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gallery vs shop

updated sun 4 aug 02


David Hendley on fri 2 aug 02

Janet, I have been to several establishments that, according to
your definitions, function as both a "galleries"and a "shops".
Typically, there is a big main room in the front, where exhibitions
are mounted, while in the back there is other merchandise for sale.
Fine quality and hand made, but available on an ongoing basis.

The exhibitions are planned years ahead of time, with invitations
and openings, and the pieces must stay for the entire exhibition,
even if sold on opening night.
Sometimes the exhibition features an artist who's work is regularly
for sale back in the "shop" part of the business. For the special
showing, new, more elaborate, or one-of-a-kind pieces are on display.

This seems like a good marriage of art and commerce to me.
David Hendley
Maydelle, Texas

----- Original Message -----
From: "Janet Kaiser"
Sent: Friday, August 02, 2002 8:29 PM
Subject: Gallery vs Shop

I would just like to point out what distinguishes a "gallery" from a
"shop", even within the commercial sector. I have mentioned this before,
but I do feel that some clarification is necessary from time to time.

Janet Kaiser on sat 3 aug 02

I would just like to point out what distinguishes a "gallery" from a
"shop", even within the commercial sector. I have mentioned this before,
but I do feel that some clarification is necessary from time to time.

Basically, galleries are where original work is on display for a strictly
limited time. The primary function of a gallery is to hold "exhibitions"
which present the public with the opportunity of seeing new work within a
specific context. Whether one or more artists/makers are included in an
exhibition, their work has been individually selected and they are given
special exposure to the visitors to that gallery for a set time. It is
advertised under an exhibition title and promoted as such. Some are selling
exhibitions, some are not, even within the commercial sector. Knowledgeable
staff (and sometimes even an expert in their own field) are at hand to give
complete in-depth information about each artist and exhibit on show, beyond
what is in the published catalogue. What they do not know, they can look up
and on the whole they can also offer other specialist advice to their
(mostly) regular client base as well as the off-the-street customer. An
established gallery is known and respected in certain circles, whether it
specialises in a particular field of expertise or not. It has a well
documented history and reputation both locally and nationally, sometimes
even internationally.

A shop, on the other hand, is where lines of stock are bought in and then
sold, irrespective of maker or artist. Everything is just another commodity
and what is not commercially viable soon gets discontinued. However
up-market, it is basically a trading post and much more anonymous. The shop
can be one of a chain of stores nationally and the buyers usually stock
each shop in exactly the same way with little regard to regional
differences. The staff will not know much about the work nor the customers,
let alone the artists/makers by name. When a pot is sold, the buyer is
often unaware of who made it.

Offering refreshments whilst they are thinking about a purchase, credit
facilities for large purchases or showing the degree of customer care one
associates with a gallery is unusual in any shop. And it certainly has non
of the fancy extras like keeping client lists, historical/archival records,
facilitating commissions, inclusion in catalogues (good for CVs), exposure
in the media, inter-gallery exchanges, previews, posters, postcards, etc.
etc. which the gallery provides as a matter of course. The huge amount of
"administration" (including the hands-on work such as the return of work at
the end of an exhibition) is another added facet the shopkeeper does not
have to worry about.

Without the added costs of all these little extras incurred by a gallery,
the shop makes a much bigger profit, not least because their mark-up was
also greater to start with. Yet the shop has non of the responsibilities
towards the exhibitors or the public which the gallery actively cultivates.
What a paradox! The more one does, the less the return... Something is not
right, is it?

Is it therefore any surprise when exhibitors moan about gallery commission,
yet are quite happy selling wholesale to a shop, which will slap on up to
200%, that I wonder just how much real thought has gone into their own
selling strategy?

And is it any wonder, that even long-established galleries are closing down
all over the world? As costs rocket, whilst the markets crash, something,
somewhere has to go.

Janet Kaiser - Just ruminating on the future, after celebrating our seventh

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