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 ARTsala. 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. Connect with Jason on Facebook

38 Comments

  1. An excellent point about buyers.
    But I would say, that I think you and your staff can give an educated guess (with a fair degree of certainty) about internet scammers looking to separate an artist from his work without payment. 🙂

  2. This reminds me of a friend of mine who sold cars. It was back in the mid 1960’s. He said one day a Black man came in dressed in worn dirty jeans and sweaty t-shirt. The man stood around, looking lost, and not one of the front sales people approached him. My friend went over to the man and asked if he could help. Turns out the man had finished his day’s work as the owner of a garbage pick-up business and needed to purchase two more trucks! He paid cash for them!
    My aunt was a real estate person. She told a similar story. These stories taught me to never pre-judge anyone! Appearances can be very deceptive.

  3. I was shocked that this one guy asked to purchase a painting from me. He was a guy who hung out at the neighborhood bar, I don’t believe had a high paying job, a guy I didn’t even get along with. As a matter of fact, I recall arguing with him on occasion and indirectly let him know I thought he was too immature to be able to have an actual conversation with a woman. But lo and behold, he came up to me one day and said he’d like to purchase a particular piece. I didn’t believe him at his word because he was also down on his luck drunk, so I put him thru the ringer as far as down payment, getting his address, etc. But, he came thru with flying colors, leaving me to feel a little ashamed of giving him a hard time.

  4. I had a friend who was terrible at seelling her art and would look at people’s shoes, if they were not wearing expensive ones she would ignore them.. I have sold art to all kinds of people and I have seen many weathly collectors shop incognito in old jeans and t shirts so they are not targeted…

  5. Jason, I am wondering if this holds true to galleries who might judge potential artists, as well. I once read a reply a gallery owner posted stating that she wanted her artists “fit” reflecting body image in an artist was part of her criteria. She wouldn’t want an artist to have a show at her gallery unless they appear in the “beautiful people” mold. I had never heard that before but have wondered since if it comes into play in choosing artists as well as potential buyers.

  6. So true Jason. My father bought a new Cadillac every two years. He would go shopping wearing his oldest clothes carrying a roll of cash in his pocket. He only bought from the salesperson who treated him with respect, never asking for someone to help him, just looking and waiting to see who wouldn’t judge him by his appearance. He owned his own business and expected his sales people to not judge a book by its cover.

  7. I worked at a high end gallery in Key West, FL
    All the other salespeople would completely discount anyone with a southern accent ,especially on the phone. I would do the follow up. I made many, many sales in this way. The rest of the staff never got it. I’m not positive but I believe I may have made sales to Tourists” wearing fannie packs!
    I look at it like this…. Someone comes in the gallery, use it as way to up my sales game. If they are with children , use it to teach the family a little about art. There are a lot of people who would love to own art, and have the money, but what they don’t have is confidence in their own taste. I felt like part of my job was to make them feel comfortable enough to say what they liked and did not. It did not always work on the spot , but, many times they would come back, sometimes a year later. The ones that do come back have become life long collectors.

  8. Great topic. I took a business art class as a part o my BFA at CCA in SF. We were taught galleries will size us up in a moment, first looking at our shoes, then working up to our faces. One assignment was to go to a gallery with a partner. One was the talker, and one was the observer. Most, if not all, of us, verified that sizing up factor. I don’t know if it’s changed there, but in Seattle, I don’t think I get that treatment. Here, as in many places, the money is in tech and video games, with people who don’t want to grow up and dress the part. I am an artist; my husband makes games. We buy art. A gallery judging me for being an artist would be remorse. On most days, I look like an average artist happily stuck in the 80s punk scene.
    My last clients told me, as they took the work out to their old station wagon, that they keep the old car so they can buy art spontaneously.

    1. Hi Rebecca, Your comments here prompted me to check out your website. I found your linocut paintings very interesting- lush with color and texture. I am an artist as well, and tenured faculty at Seattle Central College. Among my course offerings are relief and intaglio. I also teach painting. I wonder if you’d like to be a guest speaker in either of these classes?

  9. I try my best not to judge art buyers. Learned this lesson of prejudging when I was younger and worked for the SD Padres team store for Spring training. I was closing the store when 2 large guys in their 20’s, knocked on the glass door wanting in. I told them we were closed. Then their dad also knocked on the door. They were all wearing plaid shorts and tank tops and looked pretty scuffy. Turned out the dad was one of the owners of the padres with his sons. You just never know how wealthy people may be dressed.

  10. I worked many years ago in an art supply house and gallery in the office. I was aLone when a woman came in, hitched up her dress and adjusted her pantyhose !. She asked me somewhat belatedly if I was a woman (I am) and we had a short but pleasant conversation. It turned out she was the wife of a junkyard magnate and they purchased several expensive pieces of art that day.

  11. I used to work selling in a gallery in Newport, RI, one of the worlds top sailing towns. Folks would come into our gallery looking like they had been on skid row that could buy and sell half the town and had just jumped off their multi million dollar yacht. So never prejudge. Those fancy cars can be rentals or like some of the people here in South Carolina live in a double wide but drive a Mercedes , Corvette, etc.

  12. I manage an artist run gallery on the second floor of a local market mall. The clientele is not the ones you would think would buy art on a regular basis. Our best customer to date is a woman who has bought more than 10 pieces in under a year. I’ve not seen her wear a fanny pack (probably haven’t really looked that close) and I’m positive that she has not toted a camera. She does not look like an art aficionado, but she collects our art! And every time she comes into the gallery, we treat her royally. We know that the most unlikely visitor can easily turn into a buyer. And yesterday, we had one of our own artists buy another artist’s work that was hanging in the gallery. How cool is that?

  13. Back in the eighties my ex boss (retired retail store manager with over three million in stock) went in to a local investors office dressed in a plaid shirt and coveralls. He had just come into town after working on his ranch. When he walked in someone yelled have a seat. He waited for 45 minutes while everyone appeared to be working. He quietly rose and walked out the door……..

  14. Excellent presentation Jason. I have to tell you that you made me burst out laughing with the comment “my dream is to sell art to a buyer with a camera in his fanny pack.” I’m still laughing. Thanks for that 😉
    Evan

  15. Having sold art in galleries and high end juried art shows for over 40 years has given me a deep appreciation for everyone who pauses to look at my art. In the early 1970’s I had one man come to an art exhibition dressed in greasy worn out coveralls. His hands were filthy. He ended up being my all time #1 collector. Turns out he was working on his award winning, antique Mercedes Automobile collection and remembered about the art show. He did not want to clean up and change as he though he may miss the show due to the late hour so he came covered with oil and grease! He hosted my wife and I in his spacious home many times when we exhibited in the Philadelphia area for decades to come after that initial encounter. Judge a book by it’s cover (or coveralls) NEVER!

  16. Many years ago I worked in one of the oldest and largest galleries in Carmel. Some of our staff had a definate predjudice about “qualifying” a buyer based on clothes and appearance. One rainy day I was alone in our small annex when a woman walked in. She was disheveled and not especially well dressed. I interacted with her anyway and it turned out she was an art buyer for a company that was decorating offices in the Sears tower in Chicago. Her clients wanted California landscapes. She told me that she had been to our main gallery but had been ignored. We spent the next two days reviewing all the eligible work and she purchased 18 major pieces.

  17. I exhibited at a small local show some twenty years ago when I first began making my art dolls. My pieces were high priced for this show so I was content to meet people and enjoy the day just showing my work. Close to the end of the day a middle aged lady came by my table and commented how pleased she was to see my original work. She made positive comments and wished me well, as many others had and then went on her way to view the other booths and tables at the show. Shortly afterwards, she came back to my table and said ” Okay – I would like this one- this one – this one and Oh…that one too! Can I pay you today and have to bring them to me on Tues? ” I was floored! She proceeded to pull out cash to pay for them – $3800 – I was floored! I delivered them to her, she lived in a modest home but nothing fancy but her collection was from many of the top artist of the time. Over the next couple of years she would go on to buy three more pieces from me.

  18. The first piece I sold was to a fellow student in an online painting class. It taught me that ANYONE is a potential art buyer. I also sold two of my largest (and thus most expensive) paintings to the two guys who helped me hang the art for my first open studio! They are friends, and had seen plenty of my art at shows and at my home, but spending the day around the art helped each one choose his favourite. It seems to me that ANY situation where there can be a conversation about art and an opportunity even to pull out my iphone and go to my website is great!

  19. I’ve always loved art and as a young adult whenever I had spare money would treat myself to buying a painting from local artists. This was not frequent so I was not recognized by the local gallery owners but I had brought enough art to seek out my favorite artists. One day I went to a gallery to find that it was the last day of my favorite artist’s solo exhibition. I went in immediately to purchase a painting. There was only one other person in the gallery who was obviously well off, spoke with a posh accent and who was not buying. The gallery owner gave her a lot of attention and ignored me even though I was politely waiting to be served. When she eventually left he turned his attention to me. I brought 3 paintings but as I was quietly annoyed I made sure the paintings were heavily discounted. Both the gallery owner and artist lost out. The artist, who was now living overseas in Switzerland, took the time to write to me to thank me for the purchase. I was so delighted to have a letter from the artist himself that I replied complimenting him on his work and explaining how I would have paid the full price but for the snub of the gallery owner!

  20. Very timely subject on identifying who are the target audience and what are their different profiles. Art offers diverse types of consumption experiences, from simple art appreciation and aesthetic contemplation – as the public that visits Museums and galleries – to collectors, interior designers and “private” decorators. What marketing research about art buyers behavior? What makes a person to value original artworks? Is it education? Is there a divide between ” art as entertainment” and “art as an asset?” An art maker is potentially an art buyer? – What can we do to create a new generation of art buyers?

  21. I am finding your postings very true to my experiences as a self-promoting artist. Often I study those who come into my booth to try to figure out whether the fine shoes and other accoutrements will translate into serious interest and a sale. There really is no correlation. I am NOT the type who thinks “That person has MY money in his pocket” and swoop in to nail down a sale. I wait for them to linger, perhaps pondering a particular work before I move in to remark “You seem to be taken by this piece. What is it you find interesting?” and so the interaction goes.

  22. Years ago, when I worked at a bank, we were taught in our training to treat everyone as a potential customer. Even if they don’t buy, they may know someone who might. If they have a positive experience, then their friend(s) that do buy art will be more likely to come to your gallery, show, etc. and buy.

  23. I work once a week in an art gallery in downtown Hilo, HI and whether a tourist or a local, rich or poor, everyone pretty much dresses the same – shorts, t -shirts, flip flops, sunglasses, floral patterns and hats. We treat them all with the same spirit of aloha. We assume that if they weren’t interested in art, they would not come in. After all, the same business block has clothing stores, surf shops, guided tour companies, book stores and confectioners. Any sale, no matter how small, is treated with enthusiasm and gratitude.

  24. Yes Jason, I wish you good luck. To me, you will be the first person to sell art to someone with a camera in his fanny pack and make history!👍

  25. Reminds me of a time in our small gallery when, at five minutes to closing time, a woman came in dressed casually in jeans and wound up buying a $200 hand-painted silk scarf. Proves 2 points — don’t judge by what people wear, and don’t close the doors before the posted closing time. (Nor be late at opening time, either). Buff

  26. Jason,
    Thank you so much for your thoughtful and discussion provoking posts. I’m an artist and also like to collect. I’ve been both the ignored and the welcomed at art galleries. Curtesy and graciousness always pay off, whether in an immediate or belated sale, or simple word of mouth. These days, interconnection can reveal our natures with great ease and speed.

  27. I was on the other side of this a few years ago. My wife and I wanted a painting for our home. We had a maximum price and weren’t going over it. I was looking in galleries on Main Street Scottsdale, Xanadu was not around then. I had a camera and my four year old grandson with me. Went into one gallery the man at the desk looked up said hi and returned to his paperwork. I saw a painting that I liked and was ready to buy but the owner never spoke to me. We walked out crossed the street the painting in the window caught my eye we were greeted by the manager he got up from his desk and walked to us introduced himself. By his actions my wife and I bought a painting the next day. We spent almost a $1000 more then our limit. All because the manager didn’t prejudge me.

  28. I really have no idea who is going to buy my art. Treating everyone with respect is always a good idea. The last time I showed in a gallery setting I sold both pieces before I arrived at the opening… A gentleman commented on how much he liked my work and walked away to the other end of the space. Turning around he realized my paintings also carried in the distance as well as being interesting up close and he decided to buy. I mentioned that it was unfortunate they had already been sold. He suggested he would pay double if I reneged on the deal. (I could not help teasing my son-in-law as I pretended to entertain the idea.) My biggest mistake was not asking for this fellow’s contact information to add him to my invitation list… I am not sure I will ever get the hang of this process.

  29. It’s been my experience some people who dress sloppy are so accomplished and wealthy they really don’t care what you think of them. They can afford to. Some do so because they don’t want to be a focused target with obvious wealth. Most people pay closer attention to their appearance because they are still striving. Personally, its a matter of individual self respect.
    Even if a person tells me up front “I can’t afford that,” I take the time to talk about the piece, art in general, etc. I glean a terrific amount of information from such conversations. I consider them casual market surveys that often direct me to my next project.

  30. Wow, I would ever judge a person like that! My aunt is wealthy, but wears those packs often to free up her hands.
    At any rate, my story is this: at a sale I was in last year, I stopped a wo,an who was taking a picture of one of my top sellers. She explained that she was taking pictures for a friend who would Be moving here this year, and showing her art inher taste.
    This year, they both popped up at a sale and bought a large print!
    I have sold to people dripping in diamonds, to just wearing plain jeans and a flannel shirt, it’s the person’s heart that makes them sell not their clothes

  31. When I read this post, I had to laugh, as I experienced judgment first hand, in grand fashion, a few years ago.

    Though not shopping for art, I was out and about, admittedly dressed in what could only be perceived as ‘country bumpkin’. It was a day off work, I was going to spend the time gardening after I ran a few errands, in my bumpkin clothes – overalls and a T-shirt.

    By chance, household furniture was on the ‘to do’ list at our home, and by chance, there was a furniture store. When I walked in, a group of young men were having a conversation. They simply glanced my way and continued talking. Eventually, one of the men walked toward me as the others laughed.

    I walked out of the store after spending several thousand dollars on new living room furniture. A few days later, I returned to the store for a matching recliner. This time, the men stumbled over themselves trying to help me, but I specifically asked for the young man who came my way on my first visit, when the others would not.

    Book. Cover. Nailed it.

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