7 Ways Art Galleries Can Help You Build a Successful Career

Over the last several years, there’s been a growing sense among some artists that art galleries may be waning – that the business model may not work anymore. The internet and large art shows and festivals have provided artists new opportunities to display and sell their artwork directly to collectors. The tools and opportunities to build a successful art business have never been more accessible.

While I agree that the market is changing, and I believe that artists should pursue every opportunity to find new ways to market their work, I would like to share a few signs that art galleries still matter and demonstrate several ways that art galleries remain vital in helping artists build their careers.

For Many Collectors, Art Buying is About the Experience

Perhaps one of the most important roles a gallery still fills is it’s ability to provide art buyers with a top-notch buying experience. Many of the sales I make through Xanadu Gallery are to people who are on vacation, or to buyers who have purchased a second home in Arizona to escape cold winters. These buyers love the experience of walking through galleries and the serendipity of finding a piece of artwork that speaks to them.

Art shows and festivals can provide buyers with a great experience and have the added benefit of allowing the collector to meet the artist, but most shows can’t provide the same kind of high-end retail environment that an art gallery does. Galleries are able to control the art viewing environment – the temperature and the lighting, for example. Creating an atmosphere of luxury, galleries are often able to command higher prices than shows and festivals for the work they sell.

Seeing the Work in Person Still Matters (At least sometimes)

I want to be very clear that seeing the artwork in person is not important in every sale – we are selling more and more artwork either online or through our Art Catalogue to collectors who have never seen the work in person. I firmly believe that a larger and larger percentage of art sales is going to occur online. That said, there is some artwork that has to be seen and touched to be understood, and there are some buyers who want to see the work before they buy it. There are ways to work around this – shipping art to a client on approval, for example – but online selling is still somewhat hampered by the disconnect of seeing work reduced down to pixels.

From a market perspective, these are two of the main reasons galleries still matter to buyers, but how do galleries help an artist sell more work and build a successful career? I would like to share seven ways galleries will help you build your art business.

How Galleries Help you Sell More Art

Exposure

I’ll begin with what I feel is the most compelling and important arguments: exposure. While an independent artist can set up a website, do open studio tours, and participate in art shows and festivals, all of which have the potential to put your work in front of potential buyers, these efforts simply can’t match the exposure you can gain by having your work shown and sold in a gallery.

Unlike a show or studio tour, a gallery is open year round. Over the course of a year my gallery, for example, will be visited by thousands and thousands of potential buyers. This consistent stream of viewers gives an artist the best chance at reaching his or her audience and making sales. The art business, just like any other business, is a numbers game. While there are many things you can do to target potential buyers and increase your chances for success, in the end, you’ve got to have eyeballs on your work in order to reach those who are going to feel passionate enough about the work to pull out their credit card and make a purchase.

Some argue that your website gives you exposure to a vast potential audience online. This is true, but if you are tracking your traffic and online sales, you know how difficult it is to get visitors to your site, let alone convince those visitors to buy.

I will concede that you could start to reach a broad audience by participating in a large number of art festivals and shows – in fact you might even be able to reach a larger number of people than you could through galleries, but this leads us to the next factor, efficiency.

Efficiency

Simply put, every minute you spend on self-promotion and shows is a minute that you are not spending in the studio. If you have participated in open studios or weekend art festivals, you know that tremendous preparation and effort is required in order to make the events a success. Unfortunately, all that effort is no guarantee of sales at any particular event.

You might argue that you have plenty of time to participate in art events because you have plenty of artwork and don’t need to be spending more time in the studio. I would encourage you to stop and think about what that means though; if you have plenty of inventory and plenty of time on your hands, you simply aren’t selling enough.

The artists that I show in my gallery would have a hard time participating in  a lot of shows or studio tours because, quite simply,  they are too busy creating to keep their galleries in inventory.

By working with a gallery, you will be able to focus on producing work while the gallery focuses on producing sales – each of you is able to do what you do best.

Moreover, very few artists are both creative and good at sales. Galleries are staffed by professionals who spend all day long, every day working on the sale of artwork. They are going to be better at moving a customer to the close than you are, and they are going to be better able to focus their efforts on following up with customers to close the sale.

Learn How to Get Into Galleries and Sell More Art

Join Xanadu Gallery owner, Jason Horejs, for a live, online workshop. Jason will guide you step by step through the process approaching and building relationships with galleries. Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Newly updated – I’ll teach you:

  • Building a Digital Portfolio
  • A More Detailed Approach to Pricing and Consistency Analysis
  • Biography Writing and Layout
  • Approaching Galleries Via Email
  • Gallery Approach Readiness Checklist

and much more . . .
LearnMore

 

The Multiplicative Effect

As an artist doing self-promotion, you are limited in the number of events you can participate in and the marketing efforts you can put forward because there is only one of you. As you expand your representation, you can show in galleries across the country (or the globe!). Now the effort you put into finding galleries begins to pay off in a big way. Each additional gallery now multiplies your exposure.

Compare this with trying to increase your income by participating in more shows or studio events. The work and effort you put into each event is only as long-lasting as the event itself.

Stability

By expanding your reach through galleries, and especially if you are able to secure representation in a number of galleries in a variety of geographic markets, you will be able to create a level of stability in your cash flow.

If you are relying solely on your own marketing efforts and sales slow-down, it can have a devastating impact on your finances. By diversifying your market, you will find that sales will begin to become more stable and reliable. Sure, one gallery may experience a period of slower sales, but often another gallery will then kick into gear, have a strong sales period, and make up for the dip in the first gallery.

The economic downturn of 2008 showed that no one is immune to a precipitous crash in the economy, but in my experience, those artists who were showing in a variety of galleries (as well as doing some direct marketing) were the ones who fared the storm best.

Reputation

Many artists feel that gallery representation helps establish them as more legitimate in the eyes of collectors. Collectors will ask you if you show in galleries. While the quality of your work should speak for itself, the reality is that many collectors see gallery representation as a stamp of legitimacy. Showing with good galleries will enhance your resume and reputation making it easier to join professional art societies and get into juried shows.

Relationships

Often galleries, especially those that have been long-established in their community, will have built relationships with people in the community that can be important to your career. Museum curators, arts writers, show organizers, publishers and other gallery owners all spend time in galleries. Your galleries can become great advocates for you as they work to promote you and your work.

Display

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, art galleries remain one of the best venues to see your art at its very best. We had a show this last season and as the show was opening, the featured artist said, “it’s so awesome to see the art all together like this!” Sure, he had seen the art in his studio, but until it was all hung together in the gallery, he hadn’t been able to get the full impact of the body of work. Galleries spend a lot of money getting their space and the lighting just right, and they put a lot of effort into figuring out the perfect display for the work. Short of building your own gallery, or getting a museum show, you won’t ever see your art in quite this way, and neither will your collectors.

A gallery display is one thing that a website simply can’t replicate.

Learn How to Get Into Galleries and Sell More Art

Join Xanadu Gallery owner, Jason Horejs, for a live, online workshop. Jason will guide you step by step through the process approaching and building relationships with galleries.

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Step-by-step guidance to help you prepare yourself and your art to approach galleries

LearnMore

 

Galleries Should Remain a Part of Your Marketing Strategy

The internet and the ability to sell direct to customers has made it easier than ever before for an artist to take control of her own career. There are more marketing opportunities available to artists than there have ever been. Some see these alternative marketing avenues as a sign of the impending demise of the gallery business. I agree that there is certainly a lot of competitive pressure on galleries, but I believe that galleries will remain an important part of the art market for the for years to come.

Over the last twenty years, I have had the opportunity to get to know hundreds of artists and have been able to observe what these artists are doing build successful careers. It is just as true today as it was twenty years ago: the most successful artists are those who are showing in multiple galleries.

I encourage you to continue building your market, doing shows and events, and maintaining your website. There’s no reason you can’t work to build a successful career by marketing your work on multiple fronts.

It can be difficult to find good gallery representation, and over the last few years, as the gallery market has shrunk, it has become even more competitive. I would argue, however,  that anything worth doing is hard. Securing gallery representation requires preparation, research, and yes, hard work. But if you think about the work required to sell your art on your own you will find the time and effort required to find a good gallery is worth the investment.

Learn How to Get Your Work Into Galleries

If you would like to better understand how galleries work and prepare yourself to approach galleries in a professional manner, be sure and register for my upcoming online workshop by going to http://www.xanadugallery.com/Workshop/2014-Online/index.php

LearnMore

Registration is limited, so don’t wait – register today.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

19 Comments

  1. Interesting.
    I really appreciate your objective discussion on this subject.
    Being new to selling my photography as art, This has been very informative.
    Many venues have their pluses and minuses.

  2. Great post. While I do not sell from my website, I realize the potential to do so. I prefer to sell in galleries only, as it allows me more time to create my work and does give me credibility . I do still enter national competitions and Museum Shows, and sell well there. But I feel that selling on my website is not fair to the galleries that represent my work.

  3. Thanks for another excellent post. I agree that galleries are an important part of any artist’s strategy for making a living out of making art, but which gallery? In my lifetime I have seen a change from galleries where the owner was effectively in partnership with a very small stable of artists (ie the gallery owner had an incentive to sell the annual output of each member of their stable of artists), to galleries that appear to be no more than shops because they stock one or two works of each of 50 or more artists, while demanding that the artist doesn’t show in any other gallery in the region. These new style galleries therefore create a bottleneck of their artist’s works by allowing only a small percentage to be seen by those browsing the gallery, although more serous collectors may look in the stockroom – and from my experience as an artist in residence in a gallery, people literally fall in love with an artwork, and they can’t do that if they can’t see it. The current trend in Australia is for this bottleneck to be broken by the artist renting ‘pop up’ space in which they can show their entire year’s output, in which case the artist keeps the commission, but must also attend to make all the sales themselves. In other words, there is increasingly not a lot, in my country at least (Australia), to distinguish a gallery from a self-organised sales venue. I agree that it’s efficient to have a good gallery that will handle sales for me, and wish there were more of them.

    1. Great points Jillian. While I too have seen this trend, there are still a lot of galleries out there (like mine) that focus on showing a larger number of works by a smaller number of artists – so you’re right, it’s not only important to find gallery representation, it’s important to find the right gallery representation.

  4. Thanks for all the excellent information. I know now that I must present my work to several galleries and paint more in my studio. I will not be available on the Oct. date…Is there anyway you could write the info and send it? by mail or e-mail. Janis Gill Ward Arkansas/Florida

    1. Janis – it just so happens that I have written it – my book Starving to Successful is available on Amazon.com. This workshop will cover some updated info that is not in the book, however.

  5. Hi Jason, I love your words of wisdom and look forward to getting all the information that you send weekly. I have taken your and Barney’s book everywhere to look at when I get a chance to read. I look forward to learning as much as possible, but at this time I am not able to invest in your workshop on the 11th. Will you be presenting any of the new information at a later date? Thank you for all of your help. suzanne L Kish http://www.suzannekish.com

  6. I found the comparison between shows pros and cons of doing shows versus galleries especially helpful. Though I leaned about the value of display early on in my career, I had not considered the part about part of it being the atmosphere of the gallery itself being as important.

    My main motivation to get into galleries versus shows is that doing shows make me feel OLD. The hassle of lugging booth displays and inventory, packing and unpacking…and worst of all is that they’re almost always on weekends, SUMMER ones. You risk losing your youth and vitality and stop caring about how you look and dress.

    However, if you really LIKE the lifestyle of doing art shows, or know ones that are lucrative enough to tolerate a few times a year, you can often use the time there to work on things when you are not doing sales, instead of having to sit there people watching and putting up with the weather elements. I most often bring greeting cards to put into their sleeves or pieces of stained glass to foil.

  7. Once again, thank you for a real good post. Informative and motivating. I prefer a gallery as I don’t have the desire to “sell”, and I don’t have time to do it all. I’ve been in a gallery and did well, but in 2008 that gallery closed the newer part and I was the newest artist in – the first out. I’m look, but it’s just not easy. Since I’m not around on Oct. 11, I’ll look forward to the future champers of the book we’re using. Thank You Jason!

    1. Sharon, I would agree, except I actually have sold a lot of art out of our restroom over the years. If the gallery gets good traffic, art is going to get more exposure in the alcove than stored in the studio.

  8. Jason, I have taken your online line course and found it to be the best advice yet given to me in my art career. I have a sales background and realize you have to utilize all the strategies you have discussed to sell my art – even galleries! Marketing takes so much time, I am now finding it is interfering with my studio time to actually make art. Recently, I was accepted into a gallery with a very long history in my area and have already seen the benefits. Thank you for the continued support to artists! Therese

  9. I recently left a gallery that I founded 3 years ago as a collective of 12 artists because sitting the gallery 3 times a month, attending meetings, preparing for the monthly art walks, remodelong and repainting the space took too much time. We also had to pay a monthly fee and a small commision, as well as take on the various jobs required, such as chairman, bookkeeper, publicity person, etc. We also had philisophical differences about running the gallery and voted on which new artists to invite to become members.
    I do miss the exposure, but not the hassel. Your article has heled me decide to try to find more established galleries in my area to work with.

  10. Hi Jason,
    I have found so far that gallery’s are not interested to sell commissions for portrait artists who paint corporate family groupings for eg. It seems that a gallery could display 3 or even just 1 portrait (not much wall space) plus an online gallery for variations and from it, sell commissions, take a percentage of the sale. What is the rationale here?
    Do you know why this occurs or have I just not hit the right gallery yet?
    thanks, Mairi

  11. Jason, I have been following you for a number of years now and commend you for the education and service you have provided for the Art Field. We need more people like you in our world. You are one of the few good sources for learning and you are never to old to learn. You have taught me much.
    I am a world class wood turning artist. I have shown in many places, Galleries, Banks, Eating Establishments, just to name a few. With your help, I have learned the value of the Gallery along with the warning signs. Galleries can hurt you if you are not careful. I had picked a nice Gallery in the little Artist Town of Cambria, California, to show some of my work. At first, sales were good and I was shipping more and more work up to the owner. Got careless. Stopped getting signed statements for goods shipped. Sales slowed. Upon a visit to the Gallery, I noticed many missing pieces. I soon learned that the owner was selling and keeping all of money. This was an expensive education for me but a lesson I needed to earn.
    I found, in time, that the thrill of placing my Art in the hands of a happy buyer was as uplifting as the creation. So I did more Gallery Shows. This also provided me with a learning source for new work.
    I shall continue to follow your efforts, as time permits, for at 85, I’m slowing down.
    Thank you for your bits of wisdom in our bumpy road of Art.
    Richard E Erickson, Turned Wood Artistry

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