This is the first of a series of Q&A’s with artists. I receive many such questions and have found many artists have the same type of questions. I will post any questions that are broadly applicable.
Have something to add or an experience that might help illustrate the best path to take? Add a comment below the post.
Here’s an email I received earlier this week from Sharon M, an artist from the West, my responses in blue:
I attended your workshop in Dallas and put the info to work while in Jackson Hole recently. I had some luck: one nice gallery expressed interest in one segment of my portfolio, but has not yet reached a decision. The gallery I was most impressed with “Really really liked my work, but we’re full right now” with a “please keep in touch”. I just got a call from a gallery which is less established and carries a lower price point, but would like some of my work now. My questions are:
1. Is it better to go with a second-tier gallery in order to get established in a market, or hold out for a chance at the big names? Will going with the lesser gallery hurt my chances with the big dogs later?
This is a case of “one bird in hand” if I’ve ever seen one. Absolutely take the opportunity to work with the gallery that is interested. First, it is great to have a gallery in a top-tier market like Jackson Hole, even if it isn’t a top-tier gallery – this will help you in your quest to find other galleries. Also, you may find that the larger gallery wouldn’t give you the same amount of attention or marketing effort the smaller one will.
Second, while you should definitely keep in touch with the other gallery, nine times out of ten . . . no, 99 times out of 100 “We’re full” is a polite blow-off. Again, you’re not going to assume that is the case, and you should do the follow-up I suggested in the workshop, but don’t pin your plans on the “please keep in touch.”
2. My current more local galleries feel I am appropriately priced for this market, but my prices are too low for Jackson and Santa Fe, where I would like to expand. Will taking the prices off the current gallery websites be adequate, or will I have to raise all of my prices across the board? I(I have no prices on my site.) I feel a sense of loyalty to the first galleries to represent me. One of them is selling quite well now but believes a large increase in price could end that.
This is a tougher question to answer and involves some hard decision-making on your part. I am adamant about maintaining consistent pricing on your work across your markets. Believe me when I say collectors will eventually find out if there are broad discrepancies in your pricing, even if the pricing isn’t listed on the site. With that in mind you have to decide what best fits your long-term goals.
On the other hand, there are no guarantees that the new galleries will start selling immediately or at all for that matter, so you want to be careful about sabotaging current relationships.
What kind of difference are we talking in terms of pricing? Did the Jackson gallery give you feedback about your current pricing? Were they the ones who told you to increase, or is it an impression you got by looking around the gallery?
I would appreciate your input. Thanks!
Great work getting out there and making it happen – keep at it!
Sharon’s Response to questions I raised in the first email:
Thanks for taking the time to reply.regarding pricing, the gallery that wants me says they are selling at the lower price points, and few pieces above $1000 sell. I think they would be happy to see little movement in my price structure. I do like their website, and noticed they represented an artist I have met, so I called and asked her opinion of the gallery. She hasn’t been there very long, but was a little disappointed that they had put some of the pieces they specifically requested in the back. Other than that, they seem fine.
The “middle” gallery said the works of mine they are most interested in are at the absolute bottom of their price range at about $1000, and that most of their pieces are by well-established artists with much higher prices. Though she expressed concern over my prices, she said they would talk it over and get back to me in a few weeks because she was too busy at the moment. She also said she would not take on an artist from another gallery in town.
I’m sure I’m over-analyzing, but it seems like I may get only one shot at Jackson, and I’d like to choose wisely. I also think that the prices I establish in Jackson will have to be my guideline for when I approach Santa Fe.
Though you may need to edit this down, I have no objections to you posting the questions in your blog, with or without attribution/link.
Thanks again for your time and input.
UPDATE (12/7/2010) Just heard that Sharon will be showing in Santa Fe shortly!
In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.