Online Galleries, Submission Fees and Paying to Display


     The further I delve into the Art World, the more I am convinced that it is changing.  Consumers are growing accustomed to purchasing everything on Amazon and other online forums.  Artist no longer at the mercy of local art fairs and galleries.  Social media, online platforms are becoming increasingly popular and viable options to purchase original artwork.  

     The “legitimate” art community, and I use that term only to refer to the currently common practices of galleries believe that in order to be legitimized as an artist you need to show your art in galleries.  They see online stores, galleries and forums, like SatchiiArt and UGallery, as well as Vanity Galleries as some how invalid to your respectability as an artist.  I spoke with a gallery owner a few weeks ago who said that he wont work with artists who have shops on Big Cartel or their art on SatchiiArt.   On the one hand I understand, some artists who lack integrity or who are simply desperate for a sale end up working as the gallery’s competition and under sell the gallery to ensure they don’t have to pay a commision.  Another problem most of these forums are available to anyone who pays regardless of the quality of their work… but art is in the eye of the beholder and value of work is based on what someone is willing to pay for it.   So where then is an artist supposed to show their work? 

     Every time I find a submission opportunity I get excited.  I’m a bit of a child, super optimistic and think every submission could be that magic one that opens all doors to worlds of possibility and success.  Then just as quickly those hopes are dashed by two little words… “Submission Fee”.  

     I honestly have the worst attitude regarding submission fees.  Lets face it, if you're a new artist struggling to showcase and sell your work you don’t have the money for submissions fees.  Especially $40 here, $30 there and even then there is no guarantee that you will be accepted to show your work.

SO lets get this all straight… 

     I can’t show my work if I'm not respected in the art community.  The art community doesn’t respect online forums, and vanity galleries because you pay to show your work.  Legitimate galleries want me to pay them to view and consider my art for their shows.  This just seems like an uphill battle for new artists trying to become established. 

There are three questions you need to ask yourself when you encounter this situation.

  1. What is your goal as an artist?     Do you want respect of the art community or do you want to be able to sell your work and live solely on your art full time? There is nothing wrong with desiring the respect of the art community and the prestige of being a celebrated artist in the gallery circle. If that’s your goal then go for it. That is where your focus should time and your resources.  The same can be said for making a living from your art.  If you can sell it, on a shirt, made into wall paper, or on the side of the Venice Boardwalk, then by all means work it.  
  2. Do you have the time to devote to sales on an online platform? Platforms like SatchiiArt or UGallery definitely bring traffic to their site.  They also take a commission and you still need to spend time generating traffic to your particular art in order to make sure that your art stands out against the hundreds of other artist they represent. You also need to spend valuable time photographing your art, creating hashtags, linking to your social media. Posting to your social media.  If these platforms work for you then there is nothing wrong with allowing your sales and promotional focus to be directed towards showcasing your art online
  3. If you pay to show, what do you get for your money? As I stated above, I hate submission fees.  Rarely will I pay them.  I have to feel that the event is large enough to merit writing those fees off, as well as participation fees off as advertising.  These type of events I usually focus less on sales and more on advertising and promotion.  whether its an art fair, traditional gallery or a vanity Gallery, what matters is do I feel I received adequate services for my dollar.  

     At the end of the day new artists are left with confusing, often costly options to simply attempt to show their art and jumpstart their careers.  As with anything, nothing is a magic option. As the artist you need to decide what your goals are, what your budget is and what works best for you.  In the end you need to be happy with the choice you make even if it turns out to be one of those learning experience choices.  Better to learn from making the wrong choice then regret never having made it in the first place.