What’s the Deal on “Vanity Galleries”?


Known as “Play to [dis]Play”, the Vanity Gallery model has been around since the 80s, when the idea of exhibiting in New York meant success.  As you could imagine, this idea introduced a profitable niche where galleries charge artists nominal fees for representation. It makes sense, in theory: you’re a new artist, not much to your name, and so you pay someone to spend their time and energy advertising your art.

So, is it worth it?
Most likely…no.  Here’s why:

Any organization whose business model is focused on the artist paying upfront fees, as opposed to selling their art to collectors, should be avoided.  These galleries exploit naive artists who do not understand how commercial galleries are run and know they will bite any opportunity to show.

However, don’t confuse these with legitimate spaces, including non-profit co-operatives and artist-run galleries, that may charge artists small fees. The fact of the matter is, it costs money to put together exhibitions, and thus charging artists fees to show are not uncommon.  Co-operatives work with its artists and may split the burden of overhead equally, charging not-for-profit.  Some commercial galleries, especially ones that have high reputations, may charge rental fees depending on your relationship with the gallery and its business model.

If a gallery approaches you, asking for money to show, research the following:

After some scoping out, you should be able to get a sense of their legitimacy and make an informed decision.  In every case, always be wary, read the fine print, and ask a lot of questions.

Miriam Singer's drawings look perceptually at multiple locations in Philadelphia and are then worked through memory, eventually becoming a fictional cityscape created with a playful approach.
Miriam Singer
Miriam Singer

Miriam Singer's drawings look perceptually at multiple locations in Philadelphia and are then worked through memory, eventually…

Miriam Singer's drawings look perceptually at multiple locations in Philadelphia and are then worked through memory, eventually becoming a fictional cityscape created with a playful approach.…

Miriam Singer's drawings look perceptually at multiple locations in Philadelphia and are then worked through memory, eventually becoming a fictional cityscape created with a playful approach.…

Donna Backues graduated with an MFA from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She employs drawing, mix media as works on paper and works on board. She creates imagined, spiritual, abstract landscapes, aerialscapes, and cityscapes drawing inspiration from her life in Indonesia and Philadelphia.
Donna Backues
Donna Backues

Donna Backues graduated with an MFA from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She employs drawing, mix media as works on…

Donna Backues graduated with an MFA from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She employs drawing, mix media as works on paper and works on board. She creates imagined, spiritual, abstract landscapes,…

Donna Backues graduated with an MFA from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She employs drawing, mix media as works on paper and works on board. She creates imagined, spiritual, abstract landscapes, aerialscapes, and…

My paintings are a personal exploration of mood, essence and mystery.  I strive to find the spirit of a subject and immerse myself in the experience of painting, never quite knowing where it may take me or what the outcome may be. Sometimes my struggles while paining a subject may lead to failure, and if I still have a strong conviction about my feeling for  the subject, I start again on a fresh canvas or panel and get what I want. I love oil paint and it has never lost its magic or made me want to change to a different medium.  The lusciousness,  luminosity and expressive nature of paint, how a gesture or mark can be beautiful in itself and at the same time form part of an image is why I keep on painting and drawing...
Helene Halstuch
Helene Halstuch

My paintings are a personal exploration of mood, essence and mystery. I strive to find the spirit of a subject and immerse…

My paintings are a personal exploration of mood, essence and mystery. I strive to find the spirit of a subject and immerse myself in the experience of painting, never quite knowing where it may take me…

My paintings are a personal exploration of mood, essence and mystery. I strive to find the spirit of a subject and immerse myself in the experience of painting, never quite knowing where it may take me or what the outcome…

Jorge Caligiuri
Jorge Caligiuri
Bruce Garrity paints colorful and dynamic landscapes still lifes, portraits, and nudes, and re-imagines some of the great works of post-impressionist artists like Cezanne and early Modernists like Matisse and Giacometti.
Bruce Garrity
Bruce Garrity

Bruce Garrity paints colorful and dynamic landscapes still lifes, portraits, and nudes, and re-imagines some of the great…

Bruce Garrity paints colorful and dynamic landscapes still lifes, portraits, and nudes, and re-imagines some of the great works of post-impressionist artists like Cezanne and early Modernists like Matisse…

Bruce Garrity paints colorful and dynamic landscapes still lifes, portraits, and nudes, and re-imagines some of the great works of post-impressionist artists like Cezanne and early Modernists like Matisse and Giacometti.…

previous arrow
next arrow