After the recent series of posts about Good Galleries Gone Bad, a couple of artist/makers sent comments about how they had been contacted by galleries mentioned in the posts, but had turned down the overtures to be represented and sell their work. I wondered how these artists knew how to TURN ON their scam radar.
I asked Kerin Rose to elaborate on why her scam radar was on alert. She said,
"I think that Victoria Lansford spelled it out exactly....for starters, the gallery was unproven...brand new shop, no track record whatsoever. Also, very pushy sort of sales pitch...I hope this doesn’t sound weird , but when retailers approach me with consignment offers like they are offering me the opportunity of a lifetime, I become wary....(I don’t like consignment at all, on principle), but antennae always go up when people act like they are doing me this great favor.
More specifically the guy’s terms....if I recall, was a 70/30 split (who does that these days?) and he said he would have your name/ website/ labels and all collateral laid out in the gallery. So to me, offering to direct customers away from the shop seemed odd. Victoria said it seemed 'too good to be true' and I agree...so all of that rolled together and my own sort of negative feelings around consignment. I blew him off.
I also checked his site again after he got up and running, and he had this weird mix of manufactured (John Hardy, David Yurman) and beaded stuff too. The pieces just did not fit together at all...so it was a gut reaction and a logic thing. And to top it off, again, no track record. At the very least, dealing with someone who is established is important. I have never ever done start ups. I wait till someone has been in business a year, and then you can approach them if it's something you want to do!"
1. Look at the web site. Does it look real? That sounds odd perhaps, but one time, I was contacted by a gallery that had a very substantial, multiple page web site. It looked very convincing, but my Scam Rader was turned on! Who knows where they found the images of the artwork and the gallery installation shots, but within an hour of research it was very apparent that this gallery was not what they professed to be. Doing a Google search for the artists listed on the web site revealed that they were made up names - this was a scam.
2. Is the offer too good to be true? Legitimate inquiries about representing your work at a gallery or invitation to a show start out slowly. Multiple levels of discussion by both parties, including a review of the contract, gives everyone time to get to know one another. Scam Radar should tell you that something isn't right when a gallery approaches you about representing your work and presses for an immediate commitment.
If a new gallery contacts you, ask for references. This could be from other artists, curators, or businesses where they have an account. Take a few days or weeks to let the relationship develop before sending your work.
3. The same level of scrutiny goes when people want to buy your work unusually quickly without the usual careful inquiry or review. Bells and whistles should be going off in your head when this happens. On occasion, I have received emails from someone wanting to buy my work off my web site. Usually, the only difference on the surface between the scam offer and the real offer is a tingling on my Scam Radar.
At this point, I answer sincerely and directly, but add that all payments must be paid in full before shipping if they want to buy my work, PayPal is preferred, checks need to be deposited and cleared before shipping (if I don't know the person) and "Please, no scams." That is usually the end of all scam purchase inquiries.
4. Work with your local bank. One time, a person even sent a check to purchase work, but my scam radar was on. Something wasn't right even though it looked just like a normal check. I took the check to my bank and asked them to look up the buyer's bank and the account. My bank performed this service quite willingly. My bank was just as interested in avoiding a bad check. Within a day, my bank informed me that it was a bogus check. [Unfortunately, the police won't follow up on fake checks unless you lost money.]
5. TURN ON YOUR SCAM RADAR in new situations. One time I won an award from a competition. Unfortunately, the award was coming from a London bank and they wanted to deposit the money directly into my account. Very scary indeed, Scam Radar is ON. This time I went to the bank, told them that the competition seemed legitimate, but I wanted to be very cautious. To solve the problem, the bank opened a new account. It took almost a week for this to be arranged but for peace of mind, it was truly worth the effort. I left only $20 in the account in case this was a scam.... only then, did I email them the account number for the transfer. Every thing worked out fine, thank goodness.
The point is that there is always a careful solution. If life and business are offering you a real opportunity, the gallery or store will be there for months and years to come. There is no need to jump into a new opportunity without checking your scam radar as your first line of defense.
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