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economic reality (was: some advice in clay diplomacy and pricing)

updated sun 11 feb 01


Janet Kaiser on sat 10 feb 01

A lot of good advice flowing down the Atlantic
to Africa... The "attitude" of would-be
"customers" is sometimes very hard to take, most
especially as a home worker as well as a maker.
One of many reasons for makers choosing a
workshop or studio well away from home.

Whilst I was thinking very hard about Toni in
SA, my thoughts switched (as they do :-) to the
comments Feri in OZ made about gallery
commissions increasing from 10% twenty years ago
to upwards of 40% these days... Suddenly a light
went on!

We are all in the "business" of producing and/or
selling art. Galleries need to earn enough to
cover all their costs, just as the artist does.
If they are to survive, income has to exceed
outgoing cash - including all the overheads and
a modest profit. However, galleries are going to
be (or should be) run by the bottom line and
what the accountants say more than the artist,
because they have absolutely no alternative.
They have no extra income from friends, family,
spouse, teaching, demonstrations, day job, etc.
no filling gaps in income in alternative ways.
They have to have both feet on the ground of
sound economic reality, so they have to do the
sums really well.

Galleries have set costs and cannot possibly
tighten their belts in any way. Indeed that is
or would be false economy. When times are hard,
galleries increase their investment by running
more publicity, putting on more shows, etc.

Now, in the past 20 to 30 years, the gallery
income has been dropping steadily, because art
is not *relatively* speaking selling at such
high prices. For example, the $9 pot of 1980
should now be selling for what? $15? or $20? or
$25? But what is it actually being sold for? I
bet it is more like $10, $12 or $14. So the
gallery has either to sell many more pots OR it
has to take a bigger percentage of the selling
price to meet its commitments.

Why are pots not achieving a "fair" and
up-to-date market price, so the gallery can keep
to a more reasonable commission or lower
mark-up? Because there is now huge competition.
It does not matter whether work is imported from
the third world or shown in craft fairs or
directly from the maker... The very fact that
work is being undersold and is generally
available elsewhere, is undermining the
established outlets.

This is a vicious circle, which will only be
broken if demand increases and supply decreases.
Apart from reducing the number of outlets by
burning them down and starving artists to death,
how is that best achieved?

The job we all have (artists, makers, galleries
and shops) to take very seriously, is the
upgrading of all work in the eye of the general
public, so they are prepared to return to invest
in art. Not pretty decoration for their homes,
not fashionable gee-gaws, but real high-end work
which is unique and therefore very expensive.

That will be the only way any of us will

Janet Kaiser
The Chapel of Art . Capel Celfyddyd
Criccieth LL52 0EA, GB-Wales Tel: (01766) 523570