If you’ve ever caught yourself thinking, “I just want somebody to sell my paintings so I can paint!” then welcome to Dreamland. There are a lot of us here! That’s because being in galleries is not what a lot of folks think.

There’s always a degree of “what have you done for me lately” talk from artists about their galleries’ perceived inadequacies. Sure, some truly “bad galleries” might lose or damage work and try to blame the artist, get titles, mediums, and prices wrong, not answer emails, don’t pay  on time etc.

Le Louvre, Paris – the Ultimate Gallery!



But the vast majority treat their artists decently well, and yet the artists they represent still yearn for more. The perfect, ideal gallery effortlessly (for the artist) grows their career and summons numerous deep-pocketed collectors out of the blue. Maybe they’re out there, but I haven’t found one yet.

It’s more realistic to think of your gallery as a business partner, but not one that is going to routinely “overdeliver.” These days, every artist is pretty much responsible for their own career. This is true even for the rockstars of the art world.

Just dumping batches of new work on a gallery so you can get back to your studio and paint is no longer a realistic longterm game plan (if ever it was). If that’s all you feel like doing with a gallery, you should probably replace it with one that’s more fun to work with.

Galleries are not just a place to sell your work. In reality, you’re only one of a dozen or more artists the gallery is hustling to sell. When you join a gallery, you’re entering into a mutually beneficial relationship, the success of which depends on how much both parties put into it, with the bulk of that work falling to the artist.

Remember: You are one among many!


For one thing, that means sharing costs. At the bare minimum, artists are responsible for their own professional framing and for getting the work to and from the gallery. Shipping paintings anywhere professionally is expensive.

It’s not uncommon for a gallery to ask its artists to share the cost of advertising (if they do any at all), transporting the work, printing a catalogue (if they do one at all), or paying your own entry fee for special exhibition spaces (such as at those glamorous Miami and New York art fairs). Being in a gallery requires that you keep your prices consistent at all times and agree not to compete with your own gallery by selling your work for less than their retail prices.

It goes without saying that you’ll be expected to promote the relationship on your own social media. Some want you to post every time you bring new work and of course to announce any in-store events. Events get people in the door, so the more you appear at (and help brainstorm, organize, and promote!) in-person gallery events, the better for all.

Events you’ll be expected to help and show up for can be openings and closings, free demos, and special events for your collector base, who you personally invite by directly reaching out to your email list (you do have an email list of collectors and people interested in your work, right?). Other special events can include gallery talks and lectures and invite-only showings, studio visits, and cocktail parties etc. Sometimes even the cost of wine for the opening is on you too.

It’s a lot of work and a significant outlay of time and cash for everyone involved. So you have to ask yourself, are you sure you want to work that hard?

If you’re a person who’s naturally driven, a self-starter, a head-down go-getter passionate about painting and the whole world surrounding it – then the answer is YES, go for it. Or better: GO AND GET IT.

Inside Art publisher Eric Rhoads is in a unique position to share an expert view on the ins and outs of career-building for artists. Look into his inspiring and insightful marketing postings, podcasts, and videos at artmarketing.com.

Portrait of a Watercolor Master

Watercolor artist Stan Miller will be creating a portrait in real time on Watercolor Live, January 26-28th, 2023. To enroll, or to find out more information, visit the Watercolor Live website here.