Check up on a gallery before entering into a business arrangement

Image (c) Bill Wahlgren, Red and Gold X

Bill Wahlgren asks:

The Internet allows me to research out-of-town galleries to some extent, but it doesn't provide me with reliable information about their standing as businesses, such as sales history over a period of years, liens, credit rating, and other financial measures.
The conventional wisdom is to ask the gallery some of these questions and talk to other artists they represent, but, while very useful in some cases, the information gathered this way is usually varied and anecdotal.
I guess I'm looking for an affordable Dunn and Bradstreet for art galleries. An organization of artists might be able to subscribe to such a service, if available for this sector, and make it available to its membership.
Know of anything like this?

Bill, I know of nothing like this. Outsiders often complain that galleries continue to be one of the last unregulated businesses in the U.S. And since they’re so secretive about what goes on behind closed doors, I doubt you’re going to find them giving up this information voluntarily. The next best thing is to contact the local Better Business Bureau to make sure no complaints have been filed against the gallery. And, by the way, be sure to file those complaints yourself when you have clearly been wronged by a gallery or other business.

By posting here, you might get some leads, but I don’t think you’re going to find the D&B resource that you’re looking for. Still, we’ll try and see what shows up.

Thanks for the question.

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6 thoughts on “Check up on a gallery before entering into a business arrangement”

  1. I received your book and I have began reading it. I got called back to work at my job that pays bills, so I have less time now for artistic pursuit, I will write and post a great book review on my blog when I get done reading. It is so true too, what you said about artist’s, the procrastinating, rather be in the studio, etc. You must be the best art biz coach there is. Thank you for the book, and note inside.

  2. It would be nice if something like this existed, but since it doesn’t, we artists have to do the research ourselves. As Bill pointed out himself, the best way to find out this info is to talk to the artists they represent, and ask the important questions – Are they selling? Do they pay? Do they pay when they say they’ll pay? Do they tell you when they sell something? Unfortunately, the art world has got to be one of the few out there where the answers to these questions are routinely “NO.” It pays to do the research before you find out the hard way that the gallery doesn’t pay, or doesn’t communicate.

  3. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Shea: Glad you’re enjoying the book. It will be there when you have time to return to it–very little will have changed. Stacey: Yep. Questions. And getting the answers to questions. Quite a chore.

  4. I think the concerns outlined in this post are the main reasons I prefer to visit prospective galleries in person. I know, it is time consuming and costs more. However, if you look at how much you stand to lose if you do business with a gallery that doesn’t pay or worse, I think it is money well spent. An artist friend of mine from Hawaii used to say that a gallery/artist relationship is a lot like a marriage. There must be communication and trust in order for it to work. I am learning not to wait for the gallery to contact me, but to be proactive in calling the gallery, to get the communication I need. It would be helpful to have a better resource!

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