I’ve received lots of inquiries about how to sell art through consignment. Partially because retailers do not have the cash to purchase art anymore, but mostly because we live in an area that has a high volume of tourists (would-be art buyers) throughout the summer months.
If you’ve considered selling your art on consignment, there are a few considerations that will help make this a profitable experience.
Please check out our Facebook Live streams about selling on consignment and pricing your art on our Facebook page.
This post is intended for artists selling their own work, not for collectors wanting to sell someone else’s art work.
How consignment works?
You provide artwork(s) to a retailer or gallery in hopes that they sell. When your work sells, you get part of the retail price, and the seller gets the rest.
For retailers, which could include coffee shops, restaurants, etc—it’s not unusual to see something around a 30/70 split, where the retailer keeps 30%. Whether it’s more or less, it really depends on the amount of marketing and sales support they provide. If you’re a more establish artist, do hesitate to ask for a better percentage, but remember they probably have dozens of other artists asking to get into their venue…
For galleries, specifically commercial galleries, a 50/50 split is still fair, since they’re showcasing your work and providing valuable wall space—the difference is worth the exposure. Anything higher than this should be avoided.
Choosing a consignment venue
Always try to choose a retailer or gallery that has a good chance of selling your art. Best case scenario, they have experience in selling art similar to your’s and in the same price range. Avoid venues that might be looking for free art to hang on their walls—these retailers will not be motivated to sell your work. Try to select retailers that have good lighting and a steady flow of traffic, most tourist districts are usually great places to start.
Make sure you have a good contract in place
To avoid misunderstandings, I recommend having a contract listing each artwork. It doesn’t need to be crafted by a lawyer, however there are some specific items that should be addressed. Here is a list of some key elements:
• Include your name and full contact details
• Name of contact at the shop and their telephone and email address
• Term of the contract—drop-off date and when you need to pick up the art, if it doesn’t sell
• Name, title, size, edition number (if applicable) and description of the artwork
• Retail price—set a reasonable and fair market price. Do your research in advance.
• The agreed commission and specify the split, indicating who gets what percent.
• How will you get paid. The standard is no more than 30 days from when the artwork sells. There is no reason why you couldn’t receive payment by electronic transfer within the week.
• Short statement about ownership of the artwork and copyright (so that this can be made clear to the buyer)
• Insurance requirements—the gallery, you (or both) should have insurance for the artwork in the case of fire, theft or any kind of damage that might occur while it is on their premises.
There are lots of great examples out there for contracts. Modify, cut and paste and build a contract that fits your needs.
Consignment doesn’t work for everyone, as it can consume a lot of time moving and dropping artwork amongst different venues. However, if you aren’t a “sales person”, consigning your work is a great alternative to attending art markets, while allowing you to experiment in different venues throughout your area (seeing what sells where). It also allows you to stay in your studio and produce more work—your favourite thing!
Let me know your experiences in consigning art. Do you have a good contract that you would like to share?
Best of luck!