This Post is by Lori Woodward Simons, Regular contributing writer for
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Getting Names of Our Collectors
If we artists remember that we're in a partnership with our galleries, and if that partnership is built upon mutual trust, there's no good reason why gallery owners should avoid giving us the names and contact information of those who collect our work.
But how do we ask for those names diplomatically? It gets easier if you've been working with a gallery for awhile because you've already established trust. But even then, dealers are fearful that we ask for contact names so that we can sell behind their backs. In my own experience, I've found it helpful to explain to my dealers (in a letter or verbally) how my having access to names increases the likelihood of gallery sales.
Here are some of the reasons why a gallery owner might benefit from my having contact information of those who buy my work.
The Advantages of An Email Newsletter
When folks are interested in my work, I can ask them to subscribe to my email newsletter. That way, when I have a new artwork completed, I can post it in my newsletter with a link to the gallery. Additionally, my newsletters can cement images of my work in collectors' minds.
By making my email newsletters interesting - talking about why I paint certain subjects and what they mean to me - I provide collectors with insight into my background and what subject matter gets me motivated. This way, I show them that I don't paint purely for commercial reasons. If they are interested in buying one of my paintings, they have more information to make my name and images memorable.
Newsletters educate and inform collectors so that they begin to think of art collecting as an ongoing part of their lives. I like to include a bit of art history, why I paint, where I paint etc. This establishes a stronger connection between those who already love my work and the general idea of continuing to collect. It whets their appetites for collecting even when they haven't been in the gallery for a while.
Sending newsletters to a target audience is far less expensive than purchasing magazine ads. These days, ads cut deeply into the gallery's budget, and have far greater risk financially than "permission marketing" - meaning getting permission from folks to send them pertinent information.
My contacting the gallery gives the gallery owner a break - some of the legwork is done by me, the artist. This way the gallery doesn't have to worry about contacting all of their clients all the time. My ability to do this for the gallery establishes me as a stronger player in their gallery. Sometimes a gallery may forget to promote their lesser known artists while they spend most of their time promoting the artists who already have high visibility.
When I have the names of those who have interest in my work, I have the ability to take promotion into my own hands. This ability allows me to market my work to those who already enjoy it ? which in turn may increase gallery sales.
Ethics Goes Both Ways
In order for me to get access to this information, my honesty must be flawless. If I sell for a lesser price or secretly behind the gallery's back, then perhaps I don't deserve their representation. It's far easier to get names from your galleries if you sell only through commercial dealers and not on your own. Even if you do sell directly from your website, EBay or other venues, it still makes sense for the dealer to share names of your buyers.
Collectors Always Pay Retail for My Work
So when does the gallery deserve a commission, and when do I deserve the commission?
If the client first found out about my work at the gallery, or a magazine ad placed by the gallery,or has actually purchased my work from that gallery, I automatically send the gallery their commission.
When the collector has seen my work on my website, at an outdoor show or invitational show that I participated in, I am the sales person, so I get the commission. What this means is that the buyer always pays the retail price - same as if they bought it through the gallery.
When I've asked my dealers for names and addresses, I've never been turned down. Why? Because I'm trustworthy. Honesty goes both ways, and when you have established a long and truthful relationship with a gallery dealer, you gain the freedom to work with them hand in hand.