Art Salesmanship (Is that a Dirty Word?) | Xanadu Gallery’s Art Marketing Minute

Salesmanship has a bit of a bad name in the art world. As a gallery owner, I know that many artists look at what I do with suspicion. They suspect that I use underhanded methods and pressure to compel the unwilling to buy art.

They think that the selling process somehow taints the purity of art.

I’m convinced that this disdain artists feel toward salesmanship stems from a fundamental misunderstanding about what the sales process is, and what’s really happening when I sell a piece of art.

To learn more, watch the video above. Prefer to read instead of watch? Click here!

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.

10 Comments

  1. I believe that people who buy art do so usually because they have fallen in love with the piece. Some buy on spec that your art will increase in value. I think that’s a bit foolish and mercenary. I do have art in my home that I have bought. But I bought it to beautify my home and because I loved the art.

  2. There is almost nothing more gratifying to me than selling a work of art to a client. In doing so, I know that I am playing that integral role in placing art in an environment where it will be admired and enjoyed for years to come. Most artists committed to their work, create with passion and purpose. Unfortunately
    artists are typically not great salespeople. There is a skill to selling art effectively. It is not about tricking the public in any way, but instead is more about educating the public, and helping them to visualize how a particular work of art will fit into their environment, and enhance their life. Being able to assist them in making a relaxed and timely decision is not deceptive at all. Art buyers generally establish relationships with certain art dealers, and with time come to respect the opinion of certain dealers. It is a relationship which is very different than with an artist and the client. At the same time, the artist always needs to be sure that the dealer has their best interest at heart.

  3. Outstanding marketing minute! I’m sure you are right about many artists’ feelings about selling their work, because I used to feel that way. Now I’m feeling my price points are a bit too low, considering the hard work that goes into each piece.

    I love selling my work and my client rapport can be fun and productive. My best client, who lives in the same city as I do, often surprises me by purchasing something “hot off the easel” that I might have done to explore a new subject. She also likes to involve me in deciding where my paintings will hang in her home. She even asks me to paint certain subjects (variations of paintings I’ve done) for specific locations. It’s all very fun and rewarding.

    My work is sold halfway across the country in a gallery in Santa Fe, so I miss the opportunity to establish a rapport with the other collectors of my work. I respect that some collectors prefer not to interact with the artist. I leave making the connection up to my dealer.

    I’ve painted in the gallery for a couple of days to try to generate that personal relationship with collectors. When I asked the sales persons in the gallery for advice on talking to potential buyers they gave me excellent advice. They said, “We don’t hard sell. We just let potential buyers tell us what they like and then do what we can to make them happy.”

  4. I guess selling my artistic works to folks who chance upon my booth is akin to selling my work to a gallery owner or curator. A personal “Glad to meet you” greeting, lots of eye contact while listening to my new friend’s story, telling my tales of adventure and art, and, a wistful sigh that my endeavor in art will no longer grace my own wall, but will go to live in a warm, loving home.
    I like my art. I enjoy the adventure of creation. I like sharing that heart-felt journey with anyone who stops in to look. And I am not ashamed to admit I like making an honest living sharing the interpretation of my experiences with someone who identifies with it, is pleased by my drawings, and is willing to purchase. Todays customer gives me the wherewithal to create and develop new ideas and themes, which helps me please old patrons and new customers.
    Thank you for this art moment, now back to the art room.

  5. Thank you Jason. I think if some artists were also purchasers of art then they wouldn’t have the attitude you refer to in your explanation of salesmanship. Yes, I prefer to work with galleries as I would rather be in the studio painting. I respect and admire their ability to help clients go home with a painting they will love and also enhance their lives. I know that’s the way I feel about my art purchases!! I also love to meet the clients whenever that is possible and enjoy sending them a note after they purchase one of my paintings. Of course that isn’t always possible as I understand why all galleries don’t share that info with their artists. I truly believe it’s important for galleries and artists to trust each other. I want my galleries to succeed and have no desire to take any sales away from them! Thanks again for your interesting blogs!! They are appreciated!!

  6. Great video, Jason. Thank you. I think many of us have conflicting feelings about most sales and purchases. In part, that is because each transaction is asymmetrical. When I buy a quart of milk at the corner store, I think the milk is worth more than the money it costs me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t buy it. On the other hand, the shop keeper thinks that the money is worth more than the milk. Otherwise, he wouldn’t sell it. The same asymmetry holds true for buying a car or a piece of art.

    Of course, buying art is much more emotional on both sides of the transaction. Yet in a good sale, each party feels that they are getting more value than they are giving up. Is one of us wrong? Is one of us tricking the other? I don’t think so. Just as with the simple example of buying a quart of milk, each party in the sale can end up with more of what they value than they started with. It can be a great win-win situation.

  7. Thanks Jason, I’ve had 3 art works sell because when a client showed interest in a piece I gave them a greeting card with that image on it and days later they called to purchase. The card kept their want in front of them until they made a decision.

  8. what do you do when you have a strong emotional attachment to a work? when you want to retain a link to that work,(forgive the comparison)when it feels like you are giving it up for adoption?

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