Art Marketing Minute | Overcoming Your Prejudices When Selling Your Art

Have you Overcome Prejudice?

What have you done to combat any prejudicial tendencies you might have toward potential buyers. What have your art-selling experiences taught you about the importance of providing great service and building relationships with everyone you encounter? Please leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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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

18 Comments

  1. I’m strictly an amateur photographer, but one who in recent years (which happen to be aged years, as I have now passed my 79th birthday!) have taken my art a bit seriously. I’ve never submitted my work to any gallery. A few weeks ago, over the internet, I became acquainted with your site and have so enjoyed reading, and seeing here.

    I admire this post, tremendously. Although I have strong feelings about most of the subjects you mentioned, I understand the need to bury them should I present my work to a prospective customer–and, for that matter, in many other situations.

    Thank you.

  2. Well, I understand the artist’s anger. We have been doing a tremendous amount of studying on this subject in school, and there are definitely significant problems. I don’t believe it’s wrong to be wealthy. I think what some people take issue with are the ethics surrounding how the wealth was/is attained. I think a lot of people want to see new business models that are green and sustainable. These business models are the future and promise to be very profitable if corporations will bite the bullet and get it done. We live in a plutocracy and that model needs to be reconstructed, as well. I do agree with Jason, creating alliances is one way to affect change and art is one of the most powerful mediums for creating alliances. At a minimum, take the money and let it come back around to build your own wealth and activism. There’s no point in rejecting money from a system where we all pay in our entire lives.

  3. I can’t comment too much on art selling however-
    I was brought up to expect the best of everyone I came in contact with. But mom went one step further with a proviso- “until there is reason to doubt the best is being shown.” And she was able to be blunt and straightforward with those she was in contact with.
    I became an art instructor in public schools, mostly urban retiring from an inner-city position. I faced prejudice from the other side of the coin. It was unpleasant but I sought out the ways for us to be at our best.
    About poverty. Money is not the only measure of poverty and it may not be the most important utimately.

  4. Thank you Jason! This is a very important information about dropping prejudice and I thought you made some very good points. The relationshp with others is important and needs to be nurtured and protected. I may add, this leads to a question, what is effective art for each person? From my perspective, for art to be effective, it needs to have elements in it that do unite the buyer and me. So art that is more didactic, or brings strong statements, such as some of the characterures in political cartoons and strong emotional expressions, may not apply here then. The importance of communicating a message that is not offensive for the purpose of sales, well, this may be another can of worms to address, but nevertheless, the premise of your video is very important, that of the relationship with the buyer is delicate and they must be given the chance to purchase your work without distraction to the artist. If they would like to know what inspired you to do your work, then this goes another level. Will they still buy my work if they know what motivated me? I believe the art I do is an extention of who I am and what I believe as an artist. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so whoever the beholder is may connect with me through the picture because it connects with them in areas we agree–there was some common thread in them that united us. I believe that one of those common threads is the beauty in the created world around us. Not by words but by the work I produce that causes them to want to buy it. I don’t have to explain all the reasons. The Master Creator, who creates the sunsets and sunrises we are all in awe of, the One whose Mercies are new every morning, gives these gifts of beauty to us all. Even those who don’t acknowledge Him, or give Him thanks. I let His His creation tell all about Him.. And His care for them is shown by me humbly praying to have a respectful, patient heart toward others made in His image. So then I have respect for others in their faith journey. I try to take my que from Masters, Rembrandt, Leonardo, Norman Rockwell that a picture can show them truth and beauty without comment, because the picture is worth a thousand words. It brings them into that moment that was created on canvas and the viewer is left by the artist to see the story in that picture for themselves. The lighthouse watercolor with waves crashing on the shore I painted from real life, for example, has given so much joy and comfort to people who view it. They see themselves there, enjoying the beauty and awesomeness of it all. They have been to the beach without actually being there in real time. This is why I painted it, because it did the same for me and I was just sharing with them what I saw. The moment is frozen in time, to be enjoyed over and over again. Art with a purpose brings buyers who want that moment in their lives too. Not intruding on that process with judgments is wise and ultimatly brings happy clients.

  5. My longtime dentist recently came to a very large art exhibit I currently have up at a prestigious local city arts center outside of Minneapolis. Now, my dentist pretty much scorns art, or at the very least, finds it useless. However, I had a long conversation with him at my show, and explained the purpose of the show to him. I had worked with a writer, who wrote a short story about a painter with schizophrenia – and I painted her story. In addition to the art, we have our little “chapbook” on sale for $10, for which all sales of the book will go to the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill. My dentist is a very smart man, and he listened intently to what I was telling him. Then he and his wife purchased one of my paintings AND he paid $100 for the $10 chapbook. Never in my wildest dreams would something like this ever happen!

  6. Hi Jason,
    This is such wise advice as are your other posts. I’m learning a lot about selling art and life, too. Thank you so much .

  7. I think your advice is good. But what happens if your art invites people to discuss the fundamental random, chaotic, mathematical and beautiful character of nature with you? I find it very challenging to keep this discussion on neutral territory sometimes. I consider part of my art to be the story behind it and how it comes to exist, and my personal philosophy is very much tied in with it. I reveal these stories and my thinking in a blog I have on my website. What I find both fascinating and obvious, has the potential to make others uncomfortable because it may challenge their world view. I try to be careful how I word things, answer questions in a minimal way, and feel out whether they are receptive, but it’s really hard! Occasionally the desire to sell is overcome by the desire to have an honest discussion about my art.

  8. My entire body of work is based on a simple concept: I look to prehistory to explore what it is to be human, to hold those contrary instincts (fear of the stranger vs. love of the exitic and new; needing to be part of a community and the yearning to be seen as an individual) in our modern times. I try to focus on what unites us instead of what divides us. The artist you mentioned could use her art as a bridge, a way to engage, inspire, and gently educate her audience to be a force for good in the world, rather than a hammer to pound them. But if she can’t do that right now, she may have to find different venues, a different audience, and other ways to use her art to support a better vision of the world. And she has to understand that is HER CHOICE, along with the consequences.

  9. Thanks Jason. That is a great reminder and sometimes not easy for an artist who may not be a trained salesperson. I am fortunate to have had a sales career in the past, and the very training stresses the importance of not prejudging your client and to be invested in filling their needs. However, I still get drawn into conversations by clients, that can take a political turn, especially in these times. I try to behave in a professional manner but sometimes I have to make a real effort to leave any personal baggage at the gallery door.

  10. I am an artist and also a Gallerist. Recently I had an opening for an artist whose work I show.

    A man came in and ignored my colleague’s strong and qunit-beautiful abstract paintings. The man proceeded to give his opinion of a work he had seen that consisted of a smashed late-model car. He then began a political sermon-like rant.

    This visitor was obnoxiously distracting the other visitors to my gallery. Initially I tried gently changing the subject to the works in the gallery.

    Eventually I asked the husband of an artist showing elsewhere in my gallery if he could encourage the man to leave. The husband is a gentle but quite large man and did eventually get the opinionated visitor to move on.

    I believe in being kind and welcoming to everyone as I was initially with this visitor. But there are limits…

  11. Thank you Jason. This is all so true and important. When I first started showing and selling my art many years ago I wondered how I might feel if some person I really did not like wanted to purchase my work. What I learned is that people who were drawn to my art were in some way kindred spirits. People who respond to the emotion that a piece of art evokes are responding to the emotion of the artist and will have a lot in common.

    In the past its been my experience that artists are a diverse bunch and accepting of other artists no matter their differences. But in recent years as our society has become more polarized this isn’t always so. This is so sad.

    I do try not to speak of any of those controversial subjects you mentioned. Even on facebook, where I am friends with artists and people who are interested in my work, I never like or comment on political or religious posts. Sometimes its tempting as I would like some of the posters to know I agree with them. But I don’t do it.

  12. Thank you Jason, I couldn’t agree more. I am involved in several artistic organizations. In one of these I find myself very much in the pubic eye, but very much in the political minority. However, it has always been my aim to “find the common ground” among others in this group, and I’ve found that nothing does this better than a focus on the arts. Whether it be music, painting, sculpture, poetry, literature…these things go to a deeper level in the soul I believe, and can unite individuals better at this difficult and polarized time than almost anything else. Thanks for reinforcing this.

  13. That was brilliant Jason, and I completely agree. In fact, if I had my way politics and religion would be excluded everywhere except in the home. Those twin subjects seem to
    bring nothing but vitriol, anger and divisiveness to the world.
    My work often encourages comments from religious folks as I’m sure other figurative painters have experienced. It’s hard to hear narrow-mindedness in their assessment of your work, but it’s also just part of the way the world is these days.

  14. This is an interesting subject that is worth a discussion. I think that many artists start their careers with a very idealistic, and rigidly romanticized version of making art, what the art world is about and the act of selling art. I think often instructors encourage this view of being above it all and not lowering oneself to be “commercial”. Cynically, I believe it’s because many art instructors have employment and a regular pay check. When the maturing artist finally works full time at his/her art and no longer depends on a “day job” for support, then their perspective of what is worth arguing over and what isn’t worth it, changes and becomes more pragmatic. I don’t mean that the artist gives up their vision, or their integrity . . . to the contrary . . . I think the challenges actually hone the artists vision and solidify their motivations.

    At many functions in my younger years I was sometimes disdainful of people who didn’t fit my perspective of the “intellectual art appreciator”. But sometimes the smallest encounter can lead to a lifelong patron who loves what you do and will come back again and again. People who look like they can afford to buy can often just be un-involved art hangers on, while other people who seem conservative, poor and very different from you can be become good friends and important collectors. Also, whether the buyer interprets the art piece in the same way I originally intended it to mean, doesn’t really matter . . .it is more important that something in my art speaks to the viewer and adds to the richness of their lives. If my art makes them happy, makes them cry and/or reminds them of something they love . . .all the better. I can still tell them the story behind a piece of art without destroying what they see in it.

    I have several return customers who are the opposite politically than I am, yet we are able to find common ground to appreciate each other. Often they have opinions and outlooks about my art that gives me better insight into what is effective in what I create. I really just do my best to be open and listen to everyone as if they were a future client . . .because after all . . .they might be.

  15. Thank you Jason, this is so timely in our day and age. Bravo for being so clear and open about this topic. I totally agree with you that art has the unique potential to unite people. I always love finding out what people feel and think about my art, it creates a connection that is very intimate and too precious to ruin it with opinions about politics etc..
    With much gratitude
    Claudia

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