The Art of selling Art2017/02/16
By: Cliff Loehr
The way art is being shown, marketed, and sold is evolving as the world becomes more high tech. While on-line stores provide a selection plethora and amazing convenience, it is not without problems for the artist. In my experience, the Internet blurs the line between buying art and buying groceries. There is so much amazing art, no one piece is able to form a connection to the viewer. The best-selling art is what stands out from the crowd rather than the art that speak to you. Once selected, the buyer is presented with options it print on paper, acrylic, canvas, a pillow, a coffee cup, or a block of wood! All this is very cool, but all emotion and feeling is totally vacant from the experience.
Clearly, many artists embrace the "product" art concept and are very successful at it! If this is you, I suggest visiting www.fineartamerica.com or www.etsy.com to sell your work. For all others, keep reading.
Another on-line option is to create your own website. This is always a good idea and I highly recommend it, but please do not expect this to be the only way customers find and buy your art. Do a Google search for "wall art" and you'll see 231 million results. Sorry to say, you would be just another sand vendor on the beach.
This article tries to identify the "where", "when", and "how" to show art then present some ideas on how to close the deal and instructions on using the Internet to improve your chances of making a sale.
Many people think the best place to show and sell art is in an art gallery where people actually go to buy art. The truth is (according to 2012 survey by the National Endowment for the Arts) 4 out of 5 people never step foot in an art gallery and that number gets worse every year. Not sure I've ever seen a home without art on the walls, so I contend the best place to show and sell art is wherever people go the most. Since the key ingredient to selling "art" is forming a connection with the viewer, the ideal space is anywhere people go on a regular basis and have to wait or linger.
Using local businesses is a great option because most business need a way to connect with people and art is a great way to do that. But showing local art in local business hinge on finding (or creating) art-friendly business owners and business-minded artists. Building this partnership has to be mutually beneficial. When you pursue a local business, you should understand these places operate on a tight budget and employees cannot spend a lot of time managing or selling your art. You must be willing to work with the business, being attentive to when art sells and new art is needed.
Some of the more ideal locations, I've found are, Restaurants, cafes, Waiting rooms (Doctors, Dentists, and Lawyers), some local government buildings, Banks, and Hotels.
Never go out on Friday night to find a venue to sell your work! Business owners need to be able to absorb how your art could enhance the feeling of their space. The best solution is to call and setup an appointment with the owner. Also (very important) only make contact with the owner if you have your art with you (or in your car). You should be ready to hang your art right away!
On a related topic is understanding some art sells better at different times. An old friend of mine once ran an art gallery, he also had an extensive collection of his own. The interesting thing is how the art in their home would always reflect the seasons of the year. Our home is much less formal, but still has art swapped out at all the major holidays. Not all art is seasonal but time and event-sensitive characteristics might be hiding in your work that could help make it sell better at different times of the year. When you pick which pieces to display today consider things like holidays, the season, or local events happen in places where your art will be on display.
Did you ever notice how art has several feet between each piece at a museum? They do this so the art is better able to communicate without distraction. Strangely, some local galleries fail to understand this concept and cram as much art as they can in very small spaces. When selecting a venue, or designing your own gallery space, you should consider how each space is able to provide this kind of separation. While large spaces make this easier, it can also be done with creative use of lighting, room dividers or even different wall textures or colors.
1. Promote: besides having great art you need two things. A business card and a website. Websites (almost always) are overdone and contain too much functionality or too much art. Unless you are already extremely popular, your personal website is best viewed as your resume not your store front. Your website needs to show ONLY your best work and focus on the direction you would like to take your art... not where you have been.
2. Connect: Join a local art or photography club. I have learned so much more from people in our community than I could ever learn on Youtube. You will also find being a member of a local art organization improves the chances of being accepted in the business community.
3. Show: Get at least 3 pieces of your best work, put them in frames and keep them in your car. Whenever you see a business that can benefit from your art, request to see the owner and ask if you can show your work in their space. If you're feeling a little spunky, you could also show your work at art fairs.
I am a hobby photographer and enjoy selling my work. I created GalleryGig to address every excuses I've heard from local businesses who did not want to show local art in their space. The only difference I needed to make in my initial pitch to the venues, was to ask "Can I show my work in your space and use GallyerGig to handle sales so you don't need to do anything?" That seems to work pretty well.