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Sell or return empty handed

Some months ago I came to an arrangement with a business, that I would put some pictures on their wall. Its an arrangement that I’ve done many times, with different businesses that works well on a “Sale or return” basis. The venue gets “free” art on their walls that may be changed often to keep their venue fresh and vibrant and adds to the ambiance for their customers, the artist gets to exhibit their art without paying hanging fees or gallery space, and the venue and the artist comes to the arrangement of percentage of commission. Sometimes its a high commission, sometimes a low one, sometimes non at all. The sales may be paid direct to the venue, they take their percentage out and pay the rest to the artist, or sales may be paid to the artist and the artist pays the percentage to the venue, there are variant ways of running the system. And as I said, I’ve done it many times before.

But this time there was a difference to the system. The venue had a load of old and scruffy frames that the owner suggested I could use instead of buying new frames. I picked over the best of them, although they were all in an old open shed and had been badly damaged with scratches and were full of cobwebs, dead spiders and two or three had cracked glass. I brought the frames back, spent a couple of hours dusting off the shit and cleaned them up in the utility room before I would even bring them into my studio, stripped them down, took out the broken glass, sanded them down, wood fillered the many holes and dents and scratches and resprayed ALL sixteen of them gold, three coats for each one, ordered new mounts and glass, and painted new pictures for some, and was able to use some existing pictures that I had in stock. But all of this was quite time consuming as you would imagine, plus the costs of materials was adding up too.  But, I know that you have to have some outlay to make a return, that’s part of business. And, of course, I expected to make some sales. I priced the pictures fairly since the venue didn’t want a percentage commission, they were happy just to have the pictures on their walls. But, I know that those pictures were enhanced to tastefully fit their theme, colour scheme, and added to the ambiance. Took them all to the venue, and left them there.

So, just before Christmas I rang the venue to see how the sales were going and got the reply “None, Jackie” , ok, a pity, but I know that it goes that way, and decided to leave it til after Christmas when their may be a flurry of purchases. And rang again in January to arrange to go and see the owners of the venue to see what was the best way forward and was told to ring the following week on the Friday. I rang on the Friday and made the arrangement to go the following Monday at 3pm. I arrived on the specified day, at the specified time, and the woman I had arranged to see wasn’t there, and been called away to an important meeting. Ok, I wish she’d let me know, I could have come on another day. And her staff were busily dismantling the pictures to my dismay. “Er, what’s happening? ” I asked, and the staff member said that she had been told that I was there to collect the pictures. “No, I’m here to have a conversation with the owner, who isn’t here, about the best way forward.” the other owner appeared then, and when I said I was surprised that they didn’t want the pictures anymore, and he asked what I wanted, I suggested that it might be an idea for them to buy them from me, at a price both sides wouldbe happy with, so that they could resell them at a profit of 2, 3, or 4 times more than they paid me for them, making a profit in the long run. He said “Leave them here then, and ring my wife tomorrow night, at 8pm to talk to her about it”. I left, not at all happy with the situation, but felt that the fact he didn’t want me to take away my artwork was hopeful. 

The following night, I rang at 8pm as I had been requested, and got no reply. I rang again at 8.30, 9pm, and tried again the following day, and never got a reply, even though I was leaving voice messages. I rang the venue and could only get hold of a staff member, who suggested that I email the owner to put my point forward, which I did.  And got a quick response, but not the one I expected, they didn’t want the pictures, didn’t want to buy them from me (even with a good discount) and said I should go and pick up the pictures. Okayyyyy. Deep breaths. There’s no point in arguing . I replied that I would go and get them within the week, and made the arrangement to go and do that. When I got there, I found that the pictures were mostly still in the frames, so had to dismantle them again, to bring them away. Leaving the two pieces of glass I’d paid for in the frames, but bringing away the artwork and the mounts I’d paid for. Except, there were two missing. After a look around, the manager told me he couldn’t find them, he rang the owner to see if he knew where they were, and he came back to where I was waiting to say that he couldn’t find them. “I’ll have to charge you for them, then” I said, and he spoke to the owner again on the phone and told him the problem, and came back with a piece of paper saying “Write down the details of payment and we’ll sort it out for you”, so I did, and made a copy of it for myself. Coming away, with mixed feelings again.

I’m pleased that I’ve got my artwork back. I’m not pleased that I’ve not made any sales. I’m not pleased that I’m out of pocket for the cost of the mounts, glass, gold paint, filler. I’m not pleased that two pictures are missing (sold? nicked? lost?) but I am hopeful that the owner keeps to his promise and reimburses me for the “non returned” pictures.

But, I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not doing that again!