Not too long ago, charging artists fees to exhibit work was considered an appalling practice associated with what was once known as “vanity galleries.” Slowly but surely the practice eased into art fairs, exhibition and residency submissions, and grant applications, sponsored by nonprofit organizations, including museums.

Way back in 1994, art critic Joan Altabe posed the question “What would you think of a theater that charged the performers rather than the audiences? Crazy, right! Behold the crazy art world. The arrangement described above is one of the ways many exhibit halls support themselves.” Altabe interviewed various not-for-profit arts organizations who justify charging entry fees because the fees pay for the venue’s overhead. “We couldn’t survive without entry fees.” Altabe responded by offering a practical and intelligent suggestion: “Charge the audience, not artists.

Charging artists submission fees is now a fait accompli – and few are questioning it. The same thing happened when over the years artists have allowed gallery sales commissions go from 20% to 33 1/3% to 40% – and now 50%. Surely there are more creative ways that nonprofit organizations can stay afloat without getting on the backs of artists!

In most instances, I have been unsuccessful in dissuading some of my clients not to participate in art fairs if they (and not galleries) must pay for the so-called privilege. However, success from my warnings have only come after clients have shelled out $2,000-$3,000 (sometimes more) and have nothing to show for it, no sales and no valuable contacts. So, success is achieved by lessons learned from the hard school of knocks.

Each month I include in The Newsletter a few exhibition, residency, or grant opportunities. I would like very much to list more, but I try not to include venues that charge submission fees. Consequently, there are slim pickings and I spend a substantial amount of time doing research. If you run across any venues that do not charge submission fees, share the good news and let me know.