Why buy art?

Recently a friend congratulated me on my success over the past year in having my work invited into juried shows across the country, and said words to the effect of my “hard work paying off.” To which I replied, “Not yet, at least not if you mean ‘money.'”

Dreamlandia II was in a show in Raleigh, NC, a couple months ago. Now it has been invited into a show at the Jones Gallery in Kansas City and will head there soon.

Here’s how it works: Galleries and museums put out a “call” to artists to submit works to be considered for a show. They use emailing lists they have accumulated, or they use an online platform where artists can go to find out what shows are planned and how to submit work to them.

But submitting work in response to a call is not free. It is done digitally; artists select digital images of their work that fits the requirements of the call and submits those images online. But the fees vary a lot. I have paid as little as $17 to submit five images, and as much as $60 to submit 4 images. It depends on the location and prestige of the venue

But that’s not the end of it. Artists pay to ship their work to the exhibition venue. Moreover, they must place a return shipping label inside the package with the art, or the gallery/museum will not hang the art on the wall. Should the art happen to sell, the artist is out the return shipping.

For a piece the size of Dreamlandia II, shipping will total $25 to $35 depending on destination. That’s using USPS, the least expensive method. Some galleries and museums require you to use FedEx, so we’re looking at $30 to $40.

IF the piece sells–not common–the gallery will keep anywhere between 20% and 40% of the sale price as commission.

In other words, the artist spends money to get her/his work in front of you. The only way he/she gets any money at all is if the piece sells, and then, the artist gets only a percentage of what you pay.

Please know, I am not whining! I pursue this passion with my eyes wide open. But perhaps the next time you look at art and wonder about the prices–which appear exorbitant to most people, especially when its photography–perhaps you will remember this post.

So… maybe a next post about a photographer’s investment in shooting, editing and printing technology; time spent shooting, editing, and printing; and time and materials to frame?

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