(The first installment of my “10 Commandments of a Gallery Artist “
Thou Shalt Not Steal a Collector From a Gallery
This is the cardinal sin of all Fine Art sins.
It is the one thing you can do that will not only ensure you no longer exhibit at the gallery that introduced you to the collector, it may also get you blacklisted by every other gallery owner that the curator you screwed over knows.
I realize that the temptation to do this can be almost overwhelming for an artist, but don't do it!
This is how it usually goes:
Someone buys your work from a gallery and the gallery takes a hefty commission (usually 50%) from the sale.. Then a few months later, that same collector looks you up on the web or social media, contacts you directly and says they want to see more of your work.
Now perhaps the collector is thinking they can get a better deal buying directly from you and they want to cut the original gallery out of the transaction....and you are probably thinking "I can get a lot more money for this piece without having to pay a big commission to the gallery and then the client will be mine for life"!
Wrong! You may be acquiring one private collector but you are losing many, many more potential clients by screwing over the gallerist who introduced you to each other.. and again - you will possibly be blackballed by other galleries if the word gets around that you are not loyal to the unspoken rules of the Gallery/artist system.
The right thing to do when a collector contacts you directly is to copy the curator who introduced you to each other on the return email to keep them in the loop and let them know that you will give them their commission on any further sales that result from this relationship ..
Not only because it is good business and good karma - it is also acknowledging that if it weren't for the reputation of that gallery the curator has painstakingly built, that collector would never have seen your work in the prestigious position of being displayed in (and promoted by) a top-tier gallery.
A lot of artists tend to minimize the importance of gallerists/curators , but a good gallery owner has a client base that trusts their tastes and buys exclusively from the stable of artists they represent.
Gallery owners also act as unofficial PR agents and managers for their artists - getting you coverage in local and national media, talking your work up to the movers and shakers and monied interests in their community (as well as placing it with designers, interior decorators and art consultants), and finding you commissions and private collectors , all the while adding prestige and gravitas to your artistic brand
( not to mention the numerous hefty expenses that are involved in keeping a top tier gallery afloat)
In short - just don't it!
So much of success in the Art world is based on maintaining long-term relationships. Acknowledge the importance of those you work with and they will do the same for you!