Whether galleries are right for you as an artist depends upon your goals. When you work with a gallery, you often don’t know who bought your art. When you sell direct, you’re able to contact those people again, and your best prospects are people who already know and love your work.
If galleries do fit into your business plan they’re a great way to sell art because they reach people that you might not be able to reach. Kevin sells a lot of art online, but he’s in galleries as well. And indeed, he reaches customers who didn’t know about him. For instance, even though they might live in Phoenix, many art buyers discover his artwork at his gallery in Prescott, Arizona. Some galleries won’t work with artists who sell online, however.
How do you get into a gallery? Believe it or not, go to the gallery and talk to them. Make sure it’s a gallery that carries the kind of work that you do or that your work complements. If it’s a sculpture gallery and you paint, do not waste your time or theirs. You can research galleries online and learn a lot about them, but nothing will tell you as much as going into the gallery and talking to the people there. If they’re busy, don’t bother them, but otherwise engage them in conversation. What are they looking for? What kinds of work sells well there? Is there anything they wish they but don’t? Eventually the conversation will come around to the fact that you’re an artist and have art to sell. You want to have a conversation, make a genuine connection. When you just walk in, you might have wonderful portfolio on your Web site, or you may have a little brochure or a portfolio to show them your artwork. Don’t walk in carrying your portfolio, but you can offer to go back out to the car and get it. A good example: Kevin recently went to Santa Fe and went from gallery to gallery. He would assess the gallery, see if it was a good match, and engage in conversation. He probably went to a dozen galleries before somebody finally said, “I love this work, and I want to carry it.”
When they say yes, be sure to read their written agreement. If they don’t have one, create your own. It should cover issues like what happens if they send somebody to you? What percentage do they get then? And obviously, what percentage do they get for any sale (most galleries take 50% for their marketing and sales)? What kind of promotion do they do? Do they have insurance? You also will want to check in occasionally to keep the work fresh and do inventory.
Art shows are a great way to reach people directly, meet and talk to them, show them your artwork and explain how you make it. Find out about shows through sites like artopportunities.org, callforentry.org and artfaircalendar.com Talk to other artists and know what’s going on in your community. There are also shows and exhibits. If someone says this is an exhibit, it probably is not about selling your work. If your goal is to have your work sold, then you want to do a show. The terminology may vary, so look carefully to decide if a show is for you. There are different kinds of art shows, too, from those that set up on weekends to more traditional art shows at a gallery or at some really cool place in your city that people might want to come to.
Whatever you’re doing, you have to let people know that there is an art show and focus on why they want to come. Maybe you had a big breakthrough and they want to come and see something that they’ve never seen before. Use public relations – newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, wherever your customers, patrons and prospects are going to be looking. You can also advertise. Although advertising hasn’t worked very well for Kevin, there are times when it works really well.
Social media is another way to get the word out. They start weeks in advance, sharing new sculptures that will debut at the art show, images and videos of setting up the show, etc. As the show gets closer, they do more and more promotion, building excitement. If you have a good mailing list you want to send out a postcard. If you don’t have a mailing list, start one today! Include family, friends, prospects, art buyers, gallery owners, influential people, etc. As prospect contact you, whether or not they buy, you can put them on your print mailing list. Don’t add them to your electronic mailing list without permission,though – that’s known as spam.
Set up your show, using labels with each artwork’s price, title, material, dimensions, how it is created. What about price? Some artists stick to their price, no matter what. Others will haggle. Some galleries even have a 10% leeway built right into their contract. It’s a good thing to think about before people start asking you.
When your show is over, you’re still not done. If somebody expressed interest in an artwork and walked away, follow up with them. Also, while it’s still fresh in your mind, make notes about food, signage and other details.
Mary hopes this free how to video has given you some helpful tips for working with galleries and having art shows. Please share your questions, comments and experiences below and visit http://www.kevincaron.com to see why Kevin Caron is so successful.
Well, you might want to stay around for another moment to see Mary’s tongue get tied ….