Pay to Play

I’ve mentioned vanity galleries on here before but given some recent discussions, I felt it necessary to post about this controversial topic again.  I can tell you that I have never heard of anyone ever selling out a show or gaining ANY type of success from a vanity gallery.  Never.  If that were the case, we’d hear other artists singing their praises.  I know that it sounds great- a solo show in a major city (usually New York).  But that’s all you are getting.  A show.  There will never be a single show that will send your career into the stratosphere.  You’re thinking, right, of course not.  Well, if you’re willing to pay around $3000 plus all other costs associated with a show, then that show sure as hell better send your career into the stratosphere.  But again, that doesn’t happen.  So why even entertain the thought of showing in a vanity gallery?

OK- so here is the breakdown:

Vanity galleries are any gallery that require the artist to pay in order to show with them.  Not to be confused with a co-op gallery, which is owned and operated by the artists involved.

Vanity galleries charge an outrageous fee, this ranges anywhere from $1500- $3000 or just shy of selling a kidney.

Most vanity galleries also require that the artist install and de-install the show themselves.  Aside from this being a lot of work for the artist, after all, what are you paying the gallery for, but you’ll probably need a plane ticket as well if you don’t already live nearby.

Let’s not forget you are also responsible for shipping costs.  Plus you’ll be paying return shipping when the work does not sell.

You’ll most likely be responsible for invitation costs, so aside from printing costs, postage adds up quickly.

Vanity galleries do not push for sales.  Sure, the work is for sale, but nobody is going to work hard to sell it for you, they’ve already got your $3000, remember?

Many vanity galleries require that you do your own gallery-sitting anyway, so you’d be the only salesperson in that case.

You’ll also be responsible for drinks and food during the reception.

Lastly, and this is probably the worst of them all, your reputation is sullied in the eyes of “real” galleries.  Galleries know who the vanity galleries are and do not look kindly upon them.  If you think you’ll get a show with an established gallery with a vanity gallery on your resume, you are dead wrong.  Sorry to be so blunt, but I’m telling it like it is.  Galleries want to show artists that are successful based on their merits, not on how much they’re willing to pay their way to “success.”

And so, the big question here is “what are you paying for exactly???”  Just what does $3000 pay for?  Why does the gallery need that money?  I would love to hear their response.

If you’ve shown with a vanity gallery, the best thing you can do is to remove any mention of them from your resume, website, blog, social media sites, etc.  Make as if they don’t exist and move on.  Galleries that are new to your work don’t have to know.  Consider it a learning experience and just keep moving forward.  If you are still considering showing with a vanity gallery, the only other thing I can recommend is to Google them.  Look up their name with the word scam or just look up their name alone.  More than likely you will find horror stories and you can hear directly from artists that did participate.  Just keep in mind that no career was made overnight.  Even “superstars” that appear out of nowhere have been behind the scenes, working diligently for years and years, except no one was aware of that part.


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