While galleries and art spaces like Sursock Museum, Beirut Art Center and Beirut Exhibition Center play a critical role in promoting and disseminating art and culture in Lebanon through their non-profit efforts, commercial galleries have become a booming business in the country's contemporary art scene since around 2009.

But for unestablished artists aspiring to make a living off of their work, this clearly comes at a cost. For instance, Artheum art gallery's upcoming Beirut Photo Fair, which aims to "serve as a platform for current and future talents of photography," is charging no less than $800 to participate in the exhibition slated for September 18 to 25.

Below, a copy of the gallery's application form outlines the costs associated with exhibiting one's work at next month's fair.



A basic $400 application fee is required, which includes such things as wall space, lighting, security and cleaning. And then come the display options, which range from $400 to $1200 depending on the size of the wall you want to exhibit on.

All this money, it should be noted, for just eight days worth of exhibition time.

Mhamad Saad, a 29-year-old painter who started exhibiting his work in Beirut in 2010 and who won last year's Jury’s Prize at the Salon D’Automne, says it's not uncommon for galleries to ask for money. "I've only participated in certain collective exhibitions so far, but in such collectives, most galleries ask for small fees, usually for publishing the catalogs; and of course, they ask for a percentage of the sales..."

When asked specifically about Artheum's pricing for the Beirut Photo Fair - which Saad did not apply to - he tells Beirut.com he doesn't remember ever having paid for an application fee or display options for any of the previous collectives that he took part in. Rather, he said a percentage of the artwork he sold would go back to the gallery.

"This year," he told Beirut.com "I had the chance to participate in Aida Cherfane`s winter exhibition, and Janine Rubeiz`s summer exhibition, and [both] only asked for a percentage of the sales in return for [showing my work]."

For Noel Nasr, a photographer and an assistant professor at Notre Dame University, Artheum's application and exhibition fees are unreasonable. "A space that charges such a high fee is obviously not interested in supporting artists, but is looking to make a profit, and a huge one," he told Beirut.com, adding, "If a space like Artheum can't find sponsors to cover the fees of their event, they should simply not have it."

"I have never been asked to pay any fee in any previous show (neither collective nor solo) and will always refuse to pay a penny to show my work," says Nasr. "Art spaces usually make a 30 to 40 percent profit from the sales... This is how it has always been and how it should be." He concluded.

Beirut.com contacted Artheum several times within the last week to find out exactly why they are charging this much for artists who want to display their work at the Beirut Photo Fair.

As of publishing time, Artheum has yet to respond to any of these inquiries.


Post edit:

Beirut.com previously contacted Noha Mouharram, gallery owner and curator from Art on 56th, to comment on the Artheum fees for the Beirut Photo Fair. She responded after the story was published, saying: "We don't charge the artist anything. We do everything, and from the sale we manage to cover our monthly cost."

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I'm an artist/photographer and I most certainly know how much galleries take out of an artist's sales percentage, but for a fair promoting new talents, sponsors should have been involved for mostly promoting art just for the sake of art and not involving the artist in the self-selling business. I've given the example of Sursock museum among many others to show how things could have been handled. After all, yes galleries do take up to 40% of the sales IF they manage to sell his work wisely whereas here its up to the artist to reimburse whatever he paid since the space has already covered its cost and wouldn't care less about working on the selling. I don't think art should be looked at by the artist himself as "an investment" as you mentioned.An artist should not be involved in that or else he'll loose both his ingenuity and integrity. We wanted Artheum's opinion on this to round the article up but it just didn't happen. It's a very wide topic here to discuss and each is entitled to his opinion. I thank you dearly for your valuable comments. All the best.

Myriam Dalal on Aug 23, 2013 via web
 
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I have nothing to do with Artheum. I'm an arts and culture journalist who was simply shocked by your approach to writing about this topic. First of all, when you did your "research" you could have looked at the percentage of sales taken as commission by other galleries and how much that can add up to in a single solo show (here's a hint, it's often a lot more than $800). Secondly, rather than speaking only to those who are not taking part in the show (one of whom, incidentally, is a painter, not a photographer, so could not take part anyway) you could have contacted someone who IS taking part, to ask why they have chosen to pay all this money and what made them decide it was worth the investment, to provide an alternative perspective. Anyway, it's your article and you can approach it as you like. I simply feel that it's a shame to publish such a one-sided perspective on a complicated topic and pass it off as fact, when you could have dug a little deeper and produced an interested, multifaceted article on what is an extremely topical and interesting issue.

India Stoat on Aug 22, 2013 via web
 
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Thank you for your comments. I believe the research has been done prior to the piece publication and Artheum has been contacted several times for a statement. the "unreasonable" comment was not added by me personally but quoted from Noel Nasr's own opinion. If your statement can be counted as a personal response from Artheum's officials I'd be glad to add that to the piece.

Myriam Dalal on Aug 22, 2013 via web