Thursday, August 9, 2007

The hidden agenda of fine art markets. What every artist needs to realize.

A painting a day - Today's offering is Twilight Series No. 74. image is 7x5" acrylic on masonite panel. Matted and framed under glass ( 14x11") Currently available at for $75.00 If you talk to almost any gallery owner, arts representative, and artist advisor they will tell you that as an emerging artist you must spend time paying your dues. They say the way to do this is to show in a myriad of places to "get your name out there." They will invariable suggest places like coffee houses, restaurants, banks, libraries, and lots of "out-door markets and craft-fairs. They will also tell you that as an "emerging artist" with little experience in the art world you can't expect to ask a selling price usually even enough to cover your framing expenses and materials costs, much less your time and expertise. AND they tell you expect to lose about half of that selling price as a commission for the honor of hanging on an empty wall and hoping someone comes to see the work. Artists buy into this all the time. What they don't tell you is NO one goes to a coffee house or restaurant to buy art. Very rarely do they even notice the art work OR that it is for sale. These "specialists" also don't mention that people go to the library for numerous reasons but not one of them is to admire or purchase art work. And again, rarely is there even a place to post a notice that the artist is by a local artist or that the works are for sale. Banks are a lovely place to have your work seen by people who supposedly have money (after all they are there supposedly to deposit huge sums of cash.) And a bank is, perhaps, a good place to get some recognition for your work in a corporate setting. But very rarely is a bank at all interested in hosting a reception to of some kind to let possible buyers meet the artist. (Too many people mingling around and causing safety and security issues.) And research proves that collectors and art buyers will rarely buy a work if the artist is not extremely well known, or if they cannot talk to the artist personally about the work. Nor do banks want to deal with sales at all and so you have little chance to sell your work. As for outdoor craft fairs and festivals.... here is a true story. I have a friend who also specializes in quality fine art Landscapes of Virginia. She spent a large sum of money to apply for and rent booth space at the Virginia Wine Festival, being told that her work was a shoe-in to be included, was prefect for the "Gentry" market they were focused on, and that this festival drew a large crowd of people who were very well off and who had the disposable income to collect fine art. In reality what she found was a beautiful country place (meaning open field). Her Fine Art Painting was sandwiched in between common beaded jewelry and food vendors. The clientele, who paid a flat admission fee for all the wine they could drink, were more interested in the amount of alcohol they could consume in an afternoon than in the art available. People were dangerously boisterous and one person almost vomited on one of her paintings. What artists bear when following the information given by these advisers then is the expense of creating our art, matting and framing it, insuring it, transporting it, and then essentially providing free room decoration for the local coffee house, the local restaurant , the local bank(which can afford to decorate with quality art but usually sticks up cheap old prints), and the local Library. Of all the professional artists I have known not one of them made enough sales in these places to recoup their investments. NOR has there been a huge increase in their name recognition as an artist. I suggest we artists begin to realize that there is a better way. It is called savvy media marketing and it involves getting lots of public relations and free media coverage by spending the time we now search for a place to hang our work for free, and instead write press releases to announce every major purchase a collector makes, every award we win, every lecture we are giving, every new work we complete. Get magazine coverage in trade magazines. Make sure every event in which we are involved is in the calendar listing for the local papers and national trade magazines. Get with the online world and begin to do whatever is necessary to make your name a household commodity. Don't limit your self to your home town. Reach out immediately to other galleries and to locales that might feature your style of work. Being an artist is a full time job. We must wear many hats. But no one can sell us better than ourselves. (Why pay someone a 50% commission to do what we can do ourselves?). When I was a singer professionally in NY one thing I learned early... No one needs an agent or manager until they have too much work lined up to be able to learn the work, handle all the publicity, and get contracts for new work by themselves. At that point you need someone to take over what you started and they will gladly take a hefty commission to capitalize on the work YOU have already done. That is even more true as an artist. The bottom line for all of us... Take charge of our careers. And spend moment of every hour being grateful for all we have and for all that is coming our way! 'Til next time, Create beauty and fill the world with love! Wynn