A Cautionary Note
I often pass on editorials from various outlets to help art students and emerging artists in their search for outlets and methods for their art. This one arrived today and although in the beginning it sounds very good, there is a cautionary note I wish to add in the latter part of the article.
I will separate the paragraph I am concerned with and remark on it. Meanwhile…
It is up to artists to be very wary of people who wish to sell on their behalf, whether they be galleries, shops, art dealers or artists; web sites. The margins that they take before you get your share may put you off. Check before you agree to anything.
- Check how much you will get as you still have to pay tax on the amount you end up with if you are making a living from your work.
- Check that the amount you get will cover your costs to produce (including your time)
- Check your legal obligations regarding returns or damage to work in transit
- Check your legal obligations regarding returns if the client changes their mind or decides they just don’t like the artwork after all
- Check their payment methods, you may wait for weeks or months before payment
- Check your obligations if the work goes missing on the way to the seller if they need to send it on to the buyer
- Get everything in writing, if it isn’t in writing it doesn’t exist
- Don’t undersell your work just to get a sale
Here is the article:
I recently had a conversation with Danny Murray, Founder and owner of ArtVogue, a consultancy based near London which supplies art and in particular, fine photography, to the corporate world and leisure industries. Art Vogue sells both originals and prints.
Murray described his clientele. “In general terms we work on behalf of our artists to develop relationships with corporate buyers as well as restaurants and hotels,” he said. “However, even ‘care homes’ are a significant part of our business, and tend to be popular because the population is aging. Wherever you look, there is an application for high quality art.”
Art Vogue is a new company, just fifteen months old, but Murray has plans already to expand. “I feel that in some ways the concept we’ve got currently is a little hotel-oriented, a little ‘safe.’ But we don’t want to stay too safe, we want to be able to offer other opportunities, too.”
“I’m meeting with a few photographers whose work involves a bit of nudity – nothing graphic, though, very tastefully done. Would that fit inside a corporate environment? Probably not. I feel there is a demand so that in perhaps five years we may approach the domestic market as well and be able to cross over into it, to the artist’s benefit.”
Art Vogue’s foray into that domestic market “would have the same look and feel, with ‘in situ’ pictures to help people have that journey, the experience of what the art would look like in their homes. To attack the high-end domestic market, we would need to offer clean, stylish looks in artwork.”
And what are corporate clients looking for?
“Something that is in keeping with their environment,” he explained. “For example, there is a hospital that we are in process on. Everything there is very landscape-oriented, lots of nature, the obvious imagery. On the opposite side of that, we are doing a residential complex. They are very urban. The art reflects their setting – buildings, the city of London. They want cityscapes, because that is in keeping with their situation.”
What does he suggest to artists who want to appeal to certain markets?
“I tell artists that if I can sell their existing artwork, that’s fantastic,” he said, “If I can get a company interested in their style of work and get them to commission something tailored for their brand and their organization, then that is great for both the artist and the corporation. The client will probably want something that reinforces their brand, such as certain colors, or their brand identity. The artist has the chance to be creative, but with a little bit of guidance.”
“So I think it’s open-ended,” he continued. “You would be hard-pressed to find an artist who would match a particular organization or building. You would need to be able to have a creative freedom that artists ultimately want, and give them the reins but with some input. For example, a hotel may love your artwork but they want something a little bit around their brand, their colors and their setting. That’s my focus.”
Representation is key to gaining this type of sale. “Artists don’t want to go out and sell themselves,” said Murray. “They want you to go out there for them, make the sale. It is slightly easier for me to go out and promote an artist and say, ‘Look, this artist is up and coming, their work is fantastic.’ I can hopefully go out and get commission work for the artist.”
His best advice to develop your work for any market?
“Artists or photographers, even if they are new and have only been working for a few years, can be very good at what they do. I tell people: Know what you are good at. Play to your strengths. Specialize – don’t dilute what it is that you do well.”
Art Vogue also acts as a licensing agency for artists.
This is the part that concerns me.
“Our company offers artists 15% of the net sales of their work, which equates to 30% of profit, which is higher than the standard,” said Murray. “We have a clean, straightforward way of working that is very transparent to the artist or photographer. They can see how much the client is invoiced.”
If you are happy to be paid this amount, then just check all the other areas I talked about. For me, I can’t see how I can run a business on returns as low as 15% since I have to pay GST if sold in Australia, also pay all the costs of production out of that.
As the “primary producer of an artwork I would be looking for at least 50% of the net rather than 15%. If what they are saying is the normal practice, then it isn’t surprising to me that many artists are living below the poverty line.
As I said in the beginning, check all your obligations and legal rights, then make an informed decision. Not only for this company but all others that want to sell on your behalf. Better to be safe than find out later that have entered into an agreement that you can’t get out of and that either restricts how and where you sell or that brings in so little that you can’t live on it.
Back to the end of the article:
He emphasized the relationship in building partnerships with creatives. “I consider our work with artists to be a collaboration,” he said, “We build a long-term strategy for the artist, to get them working on their own projects. We are very selective, and at this time work with artists in the UK, Europe, and even far afield, with photographers from Brazil and Iran. I have also approached a few American and Canadian artists. We very open to working with highly professional photographers and artists across the pond.”
I hope this is informative and helpful. There are other very insightful tips in this article that are worth taking note of as far as how to think about your artworks, your style and your methods.