In the primary market it is customary for galleries to take a whopping 50% of the sale of your artwork. Here are three things you can expect from your gallery in return.
Promote the work to their client base, not yours
It is fair to expect your gallery to promote and sell your art to their collector base instead of asking for your list: you don’t need a gallery to sell to your own collectors. You need your gallery to expose you to new audiences by giving you exhibitions and taking your work to art fairs. It is a bad omen if a gallery asks for your collector list.
Sell your work or forego exclusivity
Exclusivity is an important and potentially dangerous clause for artists. If you allow Gallery A to exclusively sell your work in the US, that means Gallery B and C can’t. If Gallery A consistently sells all of your work, an exclusivity clause may be fine but listing you on their website without results (i.e. exhibitions, sales) is not. Monitor the situation and try to renegotiate terms when you are not getting what you need from the relationship.
Let you sell out of your studio
A sore point (one that I often hear about) is the sale of art out of your studio. There is no reason why a gallery should receive 50% on the sale of ALL of your artwork, unless you specifically agree this with them in advance. Bring this up with a gallery before you sign on the dotted line: you do not want to be in a position where you feel you have to secretly sell your work in order to avoid having to pay your gallery a commission.