Many artists dream of achieving gallery representation, envisioning a glamorous life of paintings sold and paychecks received with ease. But let's be honest—this fantasy is far from the reality for most artists. Gallery representation has its merits, but it's not the sole path to artistic success and financial stability.
If you read artist biographies there are almost always letters from the artist to their gallery asking the gallery to sell work, an advance, or commission arrangement because they need a paycheck. The notion of handing over paintings or sculpture and receiving a hefty sum is more myth than reality. The rarefied world of galleries selling artworks for staggering amounts is dwindling, and the wealthy collectors willing to shell out such sums are becoming scarce.
Certainly, gallery representation offers a seal of approval, signifying that your work has been validated and endorsed by professionals in the field. It dispels the notion of being a hobbyist and bestows a certain level of prestige. However, it doesn't guarantee consistent financial stability or long-term career success.
In today's art landscape, making a modest living through gallery representation demands continuous exhibitions in four to six galleries at least. This entails relentless preparation for solo, two or three-person shows, which can be both exhilarating and exhausting. While selling paintings for tens of thousands might sound enviable, the reality often involves waiting periods, uncertain paychecks, and all the upfront costs of preparing for an exhibition. Even established artists in prominent galleries might find that their income remains sporadic and unpredictable. As well as most artists showing in well regarded galleries are selling artwork for hundreds and not thousands of dollars.
Gallery representation has its benefits, but artists should use it as only one income stream if you want to live off your work.