Monday, November 23, 2015

Slim pickings

The recent wrangling over money and who-did-what-to-whom by Stephen Bambury and his ex dealer Andrew Jensen was revealing about how the artist dealer relationship works. (You can now read the full transcript of the judge’s findings here.) Word is that Jensen will appeal so more to come.

In the meantime, the case reminded us of a document sent to us over 40 years ago by Philip Clairmont. It sets out the financial details of an exhibition Phil had in 1974 and demonstrates how complicated the art business can be and why artists often feel aggrieved by their share of sales. Bear in mind that the commission taken by dealers in the 1970s was 33/3 percent and not the 50 percent most ask for today.

In this case two of Clairmont’s paintings were sold from an exhibition for $290.00. As usual the dealer deducted a commission of $96.67. To complicate the situation though, a month or so before the show opened, Clairmont had sold a painting to a public art gallery for $370.00. It had been promised for the gallery's exhibition so feeling that it had missed out of the sale and the commission, the gallery deducted $61.66 from its payment to Clairmont for the exhibition sales. This amount was half of its standard commission if it had been given the work to sell. Some gallery costs were also deducted including mailing, printing invitations, catalogues and wine (at $2.50 probably not so great) adding up to a total of $42.60. And then there was a loan for some materials deducted (hessian at $5.00, hardboard and cardboard at  $17.89) plus the cost of returning a painting at $7.50. Another loan of $5.00 for fares so Clairmont could attend the exhibition opening was put aside.

So after the wash-up, Phil's cheque from the gallery was for $58.67. In 1974 that was the equivalent of 13 hours work at the average hourly rate.