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.
While in Tucson this month, I attended several galleries and two opening receptions at high-class galleries. I'm noticing some new trends for art sales: While gallery sales seem like they are flattening, self-sales by artists are flourishing... especially for those artists who sell their works for under $1000.
Several, previously successful, galleries on Main Street in Old Town Scottsdale have closed. The artists they carried are now looking for new venues, but existing galleries are not taking on artists - as they're working hard to sell the works of those artists they currently represent.
While conversing with avid collectors, I'm hearing that some of them are in the process of moving to a smaller home or condo - and they're looking to downsize their collection by consigning paintings with galleries. While this works well for the gallery and the collector, the living artists get no revenue from these sales.
Artists at the very top of popularity with collectors are still selling very well, but mid-career artists - who sell in the $5000 to $25,000 price range are not doing as well as even two years ago. Some are hunkering down and improving their work, others are teaching, even a few are taking on second jobs while waiting for sales to pick up.
Here's the way I see it. If you're already working with a good gallery, stay with them and ride out the slow down. Be open to reducing your prices by a certain percentage. Collectors are looking for bargains and they're getting them... even from galleries. On the other hand, if you're not working with a gallery, it might be a waste of time to pursue that route at this time.
Instead, consider entering competitions to get some press. Winning national competitions often leads to magazine articles. Build your resume as well as your skill. In the current market, you are competing with other artists for sales and the better your work is, the easier it will be to sell it.
Now for the good news: I'm hearing from artists selling work from local shows, their websites and email newsletters - that they're having their best year ever. What does this tell us? That perhaps we'd be better off spending our time growing our own following than vying for space in a commercial gallery. However, this doesn't mean avoiding entering invitational salon shows at galleries because these days, that's where galleries find their new artists. As far as I know (and you can correct me if I'm wrong), but galleries are not even taking the time to look at portfolios.
I'm convinced that artists must promote their work whether they work with or without a gallery or agent. Galleries do not spend as much time on artists who are "emerging" as they do on their stars who sell for "big bucks". It all comes down to revenue - what will keep them in business. They do a great service for artists, but right now, they need to put their effort into what will keep their door open.
We artists can no longer avoid building our own career. The days of having someone else do all the leg work for us are over. We must build our collector base through relationships, showing at a variety of venues and building our email newsletter subscribers. This is Permission Marketing at its best. It's not done overnight, but artists are proving it can be done!
Renee Lammers and Esther Williams are selling on their own without galleries - and it just keeps getting better for them. Esther Williams will be the subject of an interview for FineArtViews in mid-March, when her show schedule eases up. Today, she mentioned on facebook that she sold 5 paintings from her email newsletter. It doesn't get much better than that!
I am taking notice of these new self-sales trends. I'm excited for, and about, these artists. I have been selling on my own for the past 5 years, and I enjoy working directly with those who buy my work. My prices are generally under $1000, so it wouldn't make sense for either me or the gallery to split the profit 50-50.
A couple of weeks ago, I sold a painting from my website's email newsletter to a couple who bought their first painting from me several years ago, at a B&B in Tucson. Here's a fun fact that I read in an art marketing book: Past collectors are 6 times more likely to buy again than someone who has never purchased your work. Keeping those relationships active by getting them to subscribe to your blog or newsletter is "key". Our loyal collectors are like gold.
If any of you are selling well in this current economy, please feel free to share what's working for you. We can all benefit by your experience. Esther, please save your best advice for the upcoming interview!