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Well-Meaning Art Galleries Come to Wrong Conclusion

by Clint Watson on 5/29/2007 6:56:54 PM

Here's a curious oxymoron.

A well-meaning desire to be loyal their existing artists, leads some short-sighted art marketers to turn away artists who paint similarly to one of their existing artists.  However, more in-depth analysis leads us to the conclusion that for the purposes of increasing sales for the existing artist AND the new artists, these galleries should accept the new artist.  In short, loyalty is best served by expanding their market and making more sales for BOTH artists.

Let us explain.

We recently attended a panel discussion with five gallery owners.  The discussion, of course, turned to marketing.

Now all of the gallery owners seemed to agree that galleries that are located in areas with MORE galleries are in a better position to sell art.  The theory goes like this.  If there are more galleries in a town, more art collectors will come.  If more art collectors come, the town will become known as an "art destination."  And, even though the galleries are technically "competitors" there is a synergy that happens and they actually end up helping each other sell more art via an expanded market.  We have seen this over and over in places like Carmel, Santa Fe, Jackson Hole and Scottsdale.  

We agree with everything so far.

Back to our discussion.  One of the gallery owners had actually relocated his entire gallery to another town to be in closer proximity to the other galleries because the town was becoming a "destination."  All of this so far is very progressive thinking.

Here's where we became confused.

A question arose about having artists who paint in a similar style hanging in the same gallery.

EVERY SINGLE ONE of the gallery owners said that if they had an artist who painted in a particular style, they would not accept another artist who might "compete" with the first artist.  One of the owners actually said that he had approached a famous artist regarding representation and the artist turned him down, so he "settled" for the work of one of the artist's students.  Later the "master" re-approached him and had changed his mind but the gallery owner was now "loyal" to the student.

Now, don't misunderstand, we are all for loyalty. However, if having more galleries in close proximity helps expand the art market and stimulates sales, wouldn't the same theory hold true for the artwork hanging within a single gallery?

Wouldn't having two or three painters who paint in a "similar" fashion draw more art collectors who like that style than a single artist?

Wouldn't artist "A" benefit from the traffic generated by the collectors of artist "B" and visa-versa?

In the example given above, wouldn't the "student" benefit from collectors who come to see the "master" but can no longer afford the "master's" work?   And wouldn't the "master" benefit from collectors who like the "student's" work but have increased their income and are ready to buy the "master?"

It seems obvious to us that, within reason (ie you wouldn't want 20 painters who all are clones), having a few artists who paint in a similar style would STIMULATE art sales for ALL of the artists in the gallery.


Clint Watson
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic

PS - It is possible that some galleries (not the ones in the panel discussion), use the "too similar to an artist we already represent" line as an excuse when turning down an artist -- after all, it DOES take guts to tell an artist straight out, "we don't like your work."


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Topics: Art Business | Marketing 

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Artist Boyd Greene
via web
Fine article with a perspective artists should consider. It does make you wonder if the galleries really like the artists they turn away because they are similar to another painter.

Robert Sloan
It might just be an excuse for "We don't have the space for another artist right now," more than "we don't like it." Obviously they do like that style because they have Artist A there.

But if they're doing it to avoid hanging any work too similar to what's already there, that is counter productive. That principle has worked in every art sales venue high or low that I've ever found.

It works for craft fairs. If there are a lot of crafters with good wood carvings, people will travel miles to get to the fair with the great wood carvings.

When I go looking for representation, I'll go looking for galleries that like my landscapes and have animal paintings similar to mine - loose painterly ones as well as tightly detailed accurate wildlife painting. I know I'll maximize my sales and that they'll get better exposure too hanging next to me.


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