Should I sign an exclusivity agreement with an art gallery?

Should I sign an exclusivity agreement with an art gallery?


Artist Andrea Wilson 
Sydney, Australia

Ann Rea: (00:01)
Hello everyone, This is Ann Rea coming to live from San Francisco, California with one of my lovely students, who is Andrea Wilson joining me from, where are you on the planet right now?

Andrea Wilson: (00:12)
Sydney. I’m in Sydney.

Ann Rea: (00:14)

Andrea Wilson: (00:16)
, Sydney. So what,

Ann Rea: (00:18)
So what time is it there?

Andrea Wilson: (00:20)
It’s 10:15 in the morning.

Ann Rea: (00:22)
Okay. Alright. Civilized hour then. Great. Okay.

Andrea Wilson: (00:25)

Ann Rea: (00:25)
So the name of this series that I’m doing is called, “Has This Happened to You?” And I’m talking to fine artists about their experiences using so many of the failing strategies that really force artists into struggling, and force artists to feel unnecessary rejection and lose money, lose time, and most importantly, lose their dignity. And even during today’s– this list keeps growing and we have two more on the list now, which include Kickstarter campaigns and Patreon campaigns. And look, you really need to focus on the fastest path to cash, and don’t allow people to complicate your life to their profit. So that’s the context of this series. And my lovely student here has volunteered to share, to extend to you and share like what have you done on that list? I trust you have that long PDF file of all the different ways.

Andrea Wilson: (01:33)

Ann Rea: (01:35)
what? Alright. So let’s start with this so we can give people even further context. So before you joined the program, like what were the two things you were struggling with the most as a fine artist wanting to sell their art?

Andrea Wilson: (01:49)
Well, confidence. Putting myself out there, sorry. And, you know, getting sales

Ann Rea: (01:57)

Andrea Wilson: (01:58)

Ann Rea: (01:58)
So those are the really most common, like a sense of not having enough confidence, and not getting thesales. And I thin– I say to people, it’s really that you, it’s not that you lack confidence or the ability to muster confidence because you’re an artist for Pete’s sake, that takes a lot of confidence. What it is, is a lack when it, it’s a lack of knowledge, knowing how to properly execute luxury marketing and sales. Right? And then,, but if you’re failing at it and urns inward, and you think there’s something wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with you. You just have to learn a few more skills. And then let me ask you this question, cuzbecause this is a common one, and you won’t hurt my feelings if you tell, if you answer this honestly. But did you think, “Oh, I don’t know about Making Art Making Money. It might be a scam.” Did you think that?

Andrea Wilson: (02:48)
No, I didn’t think it was a scam.

Ann Rea: (02:50)

Andrea Wilson: (02:51)
I didn’t think it was a scam. But I did– I am aware of others, which I felt are less sincere. Other organizations or other courses–

Ann Rea: (03:05)

Andrea Wilson: (03:06)
that are insincere.

Ann Rea: (03:08)

Andrea Wilson: (03:09)
No, I didn’t think you were a scam.

Ann Rea: (03:13)
. Okay. Well that’s good to know.

Andrea Wilson: (03:14)
And I think I’m quite good at detecting scams. Not always, but–

Ann Rea: (03:19)
Yes. Well, I think what happens is artists are confronted with this list of, you know, 42 things now we’ve identified. And of course, after you go through that list you start to feel a lack of confidence. You start to feel skeptical. And then slides into cynicism. And then unfortunately, that then slides into self-sabotage. Right? You’re so doubtful you can’t even help yourself. And that’s really what my mission is, to help artists not even get there. But let’s start like when you look at that list of ineffective ways to sell your art, what jumped out first that’s like, “Oh yes. I did that. That sucked.”

Andrea Wilson: (03:57)
. The biggest one for me, and where I think I’ve lost the most money is signing up with the gallery. Signing an exclusive contract with the gallery.

Ann Rea: (04:08)
Oh, got it. So, there’s another one! Oh my God! I’m so glad you mentioned it. Yes. Exclusivity agreements before they’ve even proven themselves.

Andrea Wilson: (04:21)

Ann Rea: (04:21)
Okay. So tell us about that. Give us an example.

Andrea Wilson: (04:24)

Ann Rea: (04:24)
Go back in time to a moment where you’re like, “Okay, yes. That was the wrong thing to do. Tell me what happened.

Andrea Wilson: (04:29)
Yes. Well, basically it was at the– I mean, it was quite early on after I’d started painting, and I’d had a couple of– I’d sold a couple of paintings through a consignment through art galleries. And this art gallery, quite a big commercial gallery in Melbourne, called me and said they really wanted to represent me and would I be interested in exclusivity. And I was so excited, , I thought, “Yay. Finally I’ve made it!” And so I sent them all my best work that I had. And that was almost three years ago now. And most of it is sitting in their store room, not sold. And at one point, they sold a couple of pieces early on, and then they stopped selling it. I called them up and said, “What’s happened? Why isn’t my work selling?” And they said, “Well, you know. You haven’t been in the Archie Bowl,” which is one of the biggest competitions in Australia, art competitions in Australia.

Ann Rea: (05:26)
Who cares?

Andrea Wilson: (05:28)
. So, yes. And it’s all still sitting there. And I’ve– it just still really irritates me.

Ann Rea: (05:39)
When are you going to go get it back?

Andrea Wilson: (05:42)
I don’t know. I haven’t figured out a way of doing it yet. One of the things is when I sent it there, they do the framing.

Ann Rea: (05:50)

Andrea Wilson: (05:50)
So if I take it back, I’ll have to pay them for the framing.

Ann Rea: (05:53)
Oh, this trap! That’s a trap! That is such a trap.

Andrea Wilson: (05:57)
It was an absolute trap.

Ann Rea: (05:58)
Take your frame. Keep your frame. I’ll take my art. Thank you! It’s like they don’t own it. They’ve only consigned it.

Andrea Wilson: (06:06)

Ann Rea: (06:07)
They don’t own it. Oh God. Oh God. I’m so glad we’re having this conversation because you’ve just shine a light on another trap. Right? They frame your art and somehow they own it. No, they don’t own it. They’ve only consigned it, so they had—

Andrea Wilson: (06:26)
{Unintelligible}. There’s more

Ann Rea: (06:28)
. Yes, I know.

Andrea Wilson: (06:28)
They also rented out for interior design shots. And I don’t see any of that money. Apparently I signed that away in the agreement, but anyway.

Ann Rea: (06:42)
Mm. Oh God. So they’re earning income off of renting your art and you are getting nothing. Mm-hmm. . Okay. Do you see why I’m pissed off and why I want you, like you and other students to just– because it just gets worse. You know, the more I talk to my students about what’s– I know what’s happened to me as a fine artist. And I know what’s happened to some of my students, but the more I dig into this, like the worst it gets. It’s just crazy. Mm-hmm. Alright. Alright. So when you look at the list, signing on exclusivity agreements, and really it sounds like signing a contract that you didn’t have full awareness of all the repercussions, right? That they could rent out your inventory. And of course, it always gets banged up when it’s rent out.

Andrea Wilson: (07:35)
Well, look, the other thing is at the time when I signed it, I was so excited about being represented and so, you know, whatever they wanted. .

Ann Rea: (07:45)
So everybody who’s listening, that’s the big manipulation that really does work well on artists because they’re using prestige or the perception of prestige to manipulate you. I want to make you sure you all understand that prestige is a French word. It means “deceit.” And so, “Oh, exclusivity.” That sounds really special, right? And so exclusivity is actually a really “shitty” term because you then are handcuffed to them and they don’t have to perform. And that’s a problem because if you want to sell in a certain geographic area that they just arbitrarily stake for their own, you can’t, righ? So be ware of this idea that exclusivity agreement is a good thing. It’s not a good thing. They have to prove their worth. They have to actually sell your art. And it sounds like they haven’t sold much in three years. Okay, so Andrea, based on what you know, in terms of the program Making Art Making Money, how much do you think you’d sell in three years? And how much money do you think you’d make?

Andrea Wilson: (09:04)
Well, if I hadn’t been paying commissions, I would’ve been making about $35,000 Australian dollars over the last few years.

Ann Rea: (09:17)
Yes. Yes. So in the meantime– alright, well, we’ve got the– you know, we’re going to turn the ship around. And you know, you knowledge is power. You’re going to take your power back. You’re not going to fall for this ever again.

Andrea Wilson: (09:32)
No .

Ann Rea: (09:33)
Right? You just know. You know better. And you know, it’s not as complicated as every– selling your art is not as complicated as everyone wants to make it out to be. It’s really simple. It’s having relationships, real relationships with people yields revenue. It’s just that simple. And honesty is the best marketing strategy. And you don’t have to sell yourself, or even what you said, Andrea. You don’t have to put yourself out there. You don’t– that almost feels icky, right? Mm-hmm. All you have to do is have genuine, you know, have genuine conversations, and connect with people based on the truth. . And also to be clear, repel people who you don’t vibe with, and who don’t care about your mission. That way you don’t have to waste any time with them. And that’s great. That’s great for you, and it’s great for them. That all makes sense?

Andrea Wilson: (10:31)
Yes, Absolutely.

Ann Rea: (10:33)
Alright. So is there anything else on that? Alright.

Andrea Wilson: (10:36)
Yes. There’s one other thing.

Ann Rea: (10:38)

Andrea Wilson: (10:38)
Which happened just recently. I was contacted by an NFT trading company.

Ann Rea: (10:45)
Oooh that’s right! That’s what I wanted you to talk about. Yes.

Andrea Wilson: (10:47)
Yes. Yes. So they contacted me asking if they could buy some of my works for as NFTs. And I said to them, because I didn’t know anything about NFTs, so I spoke to my niece who has a–she has a company that deals in digital currencies. And she advised me that this particular company were scammers. And what they do is they approach artists, and flatter them, which they did to me. And encourage them to upload their works to be sold off as NFTs. Now they have to pay to upload the works, and then they have to pay again to put them in an auction. And apparently they’re not even turned into NFTs.

Ann Rea: (11:35)
No, they’re not because they’re not accountable to anyone.

Andrea Wilson: (11:39)

Ann Rea: (11:40)
Yes. It’s really a fantastic scam, right?

Andrea Wilson: (11:43)

Ann Rea: (11:44)
It’s– I mean it’s morally reprehensible. So a lot of artists are being scammed right now under the guise of this great new opportunity called an NFT. Let me just tell you all right now. NFT is just a different form of currency and ownership and it’s great, except if you don’t know your niche. If you don’t know your target market, who wants to buy your art, why they want to buy it, and where, and how to go find more people just like them, you’re not going sell any any NFTs. It’s just that simple. So don’t waste your time. If you don’t know your niche, that should be your first order of business because there is no business that will survive on this planet if they don’t know their target market, and they don’t know their value proposition.

Ann Rea: (12:37)
That’s what you’ve got to figure out first. And then how you get to them, what channels are most productive and profitable, that becomes clearer over time. But please, I just, I mean it really– I mean artists really get taken advantage of, whether it’s these high price show booths at Art Basel, or a so supposedly associated with Art Basel, or now it’s the NFT uploads they’re paying for. So I’m just trying to put a stop to it best I can. So thank you for being willing to share that because anyone who’s listening to this may hear this and be maybe sidestep this tragedy because then of course, you know, you pay the money and then it’s the disappointment. It’s the erosion of your confidence and the erosion of your dignity. That’s the bigger cost over time. Alright. So , anything else on the list?

Andrea Wilson: (13:34)
? I’m trying to think. They’re the main ones.

Ann Rea: (13:41)
They’re the main ones?

Andrea Wilson: (13:43)

Ann Rea: (13:43)
Okay. Well, those are important. And actually, you brought up an aspect that I didn’t think about, right? The exclusivity agreements. I mean, it’s just the list keeps growing. I started with the list of 29. Now we’re up to 42 as of morning, and now you’ve just added another one to it. Exclusivity agreements. Right? And these are all of the strategies that don’t work. They never did work, and they’re never going to work. So let me ask you this, what are the two so far in the program, what are the two biggest lessons you think you’ve learned about selling your art?

Andrea Wilson: (14:24)
That– okay. The first one, and most important is that I don’t have to try to sell my art.

Ann Rea: (14:30)

Andrea Wilson: (14:31)
And that’s the nicest lesson, really, because—

Ann Rea: (14:37)
Isn’t it a relief?

Andrea Wilson: (14:38)
Yes. It’s a huge relief. And then the second is that I actually can– on that basis, I can actually develop just warm, sincere relationships with others.

Ann Rea: (14:53)

Andrea Wilson: (14:54)
That is not– which is not based around selling.

Ann Rea: (14:59)

Andrea Wilson: (14:59)
That’s the advantage. Yes.

Ann Rea: (15:01)
And if you’re listening to Andrea, doesn’t she seem like a warm, sincere person? Like it’s kind of obvious, right? What else is she going to do? Like that’s how– that’s who she is.

Andrea Wilson: (15:11)
Yes. And she shouldn’t be anything other than who she is. Being her authentic self and speaking her truth, and having her own standards of dignity is what’s going to be her superpower. And that’s– it’s simple, you guys. It’s really simple. You don’t need to sell yourself. You don’t need to put yourself out there. You don’t need to talk about your work . You really don’t. It’s very simple. And it’s really about connecting with people. Your product as an artist is emotion. You’re not selling goods or services. And so in order for that emotion to really connect with another human being, because human beings are the people who buy art , you just have to be honest and you know, sincere, and you won’t waste time with people who are never going to buy your art when you’re just yourself. And if– I don’t know if you’ve had that experience, right? Where you’ve got– you’re trying to connect with people and you think got nothing in common, this isn’t working.

Andrea Wilson: (16:16)
, Yes. .

Ann Rea: (16:19)
I always ask my students this, if someone was sitting on the fence and they just were like, “Oh, I don’t know about applying to enroll in this program. I’m not sure. Maybe I should. Maybe I shouldn’t. Oh, I don’t know if I can do it. Maybe I can. Maybe I can’t.” What would you honestly say to them?

Andrea Wilson: (16:38)
I would honestly say that for the progress I’ve made so far, it’s been absolutely worth it. Like, even if I didn’t finish, even if I just stop now, it’s been absolutely worth it.

Ann Rea: (16:53)
What makes it worth it? What’s made it worth it for you? For you.

Andrea Wilson: (16:57)
Okay. Confidence and clarity. .

Ann Rea: (17:00)

Andrea Wilson: (17:00)
Confidence and clarity. And I mean there’s a whole lot of– I mean I’m only up to course four, right?

Ann Rea: (17:08)
Oh, you’re not even halfway through. .

Andrea Wilson: (17:11)

Ann Rea: (17:11)

Andrea Wilson: (17:12)
Yes. So I know I’ve got a lot more to go, a lot more to learn, but even this much has– I mean, look, to be honest, I’ve sold about five paintings this month.

Ann Rea: (17:24)

Andrea Wilson: (17:27)
Which I mean, yeah– which is fantastic.

Ann Rea: (17:29)
And how much has that gallery in Melbourne sold?

Andrea Wilson: (17:33)
Oh, none. Yes, none.

Ann Rea: (17:38)
If you’re out there, clap for my student here. Look what she’s done. That’s so wonderful.

Andrea Wilson: (17:43)
Yes, it is. It’s great.

Ann Rea: (17:45)
I’m very proud of you. Very good. Very good. Alright then. So like everybody, please take a minute. If what you’re doing isn’t working, time to try something else, . And that’s all I have to say on that note. But thank you so much for sharing your experience. I really appreciate it. I’m hoping it’ll help other people avoid these exclusivity agreements, which are– because they’re just going to handcuff you to.

Andrea Wilson: (18:16)
Yup. Don’t do it.

Ann Rea: (18:17)
Don’t sign an exclusivity agreement. And if someone rents your art, they owe you a fee and you should be well aware of what fee you’re willing to accept. I will warn you that I’ve never found renting my art to be very profitable and it always come back banged up and damaged. It’s not really worth it in my experience. So, alright. Thank you so very much. I appreciate you coming on and we’ll see you in class.

Andrea Wilson: (18:50)
Yup. Alright.Thank you.

Ann Rea: (18:51)
Take care. Bye.

Ann Rea

Ann Rea, Fine Artist & Mentor

Ann Rea is a San Francisco-based fine artist. She created Making Art Making Money™, the leading and most reputable business program for fine artists since 2005. Rea’s art and business savvy have been featured on ABC, HGTV, Creative Live, The Good Life Project, in the book Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields, the San Francisco Chronicle, Art Business News, Fortune, and Inc. Magazines. Rea’s artistic talent was commended by her mentor, art icon Wayne Thiebaud. 

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