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Photographer
Herman Surkis
Posts: 8,299
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


One of the community arts councils manages a small gallery in a large rec. centre.
It gets some traffic as it is open the same times as the rec. centre.
It is slightly out of the way if you live in central Victoria.

So I applied for a 2 week show.
Costs $350 and they take 20% of sales. And it is one of the better deals in town, unless you are good enough to be invited to exhibit.
Should mention that one of the local small art galleries that used to have photo exhibits has just closed due to lack of business.
6 years ago a photo art gallery closed.
This is pretty much a vanity show, since I am totally a hobbyist. So I am just trying to show off my work, not trying to bring in business.
The plans were to have a killer opening, with some of the subjects in attendance and possibly performing (and yes it does work, did it years ago with an exhibit of dance and music photography). These would be, models, dancers and various animals.

Not sure now as to why I would want to spend $350 to have an exhibit, just to show off some of my work? And this is not even factoring in the cost of setting up, and the opening.
This is Victoria nothing will sell. Or at least not enough to even cover the cost of the opening.
And few will come and look at the work. The gallery is not manned, so they really do not know the numbers that enter. (it is watched over by the staff at the rec. centre)
And I already have $300 earmarked for a piece of gear, a new Camranger.
And as my accountant pointed out, I do not have money to throw around.

And despite it looks like I have my mind made up, nothing is certain till I drop the hammer. Have to release the date next April, or fully commit. If money were not an issue, then I would likely do it, despite all the hard work entailed.

Remember, this is pretty much a vanity show. And some of my work does sell. Sometimes. But not enough, not in this city.

Any thoughts? What would you do under similar circumstances?
If this were Seattle or Vancouver, I would go ahead, but here...
Sep 11 13 02:28 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
David Parsons
Posts: 972
Quincy, Massachusetts, US


You sound like you don't want to do it.  I give you permission not to do it.
Sep 11 13 02:35 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Ali Choudhry Photo
Posts: 176
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


David Parsons wrote:
You sound like you don't want to do it.  I give you permission not to do it.

Sep 11 13 02:52 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
L Raye
Posts: 4,992
Petaluma, California, US


Figure out the math -

How much is it going to cost to frame all of the pieces?

Are you going to have food / drink?  How much will that be?  (I have found that having wine at an opening helps people to want to buy your work).

What are your other costs?

Total up all of that and then figure out how many pieces you'll have to sell to at least break even.

But if you don't really want to, then pass on the opportunity.  But remember, no one will buy your work if it is sitting in your closet.

Hope this helps.
Sep 11 13 02:53 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Marin Photography NYC
Posts: 6,811
New York, New York, US


Your accountant said you don't have money to throw around.

Listen to your accountant.
Sep 11 13 03:01 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
eos3_300
Posts: 1,458
Brooklyn, New York, US


Pass on Camranger
whatever that is
Sep 11 13 03:14 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Untitled Photographer
Posts: 1,179
Dallas, Texas, US


Can you find a hip coffee shop instead? Where you would not be charged and could do the vanity thing and possible make a sale or two?
Sep 11 13 03:53 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Robert Randall
Posts: 13,842
Chicago, Illinois, US


.


Edit... I didn't say anything disparaging, it's just that the rules in here have changed to the point that I worry I may break them inadvertently.
Sep 11 13 04:36 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Toto Photo
Posts: 2,428
Belmont, California, US


The gallery you describe reminds me of what they refer to in the publishing world as a vanity press. I can imagine some people who've self published books and not sold many as yet being very happy they went through the whole self-publishing ritual. I can imagine some who did it and afterwards thought it was a complete waste of time and money. If you are going into it as you've said knowing nobody will buy then at least you are going in with eyes wide open.

It could be an incredibly focusing and even a transformative experience, especially if you go into it with the expectation that it will be. If you can't think of ways to come up with an extra amount of money equivalent to what you will be spending to put on the exhibition by next April, you're probably too poor to be partaking of such experiments and not sufficiently motivated to succeed at a very high level.
Sep 11 13 04:53 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
MMDesign
Posts: 18,647
Louisville, Kentucky, US


If you want to pay to have an exhibit, then do it. Life's too short to worry about all the pretentious baggage that goes along with it.
Sep 11 13 05:50 pm  Link  Quote 
Artist/Painter
sdgillis
Posts: 2,422
Portland, Oregon, US


Those small fees for memberships can add up.  Imagine being member at a dozen places with similar fees. 20% is good, but 20% of nothing is still nothing if no one walks through the door.  That pretty much leaves you to self-promotion.

In the end you can add it to your CV, and if they have judging and you win you can add that as well.
Sep 11 13 06:10 pm  Link  Quote 
Clothing Designer
GRMACK
Posts: 1,668
Bakersfield, California, US


Hard to say if it would be worth it until all is said and done.  Could be a gamble.  Maybe it will work out.

Went to one showing where a woman photographer had lots of her nude photo art work up and framed, maybe 30-40 pieces framed.  She sold one for $450 in her two week show.  For what she spent in framing them all, probably not worth it other than to say she sold some (one).  We were the only ones in there that entire evening as we were also shooting at a studio next door and she came over to visit out of boredom.  I know my framer told me that "Photographers were lucky that they could just sell the print like a poster, unlike painters that need stretcher bars or some sort of frame which drives up their cost."

I often wonder if those guys in the little booths at art walks and local community things like car shows, etc. do any better business than a gallery showing?  They definitely get more foot traffic than a gallery  I heard Carmel, CA has something like 80 galleries and maybe as many as 120 a few years back before the recession.  I thought of going into framing once and found they only had one Aaron Brothers in a Monterey Del Norte Mall so maybe they are all doing their own framing to cut costs?

Our town started to have a small downtown art walk first Friday of each month.  A lot of small work is sold like jewelry, soaps, floral displays, glass work, candles, etc.  Larger print/paint galleries have the wine and cheese hosts.  Don't know how much of the upper-tier painting stuff is sold if any.  The photo one seems sort of dead though and the guys spend a lot on their color printing handouts for their shows too.

Good luck and best wishes on your showing if you go there.
Sep 11 13 06:31 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Zack Zoll
Posts: 2,274
Glens Falls, New York, US


Depending on the foot traffic, and how many people buy at this gallery, it could be a good deal.  Some galleries have the sort of clientele that is very ready to buy; others have a lot of lookers, even if there's more foot traffic.

Paying to have a show is very common.  Taking a 20% cut is actually very low for most places.  A cut of 30% is more common in smaller areas, and you might pay 40-50% in a larger venue.  So the numbers you're looking at may actually be pretty good.

You should think about what you want to show.  Is there a lot of space to fill?  How big are your pictures?  Do they need to be framed?  Would you want them framed for other potential shows in the future?  Do you have somewhere to store all the framed pictures until then?  Do you already have some work framed - or at least some other frames you could cannibalize?

If you work fairly large(at least 16x20), you can hang your work with clips, instead of framing.  Technically you can do that at any size, but I think the images need to be fairly large for it to look good.  My 40x50s are all hung with bulldog clips.  It'd cost me some $600 to mount and frame those, and then I'd need to figure out where to keep them, and rent a U-Haul to cart them around.  This way, the clips are cheap, and when the show is over I roll them up and put them back in their PVC tubes.

I'd measure the space, and do a test on a wall at home.  If the wall is 1/6th the space you have for instance, get some frames and make that one wall look really good.  You'll have a use for a few frames eventually anyway, so just take the plunge.  Once you're happy with that, figure spending six times that(or whatever the number is) on the rest of the show.  How does that sit with you?

Until you have a better idea of what it will cost, it's hard to say whether its a good move or not.

Also, try Dick Blick for frames.  If you buy a full case(usually 4-6), their own brand frames are very cheap.  They're actually Bainbridge, rebranded, so they're pretty solid.  Just be sure to get the real wood ones, and not the particle board ones; the price difference is fairly small, and the real wood ones can be repainted if they're damaged.  If a particle board frame is damaged, it tends to lose chunks, and be otherwise unfixable.
Sep 12 13 05:56 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
hbutz New York
Posts: 3,147
New York, New York, US


Do not think about the math.  The cost is trivial for an exhibition.  Assume you won't sell anything.  Very few gallery shows are done expecting a profit e.g. high-end art galleries in Manhattan.

What an exhibit accomplishes is exposure, building up a customer base, getting your name and images known, building your resume, gathering feedback from the public, handing out business cards, etc.  Most sales are done after the exhibit is over.
Sep 12 13 09:07 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Kent Art Photography
Posts: 2,658
Ashford, England, United Kingdom


You say it's not a promising market, and you don't hold out much hope of making any sales.  Not good.

But you might sell something.  You might get some commissions.  You might get your name out there, too, and then there's the kudos of being able to say you're an exhibited photographer.

It will cost you a lot of money - probably best to think of a number and double it - and only you can decide if it will be worth it.

Accountants, by the way, never want you to spend any money.  Except on them, of course.
Sep 12 13 09:29 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
MC Photo
Posts: 4,144
New York, New York, US


Herman Surkis wrote:
One of the community arts councils manages a small gallery in a large rec. centre.
It gets some traffic as it is open the same times as the rec. centre.
It is slightly out of the way if you live in central Victoria.

So I applied for a 2 week show.
Costs $350 and they take 20% of sales. And it is one of the better deals in town, unless you are good enough to be invited to exhibit.
Should mention that one of the local small art galleries that used to have photo exhibits has just closed due to lack of business.
6 years ago a photo art gallery closed.
This is pretty much a vanity show, since I am totally a hobbyist. So I am just trying to show off my work, not trying to bring in business.
The plans were to have a killer opening, with some of the subjects in attendance and possibly performing (and yes it does work, did it years ago with an exhibit of dance and music photography). These would be, models, dancers and various animals.

Not sure now as to why I would want to spend $350 to have an exhibit, just to show off some of my work? And this is not even factoring in the cost of setting up, and the opening.
This is Victoria nothing will sell. Or at least not enough to even cover the cost of the opening.
And few will come and look at the work. The gallery is not manned, so they really do not know the numbers that enter. (it is watched over by the staff at the rec. centre)
And I already have $300 earmarked for a piece of gear, a new Camranger.
And as my accountant pointed out, I do not have money to throw around.

And despite it looks like I have my mind made up, nothing is certain till I drop the hammer. Have to release the date next April, or fully commit. If money were not an issue, then I would likely do it, despite all the hard work entailed.

Remember, this is pretty much a vanity show. And some of my work does sell. Sometimes. But not enough, not in this city.

Any thoughts? What would you do under similar circumstances?
If this were Seattle or Vancouver, I would go ahead, but here...

If the exhibit is a big success, it would be surprising if you didn't get at least a $350 job out of it.

Another thing to consider is that it might be easier to sell five $1,000 photos than 50 $100 photos. You also might not be able to sell any of those $1,000 photos at the $350-for-two-weeks gallery and you might not get in to the $1,000-per-photo-gallery until you've done ten shows at the $350 one. So it may take spending more than $350 to either sell or turn a profit.


Think of the gallery show as a live, in-person TV advertisement for you and your work and the cumulative effect is what's going to get you what you want.

Sep 12 13 06:55 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
MC Photo
Posts: 4,144
New York, New York, US


hbutz New York wrote:
Do not think about the math.  The cost is trivial for an exhibition.  Assume you won't sell anything.  Very few gallery shows are done expecting a profit e.g. high-end art galleries in Manhattan.

What an exhibit accomplishes is exposure, building up a customer base, getting your name and images known, building your resume, gathering feedback from the public, handing out business cards, etc.  Most sales are done after the exhibit is over.

+1

Sep 12 13 06:58 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Herman Surkis
Posts: 8,299
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


It seems to be 3 to 2 for taking a pass.
Up until recently I have had a solo exhibit for years, starting with coffee shops and then a couple of small galleries.

Afterwards I have over the years organized, or been part of several major multi-artist exhibits. But have moved away from any of that since at the last exhibit, out of 5 artists I was the only to sell anything, and my profit covered my cost for the food for the opening. In the last 2 years I have not even bothered to participate, even when invited, and certainly at none of the camera club exhibits.

At this current small gallery 60 16x20 framed images would work comfortably.

However, let me throw out this idea and see how it flies.

What if I set up a special gallery on my own website. Prepared 60 images, gave them digital mats and frames, kept the same concept, and then emailed every body to come and view. A digital gallery, without the material costs and without the opening costs.

I know not much different then having a section on my own website, but with the invites to a special grouping on a web site...
A little different.
Same amount of work shooting the images, but lower actual costs. Although I was looking forward to the opening being a neat party.

Hmmm...
Sep 12 13 10:50 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
SoCo n Lime
Posts: 3,283
Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom


if you have sellable images then go for it

when i say sellable i mean your better choosing work that people would be happy with on their wall which doesn't always match with the pictures you maybe more inclined to show straight of the bat.. seen as you put more time or effort into certain ones (favorites etc)

if the curator or owners of the place are trustworthy in that you know them on first name terms or they seem open and approachable and seem to know what they are talking about then you can approach them asking for information and trying to draw out advice from them on what kind of pictures tend to sell better with their customers from their past experiences etc.. even ask them to help you with curating (going through your work to exhibit) but remember its also in their interest to get the fee off of you, as thats the easy money for them.. so .. make a judgement call on the owners and how they talk things over with you

if they are sheepish , not forth coming with straight and quick answers or they are giving you a sales pitch and over confident then be rest assured your wasting your time so put your $300 into a savings account for a rainy day or you might aswel just throw the money away never mind the time and effort spent on it.
Sep 13 13 04:04 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Zack Zoll
Posts: 2,274
Glens Falls, New York, US


Herman, I do recommend making a "web gallery" of your intended exhibition.  But that generally isn't a replacement for a physical show.  Then again, sometimes it is.

If your intention is to sell yourself as a photographer, or to show off what you've done, then the website works every bit as well as a physical gallery show.  Also, you may have work that looks the same on the screen as it does printed ... in which case, you're not losing much, and you're saving a lot of money.  You could also very easily bring all those photos into Blurb, and offer a catalog of the "show" as a print-to-order book.  There are many people that would be interested in a book, but wouldn't want to shell out for a print.

If you want to sell or show the images as individual pieces of art, then a website is not a good substitute for a show.  There is a lot of work that looks completely different on the wall than on the monitor, and at 16x20 or larger, the viewing experience is guaranteed to be different.  But that also depends on how good your printing is ... if you're going to knock out 60 16x20s just to have them, it's unlikely that the print quality will be good enough that you'll get anything special from seeing them in person.  But if you're going to print, tweak levels and colours, and print again until its flawless, then that level of care and quality won't be visible online.

Have you thought about doing fewer, larger images, and leaving more space between them?  Just because you can fit 60 images in there doesn't mean that you need to.
Sep 13 13 06:27 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Drew Smith Photography
Posts: 5,209
Nottingham, England, United Kingdom


Do it!

It'll be fun won't it?

Some part of you obviously wants to do it so go ahead.

You never know what might come from it. Directly or indirectly.
Sep 13 13 06:40 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
O Team Photography
Posts: 40
Duncan, British Columbia, Canada


It is obvious most posters have no idea how bad the art market is on Vancouver Island.
We have watched seven galleries from Mill bay to Nanaimo close due to lack of business in the last four years.  Spending that amount of money with absolutely lousy return prospects is akin to suicide.
Sep 13 13 07:27 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Abbitt Photography
Posts: 11,371
Oakland Acres, Iowa, US


I sold some work through a few local galleries.   The local market is such that any profit was fairly small.  I sold about 20 pieces reasonably quickly, but then things slowed down very quickly.  Given beat up and unsold inventory, I didn't make much in the end.

So, consider the cost of matting, and framing and whether or not never recouping some of that is worth it to you.    You probably know your market and your personal valuation of publicly displaying your work better than anyone here does.

Another thing that I never considered were special requests - someone likes an 11X14, but wants the same thing in an 8X10.  To me that was a big headache for little return.


I'd also add, if getting people to see your art is your goal, there may be other ways.  There are some restaurants where I live that do that for example.
Sep 13 13 07:34 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Zack Zoll
Posts: 2,274
Glens Falls, New York, US


O Team Photography wrote:
It is obvious most posters have no idea how bad the art market is on Vancouver Island.
We have watched seven galleries from Mill bay to Nanaimo close due to lack of business in the last four years.  Spending that amount of money with absolutely lousy return prospects is akin to suicide.

I don't know how many galleries there are in that region, and what percentage of them seven would be.  I do know that art galleries in general open and close pretty rapidly, many of them only lasting a few years.  They're often opened and run by artists, and not businessmen, or at least people with curatorial skills ... as such, they often show work that isn't salable, or that interests too small a group of people to make the rent.  And that's to say nothing of the many galleries in smaller venues that only show other artists to pay rent and keep the gallery open for when the owner decides to show his own work.  I don't think it's out of line to say that regardless of your region, the majority of galleries are either (A) run for the owner's own personal interests, or (B) act as a showroom for an art trader, rather than as a pure gallery space.

Yossi Milo in NYC is an example of the second, as he stops carrying artists as soon as they start to cool down.  But he's been around forever - at least in gallery ages.

So yeah, you can't always say that galleries closing is a sign of the art market being dead.  Vancouver is sometimes called "North Hollywood" ... that alone should be a clue that art is alive and well there.  It's just a sign of the art market changing, as it is wont to do, and gallery owners not changing quickly enough to keep up with it.

Sep 13 13 05:52 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Herman Surkis
Posts: 8,299
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


O Team Photography wrote:
It is obvious most posters have no idea how bad the art market is on Vancouver Island.
We have watched seven galleries from Mill bay to Nanaimo close due to lack of business in the last four years.  Spending that amount of money with absolutely lousy return prospects is akin to suicide.

That's why I said it was for vanity more then anything. Especially since I am not trying to promote myself for business. And you get it. And I did not realize it was even worse up island. And photo galleries, forget it, not a hope in hell.

But doing an online gallery, now that might work. And those who cannot take the trouble to look, are probably not worth bothering with.

And yes, there is something special about a wall full of gorgeous prints. Impressive as hell, and very satisfying...up to a point.

I am now very much leaning towards an online exhibit. I was hoping that there would be enough arguments on one side or the other to convince me completely. And I truly get those who say screw the money and do what might be fun, and perhaps in a previous economy...

Sep 14 13 02:04 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Herman Surkis
Posts: 8,299
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


Zack Zoll wrote:

I don't know how many galleries there are in that region, and what percentage of them seven would be.  I do know that art galleries in general open and close pretty rapidly, many of them only lasting a few years.  They're often opened and run by artists, and not businessmen, or at least people with curatorial skills ... as such, they often show work that isn't salable, or that interests too small a group of people to make the rent.  And that's to say nothing of the many galleries in smaller venues that only show other artists to pay rent and keep the gallery open for when the owner decides to show his own work.  I don't think it's out of line to say that regardless of your region, the majority of galleries are either (A) run for the owner's own personal interests, or (B) act as a showroom for an art trader, rather than as a pure gallery space.

Yossi Milo in NYC is an example of the second, as he stops carrying artists as soon as they start to cool down.  But he's been around forever - at least in gallery ages.

So yeah, you can't always say that galleries closing is a sign of the art market being dead.  Vancouver is sometimes called "North Hollywood" ... that alone should be a clue that art is alive and well there.  It's just a sign of the art market changing, as it is wont to do, and gallery owners not changing quickly enough to keep up with it.

You are correct, almost every gallery in Victoria exists for those reasons, plus the sell matting and framing. There are very few gallery galleries. And they tend to carry nationally and internationally known artists.

And Vancouver is a whole different kettle of fish. The same work, by the same artist will sell at 3x the price in Vancouver. And yes I have tried, and no I have not been accepted, unless I want to rent the space. And even in Vancouver the number of galleries is dwindling.

And the art market on Vancouver Island is a very strange beast. You have old money that have their established collections, or buy from big international galleries and artists. And you have the young, who tend to be artists buying from each other. The middle class collectors do not seem to exist here, or are least rare.

Breaking even would be nice, and that would be the kicker to make up for all the hard work. And in answer of someone, the artist is the curator. The Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria just rents out the space, and it is the cheapest space around that is available available for members.

Sep 14 13 02:20 am  Link  Quote 
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