Monday, September 8, 2014



Selling and Pricing Art:

There is plethora of commentary online, some written material and some discussions on YouTube at the least, with regard to these topics. Occasionally the comments are made by an artist simply attempting to share what they have experienced. Some are useful and sincere, though more often than not gallery owner/experts use the format to promote a book or video series on how to sell art. These are self-serving and often reinforce those aspects of attempting to sell art which favors the gallery system. They will all lecture on the myriad of mistakes most artists make when approaching a gallery for representation and some of these comments are valid. However, for those artists who present themselves well the chance for attaining gallery representation is utterly remote in the extreme. Hope sells, not reality, though reality is not necessarily devoid of hope either. Though if there was one secret it might very well be, make art so appealing that potential viewers stop, completely transfixed by your work, and when they can finally breathe again they exhale a soft prolonged… wow.

Artists who produce immensely appealing work seem to sell well and never seem to have the need to speak in a public format on the subject. Beyond making the art of course they attend to the details of business, but this is usually within the context of preparing groups of pieces for their various exhibitions or occasionally doing an interview for a publication.

All art is not created equal. Like most produced work it spans the range from poorly executed and weakly conceived to brilliant, evocative and highly desirable. Any artist hoping to sell must study and be capable of discerning these differences. Seeing is paramount and seeing is honed with honest, disciplined and extensive practice. The rest is mechanics and strategy.

Experts might make a comment such as; an artist should spend eighty percent of their time on the aspects of selling and twenty percent in the studio making art, though the details are quite sketchy as to what actually constitutes marketing art. Is the artist simply supposed to pester friends and family and give out business cards to uninterested passersby? Is the artist supposed to become extremely adept at peddling a mediocre product? Most business in America is conducted in exactly that manner.

Artists can have websites, yes, but who is going to spend any substantial sum when all they can view is a rather small digital image on a glowing pixelated screen? It happens, of course, but it does not provide any intimate experience for the buyer and thus cannot produce sales in and of itself with any reliable regularity. For sales the internet is somewhat of a panacea though some artists do find a niche. Though the internet does work well enough for an artist to have an easily accessible portfolio, but not as a venue for selling per se. Of course there are exceptions for anything anyone might ever say on any subject, but the common factors hold true overall. It may be that a majority of artists are successfully selling online, but if that were the case then why is there such a large number of artists asking the question, “How can I sell my art”?

If an artist has a low enough price and no one will buy their work then the work is most likely not particularly appealing. Therefore, attempt to mitigate price as a factor and observe if the product is appealing to viewers in and of itself. So that rather than using the various approaches to pricing such as a dollar per square inch or some such arbitrary nonsense, try pricing it low enough within a particular venue. Study the prices at art shows and observe those items with the red dot, the similarities, the averages and the outliers.

The value of art is not the sum of the artist’s time and materials; it is what someone is willing to pay for it if anyone will buy it at all or even give it a glance in the first place. Very few people purchase original art to begin with and yes some purchase art of dubious quality, but in general the artist needs to produce art that is extremely appealing to even have a chance. Then it is a matter of finding venues and building contacts. 

I have even heard or read more than one expert extol, “be distinctive, stand out from the herd”. Has anyone noticed, we are the herd? Indeed, if the work of an artist is truly distinctive it is not because of some contrived gimmick, though clever niches can be exploited on occasion, but because of the acuity of their vision, the deftness of their execution and their impeccable craftsmanship.