Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

I have been approached at several of the shows I have done recently by gallery owners asking me about wholesale prices for putting my work in their gallery and additionally asked about selling my work on consignment. I know most want a sizable discount...which is somewhat understandable.

My 1st. question to anyone who does wholesale your work ...or send it to galleries on consignment is what type of positive and negative results have you experienced?

If you send it to a gallery on consignment what is a reasonable time to leave it in the gallery to be sold or when should you decide it is time to remove it?

 If it is an out-of-town gallery what expectations should you have from the gallery to ship it back to you if not sold in a reasonable amount of time?

What type of contracts/agreements should be expected between you and the gallery?

What is considered a fair and reasonable commission or wholesale discount?


I realize these are alot of questions, many of which might have possible been discussed before...but I haven'y been able to locate the discussions.

I appreciate your advice and help...



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Comment by Diane Wright on April 6, 2012 at 9:20pm

First of all, I create jewelry and it may be different for different art forms.  The majority of my sales come from retail art/craft shows but I am starting to investigate wholesale.  I do not generally do consignment for the reasons stated above.  When I price my work, I first figure out a wholesale price that I can live with and then double it for retail.  I did the Buyers Market for American Craft this year and picked up a couple of galleries and then recieved a referral to a gallery from a friend.  I am also looking into and the Acre shows.  It takes a while to get the wholesale accounts and you have to then make sure that you are not undercutting your galleries at your retail shows so you make sure get reorders.  Galleries or shops want to at least double the price they paid - some want to raise it more. 

Comment by Shoshana Matthews on April 6, 2012 at 7:16pm

Almost all of my wholesale accounts came through art shows.  They were trolling the art shows looking for new products to carry and almost all have been willing to buy outright.  Those only willing to do consignments have been told that I don't do that. 

Comment by John Leben on April 6, 2012 at 6:52pm

List your products in Wholesale They also do a catalog and a couple trade shows. You have to pay them to use their services, but lots of galleries and gift shops go there to find new artists.

Comment by Diane Fairfield on April 6, 2012 at 6:23pm

So how does one find fine art galleries that buy wholesale up front???

Comment by Greg Little on April 6, 2012 at 6:18pm

I am pretty much deciding against consignment and leaning more towards wholesale selling, if anything in addition to doing shows. I agree that having my money up front eliminates the headaches and aggrivation of keeping track of what is where and if it is selling. If a gallery or store is willing to invest their money (even at wholesale rates) then they have more of an incentive to sell my work.

 When I do a show there are considerable expenses involved before I make a profit and somehow I need to compare the show expenses to the wholesale expenses (discounts).

It is not a "one or the other" situation but moreso of a comparison of the two.

Comment by Colette A. Zilka on April 6, 2012 at 5:56pm

I have had my work (jewelry) in a couple of stores on cosignment.  Currently I have my work in one store, which is where I work every week.  I have found that I'm not the best with keeping in contact with stores to check on my work, find out what sells, etc.  I have also found that many of the stores I had my work in had some of the same communications problems.   With one store, it seemed that it was simply a difference of preferred communication.  I'm an email person, the owner was a phone person.  With another store, it seemed that the person who was keeping track of things left, and I was in the left in the dark.

Another problem I have with consignment in my field is that there is so much money given to the store with little guarantee that they will even try to sell your work.  I've been thinking about going to the big wholesale shows and wetting my feet, but have not made the leap yet.  It appears that some of my main problems with consignment would be fixed by it.

One easy way of weeding out stores that have it together from the ones that don't would be to ask them if they have any policies or contracts in place for all their artists.  The good ones should have something that will answer most of your questions.  Remember you can write your own contract.  I personally always have someone sign off on an inventory sheet of what was dropped off so I have a piece of paper that says they had my work at some point.  Most art business books have sections about consignment contracts.

Quickly answering some of your questions.  I personally think that stores should mail your work back to you  if out of town.  Standard split on the retail price seems to be 50% anything more than that and I would really question what that place would be doing to justify makes more off the sale than the artist who made it.  if they take less of a cut, then I hope everything else in the relationship works out.  As far as how long to let things sit, you get a feeling when it's not the right fit, either trough communication problems or your work never selling. I would second the 6 month time that had been mentioned earlier.

Comment by Sherry Curtis on April 6, 2012 at 2:11pm

I've had some wonderful experiences and a couple of awful ones with consignment.  One time a gallery owner told me my pieces were gone because she had a theft.  When I got a copy of the police report my things were not on it.  In another gallery,  would go in and find the owner wearing my pieces while covered in paint from her current work!    At this time I am represented in 4 very good and reputable galleries.  I only particpate in galleries that take a 40% commission because I keep my prices the same as in the shows.  Even though I do consignment I will change out pieces that aren't moving and put them ack the booth in the booth or try another location..  I think that after dealing with gallery people for a while you can get a vibe from them on whether or not you are comfortable dealing with them.  Also make sure you check them out and make sure that the work they show is compatible with the work you do. 


sherry curtis

Comment by Diane Fairfield on April 6, 2012 at 2:09pm

I am a fine artist (mostly oil paintings) but have never heard of selling wholesale to galleries.  Can those who do successfully sell wholesale to galleries tell me what kind of work you do and how you find galleries that will buy wholesale?  All I've done is consignment to galleries.  Have had no problems other than galleries closing due to the economy but sales are very slow.

Comment by John Leben on April 6, 2012 at 2:03pm

I exhibit in three galleries (consignment), all of which have been positive experiences. Two take 50% and one takes 40%. I've found the biggest downside is inventory issues. To keep galleries stocked you have to create more work. Like an art fair, 100% of the work you put in a gallery probably won't sell, so you wind up with lots of inventory sitting, unsold on the walls of a gallery. It's not as much of a problem for me than it would be for a painter of watercolorist. I'm a digital artist and I sell limited edition prints, so I can show the same picture in my booth as I sell at the galleries.

Comment by Larry Berman on April 5, 2012 at 7:19am

My only gallery involvement was giving a friend some pieces on consignment. Within six months I lost the pieces and the friend when the gallery went out of business. That was years ago.

On another note, I sat in on a Bruce Baker session at the ACRE Orlando show and the gallery owners were saying how business is on the rise for galleries.

If business is on the rise for galleries, they can afford to purchase wholesale.

Larry Berman

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