Sunday, October 11, 2009

Art as Business: selling your art

Visit a gallery one of the last days of opening (not a top notch gallery in London – but an ok one). How much have they sold for in total?

Let’s do some maths.

  1. Subtract 50 % - this should at least be the gallery’s percentage.
  2. Then check the artist’s CV – how many separate exhibitions a year? Multiply or divide by this number (for example: if just one every second year divide the number by two).
  3. Then just make up a probable cost per year for making art, having a studio, administration, framing and transportation etc – let’s say 6 000 € to calculate low – subtract this. Ok now we might have the artist’s profit.
  4. Then there are taxes. (The artist is not getting a salary which means more taxes than if you are employed). Lets say 50 % to calculate positively.
  5. What do we have left? Divide by 12. Is it possible to cover a months living costs with this money?

Total sale: 15 000 € (which I think is good) – 50% = 7 500 €
Exhibitions a year: 2 x 7 500 = 15 000 €
Minus Costs 6 000
= 9 000 €
Minus Taxes 50%
= 4 500 €

which gives us 375 €/month (not even 550 USD)!

Alas If you haven’t made it to the top yet – or make very commercial art - you’re probably not making BIG money on your exhibitions. Exhibitions at galleries give credibility, build your CV, give you a focus and deadlines to work towards – and are a way to show your art to the world. (of course you want to sell your art – but you have to comfort yourself in some way, right? Make believe: you exhibit for other reasons…)

In 2007 I exhibited at Galleri Jeanette Öhlund in Borås. I got good reviews. The gallerist said she had unusually few visitors at my exhibition. I made a profit of 200 € on that exhibition. Later I sold many of the art pieces in other ways or at other exhibitions.

Artists sell their art in more ways than just at exhibitions. (Here I’m not talking about commissioned art, which is already sold in the moment of execution) I mean - what do you do with all that art you made because you want to make art … and that you didn’t sell at your exhibitions? (That is if you do not burn it all in pure disappointment)

  • Provision sale in-between exhibitions
  • Selling to “Workplace Art clubs” (Very common at workplaces in Sweden: Members pay a fee, art is bought and the members have the chance to win in annual lotteries. The art is bought through galleries, directly from artists in their studio, through art dealers coming to the workplaces etc) Sometimes they arrange workplace exhibitions and visit artist studios for technique demonstrations.
  • Independent Workplace exhibitions (not by art clubs)
  • Direct Studio sales to individuals
  • Internet

The question will be how much energy you are willing to invest into these different ways of selling your art. Does your art fit to be sold in these ways? Will it have any other positive side effects but money? Will you risk losing credibility?

I’ve tried it all… some more, some less…
- Join me next Sunday for some dos and don’ts when trying to sell your art outside exhibitions

[This is yet a post in my Sunday Series: Art as Business. To find the other posts have a look at the sidebar]

[For readers from the US - at Design Sponge you can read about tax info for small business]


aimee said...

great analysis - it shows that the financial management part could be a full time job itself. and WOW, wow, wow, your taxes are high over there!

Alexandra Hedberg said...

Aimee: on a normal salary in Sweden you pay approx 30 % tax.

But as self-employed you pay social fees as well (+ 32 %) which is a tax to cover the basic pension, insurance if you get sick and parent leave. It is not optional. If you are employed the employer pay this fee (everyone in Sweden pay this tax in one way or another).

But on the other hand you will not have to finance those things out of your own pocket when you need I believe you have to do in the States (health insurance etc)

Alexandra Hedberg said...

...and most people in Sweden who are employed are not aware that you pay these extra taxes on your art sales...

Daniel Milton said...

Det är ju inga upplyftande siffror för en konstnär att läsa. Men det finns ju olika vägar att ta sig fram och trots att min ekonomi är skit nu är den ändå mindre skit än vad den var för några år sedan. Galleriet i Borås såg fint ut, måste kolla upp.

Tack för ännu en toppenblogg! /Daniel

Marchi Wierson said...

oh my head is a blur today and when I looked at the post I only saw shapes not words, but I know it will be great because your past "art as business" posts have always had something which helps me! I will look again tomorrow!!

gracia said...

Your mathematical breakdown is both accurate and terrifying... so enjoy this series of yours, A.

Lotte said...

Great exibition but not a great outcome!!!

marie-louise said...

Nej, jag tål inte det här. För lite pengar för så mycket jobb!

●• Thereza said...

hmmmm i'll be needing an accountant at some point... that's the thought going through my head after reading this post... i'm so totally hopeless when it comes to numbers and working out stuff like that...

hope you had a nice weekend, i was off all week last week... great fun :)

Anairam said...

Interesting info, Alexandra! It is sobering when one realizes how little artists really make - one often sees an artwork in the gallery, looks at the price and thinks, Wow, this artist must make pots of money! But the reality is of course different.

Esti said...

When it comes to numbers I'm at a loss. Your perspective on art is realistic yet terrifying. I wish more people realize how hard it is to make a living out of art.

Ana Gonzalez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ana Gonzalez said...

Alexandra Sorry I deleted my previous comment because, not fluent in English, I realized after the translator had put wrong words.

I think long ago that exhibition in galleries are just to show the work, but not to sell, in reality, the artist loses money on exhibitions in galleries, purchase of materials, while preparing the exhibition, payment of transport to the gallery and payment of freight to bring back pictures that have not been sold. The exhibitions in galleries I've done I've never sold anything. I have sold online and in my study to friends and family.

Very interesting what you say about. I follow your blog, on my blog I also talk a bit of the same, art as a business and leaving behind the romantic idea of the poor and bohemian artist, an image that are damaging the artist, but many are still clinging to the past and see no other way than to try to exhibit in galleries, when your numbers and my personal experience has shown me that this is an obsolete system.

Marchi Wierson said...

Its so discouraging! Really good post A.

Unknown said...

Starta AB, fria ägaruttag upp till 125000kr och då är det 20% skatt, dvs du får ut ca 100000 kr. Man behöver inte revisor längre och man behöver "bara" sätta in 50000 kr i bolaget för att starta (i stället för 100000kr som det var förut). /Stina

Em van der Berg said...

Det är ju så tyvärr. Många som inte är medvetna om hur mycket skatter och avgifter som går bort vid en försäljning. Verkligen inte lätt att få det att gå runt.