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Sticker Shock or A Real Bargain - It's All Relative To Framing

Sharing Costs or Getting Taken? Possible Benefits versus Risks Sharing Fees for Space and Financial Cooperation Among Artists

This post contains a real email - n
ot fake or pretend.  The exact email is copied from my inbox.  I only deleted the name of the gallery.

The email is asking an artist to cover costs to participate in a show.
What do you think? Would you participate?

Read the whole thing. My comments follow below.

Subject: SOFA NY
Email: ***
Your comments: Dear Harriete:

I am the owner of an Art Gallery located in [*****(a country in South America)].
Since year 2000, my gallery participates as an exhibitor at SOFA (The International Exhibition of Sculpture, Objects and Functional Art - ) in New York, Chicago, and since year 2009 in the new SOFA West at Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This year SOFA decided to change the focus of the show, toward the furniture and design.
I am submitting a proposal of showing 10 chairs and 10 mirrors by artists and believe your pieces have affinity with the rest of my inventory, and absolutely fit for SOFA.
Would you be interested in an exhibit at SOFA represented by my gallery in case the project will be approved?
This call to represent you at SOFA implies in my gallery the idea of sharing costs, since expenses are so high that I am not able to solve them completely by myself, and involves important financial cooperation from the artists, which are considered as partners since they pay some fees for space and I take lower commissions than other galleries in case of selling. 
If you are interested in this kind of proposal, let me know and I´ll send Terms and Conditions to participate.

Sincerely, ****
(****name of gallery owner)

(****name of

STOP AND THINK HERE.  How would you respond?

If you want to exhibit at SOFA (or any other art fair) it presents a way to reduce expenses and possibly make some extra sales.  And it sounds so sincere. 

 Would you agree to this offer (assuming that your work is a perfect fit with the theme of the gallery exhibition)?



Consuming Identity Chair Material  constructed by Harriete Estel Berman from recycled tin canitid
 Consuming Identity © 2001
  Post-Consumer Recycled tin cans,
  fabric, ribbon, aluminum, steel screws,
  Chair sculpture is not functional.
  Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
  Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Material Identity Chair constructed by Harriete Estel Berman from recycled tin cans.n r
Material Identity © 2001
Post-Consumer Recycled tin cans,
aluminum, steel screws,
Chair sculpture is not functional.

Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Here are my concerns.

The offer may indeed be sincere, . . . maybe, . . . but the chance of benefit is far outweighed by the numerous risks and red flags. 

The gallery is out of the country, so, for all practical purposes, there is no legal recourse if something goes wrong.

Giving money to an unknown person or entity with no prior working relationship or familiarity is a definite "red flag."

I would have no control over the display, marketing, or selection of other artists even though I contributed money.

This is an investment of my time and money into a relationship that would be very difficult to continue, thus a one-time opportunity, and not likely worth the hassle.

Overall, too many risks.  Or, this could be a scam.  Or if real, too many loose ends. 

Instead, if you want to pursue such offers, I would suggest that you meet the gallery in advance by a year and get to know the gallery owner and related people. Look at the selection of artists, style of work, and presentation. If you are still favorably inclined, you can then arrange for sharing in future years.  At least you would know who you're working with.

What do you think?

Did I miss something?  Should I reconsider? 


Material Identity Front CORNER all made from recycled tin cans Material Identity starts with a chair inspired by the styling principle of Charles Lock Eastlake. His book Hints on Household Taste was a best-selling book in England and America in the years after its first publishing in 1868.

Material  Identity Chair images focuses on the seat from recycled tin cans

Ironically, Eastlake's treatise expounds on commentary equally relevant today. He said that public taste is corrupt - fashion rules and few are shocked by sham and pretension. Cheap and easy method of workmanship in an endeavor to produce a show of finish with the least possible labor, as well as an unhealthy spirit of competition in regard to price, has continued to cause the value of our ordinary mechanic's work to deteriorate.
The parallels today 100 years later are resounding.

Material Identity chair from reycled tin cans by Harriete Estel Berman
Bermaid is a play on words. First, my name - Berman - is not a very good name for an avowed feminist. Using "maid" instead of "man" indicates the artist is a woman and suggests a pun on "made" as in made by hand.
Dimensions of Chair: 38.25" height x 17.25" width x 14" depth

Photo Credit for all images: Philip Cohen

This post was updated on February 23, 2023