Lisa asked in comment form:
How do you know that your gallery is selling your work at the right retail price-do you ask for copies of invoices or bill of sales and do they give them? Also-do any of you deal with the 20% discount that you are asked to absorb with the dealer-? In my case when i suggest he absorbs the extra ten -I get flack and back down because so much work is sold yet most galleries just do the occasional 10%. I appreciate any input. I am in NJ dealing with people in TX, Atlanta on blind faith -not to mention locally Thanks, Lisa
Lisa... 'Blind Faith' is part of the deal, I'm afraid. I think our best ally is the Internet, talk with other artists on their roster... including those who are no longer WITH that gallery. Google will give you names of those who have them on their web resumes as having had shows there.
I just answered a query from someone asking about my experience with the gallery I recently left... she gave no hint that she knew I'd left or had written a recent blog entry about it... she just knew I had an association with them and wondered if I had the same concern about sporadic payments. If more of us checked in with each other, we'd at least know who to avoid and who respects their artists. Another reader commented that she was preparing to approach that same gallery but not after reading about my experience.
Too many of us are like me and avoid confrontation at all costs. As I loaded my van, I was asked, "was it something we said or did?" and I just said "I just need to cut back." She said she understood, lots of cutting back going on these days. NOW, WHY DIDN'T I TELL HER I WAS LEAVING BECAUSE THEY WEREN'T PAYING WITHIN THE 30 DAY AGREEMENT? Sorry for shouting... I get so mad at myself!
So when I got an enthusiastic invite to join a North Carolina gallery... I checked their roster, found a name I recognized from a former mutual gallery and contacted her... as I've also written about. She could not have been more positive about this gallery, especially regarding payment... so we'll be hauling paintings to Charlotte soon, confident that I'll not have to deal with bottom line issues.
Back to your question about discounts... I left my Santa Fe gallery because discounts were often up to 25%... six months in stock meant an old painting to them and qualified for shoving it out the door at any price. My contract... the inventory copy they sign when I deliver work, states 10% discount may be shared with the gallery. I have two galleries that will call me and ask permission for a deeper discount for particular reasons... and I nearly always say yes because they know better than I what a good reason is. It's not a habitual thing so I feel it's good business to go along.
I don't ask for particular receipts or invoices... I'd be glad if some would just make good notes with their check payment... a post-it note of 'thanks' or 'on account' is all I get in the case of one gallery... I must remember to copy whatever info is scrawled on the check... a great gallery, a fine person, instant payments... but handwriting from h*ll! I wouldn't trade her for three in NYC!
Another gallery has, from time to time, marked my work up in order to mark it down at sale time... I know this for sure because I would sometimes get checks for more than my 50% when they didn't need to mark it down... so they weren't keeping the extra themselves... I got half of whatever the selling price was. But over the fifteen years I've been with them, I've never had reason to feel I was being taken advantage of... I've always been able to talk out any perceived problems.
So, Lisa... guess I got a bit wordy in my answer, but as you already are aware, no two galleries are alike, terrific personalities don't mean anything when it comes to the bottom line... I once privately referred to the owners of a particular gallery as "the bitches of (unnamed city)" but they've always treated me with respect and are now like family! Go figure!