is a lot of work, long hours and often low sales.



Oct 16, 2013 at 05:09 PM
Stephen Elms
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Running a Gallery


Excellent insight Daniel thanks very much for taking the time to give your input...much appreciated!


Oct 16, 2013 at 05:25 PM





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