Thorn In My Side...

Disclaimer: The following is hypothetical and any similarities to actual people, places or companies is purely coincidental.

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Art publishers represent artists to make things easier for the artist. The publishers take care of the show schedules, create limited editions, distribution, publicity, marketing, pricing, blah blah blah.
The publisher makes it possible for the artist to be an artist.

The publishers then sell the programs of their artists to galleries. The galleries get to chose from several artists while only having to deal with one sales rep. Artists can be a bit difficult to deal with on a one to one basis.

Publishers can be a great advantage for both galleries and artists. Most are great to work with.

Unfortunately some publishers give the whole art world a bad name. They lie, they cheat and would sell their own mothers for a quick buck.

I guess it's probably no different than other businesses. When money is involved people do crazy things. When art is involved it is easy to take advantage because most people know very little or nothing about it.

Lately several of them have decided that they will no longer take credit cards from galleries who buy their work. They don't want to pay the fees. The galleries really have no choice. If we want the work we have to pay cash. The galleries on the other hand have to take credit cards if we want to sell art.

Cheap and annoying but not dishonest.

I have been about told a couple of publishers that would artificially increase the price of works to make collectors believe that they were investment quality works. This is very dishonest and it's all about the money.

The publisher offers a limited edition work, say 195 pieces, 30 x 40 inches on canvas. With todays technology, it costs about $25 to $40.00 per sheet to print. If they go top quality. Cut a few corners and it's about $5.00 to $10.00 per sheet. They are then pre-released for $1595.00 each. That is not a typo!

After the first 25 are sold the price goes up to $1895.00. The next 25 are $2295.00 and so on.
If the work is good and all 195 sell, the last few are sold for around $7500.00 each or more.

If the edition is not selling well, the publisher only prints 25 to 50 of the 195. They claim that it is selling out or already sold out and jacks the price all the way up. No one knows that all of them were never printed. All of the paper work says they were. The galleries end up pay more as do the collectors.

They only have to sell the first few in order to pay for the entire edition. After years of this a publisher can end up with hundreds of unsold works. Even more if the publisher actually printed all of them. Once the publisher has milked the artist for everything they can, they take all of the unsold works and sell them for pennies on the dollar to places like, Home Shopping Networks. Doing this destroys any value that the works may have had. The good and the bad alike. A collector that paid thousands of dollars for a work now has something that is basically worthless.

It can be disastrous to the artists reputation and career. What's worse is that the artist may not know what is going on until it's too late.

An artist dying is sometimes an opportunity for the publisher to take advantage as well. They have an artist who is selling well, becoming very popular, but still unknown. The prices are honestly going up. The for reasons beyond anyones control the artist dies. The publisher quadruples (or more) the price of everything left. People hear that the artist has died and a feeding frenzy begins. Peoples greed and the thought of making a quick buck fill the air. They buy with the sole thought of investment.

The problem is that the artist had not reached their full potential. Mainly because the publisher was holding them back in the first place, but because the artist was young and still relatively unknown, the works will most likely never hold the new inflated value. The fact that they have now been artificially inflated because of the death will end up hurting the value of all of the works in the long run.

To be fair, galleries and artists can be just as shady. But those are different posts.

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