Being a designer-maker of contemporary jewellery working full-time for over two decades, I’ve seen over the years more and more consignment arrangements and fewer outlets actually buying work outright.
This of course poses a whole new set of potential advantages but I believe mostly challenges for the maker as we have to invest the time and material upfront and ‘wait’ for the sales, so the risk lays heavily on us. Plus the extra time that keeping track of the work involves, as opposed to doing a straight sale. I don’t think that people who go for making art are keen on bookkeeping practices, right? Well, I learned I must be as strict on this part of the job as I am with quality-control.
I must admit I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of choosing myself which pieces I send to the gallery, when on a Sale Or Return basis. BUT, must stress here again that keeping track of stock can be a lot of work! Not to mention the risks involved. After 25 years it did happen to me- a gallery recently refused to pay for pieces not sold or returned.
This prompted me to read everything I could find about the subject and was very sad to learn that this unfortunately happens rather often. I read in forums things like “Be prepared to lose a few pieces – you can’t see how people are treating your stuff.” I find this unacceptable. Don’t you?
Not wishing at all to place all gallery owners in the same bag (a Brazilian expression- I think it works in English, too, hum?) I have wonderful and long relationships with the galleries which represent me, and do put myself in their shoes and imagine the pressure all the costs of running a gallery imposes… it was a one-off thing. It was a brand new gallery and maybe I took a chance I shouldn’t have, but saying this: nothing justifies trying to get away with not paying the artist.
Well, one positive thing I’d like to share is that there’s help out there… Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in the US, and here for us in the EU there’s the European Small Claims Court, with a cost of 15euro and a subsequent European Order for Payment should set things right.
Visual Artists Ireland: “we have seen an increase in the number of complaints that we are receiving about artists not being paid for works sold, or artists unable to get their works returned to them from dealers and ‘gallerists’. With this increase we have taken advice on the matter and have found that one option open to artists is to report this as a crime.”
We say in Brazil: ‘conselho só se dá a quem pede’ / ‘advice should only be offered to someone who asks’ but I’ll dare give a word of advice, as I suspect that, even though this is a more prevalent problem than it is openly discussed, most makers unfortunately do shy away from this subject: other artists/crafts people out there- please be cautious! to Collect (payment) On Delivery should be diligently sough after if unsure of the gallery’s reputation!