Ask a Gallery Owner | Should Artists Brag About Their Sales?

I received the following question from a reader in Calgary:

I have a burning question for you. I have discussed it with other artist friends, but I would like to hear your opinion on this if you have the time.

Is it prudent for an artist to boast about a sold painting on social media?

It makes me absolutely crazy to see artists post, in upper case, bold letters, flourished with multiple exclamation marks, SOLD!!

…Face Palm! ARGH!

Is this remotely helpful for one’s future sales?
Is this blatant bragging?
Is this amateurish?

I rarely post SOLD on my social media, let alone a tiny mention of the sale.

My thought is, creating and sales are what we are supposed to do, and it screams amateur to me. Am I off base here?

Do realtors ‘brag’ about the last house they sold? Do used car salesmen? How about a plastic surgeon…SOLD!! another pair of triple D’s!!

Michelle

 

My Response:

Hi Michelle – it’s great to hear from you, and I’m glad you reached out with this question. I do understand what you are saying – that it feels braggadocious to share sales online or through social media. I would actually argue that it absolutely is a good idea to post sales in this way. Posting sold work can create buzz around your work with your followers – they will often congratulate you on the sale and feel genuinely excited for you. That’s all good energy and vibes going your direction. More importantly, however, when your past buyers see that others are buying your work, it helps them feel validated in their decision to have purchased your work. For those who haven’t yet bought from you, it helps move them closer to a purchase decision when they see that other discerning buyers are purchasing your work.

I especially love seeing posts where we get to see the artwork in its new home, and perhaps a photo of the artist and buyers.

Sales should be celebrated!

I know it feels like you are tooting your own horn to post sales, but if you don’t toot that horn, no one will!

Obviously you would want to be cautious not to overdo it, or to reveal personal information about the buyers, but as long as you’re careful with that, I would encourage you to go for it! I think you’ll find that your followers will love to see what’s going on with your sales.

P.S. just for fun I’m including a page from a local newspaper with a realtor’s ad where we see an illustration of exactly what you mentioned – the realtors listing 10 recent properties that they’ve sold

Michelle replied:

Thanks so much for this feedback. You highlight good points. I will try it…i just won’t be double BOLD or UNDERLINE!!! “in your face” kind of post. A matter of fact, not fluffy, not bragging , just informational.

Do You Share Your Sales?

What do you think – is it a good idea for an artist to publicize recently sold artwork? How do you let your followers know about these sales? Have you seen other artists go too far in bragging about their sales? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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64 Comments

  1. I agree with you Jason. I always post sold paintings on my social media. In addition to the things you mentioned, I think it gives other people a sense of urgency. Perhaps there is a painting of yours they are interested in? That sold post makes them think they better purchase that painting they want before someone else gets it. I often have multiple sales around the same time for this reason. At least, that’s my theory!

  2. I have noticed that the friends of those who purchased my art are quick to congratulate their friends and comment on the art. So it doesn’t end up being so much about me, as the artist, rather more about the buyer and they seem thrilled. I think that it is a good thing…and it looks good for me as well.

  3. I have no problem indicating that piece of mine has sold. Tastefully presented, not bold, underline and blinking. My friends and family are happy for me. My collectors are validated. As I am building a new site with a better sales platform, I have been wondering how many of my past-sold pieces I should include. I have decided that they help to fill out my portfolio, add context for the available works, and of course help validate for future sales. So far so good.

    Another comment on letting the world know that your stuff sells – would you go to a dentist that no one else went to? Maybe that dentist does not advertise “300 happy smiling customers this month”, but one would hope that is the case.

  4. Thanks Michelle for asking and Jason for responding. As usual Jason’s answer is a good one. When you post photos of your art on social media, you are showing your art to a public. When a piece sells, leave the photo on display and mark it sold. This way the “sold” sign indicates your success and maybe stimulates interest in your art, it also allows you to keep a representative sampling of your work on display and let people know which type of work has attracted attention and sales.

  5. Im somewhere in middle between Jason and Michelle- I absolutely indicate a painting has sold when posting it online and have a sold section on my website. But I don’t usually make specific “SOLD!” posts. I find people are genuinely more interested in seeing new work and what’s actually available to them! 🙂

  6. I use to have a similar reaction to a piece with the words sold across them. I think it can be done in a more subtle way, which is more my style. Sometimes in the post I may say, “shipping to new home!” or “On it’s way overseas”. I have even asked for assistance in looking for the most economical shipping. This way people know it is sold without blasting it in their faces.

  7. I share when I sell paintings. I think it’s a good practice and of course it’s fun getting all the congratulations comments. Recently myself and 5 of my fellow painters in our cooperative gallery sold many pieces to a new bank that opened across the street from our gallery. A photographer friend jumped out in the middle of the intersection as we all paraded our work across the street to their new home. We had a blast sharing our own version of an Abbey Road shoot. The more you share, the more your work is seen. Have fun with it.

  8. I am a hater of Social Media so I don’t post Sold on my paintings there but i send o ut an art newsletter with that info and a picture of the buyer with the painting when I can. I also post the painting in it’s new home with comments from the happy collector. It’s good to spread the news. And you bet, the realtors almost always send out cards with their “Recently Sold” pictures.
    Kay

  9. I agree that showing sold posts creates a buzz in the social media world if it is handled with class as suggested by Kate above. It drives me crazy, however, when an artist gets in my face about sold pieces in other galleries or through their social media promotion highlighting WHO made the sale. I think they are trying to justify the viability of their work even though sales are sluggish (or non-existent) in my gallery. What I would prefer from an artist is ideas on how to better market or promote their work and learn what the other galleries are doing to move their work, especially if they are in a similar market. It is always helpful to receive ideas from artists on better ways to get the attention of buyers when there is a slow-down on sales. It can be beneficial knowing if the artist is offering discounts on their own sales (since they are not sharing commissions) and if that is making a difference. Lots of questions here when the artist makes the direct sale.

  10. Of course it’s ok to share the wonderful news that your work is being collected! Let’s all celebrate that!
    There is a difference between bragging and announcing, there are subtle ways of making the SOLD announcement with out actually using that word.
    Showing photos of the piece in its new home is not only appropriate but highly encouraged.
    We should congratulate other artists on their success as well.

  11. What puts me off about this is the frequency of the announcements. Some years ago I was connected with an artist on social media that announced every sale, every show entry, etc. individually.
    I think someone might have told her that frequent social media postings were good.
    The cumulative effect of all this was a huge turn-off because it became bragging to my eyes and maybe not a few others too.
    I’ve since disconnected with her but the crude ugliness of the attention-getting device she weilded still sticks with me.
    I’m wondering if a simple “red dot” with maybe a periodic newsletter post with a few details is maybe the best way to go.
    Those posts were coming into my box sometimes more than once a day- but after awhile I just automatically junked them.

  12. I sell online with saatchi and they insist that a prompt SOLD sign is posted, but that the work remain on display. There are very good reasons for that. I also post sales in social media and sometimes get very nice congratulations from people who follow my work. I am a little dismayed to realize that some people have a negative reaction to the celebration of a sale. It does seems a little judgemental to suggest that I am an amateur because I I tell the world I have sold a painting. It also seems quite strange to use a euphemism “shipping to new home!” for the word SALE because of a seeming aversion to the act of selling. I sold 28 paintings last year, and until now I have never felt sullied or somehow less sophisticated for declaring another painting SOLD. But, I must admit to second thoughts after reading these comments. Am I really bragging to the point of being obnoxious? I don’t want to be obnoxious. I certainly don’t want to blast my art in the face of anyone. I am ridiculously susceptible to these suggestions of impropriety and will probably never announce the sale of another painting. I am routinely afraid that no one will ever buy another painting, ” I always think that, the day after the sale of painting”. In fact I think I may stop painting completely, after all art does seem to be an awfully show off , self centered and visual braggadocios kind of activity. Perhaps I should switch all my passion to gardening,
    I am so proud of my award winning tomatoes, they really are very good tomatoes. Wait, Oops, there I go again, bragging about my tomatoes. I am such an amateur.

    1. So many views! I love seeing when artist friends have sold their work, and love sharing when I have. If you sell a lot, I think varying the way you talk about it is way more interesting than just sticking a SOLD sticker over your image. So go ahead and say SOLD, but also don’t be shy about saying “Going to a new home in CA!” or whatever. People like to imagine what’s happening with your art and I think it helps them visualize what it might be like for them to buy it. It’s exciting to sell! Why not share that?

  13. Thanks, Jason, for posting this. I always show, “sold” on my work that I have listed on social media. Obviously I try to be tasteful about it. I will even post a picture of it in a collector’s home if they send me one. The feedback I get from my followers is always positive, and you’re right, it validates your artwork as a good investment to others. As my husband says, “It’s not bragging if you can do it.”

    Also, since my “day job” is in real estate, I can assure you that we are continually encouraged and urged to promote all sales we have made. This also lets people know that we are able to get the job done for them. No matter what kind of business you are in, it is good to encourage, and announce successes.

  14. I express my gratitude for the sale, because I sincerely appreciate it.

    I will post a picture of the pai ting and say “____by Laura Gammons is off to a new home! Thank you ____ gallery!”
    If its one I sold myself, I thank the buyer by saying “much gratitude” .
    I NEVER EVER disclose the buyer. Chances are they already follow me and many times will chime in. Some DO like the recognition but its up to them.

    My personal opinion is that if I am selling high end merchandise and offering concierge service directly or through a gallery, I would cheapen it by exclaiming “SOLD!”

  15. People want what other people want. If they are thinking of making a purchase seeing that other people have bought from you validates your work in their eyes. I do a subtle “this painting has been adopted” type of post on FB. It doesn’t hurt your art career to show that you have some success in selling your work. It’s not bragging, it’s marketing.

  16. I usually say something like a piece has “found its forever home” or has been “adopted.” A bit less harsh than SOLD and I think it reflects the intent of the new owner better. It’s not like buying a couch, it’s a piece of handmade art that the person fell in love with and was willing to spend hard earned dollars to take it home.

  17. I have painted my whole life and when I retired from teaching my friend said I should sell my art. I’ve been at the Santa Barbara beach art show most Sunday’s for the last 3 years. I always take a picture of the person holding their new painting and post it on Facebook, Art by Tanda and say where there are from. I’ve sold almost 250 paintings in that time. People always tell me they love seeing my posts of people buying my oil paintings. This also helps me keep track of where my paintings reside ( 11 different countries and 25 states). I haven’t kept up with my website artbytanda.com as well as Facebook.

  18. You artists are way too sensitive about the word “ Sold”. Its not an offensive word, its a word that represents how you earn your living. Plain & simple. If you don’t sell your paintings you don’t pay the rent. Its not considered offensive or bragging to the rest of the business world to let customers & potential customers know that you are successful in your endeavors so why would you not think the same?
    Sounds like a weird insecurity issue. People who buy your art really like to have some sort of confirmation that the money they spent is of good value & justified. Hearing from others that have bought your art does this. Encourages them to buy more.
    Since art is a luxury item & not truly a necessity for life in our world today ( though its existence enhances everyones lives). its imperative to let potential buyers know that buying your art is a good investment. There’s a big difference between being boastful & successful. Any business person knows that to survive you have to do some marketing & promote new sales. Its the common denominator for all businesses. Being a self employed artist is a business & how will people know you are successful at it if you don’t let them know you ever sell anything? Customers expect you to try & sell your work , the more you sell the more justification they get for buying. Plus, you don’t have to soften the word by saying “ another home etc”. Own your success! Just mark the thing sold and thank everyone for their continued support. That appreciation not bragging. Don’t put down other artists for trying to market themselves through social media, newsflash, its the way everyone does it , your are part of it now, reading this blog! Just because you personally are uncomfortable with promoting yourself for what ever reason doesn’t’ mean its tacky or bragging when someone else has more of a “sales personality” and actively promotes their work, so they can make more money. It just means they are taking a different approach to success than you, not wrong, just different.

  19. It is very important to Rejoice over selling your artwork! It is an honour for the artist and the purchaser. It is unfair to say that artist can not post or get press about their success. Success breeds- success. I find it insulting that every other car seller, architect, city can post all their successes, but for some reason artist are to be more reserved… perhaps this is why in the past, sales have been few. So tell the world artist, it is your right and your success!

  20. I do a private happy dance when a piece sells. I do post sold works, and often mention how pleased the buyer is with the new purchase. It especially pleases me if I either know the purchaser or if they are another artist.

  21. I agree with Jason. I am both a Gallery owner and artist. Within my Gallery, i’ll put a red dot next to the painting, perhaps adding the word Sold. Sometimes I’ll place the painting in my front display window,
    where passerbys will see it. My Gallery is on the main street, with substantial vehicle and foot traffic.
    Countless people glance into the front window, enjoying the artwork, as they pass by. A friend of mine who owns a Gallery in Maine will post a sold painting on Facebook with a brief comment about the buyer ( no
    names ) and where they live.I think its encouraging to me and others to see his sales.You want to create
    a good impression about your art and business and this definitely includes letting the public and your art patrons know when a painting has sold.

  22. I absolutely agree with you, Jason. There is nothing tacky about sharing sales success on social media. I prefer to think of it as celebrating rather than bragging. And it does validate an artist’s purpose and presence in the art scene to be marketable. I do mention the word “Sold” on my website near purchased images, but I don’t elaborate (I never mention purchase prices or how happy the new owner of my work is. Partly because the fact that he/she bought my work is indication enough. And in some cases, sold through a representing gallery, I don’t know who the purchaser is).

  23. I think Jason is right. Even though posts like the ones Michelle describes seem totally amateur to me. They look like a sale is something extraordinary and rare, whilst a professional artist should be used to having sales, and therefore not shooting fireworks with every sale.

    So far I have never posted on social media that a painting was sold. But sold tags are on every website I sell my work through. It helps people get confirmation that my prices are what the market pays for my work. Platforms like Saatchi on line for example, strongly recommend keeping photos of sold work in one’s profile, with a sold tag.

    Speaking of how people react to the information that work has been sold, I’d like to share this: in my last solo exhibition a few weeks ago, I had two cases where people came a second time to the gallery wanting to buy pieces they had seen at the opening, only to find out that they came too late. Both blamed themselves for having taken too long to come forward and commissioned another piece on the spot, especially for them. Now I am wondering whether it would be a good idea to discreetly pass the information to the buyers that their works were so popular. I think they could take pride in that. What is more, those buyers are members of a local club, where their purchases became a topic of discussion. This generated more interest in my work and I even got a complaint by someone who hadn’t received an invitation to my show.
    To sum up: making sales public is strongly recommended. The way we do that, shows our level of professionality and class.

  24. I agree with Michelle. No one thanks their employer at the end of the month for their salary. As an artist, selling paintings is what we do. To advertise sales is tacky.

  25. I must say this is a timely post, as lately I’ve been wondering the same thing as Michelle. I used to post nearly every sale, then lately when I had windfalls of sales (feast or famine, right?) I stopped, as it felt overly prideful. Now I post much less often, though when a gallery sells a piece, I definitely try to share it, as it gives advertising to the gallery and gives me a chance to thank them for hanging my work, along w/ the buyer for purchasing it.

  26. I’m not a braggy person in general. But I paint with the intention of selling. Absolutely no shame about that! I tell people who call themselves “amateur painters:” The only difference between an amateur and a professional painter is the professional painter has sold one! And I’m delighted to do that, whether it’s a print or an original – although I only post SOLD when I sell an original.

    I’m equally delighted for other painters when they sell originals; after all, it’s not all that frequent an event when you’re emerging artist.

  27. Too right you should make note of sales – but without the car lot ethos of a large sign saying “SOLD”.
    I place a red dot next to the price – NEVER OVER IT – which suffices.
    Then I alter the status of the piece on all social media.
    People can then see that you’re a serious artist with a great sales pattern.

  28. I have never thought of posting a photo of a painting I have sold. Maybe it’s time I did. Thanks for the information.

  29. I enjoyed reading the comments about posting art work that has sold. I find the information very useful. Because I never considered posting information about sold paintings.

  30. I make ceramics, and Post comments like: This is one of my favorite pieces, and it found a new home this weekend. Its a great way of conveying your happiness, along with your affection for a piece that turns out well. Happy creating out there folks!

  31. I used to struggle with this issue — for a while — but, as an artist (who used to sell real estate lol), I came to realize something I’ve known all along – activity breeds activity. I don’t think it’s bragging – for me, it’s more of validation, which we often need. I celebrate my art and the sale of same, large and small. More often than not, it has inspired others to purchase something when and while they can. Those who may be annoyed by it, were never interested in my work, or had plans to acquire any of my art anyway. Thanks for sharing.

  32. I am in no way referring to pages on an artist or gallery’s website with discreet red dots signaling that a piece is already sold. I am talking about the real estate ad mentioned in the article. I will never patronize a business that wastes a significant portion of an expensive ad showing me what I cannot have because it is already sold or photos of their agents. Neither of those things are what I want to purchase. It does not create a sense of urgency. It does tell me that business is not run by the sort of people who inspire confidence. I think about that when I post about my own work. Advertising that shows me anything other than what I want or need is a waste of my time.

  33. I think it is crucial that show “sold” on social media. It does create a buzz. The last thing I want to do is to have to constantly promote myself, but in this industry we have to do what we can to sell our work. And, I have several friends who are realtors and they post what they sell. It all means that there is confidence in someone’s ability to sell.

  34. I see Jason’s point, and he is probably right but I have always gone with the idea that, as a full time professional painter, my job is selling paintings. So if I put SOLD in big letters on social media, it sounds as if the sale is unusual and remarkable. The sold banner on a house ad is similar to me putting sold on the work on my website. It is informative; information that a potential client needs to know. But posting it on social media with exclamation points gives the message that a sale is a rare event.

  35. I don’t have a problem with artists posting when a painting sells, whether the post is on social media or their website. I do that regularly and I think it actually generates more sales. I do think it’s a little tacky to post that a painting just sold and also post the price, when it’s on social media.

  36. Whenever I have the great, good fortune of a sale, I usually post a photo of the painting either on its own or hanging in context at the buyers home, business etc. Then I usually say something like “Vagabond Dawn”, (title of the painting), found a home in a trendy San Diego condo.

  37. Yes, I’m right there with you on this, Jason!

    If I’m reticent about promoting my own art in every way possible, then that communicates a less-than-confident energy to viewers. Also, I usually express it as “another sale”, or “Another of my babies headed out into the world to a brand new home!” and congratulate the collectors without adding any other details about them.

    Sales of my art are commonplace for me, and I’m good with letting everyone who views my work know that. It’s fairly simple to state the fact, without being smug or braggadocio about it. True success isn’t about bragging. “It ain’t bragging, if it’s true.”

  38. Michelle I’ve unfollowed artists who were way over the top on their bragging, but for a the most part I’m glad to see others success.
    Personally I go back in my social posts, find the work and mark it sold there. I have an archive page on my website where sold work is posted, plus I put a ‘you’ll be glad to hear’ announcement on my newsletter.
    The sales are well covered but I don’t feel braggadocios.

  39. For all the same reasons you mentioned Jason, we would put a semi discreet “red dot” on a sold painting in a show I think sharing SOLD paintings on social media encourages more buzz and potential sales for the artist.

    I recently put a house up for sale that needs some work before it’s put on the market. The realtor couldn’t wait to put up a sign in the yard with a “coming soon” banner on it. Once it’s sold, I’m sure she will slap a sold sign and leave it up as long as possible!!

  40. I think putting sold on social media is great. Although I try to take most of my sold pieces off my website except showing some really nice examples of my portraits. People ask all the time do you sell your work? I love selling my work.

  41. Yes, I post “SOLD!” for all the reasons listed. I also sold real estate and posted solds. The more successful you appear, the more people trust your ability!

  42. I definitely post sales and let people know if the painting is still available as prints. I do it for the same reason you mentioned. Also it shows you are experienced with sales and that you are a known entity in the art collector world, even if it is just a small corner of it. Photos with the buyer or during installation are also helpful and give more of a human connection. Testimonials are great do if you can get a quote or two from your clients. If you are going to treat your art as a business then you need to market it like any other business. And of course, your marketing should be a reflection of your brand.

  43. I think it’s a part of a good marketing strategy. It’s part of the salesmanship. From my own experience it works great and as previous comments indicated it creates a good vibe from the buyers, followers and friends. There is nothing to fear. 🙂

  44. Jason, After seeing this thread about posting sales, I have a comment about buyers. A friend if mine, a non painter but an avid collector had built a new home. We were invited to visit and he was showing me all his paintings (which included some of mine) when he said that he didn’t realize much conspicuous consumption was involved and he felt obligated to tell visitors how much he paid for each painting because he didn’t want them to think he stole them for $300.00. I did a 72″ x 48″ commission for a gentleman and later he told me it just stopped people dead when they viewed it. He admitted that he couldn’t help but think that he had and they didn’t. So go ahead and let people know how proud you are, the collectors do!

  45. I just have to reply to this because I often feel just as Michelle does, and I think a lot of my response is based on the history of growing up when professionals didn’t advertise or brag. The quality of their work was the anchor that either brought them more clients or not! But I love Michelle’s fantastic description of her responses!!
    When I was a practicing architect, I never advertised nor did I ever have job signs made to stick in the ground in front of my designs as they were being constructed. I was never without work. My clients spoke for me. Other architects were often amazed at how quiet I was, and still so busy.
    Then I also have to ask myself if my response to some of the sugary sweet self celebrations is really just envy on my part. Often when I am thinking “OH PULLEEEZE!,” I have to remind myself to behave, and that there is a good reason to be that way as Jason’s reply so aptly points out.
    But I am still letting my website speak for me. What’s sold has little red dots on it. If it doesn’t have the red dot, then it’s still available – or possibly lost!

  46. I really dislike the Bragging posts and generally quickly bypass them and sometimes even unfriend some of the constant braggers. I do post new art that has replaced sold pieces to facilitate interest.

  47. When a painting is sold, I let people know. Years ago I didn’t, but a dear friend shared this saying clipped from a magazine and told me to post it in my studio where I would see it every day:
    “He who has a thing to sell and goes and whispers in a well, will never make as many dollars as he who climbs a tree and hollers”.

  48. This is a classist argument. In effect, we’re saying that an artist using SOLD to advertise their work and gain commissions is in “trade,” using the dirty vehicle of capitalism. This attitude usually comes from jealousy or fear, that you’re own position as an elite artist will be soiled. We should do what our customers respond to. Period. Having read an enormous amount of trash novels about the Victorian era, I get it…but even my own classism isn’t exactly admirable.

  49. I think it actually sounds pretty snobby to call someone amateur for “bragging”/sharing their excitement that they made a sale. I love seeing artists sales because it gives me hope that someday I may be as awesome as them 😛 I think it’s wonderful for an artist to be excited, grateful & proud that someone saw value in their creativity enough to pay for it! And as you stated in your P.S., realtors share their excitement over sales ALL THE TIME. I feel like the only people who would be so offended at this are either total snobs trying to take the excitement and fun out of selling art, or people jealous that someone else is getting ahead that they don’t believe should or something… ridiculous. Support your fellow artists instead of nitpicking ways to tear them down!

  50. A very professional answer Jason. I agree 100%
    Even when another artist sells we should all celebrate partially because it proves that there is a world out there that likes art so much that is buys.

    It is undeniable that generous gratitude and sharing joy encourages such feelings.

    Gary Smith
    Artist and teacher in Toronto Canada and in China.

  51. “This painting has been sold to a collector in —-state/country–, but a fine art print is still available” or something of that nature might help with sales of prints, especially if it’s a limited edition. You could even list the type of paper as well as the archival ink or museum mount, etc.

  52. Sheila, thanks for sharing the clever words at the end of the post. I’m going to put it in the studio, replacing the last word ‘hollers’ w/yells.

    About promoting your artworks. Paintings are purchased to be seen, as music is to be heard. It takes marketing for both to be exposed to the public…the same way writers, actors and politicians are made known to us through agents. Products we use have to be promoted for us to know what we want to use. Reluctance to promote your art can be overcome if you redirect your thinking a bit.,..try to imagine the joy and excitement buyers experience when they hang beauty (your art) in their home. Try to think less about yourself and more about the joy your art will give others.

    Another way to understand this is to volunteer at a local art festival to booth sit…the participating artists have paid for a tent location just to expose their work…they’re not bragging, just trying to make a living doing what they love. Gallery owners provide a tremendous service to artists because, not only do they promote your work, they usually are ‘doing all the bragging’ that many artists aren’t comfortable with doing! Thank you, Jason!

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