Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cover Charges

A fellow artist recently publicly lamented the growing trend among art galleries and institutions to charge a fee to gallerygoers for admittance into art receptions. I hadn't ranted about this before for all that I have thought a lot about it on and off, but now I think that I will do so here in response. I personally take up issue with this practice as well, especially when artists were charged fees to exhibit their works (either for entering, upon acceptance or both).

One point made was that artists are struggling enough as it is and turning away potential buyers is not a service. I agree but I don't know that the cover charges necessarily dissuade buyers from coming. I'm sure some potential buyers may be dissuaded, just as some potential non-buyer browsers are as well. But I don't know that a small cover charge is going to have a vastly greater impact over the host of other factors at play (how many other events happened simultaneously, when was the event, how well-publicized was it, what was the weather like...)

In fact, I think cover charges could even work to the artists' advantage if said monies were later reimbursed with notification of any purchase from the art event over a certain dollar amount because that practice would encourage sales. (This can take the form of coupons to be redeemed that artists can cash in later, or buyers can take receipts to a centralized location for reimbursement later.) This practice would benefit the institution as well because it works for the betterment of the artists that they serve and happy artists will return and participate in more things in the long run. The only people that don't benefit directly are those who are just looking, and they still benefit from it indirectly because the happier the artists are with the event, the more pleasurable the event is likely to be.

I'm not touting the benefits of cover charges - I still don't like them and find the trend to be unsettling. What I don't like is that they make events more exclusive and limited to those who are willing to pay to attend. Many such events charge some people admittance while not charging others (friends, populars and the like), which strikes me as blatantly unfair. And, as the other artist also pointed out, covers can be even more aggravating if not well publicized both to the participating artists in the prospectus and in any sort of publicity enticing people to attend the event.

Ideally, art galleries and institutions need to find other ways of coping with reception costs. Sponsorships and pairing with local businesses can be a boon and can spread the reception expenses out among more parties. Many places have cash bars with those monies going towards reception costs. This is better than cover charges because people aren't turned away explicitly from viewing the art and can choose whether or not to have a drink. (Granted, some may leave sooner if there's no free alcohol, but that would happen when the alcohol and food runs out anyway.)

1 comment:

ChaoticBlackSheep said...

Note: I am not talking about gala events and traveling exhibitions where a fee is charged to get into the exhibit. I'm referring to covers being charged for general admission to art receptions, which is on the rise. Gala events offer great means of sustaining organizations and offer all sorts of exclusive perks and benefits to those attend, such as silent auctions.