In our everyday life we run the risk of becoming a victim of scams of so many forms that one should think twice before falling into a trap. We get scam emails, receive phone calls from shady investment bankers, messages saying that you won a car or a million and so on. Those con artists know better than anyone that we all love easy money, and they use that in their work. Art world is not an exception. An emerging artist who is just starting his/her career in art may not be aware of the existence of the so called vanity galleries.
Wikipedia gives the following definition of a vanity gallery: “A vanity gallery is an art gallery that charges artists fees to exhibit their work and makes most of its money from artists rather than from sales to the public”.
On the contrary, a real gallery’s profit depends on the amount of paintings they sell. Thus only established galleries that have real (often long-term) contacts with collectors make real money and actually sell. It’s obvious that most of the time emerging artists are not welcome there. After having heard hundreds of times a “NO” from gallery curators and almost lost hope an emerging artist fall on to a vanity gallery or fair. Whether they find you themselves and send you a seductive email saying that they came across your art page in the internet and found your work exceptional. The work that they think would fit perfectly in their gallery. Or you will find them yourself simply by surfing on the internet. They do invest money into SEO and publicity. Anyway it’s such a small amount in comparison with the profit they make from naive artists. They may ask you a fee for hanging your art on their walls, or a fee for PR, promotion and other shit that is supposed to get you closer to “collectors”. The fee sums may escalate to tens of thousands of dollars. Those galleries rip off the artists by making them sign scam contracts that they don’t even read. The only thing young artists have in mind is that they will become famous and rich overnight. They consider their participation in vanity fair as an investment into their career while the so called curators live with their money.
You may say: there is nothing scam in paying for a booth and participation fee at an art show. All big known art fairs charge fees. The difference is that it’s hard to get into famous art show while vanity art fairs except everyone anytime. Even if the application date has passed.
Another important thing is that you will hardly meet real collectors there. Most of the time vanity fairs do not take percentage on sales. Because there will be nobody to sell to. All those “collectors” are actors or better con artists that come to play their part and drink free champagne you paid for. There will also be onlookers who might buy your posters but not many. The only positive thing about participating in vanity fair is that you get a real feedback from ordinary people.
If you get approached by a vanity gallery think twice before accepting their offer. Check out this link, and if you find your gallery in the list (the list is not complete and is growing every year), just ask yourself if it’s worth taking a risk.