Monthly Archives: June 2017

Price and Sell Your Lower Priced Art

Regarding your first question, how you decide to set your selling prices is entirely up to you. All I say in my writings is that lower priced works of art, no matter what they are, tend to sell faster and in greater quantities than higher priced pieces. Adjusting your art prices in any direction impacts your sales; the greater a downward adjustment, the greater your sales volume tends to increase– a suggestion I regularly make to artists who want to sell more art and who want to get more of their artworks out into the public. Lowering your prices is only a suggestion though. Do whatever feels comfortable.

Keep in mind, however, that the object of this game is to sell your art, and better yet, to sell plenty of it, and in so doing establish a good solid consistent track record of making sales on a regular basis. Think about it. What sounds better? That you sold ten pieces last month? Or one? Or none? If you tell someone you’re selling ten pieces of art per month, they don’t ask you how much you’re selling them for; they’re just plain impressed that so many people are buying. Who knows? They might even decide to buy one themselves. Keep in mind also that gallery owners love hardly anything more than artists who sell well.

And another thing– if demand for your art is modest, it makes no sense to price it to the max, to inflict pain on anyone who wants to own it, to make them wince as they write out the check or hand over the credit card. There’s no upside to that. The affordable approach is far more logical. Nothing is better for your reputation than to have satisfied buyers delighted with the prices they pay singing your praises to anyone who asks. When you get to the point where you can’t make art fast enough to satisfy the demand– that’s the time to start raising prices, not when things are slow or you’re trying to increase sales.

The trick to lowering prices, if you decide to lower them, or in providing lower priced alternatives to your more expensive works of art is not to denigrate the lower priced pieces in the process, or in other words, make buyers feel that they’re not getting your best efforts if they choose to pay less. No matter what people buy from you or how little they pay for it, they should always feel that they are acquiring art that is as collectible, well-crafted, thoughtful and as worthwhile owning as your more expensive pieces. Lower priced pieces may be smaller, sketchier or whatever else you have to compromise on in order to produce them, but one thing that they should not be is inferior in quality.

Too many artists deliberately sabotage their lower priced works, either verbally or technically, as if to say to buyers, “Since you don’t want to pay full fare, you can sit in the bleachers.” This is not a good practice. The best way to cultivate repeat buyers is to respect their choices, their budgets and their reasons for buying whatever works of your art that they can afford buy. You never know when a buyer who starts small might someday go on to become one of your biggest collectors. Allowing for that possibility is just plain good sense.

In answer to your second question about the availability of reasonably priced art in the marketplace, there’s an incredible amount of art for sale out there that can be purchased for under $1000 per piece, and often for well under that amount. All you have to do is go online and look. If you can’t find any, look harder. It’s there and it’s plentiful; believe it. One truth that the Internet has revealed to all of us is that there’s much more art out there, many more competent artists, and many more affordable artworks available for sale than any of us would ever have imagined pre-Internet.

By the way, if you’re already offering your art for sale online, seriously consider having a good selection of reasonably priced works of art available for purchase alongside your more expensive art. Most people who run gallery and artist websites will tell you (assuming they feel like talking) that their average online sales are typically in the $300-$1,200 price range. Sales over $2,000 to $3,000 remain relatively uncommon, though they do happen. The good news is that as people become increasingly comfortable buying online, higher priced sales are happening with greater and greater frequency. Most people are still getting used to the idea of shopping for art over the Internet, though, so help them out by giving them the option of starting small without having to risk too much money.

You also mention in your email that your prices are competitive with those of other artists in your area. Do you mean all other artists in your area or just those artists you know or those artists who you choose to compare yourself with? And if you’re selling online, do you mean all other artists online or just those whose websites you’re familiar with or who you follow regularly? What you may not be taking into account is that people also buy art from artists who you don’t know or who you’re not familiar with. You have to keep the big picture in mind, especially with the increasing viability of online selling, and continually compare your prices not only to those artists in your immediate circle, but to all artists and all available art in your geographical area as well as on the Internet in general.

Art Websites For Work

At the forefront of the online art revolution are a handful of websites that have transcended the individual artist or gallery web page mentality and evolved into massive clearinghouses of information. The best among them offer artists hundreds and sometimes thousands of ways to get informed, get exposure, make connections, organize their efforts, and advance their careers.

Founder and webmaster Richard Collins brought it online in May 1996 with a couple of pages. It has since grown to one hundred pages with over 2,000 links where sculptors can obtain information on virtually any topic having to do with the discipline. (Note posted March 2008: this website has changed ownership and is substantially different than it originally was.)

Collins’ mission is to define today’s sculpture industry and spotlight where within that industry efficiencies can be gained. He believes that by assembling numerous resources in one place, sculptors can save money and more effectively do business. They can use the site to locate and comparison shop for supplies, service providers, and outlets for their work better than ever before. Sculptor.org has links to tools, techniques, technologies, resources, organizations, legal issues, foundries, jobs wanted or needed, conservation and preservation of sculpture, sculpture as a business, and much more.

For people who want to see what’s available in the marketplace, sculptor.org has links to 300 individual sculptor pages. Collins is in the process of reviewing 500 additional individual sites for possible inclusion– 100 belonging to artists who have asked to be linked and 400 of sculptors he’s found in his own online searches. He has also linked about 100 commercial galleries and has located an additional 1000 online, but is primarily focused on individual sculptors at this time.

From a technological standpoint, perhaps the most fascinating links on the site are to machine replication services. These businesses use computers to design sculptures from scratch and also to work directly from models. They are able to scan models with 3-d scanners and either reduce, enlarge, or alter them. Finished designs can be “printed” or cut out at any time using robotic systems. Twelve such companies are currently listed.

Collins also helps sculptors establish better web presences as few are capable of doing so on their own. He’s invested hundreds of pro bono hours in these online projects and as a result, sculptor.org experiences periodic financial difficulties. In order to more effectively serve the community, he’s currently seeking funding and developing ways to generate onsite income.

Sculptor.org gets about 30,000 hits per month, 10,000 of which are classified as visitors– people who view multiple pages. Although Collins does not have much in the way of hard data, he says that business is resulting from “sculptors wanted” ads placed by people and companies looking to commission family or animal portraits, public works, and commercial pieces. Special effects film companies have also advertised for sculptors. Individual sculptors report increased traffic from being linked to the site and may be getting commissions as a result. Links to foundries, tool companies, and materials suppliers also get a high number of hits and are probably making sales.

An early example of a grass roots community website, no longer operational, was the San Francisco Bay Area’s www.artistresource.org. The site was not about selling art, but rather about bringing local artists together and giving them opportunities to get their art out into the public. Its mission was to create and maintain an online community for Bay Area Artists, to educate and connect people to the region’s art and artists, and to promote Bay Area art. Its geographic focus was very specific, extending South to Santa Cruz, through Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco, North to Ukiah, and East to Sacramento. No events outside of this area were posted.

Artistresource.org maintained hundreds of links to information about art classes, art techniques, shows, events, jobs, articles, places to hang art (cafes, public spaces, galleries along with contact information), resources for art supplies, art classifieds, studio spaces, forums, competitions, and calls for art. Artists were able post their shows at no charge. Link exchanges between this and related sites were free.

One of the highlights of artistresource.org was their “mailing list.” Every week, they emailed detailed information about ongoing shows, opening receptions, closing shows, art classes, lectures, and demonstrations to anyone who asked. Subscriptions were free– all recipients had to do was provide their email addresses. About 1000 artists and members of the art community were subscribed. This allowed them to stay informed without ever having to log onto the website.

Artistresource received no funding and was maintained by an average of six volunteers, some of whom lived outside of the Bay Area. In exchange for volunteering or submitting articles, artists were allowed to post portfolios of their work. The site received about 3000 hits per week.

Many visitors to artistresource.org used it to keep track of and attend local art events. Art students, of which there are thousands in the Bay Area, found the site especially helpful in navigating the art community. Artists who linked experienced increased traffic to their websites and those who advertised reported positive results such as finding students for their workshops and locating studio space.

At the opposite end of the continuum from non-profit endeavors like artistresource.org is www.artnet.com. This massive for-profit site has been at the forefront of the online art business ever since it first appeared in 1989. It was originally a dial-up service for an auction record database that enabled dealers and collectors to research art prices online. It has since expanded to encompass virtually every aspect of the today’s high-end art market. (Note posted March 2008: this website is bigger and better than ever, and improves every day.)

According to spokesperson Bill Fine, Artnet currently has links to 80 percent, or about 700, of the art galleries that regularly advertise in the world’s major art magazines. This makes the site unquestionably the best one-stop gallery shopping center on the web. A sophisticated search engine allows visitors to access galleries in a variety of ways including by name, location, specialties, artist names, current exhibitions, and types of art. Gallery rates for an Artnet website start at $2000. Galleries that already have their own websites can link to Artnet for $1000 per year.

In addition to galleries, Artnet also hosts and maintains about 100 web pages for individual artists. Fine says that the main reasons artists use this service are to get representation, make themselves accessible to major galleries, and sell art. For $1000, an artist can post ten images along with biographical and contact information for a period of one year or 30 works for $2000. Any artist interested in establishing a presence on Artnet should read on-site testimonials beforehand and contact current users in order to assess possible advantages or disadvantages.

One of the site’s most impressive features is Artnet Magazine, the internet’s premier online art periodical. It’s updated at the amazing rate of twenty to forty new pages per business day and contains everything from feature articles, current exhibitions, commentaries, and reviews, to detailed monthly artist horoscopes. Artnet Magazine is as sophisticated and informative as any major art publication, has acquired cyberrights to a number of the best articles and art writers around, and has hundreds of pages in its archives.

Artnet’s auction record database, meanwhile, has grown to nearly 2,000,000 individual sales records of works of art by 160,000 artists. Numerous entries are accompanied by pictures much as they are in auction catalogues. This too is the best online research resource of its kind. Subscribers have unlimited access to the database for $19.95 per month, although that will likely change to a per-use fee in the near future.

Artnet has links to the world’s major art fairs, museums, current exhibitions at its member galleries, chat capabilities, art services, and more. They are expanding into new areas of collecting and have begun hosting sites for dealers in antiques, ancient art, and tribal art. Two of their most recent additions are online art auctions and an art bookstore with over 12,000 titles.

The site averages 1,200,000 hits per week, about 300,000 of which are multiple page views. Substantial art sales are being made through participating galleries although dollar figures are not available. Most reported sales are to collectors searching for art by particular artists. Several individual artists have reported selling art to collectors who first saw their work online. Artnet auction selling prices average in the low to mid thousands of dollars per piece with one isolated watercolor on canvas fetching an impressive $168,000.

Here are some tips for anyone thinking about establishing an effective multi-purpose website:

  •  Know more than basic web design or hire someone who does.
  • Keep it simple. Large text or image files and moving or spinning graphics increase download time and decrease viewer interest.
  •  Stay focused. Don’t expand into too many unrelated areas.
  • Update regularly. If viewers see the same information over and over again, they’ll get bored and stop coming.
  • *Figure out the minimum amount of money and/or volunteer hours necessary to keep things going. Don’t expect revenues to pour in from outside sources. Generating online income is difficult.

Tips for Successful Art Openings

An art opening at an art gallery is always a momentous occasion. The atmosphere is upbeat; the art is fresh and new. Everyone from the artist to the gallery owner is optimistic about the prospects for healthy sales and favorable reviews. In a sense, the art will never look as good as it does during the opening, and as such, this special event always represents an opportunity for any artist to make a significant impression and advance their career.

A successful art opening creates a buzz in the art community, not only about the art and the artist, but also about the gallery. The better the opening, the more people talk; word spreads and attendance at the show increases. And we all know that the more people who see the art, the greater the chances of making sales. With this in mind, the following pointers are designed to make your openings successful in terms of publicity, attendance, and sales.

The best way to make an art opening work for you is to create a level of anticipation that encourages as many people to come and see your art as possible. In cooperation with the gallery, put together a compelling announcement or press release, get the word out as widely within the art community as possible– typically on social networking pages and area art and event websites– and make sure everyone sees it in plenty of time to make plans to attend your show. The announcement should be clearly written (so that pretty much anyone can understand it) and contain two to three paragraphs of two to three sentences each briefly describing not only the show, but also include an enticing sentence or two about the experience of seeing the art. That’s about all you need; quick and simple.

In addition to posting on local events websites, email the announcement to your email list as well as to relevant local arts organizations, notify arts publications that list local events, and make contact with any other media or online sites or blogs that regularly cover on local arts and culture happenings (including community access channels). Be aware of any deadline dates for getting your show listed, and send the email at several intervals, perhaps 2-3 weeks before the show and 3-6 days before the show. Don’t oversend; that can get irritatiing. If your gallery has an advertising budget, find out where they’ll be advertising and make sure your show notice appears in as many local and regional visual arts publications and on as many community events calendar websites as possible. You might even volunteer to help get the word out in this regard.

Once people know about your upcoming show, the fewer obstacles they have to overcome in order to get there and enjoy it, the better. Number one on the “remove all obstacles” list is DON’T require people to do something in order to get in. This includes insisting that they RSVP in advance, give their emails or other contact information at the door, and especially pay admission or make donations at the entrance. Artists and galleries, particularly those with low budgets or who haven’t been in business very long, occasionally decide to charge admission in order to help pay the bills. This is always a bad idea; art openings should be free.

Know up front that art collectors are not in the habit of paying to see art first in order to decide whether or not to buy it. Even a modest cover charge may discourage a good percentage of serious buyers from attending. Instead of your opening, they’ll go to someone else’s. Can you imagine paying for every art opening you attend? If you’re like many artists or more dedicated collectors, you go to dozens every year.

Some artists and galleries try to justify admission charges by promoting their openings as parties with music, refreshments or other forms of entertainment. Either you’re having an art opening or you’re having a party. Serious art buyers usually spend maybe a half-hour to an hour at any given opening. They are interested in art, not in staying for the evening and partying. Party people, on the other hand, may well pay admission and stay for hours, but they come mainly to party, not to buy art.

Charging for refreshments is another bad idea that discourages people from buying art. This is not nearly as bad as charging just to get through the door, but when you’re trying to sell items that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars and up, a little complimentary wine or cheese never hurts when the time comes for on-the-fence buyers to relax for a moment while thinking about whether or not to loosen the purse strings. Sure, a few freeloaders will likely come only to drink for free, but that’s how art openings are. If you have a low refreshment budget, buy cheap wine. For you who still insist on charging admission or selling drinks, at least have the common sense to comp your best collectors and their friends.

Always pay special attention to media people like critics or art writers, no matter how small or insignificant their publications or websites or how much you may disagree with their views. You want your shows to be reviewed, so make sure you know your local reviewers and introduce yourself at your opening. Beyond that, let them ask the questions or lead the conversation. Not everyone will want to speak with you, and that’s fine. Never presssure anyone; they’re perfectly capable of assessing the situation on their own. Publicity is always good, no matter where it appears or what it says. When someone writes about you, that means you’re worth writing about. And who knows– that upstart blogger who writes for iliketowriteaboutart.com may one day become the art critic for The New York Times.

Make sure all art is priced and that a price list and resume are visible and within easy reach of anyone who wants to learn more about you and your art. Interested buyers who may be seeing your work for the first time and like it often prefer to read about you first, before striking up a conversation. Even more importantly, they want to see whether they can afford your art. Those who can afford it and who are impressed by your accomplishments will then speak with either you or someone at the gallery.

Good Are Art Dealers and Gallery Owners

“I’m an artist,” you say. “I spend my life making art, slaving away, compelled to express myself for all the world to see and experience. The results of my creative endeavors zap practically every last ounce of my strength; so here I am surrounded by the product of my inspirations and ready to make money. But no. Something stands in my way and its name is art dealer. I can sell my own art thank you. I don’t need you and your gallery to take half of every dollar that my life’s calling entitles me to.”

Of course you don’t. You’ve got the perfect space to show your art, right? It’s a great location, convenient, with plenty of foot traffic and parking, and it’s near other retail establishments where people who to buy art tend to congregate, dine out, entertain themselves or shop for goods and services. Your space is austere, expansive, well appointed, professionally designed and lit, and when you show your art there it looks about as good as it’s ever going to look, outside of maybe The Louvre.

You have a large online following too. You interact effortlessly online, can organize, contextualize and present your art in ways collectors and other buyers can appreciate. As a result, your international audience can’t wait to see what you’re going to create next, with wallets open and ready to spend.

You’re comfortable around people who buy art; you’re well connected, you socialize with collectors, and participate in activities and belong to groups and organizations that they belong to. You understand how art buyers think, how much they know about art, and how to talk to them about art in language they can understand and identify with. You are an interpreter capable of taking art that may involve complex cognitive concepts, raw emotion or sensitive subject matters, and can not only make it palatable to those who might otherwise shy away, but also appealing in terms of the tangible as well as intangible benefits of ownership.

You’re at ease talking about art and money; you know how to price your art sensibly and within the context of its market, and can explain your prices to anyone who asks in ways they can grasp, and without unnerving them. You sense when someone is on the verge of purchase, ready to buy, and you know exactly what to say and when to say it in order to turn the deal, reveal the checkbook, and reap the financial rewards that your art so justly deserves. As for the plethora of parasites, blabbermouths, energy drains, poseurs, time wasters, know it alls, and deadbeats who endlessly hover about the art scene– you see them coming and blow them off with ease.

Just like art dealers, you are capable of evaluating all kinds of art by all kinds of artists all the time. You continually talk about art, interact with artists, study and learn about art, read about art, assess what qualities make particular works of art good or better or best, figure out what pieces to show and how to most effectively arrange and display them. You carefully examine, analyze and assess every detail of every piece of art before it leaves your studio just like gallery owners do with every piece of art they exhibit at their galleries. You make continual art-to-art and artist-to-artist comparisons, and use your extensive knowledge and overview of the local, regional, national, international or whatever art realms or markets you travel in to assure that your art not only satisfies your high personal standards, but can also withstand public scrutiny. Not only can you defend your art to critics and detractors, but you can present its merits ways that win them over to your side and advance your career.

You believe in your art to such an extent that you spend thousands or tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars per month in rent, overhead and expenses to be public about your convictions, and to maintain a quality exhibition space conducive to persuading others that your vision is a valid one. That vision attracts a wide range of contacts from throughout the art community, and energizes them to such an extent that they reward you financially– with profit– allowing you to continue to put forth what you believe to be among the most worthwhile works of art being produced today. Art critics, museum and institutional curators, influential collectors, and others in positions of power in the art world talk, write, gossip, trash talk, hate, sabotage, and otherwise opine on your art nonstop and in every way imaginable. These people don’t bother you because at some level, you know they respect what you stand for and that you fully intend to prevail against anyone who tries to take you down.

Art galleries and dealers have nothing on you, do they now?

“So OK,” you concede. “Maybe they do perform a service and deserve commissions for what they sell… like say fifteen percent.”

The collector’s point of view:

“I buy art all the time and none of it comes from dealers,” you say. “I don’t waste my hard-earned cash contributing to some gallery’s extravagances. Screw those oversized, high-ceilinged, space-wasting progressions of near empty rooms in expensive parts of town. I know what I like, where to find it, what to pay, and I don’t need any art dealer to tell me any different.”

Of course you don’t. You live and breathe art. You spend eight, ten, twelve hours a day involved in art-related activities. You constantly monitor relevant art websites and subscribe to every trade publication that has anything to do with the art you buy or collect. You continually see museum shows, stay on top of the latest news, read books and catalogues and online updates, and talk with dealers, collectors and other professionals who know the art and artists you specialize in in order to stay on top of the market.

You’ve looked at art for years and years– decades in fact– and have seen tens of thousands of pieces, perhaps hundreds of thousands, perhaps more. As a result, you’ve cultivated and refined your eye not only to the point where you can spot quality, but also make fine-line distinctions about it as well as any art business professional out there. You’ve discussed, dissected, and evaluated thousands of works of art with people in the know and can accurately assess the significance of whatever it is you’re looking at.

You understand the art market from both retail and wholesale perspectives; you follow plenty of galleries and auction houses, not only locally, but nationally and internationally as well. You know who’s showing what, and why, and how much they’re selling it for. You can spot good quality art at fair prices, and know the difference between a bargain and a third-rate piece of crap, not to mention fakes, forgeries, scams and cons. When you see art you like, you know what questions to ask, what subtleties to look for, how to inspect and assess its every detail, and why buying that art represents a constructive use of your money (“Because it’s cheaper than galleries sell it for” is not a good reason).

You can spot an artist with talent and potential before just about anyone else; you know when art breaks new ground. You know the difference between a leader and a follower, between “here today; gone tomorrow” and “here to stay.” You go well beyond what the art looks like and who signed it. You know how to inspect its materials and structural integrity, and are able to evaluate from a variety of standpoints how it’ll hold up over time. You can look at dozens or even hundreds of works of art by any given artist and separate out those that best represent the true range of that artist’s skills and abilities.