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美国画廊的经营模式Exploring the Diverse Business Models of Art Galleries in the US


Photo by Dannie Jing via Unsplash


也许我们可以先说说什么叫画廊。提起这个词,我们脑海里浮现的八成是高大上的明亮空间,穿着时尚的画廊主和销售礼貌而冷淡的和顾客交谈,它们坐落在经济发达的城市最繁华的街道上。这只是媒体乐于报道的画廊。


再说画廊的经营模式。大多数人期待的是文艺复兴时期到20世纪初中期的传统艺术赞助人模式。艺术家创作和吃喝有人供养,只顾专心创作就好。至于现今的当代画廊,如何代理艺术家,我也想知道,到底有多少人真的了解,除了画廊和艺术家之间55分成,通常非独家两年合同左右合同期限。比如以下问题:

Perhaps we can start by discussing what an art gallery is. When this word comes up, what often springs to mind is a lofty, brightly lit space with fashionably dressed gallery owners and sales staff conversing with customers in a polite yet aloof manner. These galleries are typically situated on the busiest streets of economically prosperous cities. However, this is just the type of gallery that the media loves to report on.


Now, about the business models of galleries. Most people expect the traditional patronage model that was prevalent from the Renaissance period to the early mid-20th century. In this model, artists were sponsored for their basic living and creative needs, allowing them to focus solely on their art. As for contemporary galleries today, I’m also curious about how they represent artists. Not many people truly understand this, aside from the common 55 percent commission shared between galleries and artists, usually under a non-exclusive contract for around two years. For instance, the following questions:

1

画廊独家代理艺术家,画廊会为艺术家做什么,

艺术家的职责有哪些;

2

绝大部分画廊是非独家代理艺术家,

采用寄卖的方式,那么双方职责和权利是什么;

3

无论独家还是非独家,

假设通过上一家画廊的代理,

艺术家被更好的画廊发现,前任画廊是否有回报;

4

画廊如何宣传艺术家;

艺术家需要给画廊提供的作品数量。

  1. “When a gallery exclusively represents an artist, what are the responsibilities of the gallery towards the artist, and what are the artist’s duties?”

  2. “Most galleries are non-exclusive in representing artists and operate on a consignment basis. What are the responsibilities and rights of both parties in this arrangement?”

  3. “Regardless of whether the representation is exclusive or not, if an artist is discovered by a better gallery through the promotion of a previous gallery, does the former gallery receive any compensation or recognition?”

  4. “How do galleries promote artists, and how many works are artists expected to provide to the gallery?”


我想第4点是最重要的。据我了解,无论纽约曼哈顿、洛杉矶市区,还是我所在的城市凤凰城,所有纯艺画廊模式的经营,在展览期间以外,都是不宣传艺术家的;有展览的时候宣传方式是在画廊自己的社交媒体上发布内容,简单的开幕或闭幕party — — 更像是圈内人借机聚会,基本没有藏家到场。


I think the fourth point is the most important. From what I understand, whether it’s in Manhattan, New York, downtown Los Angeles, or in my city, Phoenix, all pure art gallery models operate without promoting artists outside of exhibition periods. When there is an exhibition, the promotion method is to post content on the gallery’s own social media, and hold simple opening or closing parties — which are more like opportunities for people in the industry to gather, with hardly any collectors attending.


提出上述问题,阐述上述背景的原因是,

艺术家被画廊代理,到底可以实现什么目的?这些目的是否只能通过画廊代理来实现?

美国人的画廊经营模式非常多样化,但其实并不是想象的那样,高大上的蓝筹画廊代理模式有多先进,而是“普通“艺术从业者 — — 包括艺术家和经纪人,在中端艺术市场上如何占有一席之地。


当然了,大部分艺术圈的人都觉得自己不普通。


The reason for posing the above questions and outlining the background is to understand what objectives an artist can achieve by being represented by a gallery. Are these objectives achievable only through gallery representation? The business models of galleries in the United States are very diverse, but in reality, they are not as high-end and advanced as one might imagine in the blue-chip gallery representation model. It’s more about how ‘ordinary’ art practitioners — including artists and agents — can carve out a niche for themselves in the mid-tier art market. Of course, most people in the art world don’t consider themselves ordinary.

1

艺术家众筹画廊

到美国以后,我着实更进一步体会到很多以前在外企推崇的价值观,比如团队精神。艺术家众筹画廊就是团队精神的很好体现。

财务方面,几个艺术家合伙,分摊租金开画廊,按排班表分别到画廊值班看场子,值班销售卖出去别人的作品,会有分成;艺术家自己卖出去就获得全部收入。

宣传方面,画廊轮流给股东艺术家办个展或大家一起群展,共同创造展览记录,当然为了自己的作品,每个人都会很起劲的推广了。

这种众筹模式有个小的变体,就是经纪人参与成为股东,负责艺术家这个工种确实也本不该做的工作。


  1. Artists Crowdfunded Art Galleries

After coming to the United States, I truly gained a deeper appreciation for many of the values extolled in foreign enterprises, such as the spirit of teamwork. Crowdfunded art galleries are a great manifestation of this spirit.

Financially, several artists partner together, sharing the rent to open a gallery. They take turns staffing the gallery, and if one sells another artist’s work while on duty, they receive a commission; if they sell their own work, they keep all the revenue.

In terms of promotion, the gallery takes turns hosting solo exhibitions for the shareholder artists or group exhibitions for everyone, collectively creating exhibition records. Naturally, as it’s for their own work, each person will be very motivated to promote it.

There’s a small variation to this crowdfunding model, which involves agents becoming shareholders. They handle tasks that artists themselves aren’t necessarily suited to do.”


2

艺术家和艺术经纪人双重身份画廊

有的艺术家很有经营头脑,喜欢和人打交道,自己也收藏,所以他们会独立经营一间画廊。这和其他商业画廊的区别不大,只是艺术家更有主动权给自己办展。同时因为经纪人这个第二重身份,他们会去发掘艺术家,从而达到优化和共享藏家池的效果。


这种模式对艺术家的资金和精力要求都很高,我觉得如果把工作室和画廊合并,也许可以轻松一点。


2.Artist and Art Agent Dual Role Galleries

Some artists have a keen business sense, enjoy interacting with people, and collect art themselves, so they independently operate their own galleries. This isn’t much different from other commercial galleries, except that the artist has more autonomy in organizing their own exhibitions. Also, because of their secondary role as agents, they seek out other artists, thereby optimizing and sharing their collector pool.


This model demands a lot from artists in terms of both financial and energy resources. I think combining the studio and gallery might make things a bit easier.”








Installation view of essentials, Gino Belassen, 2023, BELHAUS, Phoenix. Photo by Ding Ding.

In Collaboration with BELHAUS


3

和你想象中并不一样的艺术商业结合体


国内有不少艺术商业,比如K11;或者有些画廊,为了更亲民,吸引客流,把画廊功能增加了生活方式,比如咖啡厅、手作课程等等。这种模式基本还是画廊或商场,同样对资金和商业体量都有要求。


美国很常见的是咖啡厅、书店和策展人合作,把商业空间开辟出画廊区域,定期做展览。这样和上面说的艺术商业区别是第一,对商业体量要求不高,很容易找到合作对象,因为现成的咖啡厅书店到处都是,并且四面空墙是现成的艺术品陈列空间,只需要引入策展人;第二是在宣传的角度,因为双方的身份都算是空间的主人,所以不仅有咖啡厅的宣传,策展人一方会把展览作为画廊展览一样宣传。


这种模式的一个变体是,无需策展人,由艺术家直接和商业空间合作。比如我前几天到访的一家美发沙龙和画廊的共享空间就是这种模式。这家店面在凤凰城市中心,隔着玻璃望进去我原本以为就是一家单纯的画廊,没想到进去看到沙龙椅子。工作日的白天,发型师会在,关键她还很了解画廊的情况,热心的和来访者做介绍;每周五晚上和周末,艺术家会到店,作为开放工作室。画廊部分也接受外部艺术家展示作品,收取一定的场地租金和销售分成。


3. A Fusion of Art and Business


Unlike What You Might Imagine In China, there are quite a few art businesses, like K11; or some galleries, in an effort to be more accessible and attract foot traffic, have added lifestyle elements to their gallery function, such as cafes, craft workshops, etc. This model is basically still a gallery or a shopping center, which also requires substantial financial and commercial scale.


In the United States, it’s common to see cafes, bookstores, and curators collaborate, dedicating a part of their commercial space to a gallery area and organizing regular exhibitions. The difference from the art-business model mentioned above is, first, it doesn’t require a large commercial scale. It’s easy to find partners, as there are existing cafes and bookstores everywhere, and their empty walls serve as ready-made art display spaces, only needing a curator’s input. Second, from a promotional standpoint, as both parties are considered hosts of the space, not only does the cafe promote it, but the curator also advertises the exhibition as they would for a gallery show.


A variation of this model doesn’t require a curator; artists can directly collaborate with commercial spaces. For example, a few days ago, I visited a shared space between a hair salon and a gallery in downtown Phoenix. From outside, looking through the glass, I initially thought it was just a gallery. To my surprise, inside were salon chairs. On weekdays, the hairstylist is present and is quite knowledgeable about the gallery, enthusiastically introducing it to visitors; on Friday evenings and weekends, artists use the space as an open studio. The gallery part also rents out space to outside artists, charging a venue rental fee and a commission on sales.



Aftermarket, Phoenix, 2023. Photo by Ding Ding


我同意艺术高于生活,这个观点适用于学术内涵,未必适用于商业。比如高古轩就是我们的榜样之一。


但是不要误解,传统画廊的经营模式依然被我们需要,开一间画廊也依然是我的计划。

以上几种都是艺术从业者报团取暖,或者不同社会分工的人共同协作的呈现。


如果你是艺术家,还没有被画廊代理,或者是经纪人,不想开画廊,也许可以参考。


I agree that art is above life, a viewpoint that applies to its academic essence but may not necessarily be suitable for business. For example, Gagosian is one of our role models.

However, don’t misunderstand, the traditional gallery business model is still needed by us, and opening a gallery remains part of my plan.


All the aforementioned models represent artists banding together for mutual support or collaborations between individuals with different societal roles.


If you are an artist not yet represented by a gallery, or an agent who doesn’t want to open a gallery, these models might be worth considering.


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