Options for Art Exhibit Programs by Religious Institutions
by an anonymous volunteer
Exhibits with a revenue component
Exhibits may be presented with or without an onsite revenue component. If the religious organization hosting an exhibit has a gift shop on its campus, or has otherwise the ability to process retail sales, it can readily enter into a revenue sharing arrangement with participating artists. Commonly, revenue splits provide 40 to 50 percent of sales to the non-profit.
If a for-sale exhibit is hosted at a non-profit organization, works described on gallery guides may be identified as "Private Collection" or "Available for Purchase." Private Collection works can include those lent from an artist's own collection that are not for sale. Including artworks not for sale may add curatorial value and prestige to an exhibit. The gallery guide may provide price information or direct visitors to inquire with staff or a docent for a price sheet in order to provide a more dignified, museum-like ambience. If the venue has a gift shop, the staff there is an ideal place for inquiries and transactions. Docents or staff can also have available from a file cabinet biographies of artists provided by the artists (with no contact information).
Often, price sheets are not for public distribution. High-end commercial galleries require inquiry; a high-quality non-profit exhibition may benefit from the same approach.
When organizing an exhibit, the sponsoring religious organization should decide whether to allow buyers of artworks to take home art objects purchased by them while the exhibit is running or wait until the exhibit is over. If objects are allowed to be removed, a policy needs to consider whether removed works may be replaced by other works from an artist's inventory. There are pros and cons to each approach. Gallery guides become obsolete if works are replaced while an exhibit is running. As a courtesy and for aesthetic reasons, some artists wish to help buyers mount works in buyers' residences. Gaps on gallery walls where works were removed lessen the curatorial value of the exhibit and may cheapen it in the eyes of visitors. Replacing works on gallery walls can generate additional revenue to the venue and artists. Seeking advice of seasoned presenters may be a prudent step.
It should be said that many museum directors frown on presenting for-sale exhibits in their galleries. They believe that such exhibits are undignified and cheapen the image of the institution. When considering hosting for-sale exhibits, religious organizations should consider whether or not their exhibit program's future prospects will be compromised by providing for-sale exhibits. This consideration is especially important if the organization seeks to establish a full-fledged art museum in the near future.
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