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Straight Talk: An Advice Column for Artists & Collectors

Illustration: Jenny Munoz

Welcome to Straight Talk: An Advice Column for Artists & Collectors, where we don’t beat around the bush and rather deliver insights with clarity—because, let's face it, the art world could use a bit more transparency. 

In this month's installment, we delve into the intricacies of the art world, exploring dilemmas faced by emerging artists and a collector alike. From navigating the ethical landscape of gallery representation to grappling with the persona of artists behind the canvas, our advice column seeks to illuminate the path toward informed decisions and authentic artistic expression. Join us as we address the following three questions—perhaps you'll find the answers resonate with you.

Have a burning question you'd like to see answered next month? Contact us here to share your query!


Question No. 1:

Dear Straight Talk,

I'm an emerging artist, and recently, multiple galleries have approached me to exhibit my work. However, I'm puzzled because many of them are asking for a substantial fee for me to showcase my art. This seems counterintuitive to me—why would galleries charge artists to exhibit? It feels like they're making money from artists rather than selling artwork to collectors. Is this a common practice, and what's the incentive for galleries to charge artists in the first place? It feels like a bit of a scam, and I'm hesitant to participate.


Perplexed Artist

Dear Perplexed Artist,

Let's address the elephant in the room: galleries that charge artists to exhibit are not genuine galleries set to champion artists. They're more akin to a pyramid scheme, where their business model relies on artists paying them to exhibit rather than earning from selling the art they showcase. It's a major red flag, and I strongly advise steering clear of such "galleries."

In the realm of authentic art representation, galleries with a healthy business model thrive on selling artwork to collectors. This symbiotic relationship is the lifeblood of the art world. If a gallery heavily depends on artists' exhibition fees, it raises serious doubts about their commitment to promoting and selling art.

A reputable gallery should be a partner in your artistic journey, not an entity that preys on the dreams and contributions of artists. As you sift through opportunities, prioritize galleries that uphold integrity, champion artists, and demonstrate a genuine commitment to promoting their work through meaningful exposure.

Trust your instincts, dear artist, and choose partners who share your unwavering dedication to the art itself, not just the financial contributions of artists.

Best regards,

Straight Talk


Question No. 2:

Dear Straight Talk,

I recently purchased an artwork from an artist whose work I admired for a long time. However, upon meeting the artist in person at a private viewing, I found their personality to be quite arrogant, leaving a bad taste in my mouth. How do I separate the art from the artist? Is it frowned upon to sell the piece I bought, even though I've only had it for a year?


Conflicted Collector

Dear Conflicted Collector,

Navigating the relationship between an artist's personality and their artwork can sometimes be challenging. Ideally, one should appreciate art on its intrinsic merits, independent of the artist's persona. If the artwork still holds value to you despite the artist's behavior, consider separating the two mentally. However, if the association continues to bother you, selling the piece is a personal decision and not frowned upon. That said, I would recommend waiting longer than a year before considering reselling it. Even though your reasons are valid, you do not want to be labeled an "art flipper" in the art world.

Art flipping: The practice characterized by the swift and financially advantageous resale of an undervalued artwork.

Remember, every acquisition is a testament to your taste and values. Each piece purchased is a testament to the artists you wish to champion. I strongly believe that every artwork acquired is a vote cast for the artists you wish to see etched into history. If an artist's persona doesn't resonate with you, why endorse their place in the annals of art history? Instead, consider selling the piece and reinvesting in art that aligns more closely with your sensibilities.

Wishing you clarity and resonance in your collecting endeavors.

Warm regards,

Straight Talk


Question No. 3:

Dear Straight Talk,

I'm a self-taught artist who has been creating and selling art online for a while. Lately, I've been approached by a gallery interested in representing my work. While the exposure is tempting, I'm worried about the gallery taking a significant commission. How do I decide if joining the gallery is the right move for my career?


Ambitious Self-taught Artist

Dear Ambitious Self-taught Artist,

Congratulations on attracting attention from a gallery—it's indeed a significant milestone in your artistic journey. As you navigate this opportunity, it's crucial to clarify your main artistic goals. In today's digital age, platforms like Instagram offer artists direct access to collectors, enabling independent success without traditional gallery representation.

When considering collaboration with a gallery, approach it with the discernment akin to dating—take the time to understand the individuals behind the gallery and their ethos. Remember, the industry-standard typically involves a 50/50 commission split, reflecting a symbiotic partnership where the gallery handles marketing, sales, curation, and logistics while you focus on your craft.

Evaluate the potential benefits of gallery representation, including increased exposure and institutional connections, against the autonomy and control you currently enjoy. Assess the financial implications, including commissions and any associated expenses, with careful consideration. Open communication with the gallery regarding expectations and contractual terms is paramount.

Ultimately, trust your instincts and prioritize alignment with your artistic vision and long-term aspirations. If your current approach is yielding satisfactory results, there's no imperative to alter course. As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Wishing you clarity and success in your decision-making process.


Straight Talk


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