Sunday, 4 September 2016

Art Scams (Part Three) - Salons, Art Fairs and Gallery Websites - and the good guys!

As you can tell by the blog entry title this isn't the first time I've written about this.  The first two concentrated on mainly email scams related to two types of ways to rip off artists - fake purchases from from people, and vanity publishers and galleries who want you to give them lots of money to show your work. The first is a straightforward scam, along the same lines as the nice man from Nigeria who wants you to look after all of his inheritance in your bank account - if you can just send details... The second appeals to the less well-known or amateur artist's ego. A chance to show your work without the risk of rejection - all for a "small" fee (usually a few hundred euros or more). Unfortunately nothing ever sells, and you don't get better noticed in the publication. That's because the gallery has absolutely no interest in selling your work because they make their money straight from the artists' payments, the publisher only cares about your payment and hardly prints any copies (those that they do they are happy to sell to artists for 20$ a copy!) and no one in the art world goes to those galleries or reads those publications anyway because they soon become well known as the vanity scams that they are. In fact, being involved can damage your reputation - at least that's what I have read.

So this time I am concentrating on a couple of other more subtle scams. First, Salons and Art Fairs. Generally these are the same thing, our at least in recent years that's what they have become. I am sure there are many organisers of these events would leap up and down with outrage at being called a scam, but for unrepresented artists, the way they work is little difference to how a vanity gallery works. To put it simply, an art fair (or salon in France) works like any other large exhibition/trade show you may have seen in an exhibition or hall, whether it's the Ideal Home Exhibition, the Motor Show or something exciting about Health and Safety. Everyone exhibiting at these events, whatever it is about, pays for the space where they show their thing: whether it's paintings, Ford Capris (I'm old), books or whatever. It's a trade show. There is no quality control, anyone can hire a space. This made sense when it was galleries who hired the space (like at Frieze), but many of the Art Fairs now make most of their living (I was going to say "small art fairs" but it's not true any more) from individual artists - who hire a space for 3 or 4 days for several hundred (or more) euros (plus programme costs, plus furniture, lighting etc) in the hope that a visiting gallery will like their work. Salons in France work the same way, with the rider that some artists have organised themselves cooperatively to share space, and some manage to get grants to help pay their costs. All in all though, it's brutal, and it's a rip off. The only people really making money out of these events are the organisers - and believe me, they are raking it in.

Then there are gallery websites. By that I mean websites whereby artists upload their work and sell their paintings via the web. By no means are all of these a rip off. In fact many of them are brilliant! The ones that are brilliant work hard to sell artists' work by publicising their site, the ones that are brilliant don't charge artists, they take a commission (like a proper gallery), the ones that are brilliant advise and support and communicate well with artists. I have written separately about this before, and listed my favourites - I'll do so again with a shorter list of my favourites at the end of this post. There are, however, some bad boys: websites that charge artists for uploading and websites that demand artists sign away their copyright to works uploaded. All these are people ripping off artists: the brilliant websites prove they don't need to do this, by simply NOT doing that and by actually selling work!

There are also some websites that just are no good - websites that demand you change the shape of your work to fit into their standard sizes, websites that are so primitive it takes a week to upload a file, and websites that simply never sell anything.

Like many artists, I'm sick of people who try to rip me off, whatever way they choose, but I would like to congratulate the few BRILLIANT gallery websites by listing them here:

Turning Art

This is a pretty small list compared to the last time I did this, partly because some of the ones I used to use no longer exist, and partly because some of the others have proved to be a waste of time - I get no sales and little or no contact/referrals from them. But if you use another site with great success, please let me know by using the "comment" form below.