The great debate rages on. Should you, as an artist, sell direct or through a gallery? As I consult many friends informally, I'm always asked this question, and I always have an opinion. The answer, of course, has a lot to do with you.
Reasons NOT To Use A Gallery
If you're selling enough work on your own. That's pretty much the only reason not to partner with a gallery. If you are selling every painting and don't need additional sales or increased prices, if people are buying your work online or at shows, or direct from you, stick with what you're doing.
There are many very successful artists who have their own galleries or their own website galleries. But most spent many years with galleries that launched their careers, marketed them, and built their reputations. Doing so on your own is time-consuming and costly, and typically very slow.
Reasons To Use A Gallery
For all the downsides I hear artists complain about, I'm still a big fan of partnering with art galleries. True, there are some scoundrels out there, but most galleries I know are paying on time, promoting their artists and taking good care of them. Here are some reasons you may want to consider a gallery:
- They are professional sellers. Galleries are in business to sell paintings. If they affiliate with you, they want you because they believe people will want to buy your work. They know how to present paintings, how to promote them, and how to close deals.
- They have an existing client base. Most galleries keep a database of customers, buyers, big buyers, etc. and they promote to them constantly through e-mail, mailers, catalogues, phone conversations, events, and shows. The more they do, the more you benefit -- directly or indirectly.
- They know the art market. Galleries know what is selling, what is not, who is buying, what people want. They can find a way to fit your work into client presentations based on this knowledge. You may not have your ear to the ground as much when it comes to meeting trends
- They know good and bad and can give you valuable advice. A good gallery has excellent taste. Chances are they won't touch you if you're not a fit with the taste of their inventory, but they also have years of experience and can give you tips on how you can improve your work to make it sell. They also know what is selling -- what sizes, what styles, what subjects.
- They are actively marketing (or, at least, the smart ones are). Even if they are marketing other artists, they're bringing new customers to the gallery, which increases your odds of selling more paintings.
- Galleries can MAKE an artist. Many galleries have taken unknown artists and turned them into big brands. They can boost your career when they get behind you. They have credibility with customers, and if they are promoting you, you win
- Galleries can increase awareness. A good gallery will promote artists to its customer list, to gallery visitors, and in advertising. They will touch more people than you can on your own.
- You gain credibility by affiliation. If you're selected by a well respected gallery, being represented by them increases your credibility.
Some galleries are known to be choosy, and these are the best galleries to have. Their affiliation is a stamp of approval that you cannot easily get by marketing on your own.
- They can increase your prices. A good gallery will want to get the highest price the market will bear. It's in their best interest to increase your prices, and they will do so when they see an opportunity. Most artists are underpriced and need someone else to manage the price of their work.
- They can free up your time. Time you spend marketing and selling is time you're not focused on creating.
- Galleries have infrastructure. They already take credit cards, have accounting systems, and have shipping and access to framing. As an artist, you should focus on creating paintings, not infrastructure.
How To Get A Gallery
Unless you're promoting heavily, most galleries will never know you exist.
Expecting them to discover you is expecting the near impossible. So one option is to blanket galleries with portfolios, but that's often not well received. Gallery professionals are inundated with so many artist portfolios that those portfolios are often stored away for future review -- and lost. Phone calls to gallery professionals are usually forgotten, since you're one of dozens they receive every week. What can you do?
We created Artist Advocate Magazine to Advocate YOU to galleries. Each quarter, we mail out a directory of artists seeking representation. You can highlight your work, your story, and your contact information. It's all in one place and easy for galleries to search new artists. By keeping your ad -- your directory listing-- in front of galleries each issue, you are building your brand with them. Thus, when they are in the market, you may be the artist chosen to be added to their portfolio. Visit the website to see a video where you can learn more.
How to sign up: It's simple. Go to the website and click "Order a Listing." You can choose full- or half-page listings. You send us the artwork, we do the ads. Or you can call 561-655-8778, or fax in the order form at http://images.radcity.net/6047/3179641.pdf
(PDF link). We feature ALL styles of art. You decide which section you prefer to be listed in.
If you already have galleries but need to add one, or if you are a first-timer... Artist Advocate Magazine is for you.
Deadline for the fall issue: November 10
Please sign up today.
PS: The inaugural issue of Artist Advocate has received outstanding reviews. See the testimonials at http://www.artistadvocatemagazine.com/PPS: Did I mention that you will be given a copy of the digital edition, too? It's pretty slick. You click on the link and the pages turn just like a printed magazine. Even cooler is that readers can click a link on your page, and it will go to your website. You can e-mail this out to every one of your customers so they can see it. AND the digital edition will be on the Artist Advocate website, so others will stumble into you too.