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Online shows and galleries – are they worth it?

A lot of stuff has moved online lately, and galleries are no exception! Many brick-and-mortar galleries have added an online store to their website, but there is a new trend too – galleries and shows that are completely online!

What are online galleries?

Online galleries are simply websites that sell art. They have an e-commerce website, a mailing list, and a social media presence. They often will have a submission process or curator to select work.

You’ll produce the artwork in your studio and submit photos. They’ll put up online listings of your artwork and do some promotion. You’ll ship your artwork to the collector if it sells. They’ll collect a commission and sometimes charge additional fees. The online galleries never touch the artwork, but will hopefully facilitate the sale.

Some online galleries host work year-round, whereas others have specific call-outs for online shows and rotate artists through. But at the end of the day, online galleries are just fancy websites with an established following.

Is it worth it?

Here’s the question you have to ask: can I do it myself?

The answer is yes, you can sell your own work online directly to collectors. You can definitely make your own website and start a mailing list and get started on social media.

So, yes you can. But it will take time.

Online galleries and shows are helpful if:

  • You’re an artist with a limited online presence. Participating in an online gallery will give you a taste for e-commerce without having to do the ground work.
  • You’re an artist with an established online presence, but the online gallery will allow you reach a new audience of collectors.

There are other benefits as well – perhaps you’ll pad your artist C.V. or get to connect with a bigger community of artists and curators. Perhaps participating in shows with a deadline is the spark that gets you motivated to paint! And since you’re the one fulfilling orders, you’ll get access to your new collector’s contact information – a bonus over conventional galleries!

Cost considerations

If you’re participating in any gallery, they’ll be taking a sales commission and you should consider what is fair. Remember: with online galleries, you’ll be making the work, taking product photos, fulfilling orders and helping with promotion. You are doing a lot of work there! Here are some considerations:

  • What commission does the online gallery charge? Typically they’re in the range of 25-50% .
  • Is there an additional application or promotion fee? Some galleries add a fee that the artist pays upfront, regardless of sales. Proceed with caution and make sure the fee is fair for the work the gallery will do to list and promote your work.
  • When and how will you be paid? If you’re not being paid in your own currency, calculate the exchange rate and take note of any additional bank fees or delays.
  • How will shipping fees be handled? Most galleries will estimate shipping at checkout and then pass along that estimated payment to you. You might end up with slight overpayments or shortfalls, so review the shipping policy.

Review submission requirements

When online galleries are hosting shows, they’ll often have requirements about the size, subject matter, and materials used. Take a close look at the rest of the submission terms and decide if it’s a good fit.

  • Does the theme inspire you to paint?
  • Is there a size requirement for your work? Will it be easy to work at this size and ship the final pieces?
  • Do the deadlines for finishing work and shipping fit with your existing business plans?
  • Are there price requirements? How does this fit with your current pricing?
  • How many pieces are needed?
  • Are you also required to do show promotion?
  • Does copyright remain with the artists? It should, though most shows will require your images be used in promotion

Take a good look at the gallery

You want to make sure your work is being presented professionally and that you’re confident in the gallery’s ability to market your work.

  • What other artists are represented by the gallery? Are they people you admire and does your work fit in?
  • Can you look through past shows or the gallery’s online shop to get a sense of sales?
  • Review their social media accounts – do they have a good following?
  • And overall, does the gallery’s website professionally present their artists’ work? Do they include artist bios and links back to artist websites?

If you’re unsure about submitting, then wait! Subscribe to the gallery’s email list and follow them on social media. Watch for a while and take notes about whether shows are selling out, how they’re representing artists, and what kind of communication you’re getting on their mailing list.

Always build your own business up!

Online galleries and shows are a great stepping stone for getting into e-commerce. But if you’re going down this route, make sure you’re taking steps to build your own business up by:

  • Inviting new collector’s to your mailing list.
  • Building up your own social media following.
  • Reflecting on what you learn from the process of fulfilling orders.

Happy painting!