Today's Post is by Lori Woodward, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She also writes "The Artist's Life" blog on American Artists' Forum. Lori is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group that paints under the direction of Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. Find out how you can be a guest author.
Lately, I've had conversations with seasoned collectors, art editors, and artists -- it seems we're all coming to the same conclusion: The time is rapidly approaching where collectors will not primarily buy artwork from brick and mortar galleries.
While I do believe that some brick and mortar galleries will survive, for the most part, galleries will become a venue of the past. The Internet is changing the way products are marketed and sold. It's true that many collectors want to see a painting in real life before opening their wallets, but they can do that at an annual event or even an artist's studio just as well as a gallery.
This is sad news for gallery owners who have poured their money and soul into setting up their space, and finding artists who fit the gallery's style and building a list of collectors. Galleries could indeed continue to sell well if they do a few things differently. Their biggest hurdle will be getting artists to join and stay with the gallery. We're seeing this trend in all the arts, where the middle-man or "agent" is slowly being eliminated. Musicians no longer need a record producer to make it big, and writers are turning to self-publishing... because they can!
How Many Artists Can A Gallery Reasonably Represent?
Lately, many artists are seeing their sales take a dip, even though collectors are buying. For example, several artist friends of mine, have seen their sales diminish because the gallerist does not limit the number of artists she represents. While the gallery is making good sales, individual artists who show there, are no longer able to pay their bills. Almost out of desperation, these artists are holding studio shows and entering art events to make up for lost income; and you know what? They're getting great sales results. What's to stop a group of artists from renting their own space in a hotel, doing their own advertising, pooling their collector list and holding a great event? I'm seeing this type of activity more and more in my area of New England. I'm hearing that these openings are well attended and sales are brisk.
Not All Collectors Are Cut From the Same Cloth
There are different levels and types of collectors, some buy art to decorate their homes. The only problem with the decorative influenced buyer is that they build a collection over a period of 3 years and then quit. Then there's the professional collector. Someone who started out collecting what he or she liked, but now buys artworks that have staying power -- museum worthy. Why do I bring this up? Because, we as artist business people will need to figure out what kind of collector is most likely to buy our artwork and where those folks are most likely to buy it. If we know who our prospective collectors' profile, why and where they're likely to buy our work, then we can set up a plan to reach them.
Professional collectors - those who collect expensive works at top galleries and events - is an aging population. No one knows if their children will continue the family tradition. The key to keeping art sales up is to introduce the idea of collecting art to a younger generation, but adults in their 30's are generally consumed with raising families. Rarely do they have time to think about building an art collection.
However, there is a large population that is waiting to be introduced to the idea of collecting: The baby-boomers. Their children are grown; many are on the verge of retirement, and some are bored with their "toys". Toys depreciate, while art retains its value. Many Boomers can afford to build a collection, but know nothing about it, and in fact, are intimidated by the thought of visiting a gallery or museum.
If the practice of collecting original art is to grow, affluent baby-boomers need information and incentive to collect. I do believe that with social media and the Internet, individual artists can "convert" one collector at a time, and the entire art movement will grow. We can cultivate our own following, whether on a national or local level. Remember, many artists make a decent living just selling locally. Do not dismiss this market just so that you can claim residence in a top gallery where your work may not sell as well.
So, let's put our heads together... and think about ways to reach the "unconverted", informing and whetting their appetites for art. Now... Go Change Your World.