In the last few weeks, I’ve received numerous emails from vanity galleries. These predators want artists to pay to display art. As a result, the venue lacks no motivation to sell, destroys an artist’s reputation and sucks bank accounts dry. “Vanities” are getting so aggressive that I’m receiving phone calls from shady salespeople that showcase dishonest interest.
Has this economy created this new breed of predators? This isn’t a new practice, just an improved slimy one. With Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other new social media sites, vanities can “friend” you. Preying on financially challenged artists makes me sick.
The emails usually begin with “Dear Artist, I saw your art at _______ or in ______. After reviewing it, we would like to discuss an opportunity with you.” I’ve been sending out portfolios to venues for over 10 years and opportunities 99.999% NEVER result in this manner. If it’s too good to be true, it is.
Recently, a New York “gallery” expressed interest in exhibiting my art. Let’s call them Delusional Art Gallery. DAG has worked with “amazing” clients, critics, and curators. They would pay for all expenses related to the exhibition space but artists would have to “…select from basic marketing options they can afford, such as an exhibition catalog at just $15 per book.” Curious to see how much the “marketing options” would be, I sent an email requesting the information. The fee would be $4000 for a total of four marketing options and the artist is responsible for picking at least two.
As a result, I emailed DAG stating opposition to any gallery fees. DAG’s response: “We do not suggest that you pay to exhibit. Again, the gallery covers expenses related to its space, infrastructure, cards and an opening reception. Artists choose marketing options they can afford to promote their exhibition and sales of their work in the competitive New York market. This formula is common in many galleries of Manhattan where, as you may know, rent and other expenses are higher than anywhere in the US.”
My response: “I’m curious, do you exhibit artists that don’t pay any of the PR fees? or is it part of the contract? Yes, it’s expensive to run a business like an art gallery in a large urban area. I truly understand! For example, one 5 x 7 foot custom wood panel costs $900. Also, shipping prices have gone up considerably. Currently, I have an exhibit in the Washington DC area and the custom crates and shipping cost $2200. It’s all part of the cost of doing business! To be honest, I’ve shown all over the US and have never had to pay the PR fees.”
DAG replied saying that I don’t have to pay for PR. However, that I may select any combination of the “affordable” marketing options. If an artist picked zero of the PR (I’m sorry…marketing) choices, would they get an exhibit at DAG? No.
This is just lipstick on a pig. A vanity gallery is just vanity and not the real deal.