In the past two months I have discussed a couple of ways to market a work of art that you own – Retailing the Work Yourself & Offering the Work at Auction. This month I will explore a third, and my favoriteJ, option – Dealing Directly with an Art Gallery!
Just a short time ago an individual had very few ‘easy’ options when they wanted to sell a work … and the easiest was to call a local auction room. However, today the Internet has put the world at your fingertips! Finding potential galleries who may be interested in acquiring the work has never been easier.
As with all the other options, you should do your homework and learn about the item you are going to sell. You need to have a general idea of the period, quality and condition of the work so you can formulate a fair ‘asking price’. Next, turn on the old computer and log onto the Internet. Then type in the name of the artist into the search box and see what comes up. Typically among the first few pages you will find a number of dealers who list the artist’s name on their site. It is important to distinguish between those who just list an artist’s name and those who actually sell the artist’s work on a regular basis – and this is often easy to determine just by visiting the different sites.
Galleries/dealers specializing in your artist’s work will often feature a number of works that are currently for sale and/or some that they have recently sold … our site goes even further and offers comprehensive Virtual Exhibitions for many of the artists we buy and sell.
Now you may be asking, what is the difference between a gallery/dealer that specializes in the work and one that just lists the artist’s name? There is a big one! Many galleries/dealers would like to get their hands on any work of art so they can broker it to another interested party – usually another dealer. This happens all the time in the art world and is part of the art business, but in this instance you are trying to cut out the middleman and deal directly with the gallery.
Here is an illustration of what usually happens … we are actively buying works by Édouard Cortès and receive 8 - 10 offers each month. The interesting thing is that many times another dealer, who often does not specialize in Cortès’ work, will send us an e-mail offering the same painting. In these instances a seller has looked on the Internet and found a number of galleries they ‘thought’ might be interested and contacted them all, without checking to see if they are truly a ‘buyer’! Those who are not serious buyers will now try to broker the work to someone they feel will ‘pay’ for it. This not only defeats the whole purpose of selling the work directly to the gallery, but may actually have a negative impact on the works value.
Dealers look for ‘fresh’ material and will often pay a premium for works that are ‘fresh to the market’ … if the work is shown to too many people, or as we say in the trade ‘has been shopped around’ - that ‘freshness’ wears off.
Now, let’s assume that you have done your homework and have found a couple of ‘real’ galleries who you believe will be interested. Your next step is to send them good images of the work and, if you want to speed the process along, include clear images of both the front and back and a couple of details – one of which should be the signature. The gallery will also need to know the canvas size (not the framed size), condition, history of ownership (as far back as you know) and the price you are looking to get for the work. If they are seriously interested you will hear from them fairly quickly.
Most galleries will offer you two options … outright purchase or consignment. If you need or want the money right away then you have to find a gallery that will buy the work. Keep in mind that most serious galleries buy a majority of their inventory, so this should not be a problem if you have found the ‘right ones’! If you are not in a rush for the money then you can explore the consignment option as well. Gallery’s offer this option for a number of reasons: the first may be that the price you are asking for the work is somewhat higher than the normal ‘purchase’ price for similar works, but they believe that the work may be of interest to a number of their collectors. Another may be that the gallery currently owns a selection of works by the artist already and does not have the ‘need’ to buy another work right now. A third may be that the gallery just does not have the necessary funds to acquire the work at that time … remember, galleries are constantly buying works of art and like most businesses, at some point during the year they may be low on acquisition funds.
I know what you are thinking, what is the difference between a ‘consignment deal’ and those dealers, I mentioned earlier, that just put artist names on their site to hopefully get a work to offer? The main difference is that the gallery you have chosen to represent your work, has your legal permission to offer it for sale … the other ‘people’ do not and can often hurt the value of your art work by ‘shopping it around’.
The final item to consider is - how to close the deal? Most galleries will want to see the work in question before they agree to buy it; they need to check authenticity, quality, condition, size, etc. So how do you accomplish this? If the gallery is local then you can just bring it to them for their inspection. If the work is too large for you to easily transport, and the gallery is local, then most dealers will come to you. But what if the gallery is not local? Then the work is going to have to be sent to them for their inspection. Now do not panic, this is not as hard as it sounds. Most galleries will be able to instruct you on how to have the work properly packed … many smaller pieces can actually be wrapped by a local ‘packing shop’ and then shipped to the gallery via an overnight shipping company. You may also find that a seriously interested gallery is willing to pay for the freight costs to get the work to them. This is an important option because most galleries have transit insurance and once the work is shipped on their account, it will be properly insured … but check with the gallery to make sure.
I know – What! Send a work to someone you do not know without payment? As with everything else in this world, you are going to need some faith. If you have done your homework and found the right gallery there should be no problem. Important galleries usually have long histories and very good reputations and will not risk the chance of tarnishing those reputations by taking advantage of someone. However, if you are still a little uncomfortable, then ask for references … most reputable galleries will be happy to furnish you with a third party you can speak to – we often recommend talking with their banker.
Over the past 5 years our business has gone through great changes and today we buy a majority of the works we sell directly from private individuals. We have found every transaction to be quick, easy and thoroughly enjoyable. As long as you do your homework and contact the appropriate dealers, I am sure you will also find this to be an easy way to sell a work of art!
Howard L. Rehs
© Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City- August 2003
Gallery Updates: This month we have added paintings by the following artists to our site: Victor Gilbert, Édouard Cortès, Antoine Blanchard, Johann Berthelsen, Victor Marais-Milton and Sally Swatland.
Virtual Exhibitions: This month we have added a wonderful image to Rehs Galleries: A Visual History – Daniel Ridgway Knight’s A Pensive Moment. This spectacular example of Ridgway Knight’s work features a pretty young girl on a balcony and was sold by the gallery in May of 2000. I know you will all enjoy seeing this unique painting! Below is a direct link to the image:
Daniel Ridgway Knight’s - A Pensive Moment
Since our last newsletter we have sold a number of important paintings by many of our favorite artists. Images of most of these works have been added to their respective Virtual Exhibitions; among them were: four oils by Antoine Blanchard, including: Boulevard de la Madeleine, Sous la Niege; five paintings by Édouard Cortès, including: Place de l’Opera; Family Interior; and Théâtre du Vaudeville; a wonderful work by Victor Marais-Milton, four paintings by Sally Swatland and Heidi Coutu’s Lilies on Monet’s Pond.
Next Month: I am not sure yet, but I will give you an update on the Show in Oklahoma.