The Seventh Commandment - Assume Nothing & Get Everything in Writing

OK, so now you have gotten a show at a gallery…
So now what?

Answer: you need to make sure that all of the terms of that agreement between you and the gallery are in writing.
Now some folks ( Including me) might say it is rather presumptuous to send a contract over to a gallery that just gave you a foot in the door (especially if you are just having one or 2 pieces in a group show - which is usually how a gallery will “try you out” to see how your art goes over with their collector base and also what you are like to deal with.. )
But at the very least you should have an email exchange with the curator that spells out what the terms of your exhibition, affiliation or representation are. (it should be noted that If the gallery offers to represent you, they usually will send you a written contract with explicit terms in it)

If you are having a phone or in-person conversation with the curator, then take notes and send the synopsis of those notes in a follow up email to them reiterating the key points of the conversation and spelling out the terms as you understand them.
At the end of that conversation, you should know:
What the exact commission structure will be( a lot of galleries do a 50/50 split. Some do variants on this - there is even a new trend for some top-tier galleries to do 75% in their favor)
When you will be dropping your work off.
When you will be picking it up.
If the gallery giving a discount to a buyer affects your bottom line or theirs.
When any unsold work will be returned to you .

”Hi so and so,
I just wanted to follow up on our conversation yesterday and thank you for the opportunity..
I understand that my work”Title” will be on display in your upcoming show “Title” and that there will be a 50/50 split on the retail price (which is $___)
I also understand that the piece must be delivered on such and such date and picked up on such and such date… and etc. etc.
Thanks again and I look forward to working with you!”

If the gallery is in another town, you will want to know if they will pay for the return shipping of any unsold pieces back to you. This is usually the case: the artist pays for shipping the work there, and the gallery pays for the return., but of course - there are always exceptions.
In some cases the gallery may want to hold on to your work and try and sell it through other avenues (auctions, designers, private collectors). That too should be spelled out and a time-table for return of the artwork if it doesn’t sell (6 months seems about right to me, but waiting up to a year is not uncommon) clearly delineated.

You should find out if the gallery demands regional exclusivity (galleries that want to represent you will always go for this). This means you will not be able to exhibit at any other galleries in that same city or area for however long the contract is ( it is best to try and go for one year renewal clauses on these representation agreements).

Clear communication is crucial.. and be advised most gallery owners are extremely busy and will not return emails promptly. Sometimes your messages may even be ignored. In this case, I usually wait a week and then resend the email (as an attachment) and put in the heading - “I know you’re busy so you may have missed this..” or something similar.. Or I may even call them and ask them if they have had a chance to look at the email or should I resend it..

You have to find that fine line between being persistent and being a pain in the ass!

And of course - those of you who want to learn more about how this all works are welcome to contact me and hire me to be your art coach.. I do answer all my emails and try and help out as best I can!

"Thinking like an artist and thinking like a business person are two entirely different skill sets.  Investing in some time with Thomas Dodd changed my art career entirely.  I went from someone with an expensive hobby to someone in the business of creating and selling fine art. I can't recommend him highly enough. "  (Cheryl Walsh, Underwater Portrait Photographer and winner of over 60 WPPI Print Competition Awards)