Many museums host trunk shows for their members offering a 20% discount to their members.
I would like to comment on the common practice that the trunk show discount to the members comes out of the artist's pocket. Since this trunk show is supposed to be a "perk" for membership with the museum and represents the relationship of the museum with the membership specifically, it is a total rip-off that the discount comes from the artist's percent of the retail purchase price. The discount to the members should come out of the museum's profit, not the artists.
Yes, I realize the museum is sponsoring the event with promotion and using its space; on the other hand, artists have expenses for travel, accommodation, and retail display. The artists are coming to work not going on a vacation.
Usually, the artists invited are emerging artists. They are excited, even thrilled to be invited to sell their work at the S.F. Museum of Modern Art. It sounds totally "cool" to be selling their work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The reality is that they are not showing their work in the museum. They are not part of the elite group of artists showing work within the museum's exhibition space. They are selling their work as part of a trunk show on one day.
The trunk show is promoted as a benefit to the members on the announcement and as part of membership information. If these trunk shows are a part of a unique benefit to members of the museum, the museum should absorb the discount.
There is definitely more to say about this topic but will wait to see how many toes I've stepped on already.
Harriete Estel Berman
This post was updated on December 17, 2021