someone once said - in an interview -
'to move inescurely forward' in action
this is also
FIND AN AGENT, REP, OR GALLERY TO SELL YOUR ART
The artist makes art and once that art is made, the artist makes more; once that art is made, the artist makes more. The artist periodically shows that art to people in the art business like dealers, galleries, representatives, and agents. Some of these professionals like the art so much that they want to sell it. The artist lets them sell it, returns to the studio, makes more art, let's them sell that, and so on. The artist says, "I make art; other people sell it."
If you think that's how the art business works and how you sell art, you need to change the way you think. All artists want to sell their art, either through agents or galleries or other forms of representation. However, finding the right person or gallery to sell your art is more complicated than simply showing your art around until someone offers to manage the marketing and sales aspects your career. That rarely happens.
Your job as an artist is to survive as an artist so that you can make art. If you can't survive as an artist by selling your art, you have to get another type of job so that you can survive, and then either make art in your spare time or stop making art altogether. Art dealers, agents, and representatives have the exact same challenge that you do. If they can't survive by selling art, they have to get other types of jobs in order to survive, and either stop selling art altogether or sell it in their spare time.
Art business professionals sell their art by convincing people that it has value and that it's worth paying money for in order to own. Rarely in the art business do people spontaneously buy art because they fall in love with it the moment they see it. They ask questions first, and whomever answers those questions has to answer them in ways that sell the art. Anyone in the art business will tell you that no art sells itself; someone has to sell it.
The same holds true for you as an artist. Your art does not sell itself; you have to sell it. And selling your art involves much more than inviting someone to your studio or your website, or going out and showing a dealer or gallery owner a portfolio of your work. When art business professionals see your art and like it, they automatically think about whether they can make money selling it, and you have to address that concern.
If you want them to represent you, you have to convince them that they can make money selling your art, and that you can help them make that money, and that you can give them some idea of how much money they can make. This does not mean that you abandon your artistic integrity and go commercial, but you have to somehow address the financial implications of what happens to your art once it leaves your studio and goes to market. You can't simply sit there smiling and hope they sign you up; you have to prove that you're a marketable commodity.
Proving your marketability is essential, but especially so if the person seeing your art has no idea who you are. To begin with, most artists get shows or representations by word of mouth. They're introduced to the people who eventually sell their art. If at all possible, get a personal introduction to any art business professional who you think should see your art.
With or without introductions, target only those galleries or individuals who sell your type of art or represent artists with comparable resumes and career accomplishments to yours. Know enough about the art they sell so that you can customize your presentation and explain why you believe your art is right for them. You picked this agent or this dealer for what reasons? If you don't personalize, chances are good that your presentation will go nowhere. You have to establish a connection in order for anyone to take notice.
Talk about why you believe people will want to own your art. This doesn't mean that you do a high-pressure sales pitch, but rather that you treat the meeting as though you're applying for a job or entering into a moneymaking partnership. If the only reason you're showing your art is that the person you're showing it to sells it, and you make it, think twice before contacting them at all. That's not enough of a bridge to get you where you want to go.
Describe the market for your art as well as you can. Talk about who buys it, why they like it, how much you sell, and how much it sells for. Do particular types of people like your art? Does it sell best at certain venues or under certain circumstances? The more such information you provide, the better a prospective dealer, agent, gallery, or representative is able to evaluate whether they can sell your art.
Provide references, names of people who can speak to your capabilities, preferably names that the person who's looking at your art is familiar with. Tell what you can do besides make art. For example, can you speak about your art in a public forum such as at a gallery opening? Do people find you interesting? Do you have social skills? Can you talk to people who are thinking about buying your art without feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed?
Other points to keep in mind:
* Talk about how your past exhibits or shows were received, and how much art you sold. How much you sell is at least as important as where you've shown. Hopefully, you can use some of the people who've sold your art as references.
* Say what's special about your art and what separates it from other art for sale by other artists. Point out unique aspects of your work.
* If you're just starting out, tell why you believe that people will want to buy your art, and why you're dedicated to becoming a successful artist.
* Give information about how much art you currently have available for sale, and how much you can produce in what amount of time. People who sell art need enough pieces on hand in order to represent you properly. By the way, if you can't provide the amount of art that someone needs, say so. Never make promises you can't keep.
* Make sure the agent typically sells art in your price range-- not at prices you one day want to sell your art for, but at prices you sell it for now. If your average work of art sells for $500, for example, and the agent's average work of art sells for $5000, then your chances of getting representation are probably minimal.
* Address loyalty concerns. Someone who puts time, money, and exhibition space into representing you and building your reputation wants to know that you'll stick with them long enough for their investments to pay off.
* Talk about why you're easy to work with. If you're not easy to work with, get easy to work with.
Remember throughout your presentation that the main reason someone decides to represent or sell your art is that they think they can sell enough to make enough to help them stay in business. Either they think they can sell that art now or they think that by working with you, they'll be able to sell it at some point in the future, most likely the near future. The only way to get and maintain gallery representation that lasts for more than one show, or to have an agent actively market your art for more than a couple of months is for them to sell enough to make their efforts worthwhile.
Having trouble convincing people to sell your art? The problem could be that you haven't found the right person or gallery to sell it. Then again, people might think your art is hard to sell. Then again, maybe the way you present yourself or your art turns people off. Maybe you inadvertently say things that sellers don't want to hear. Maybe if you change your strategy or the way you present yourself, you'll be able to get representation and sell art.
Don't think that getting representation is merely a function of repeatedly sending out images of your art, or telling people to visit your website, or making presentations over and over again, until sooner or later someone says yes. You may unknowingly be sabotaging your chances for success and need to change the way you present your art. If you're getting nowhere with your marketing attempts, try to find out from people why they think you're having problems. Ask for feedback whenever possible, professional or otherwise. You might even think about paying an art consultant or other art business professional to review your art and the way you present it, and perhaps suggest changes or strategies to make your presentations more effective.
To refuse advice or refuse to change or refuse to acknowledge that there may be a better way condemns you to a future of using the same unproductive marketing techniques over and over again. If you expect to sell art, know that being an artist is a cooperative venture. You have to somehow bridge the gap between the art that you create as your unique form of personal expression, and the desire of people to pay for and own original works of art.
Is a gallery offering you a show? Does someone want to rep your art? Entering into a business relationship? Signing a contract? If you answered yes to any of those questions, read Common Artist Legal Problems and How to Avoid Them.
Articles © Alan Bamberger 2003. All rights reserved.
"...do not look outside yourself for the leader."
-wisdom of the hopi elders
"...the sign of a true leader is service..." - anonymous