Debate: Should Artists Show Work in Doctor’s Offices, Banks and Other Business Locations?

Last week, I received an email raising the question of whether it would be worthwhile for an artist to show her work in a doctor’s office. The doctor would display the work for a set time and allow the artist to have a stack of cards or brochures available to potential buyers. If work sold, the doctor wouldn’t take a commission. I suspect many of you have had similar offers, and perhaps you’ve even had experience showing in similar venues. I’ve already written about the promise and pitfalls of showing in coffee houses, restaurants and other alternate venues, and much of what I said in my article there applies equally here, but let me reiterate my thoughts. There are some differences we should consider as well.

Here is the email I received laying out the circumstances of this offer:

A radiologist came into my studio […] and was looking for some work to decorate his office. He said he wanted to change the atmosphere in the lobby and waiting areas in the facility by hanging diverse and interesting art for patients. We discussed how my beetles could be an engaging thing for patients to look at while they wait and he seemed interested and took my card.

Then I received an email from him asking if I would be interested in participating in a small rotating art feature/exhibit at his office.
They want to begin having rotating exhibits with several artists at a time. Artists can provide their bio and postcards and information will be posted to contact the artist if anyone is interested in purchasing a piece. He did not mention any commission, or the schedule by which he would switch out the work. He did say that he was reaching out to several other artists […] as well.

My concern is twofold. First, I am in the process of relocating out of the area, so I would have to find a friend to hang the work for me and then ship it back when my “rotation” was over. Secondly, I am still building my collection and am not sure I should turn over part of it to him to hang in a location that isn’t an active gallery for an unspecified period of time.

I checked out their company and it seems on-the-level. What is your opinion on loaning out work to decorate a space in the hopes that someone notice it and ask about purchase? Should I participate just to get the experience and exposure, or save my money and target more conventional galleries?

If you don’t have time to respond, could you perhaps point me in the direction of some guidance on situations such as this?

Thanks, I appreciate it!

Linda

 

My initial response:

If you are ramping up and getting ready to present your work to galleries, you should be hesitant to commit the work to this venue where the chances of generating business are relatively low. With the work involved in handling the logistics of the display you would probably better spend your time on other marketing efforts. On the other hand, if the work isn’t likely to be in play with a gallery or other sales prospects, some exposure, no matter how unlikely to lead to a sale, is better than no exposure.

Add to the equation the fact that you are moving out of the area, leads me to believe that it is unlikely to be worth the effort for you, especially if you would have to pick up the cost of the shipping.

 

Linda’s reply:

It’s funny, I’ve heard some interesting opinions from friends and family on the subject. One friend was positively incensed. “They promise ‘exposure’ so they can use your art to decorate their place for free!” she said. But my husband, who spent his career at the National Science Foundation, talked about the artists they used to feature there and the great showcase they provided.

I’ve since responded to the radiologist with a “thanks but no thanks”, but he got right back to me saying he especially liked my bugs. He said this would be ongoing rotating exhibit, hoping he could contact me again, and asked if funding would make a difference.

I’ve been thinking about how to help him set this up so it would be successful, and maybe I would participate sometime in the future. I’d think that some kind of funding–for shipping, set-up expenses, promotion–should be encouraged. And having a plan for how he would promote the shows–on his website, local press, a reception–would encourage other artists. He could also partner with artists organizations and even local schools & universities to get a good variety.

Now that I’ve had a bit more time to think this situation over, I’ve had some additional thoughts. First, I don’t think that there’s is anything dishonest about what the doctor is offering, and he’s certainly not the first to do it. I’m familiar with many businesses, banks, attorney’s offices, hospitals and doctor’s offices that run programs like this. I’m sure that artwork has sold in some of these venues, though I’m also sure that they are not huge sales generators. No one would be forcing you to participate in it, and as long as they are note promising sales that they can’t delivery, no one is misleading you.

With that out of the way I want to share what I consider to be the pros and cons of this kind of venue:

The Cons: Reasons These Venues are not Very Likely to Sell Art

  • I would stand by my assertion that this kind of exhibition wouldn’t be at the top of my list of marketing tactics. Speaking as someone who is daily involved in the selling process, I can tell you that without a good salesperson on hand to promote the work, the likelihood of a sale is pretty low. It takes skill to interact with buyers and move them toward a sale. It also often takes follow up to close the sale. It’s unlikely any real salesmanship is going to occur in a lobby.
  • Knowing that the likelihood of a sale is pretty low, I feel your time and effort are better spent looking for venues (like galleries or art shows) where the focus is on sales.
  • When people are visiting a doctor’s office, or any other business, they are there with a specific purpose in mind – buying art is not going to be very high on their priority list.
  • There are real costs and risks involved in participating in this kind of display. There is time involved in delivering and installing the artwork. There is a very real possibility that the artwork might be damaged during transport, or while on display. These risks aren’t huge, but they should be considered.
  • As I mentioned in my reply, there is also a cost involved in taking your work off the market, or at least out of your usual sales channels. You have production costs and time now tied up in inventory that isn’t actively being promoted.

 

The Pros: Possible Benefits of Showing in Alternate Venues

  •  Some exposure is better than no exposure. Even though these venues are not necessarily going to be paying you in cash for the artwork, they are offering you exposure. You need to decide if the value of the exposure is worth the costs listed above.
  • Sometimes the clientele of these businesses will match your target audience. If the business draws an affluent and well-educated crowd, you may have a shot at making a sale.
  • You may have a captive audience. Waiting rooms and lobbies are often filled with people who are going to have some time to look at your work. Just keep in mind that you are competing with magazines, mobile phones and tvs, so you need to find some way to draw attention to your work.

Ideas for Maximizing the Exposure

I’m going to give some suggestions of things you might do to maximize the possibilities of making this kind of showing a success. Please keep in mind that these ideas are somewhat theoretical since I don’t have experience displaying or selling artwork in an office setting. These suggestions are ideas I’ve heard from artists, or things I would adapt from my experience selling art through the gallery.

  • Ask the organizer or business owner to host a reception where their best customers could meet you. A bank I’ve worked with hosts openings for artists as part of their rotating exhibitions. This is actually a win-win – the business gets to build better relationships with their customers and you have an opportunity to proactively engage with potential buyers.
  • Post statements about your inspiration and creative process with each piece of art. You might not be able to engage the viewer in person, but you can attempt to engage them with your writing. You should also have your biography available for potential customers to learn more about you. I would also suggest that you post a card that explains how easy it would be to buy the pieces on display. Give step-by-step instructions telling the buyer how to contact you, how you would arrange delivery, what forms of payment you accept and anything else you feel might be helpful. These kinds of instructions get people thinking about buying.
  • Check in on the display regularly to make sure your cards or postcards haven’t run out and that they are easily accessible.

Please Share your Thoughts and Experiences

Have you shown your work in a rotating exhibit at a business? What was your experience? What suggestions would you give to an artist who is considering participating in an exhibit at a business? What are your thoughts about this kind of show? Please share your input in the comments section below.

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69 Comments

  1. I believe that professional offices are great places for art, but that as businesses they should be buying works, writing them off as expenses and supporting the arts in their community in a more meaningful way.

    1. I agree entirely. Many times I have been asked and accepted a few years ago. I never sold anything.
      When I ask the venue to buy a piece, I always get a surprise look and negative response. Well the doctor is not going to give me a free consultation even if I assure him that I will tell all my friends he is great!!!
      The only time it worked well was with a dentist. We did an even trade: my art and him doing work on my son’s teeth.

    2. I agree with you, Jan. The expense of producing the artwork, especially photography, in sizes that would go with the office space and might not be the sizes a gallery would want to show, would leave the artist with ready-to-hang work leaning against your own walls when your rotating time is over. They are a business – let them buy the work. You can give a small discount for buying multiple pieces. But remember, as Jan said, they’ll be writing off the expense of the art at tax time. There’s no reason they can’t work a deal with another doctor’s office to exchange work between them so they get to show their patients the different styles they’re after.

    3. I agree a doctors office should be able to buy the art or rent it if they want a continually changing decor. Artists can die from exposure. the problem is that many newbee artist fall for this exposure angle and make it next to impossible for established artist to get a sale in these venues. Newbee artist tend to underprice their work as well , sometimes not even covering the cost of their materials and framing,making it that much more difficult for the established artist to sell in these venues

    4. I am in the final stages of reorganising my art business to focus exclusively on marketing Business to Business. I offer my own art and that of a few artist friends currently.

      The focus is on office art with specialties in the financial services industry, but we also market to medical practices, hospitals, allied heath practices and dentists.

      We offer outright sale, leasing and rental of art to businesses. We do not offer free hangings for “exposure”. At a minimum I will offer a contra deal, only when it suits me. I have a local business that delivers fresh fruit and veg to my door. We do a swap. $1000 of art for $1000 of fresh fruit and veg, everyone wins and my family saves at the supermarket.

      The only way to build a long term sustainable arts business is to treat it as a business. Expect payment for service, art and even rental instead on loans.

      John Lechner
      The Office Art Specialist

  2. There are businesses out there that provide this service to offices. However, they get paid for loaning the work out and for the effort to maintain an interesting grouping and an inventory of artists’ work.
    How can you be sure the lighting will show your work to its advantage, what happens if a piece gets damaged? Often people think they are being helpful providing exposure to help your career. Just know they may not be looking for a freebie but to truly be of service to you without realising the effort and risk only you would be taking.

  3. I think you are right Jason. I have exhibited in the past at these kind of things, and sold nothing – in fact none of the group I exhibited with sold anything (we did this on several occasions). The last time I was approached by someone (who had set up a business as some kind of a “facilitator” between artists and business) I asked how many pieces of art she had sold, and what kind of price they had sold for. I never heard from her again. To be fair it may well have been at the beginning of her business, and so perhaps not a question she felt able to answer, but personally I would now want some kind of actual proof that it works – a previous track record. Tying up work in a location that is unlikely to sell is not something many of us can afford – not to mention the cost of getting it there and back. People need help and encouragement to buy, and generally it is just not there in a business situation – they are trying to sell their own wares, not yours. However, I do like your idea of having some kind of reception – actual interaction with a human might make all the difference. And the “help to buy” info cards is also a very good idea. And I guess pricing is also very important – no point having expensive pieces in a coffee shop.

  4. When I was starting to exhibit my work, a restaurant in my neighbourhood offered me their space. They were experienced in showcasing local work. It was well-lit and they had an opening for me. I sold a few paintings and it was quite exciting. Fast forward 20 years, my gallerist ventured into this direction, inspired by the thought of increased exposure for my art. It was a high-end, downtown business, but ultimately they had my work for months (for free) and my work was out of circulation. I suspect my gallerist received some sort of fee, but I got nothing. I wouldn’t do it again without being paid a rental fee and with some protection against damage. And it’s not something you can list on your c.v.

  5. “I’m familiar with many businesses, banks, attorney’s offices, hospitals and doctor’s offices that run programs like this.”

    What I find interesting is that all of these businesses are typically ones that have plenty of money to afford artwork.

  6. I think whether or not to place artwork in a setting such as a doctor’s office depends on how far along on the continuum you are in the selling of art. If you have the possibility of gallery space, the doctor’s office setting is a detour. However, I believe that sharing art with people is a privilege that need not have a monetary value attached to it. If a painting can offer a moment of respite from the worries of a possible life-changing diagnosis or take someone’s mind off their pain for a few minutes, then it should be displayed with a spirit of generosity. Art can be a powerful medicine and unless you’re in the “Big Pharmaceutical” frame of mind, I think one should look at the bigger picture and beyond the sale if you can afford to.

    1. Patricia, that is a beautiful perspective to consider; thank you for bringing it up. The question here is regarding a radiologist. Yes, there is a high probability that many of his patients are at the beginning of what could be a very frightening experience. The right art can not only sooth, but may actually encourage the patient to want to acquire the piece because it spoke to them at a time when they felt most vulnerable.

  7. Just a personal experience…I have had my art in a local restaurant since it opened about a year and a half ago. In the beginning I had several sales and a commission. I am the only artist displaying work there. It is so easy for the owners, free art, a commission if something sells, and I change it up as I desire. It is very close to my home so not an inconvenience to check in and switch out art. I have noticed more visits to my studio facebook page and last week a request for prints. The small local paper featured my portrait of the owners, but did not include my name. I wrote them and upon their request sent my bio, photos, and a press release. I am waiting to see if they print it or not. I wish I had read Jason’s suggestion to put a comment box up, if for no reason but to receive business cards for an email list. I would possibly use it for a drawing for a print. I am not at a crossroads about pricing. I may keep a different line of work there relating to their farm to table menu. Thank you Jason for the great information.

  8. In addition to the always spot on info, a few thoughts I have had…..
    1) With the advent of online everything, we should perhaps consider how these venues could assist in promoting us (newsletters, FB, etc), without us having to place art. Banks and even doctors offices are promoting more done online and less face to face traffic.
    2) I think our art needs to be positioned with a positive image… hospitals (not sure people want to be reminded of that visit) and banks (where people inside are often getting turned down for loans).
    3) Consider the art – with the advent of super bugs in medical facilities, I don’t want my art back if there. The same goes for restaurants…. very disappointing to be wiping off sauce and grease that got splattered. Perhaps prints should be considered – for a low price?

    If we are looking for these venues and connections – perhaps we should consider how to connect with “the money”. How do we connect with the Stock holders, investors, patrons, donors?

  9. I have participated in these types of “shows” through a couple art groups that I am involved in. I haven’t sold any pieces that have been exhibited, but have drawn people to my facebook page or website where they have made contact and have come to my gallery/studio to see more of my work and bought pieces that were more suitable for them. I have a large surplus of paintings because I am very prolific and also do photography. Switching back and forth between the two gives me more than enough to spread around and still have plenty left to fill my space. I have also found that when I take pictures and mention the business in my post, they will usually reciprocate with a post of their own. However, I usually use some of my “older ” pieces in places like these or ones that I’m not particularly fond about because I won’t be as upset if something happens to them.

  10. I know an artist who has a program for businesses of these types to rent the work from her for a show. So she is not decorating their space for free.

  11. For the past two years I’ve been a featured artist at a high end hotel, my work is shown through out the lobby. Considering it not being a gallery with a sales person, my work sells consistently and exposes my work to a national and international audience. The space suites my work very well and the patrons and hotel staff really respond well to it. So far it’s been a great success for me. The hotel does a quarterly reception in the lobby during our cities Gallery Stroll, it has been very effective for me.

    Over the years I’ve displayed in a few professional offices, primarily I targeted real estate and loan origination offices, with the idea that at least the clientele are buying new homes and maybe in the market for art work. It was very hit and miss. But it was good exposure, and good experience setting up a display, and getting a chance to talk about my art. I always insisted there be a reception for the “show” and that they display my contact information, cards, etc. On one occasion they actually gave a brochure featuring the art to every client when they closed a loan with them.

  12. I’m surprised at the reluctance to exhibit in “alternative” venues. I have found it to be very valuable in networking and connecting my artwork with the community I live in. I have sold directly from these venues, received a commission portrait job and had people look me up during Open Studios and purchased work.

  13. In my area there are few real art galleries – mostly small shops or community art galleries that operate on a consignment basis.
    I have tried a few of these opportunities to hang my work in and I have had hit and miss success.
    My successes are a local Bistro that has mostly my work hanging on their walls – they are in a resort area where the clientele is a mix of locals and tourists.
    The miss: I have tried a “coffee house” with a group of artists where we all hung our work for 2 months and that was a real waste of time as the owners were really just looking to decorate their space for free. It sounded like a great idea but it just locked our work onto their walls for the 2 months.
    A local hotel was offering a large wall space for artists to hang their work – one month – $150.00 for the month – sounded great! Popular and busy Hotel, lots of traffic – hotel staff was to take cash sales for you or contact artist to pay by credit card – but the staff resented this new added task and refused to take the money if someone wanted to buy anyones work. They would tell people to wait until the hotel manager came in and they wouldn’t contact the artists. Kind of futile & a loss of sales. Even though I left rack cards and business cards at the location of the work and each price tag listed my contact info – it just didn’t work out for me and for a few other artists that I spoke to. We decided that the wall was too far away from where the people walked through the lobby from the reception to the restaurant.
    There are a few community art galleries that I have had opportunity to showcase my work – however I must say that most are volunteer run and my work has suffered the most damage at these establishments.
    All of these were great learning opportunities! I have learned to put myself at the location and observe. Observe the clientele, the atmosphere, the staff, and the establishment itself and they decide if this is going to be a good opportunity or not.

  14. My art in the past was primarily old-time steam trains. I had a customer who was a urologist. He bought a tremendous number of paintings over the years and displayed them in his offices and examining rooms. Ii was surprised that it generated perhaps a dozen or more sales of reproductions, and even helped land a summer job! Since urologists occasionally give bad new to older men I was surprised to hear how many men like the art. I guessed that since a doctor’s office was the last place most of them wanted to be, many of them justifiably nervous, and the sight of a train transported them out of the circumstances for a few minutes.
    Generally I am skeptical of of such displays will generate any sales, but I have done them anyway, if asked. As Jason says, any exposure is good. Plan them between shows and gallery contracts.

  15. Professional Offices are great places for art but in my opinion, the artist is “giving” them art to make their offices more appealing to their clientele and it doesn’t cost the office owner a dime. If they want Art to hang on their walls, it is my opinion that they either buy the piece(s) outright or at the very least “rent” the pieces for a specific time period and set price. That way, the artist doesn’t “starve” and the office owner gets something to hang on his/her wall at a fraction of the price to buy it. And also, the rental contract should stipulate that the office owner has the right to purchase the piece(s) at a set price at the end of the rental term if they wish to do so

  16. When I first started out painting and joined a local art group, we had opportunities to show in places like these….a small town with nearest art gallery 40 miles away. As a group we had rotating exhibits with a local restaurant and a once a year art show in a church basement. One or two paintings sold once in a while but most artists saw no sales. I have to say that this was before I was even close to being ready to present my work to any commercial gallery but I did learn so much. Went on to then do larger art shows then a few years later my work was good enough for a coop gallery then a few more years a proper commercial gallery. I would encourage beginners like I was to take an opportunity to show at a trusted local (I agree…local only…no need to incur shipping charges because you probably won’t see any sale) business just to break the ice and gain confidence. Nothing good can come of doing this forever of course but I do believe there is some value in something like that especially if you don’t live in a large town or city. That was years ago…for the last 15 years now I am in long term relationships with galleries and only sell my work thru them but back then I know it somehow helped me to prepare in many ways. We are all at different stages and levels of learning.

  17. Maria Ryan
    Long ago I participated in these types of venues with a local art group. The last one I looked at the place first – an office complex – art to go on the walls down a hall. Exit doors on both ends of the hall. I passed on this one – sure glad I did — one week after the art was hung it all was STOLEN. Easy to slip out the back exit doors and the office doors were closed! Really sick of these places wanting FREE art! Either charge them rent with a damage/theft clause in a contract or have them purchase the art. Most of these places can afford the art – and write it off too. Also – are people really looking at the art in their office??? Maybe an artist like myself would but a patron has other things on his mind.

  18. Thank you for this article. I like reading the suggestions and use your model.
    I’m an artist and currently curator for an art group with an arrangement at a high end hair Salon in California. Every two months an artist from our group gets a solo show there. The owner provides a donation to our student scholarship fund each time I change it out. My husband and I volunteer to hang it along with the artist there to help place it.
    I’m finding it satisfying on many levels. The art group interacts with the community, the artist has a solo show, of sorts, on their resume and learn how to organize one for the future, like labels, statement, price list and descriptions . It photographs well and the salon has a rotating art exhibit.
    The salon is big on using FB and Instagram and like to the artist and group each installation.
    I leave the reception and any additional publicity to the artist. The owner welcomes a reception on the weekend.
    So far I have used your suggestions to help set this up. Thank you again.

    Here is the latest.
    https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10154910463906211&id=133728856210

  19. Thank you Jason, you are right on target with your observations. I am a fairly new artist and do not as yet have gallery representation. I have been hanging my work in a few of these venues you mention, some of which have come via the art guild I belong to. It is a yin/yang situation at best. It has been good exposure/visibility to have my work on display, and I have made a few sales. But there is definite risk to moving pieces around a lot. I have seen damage occur to my frames when someone else is hanging or moving artwork around. A fellow artist in my guild accidentally put a full length gouge in her painting when moving it. Ugh! Overall, with where I am as an artist it is more pro than con, but when the day comes that I have gallery representation I will probably not continue the practice. -Shelley Breton

  20. I cannot fault any of Jason’s reasons for or against showing work in professional offices. I show my photography in several galleries, two condominium lobbies and a restaurant. The condos rarely generate a sale but the restaurant owner and I have both been pleasantly surprised by the sales there. I just wish they had more wall space!
    My experience is this: if you are a mature artist with plenty of inventory it makes some sense to get it out into public spaces. Nobody sees it in my studio! If you’re just starting out, your energy and time would be spent better by approaching galleries and getting a great online and social media presence.
    It never hurts to try something new but set low expectations and arrange an exit strategy on your own terms.

  21. I do a variety of art, botanicals, nature subjects, landscapes mostly in watercolor and some in oil some highly realistic, others more loose . Most galleries want a consistent subject or look. I am engaged in a number of local nature organizations and through them publicize some of my local shows and even show on their walls or do art for them as a volunteer. I have displayed at a number of local venues such as libraries, restaurants, university etc and occasionally sold some but I really don’t expect to. It gets my work out there, people get to know my name and sometimes this leads to other sales or work but people enjoy seeing them which is a service from my point of view. I am not putting bread and butter on the table like this and probably need to focus on a series or find the specific clientele for my work to find a gallery that will take my work. Shipping can then be an issue too. It does give satisfactions when people enjoy the work and express appreciation of the quality. Providing specific works for a gallery is a different mindset. Similarly entering shows of nature organizations to which I belong offers more exposure but few sales generally. It is more for educational purposes. We all have different reasons though sales is high on the list there are other satisfactions to be gained. A lot of older friends and customers are not looking to add more to their possessions unfortunately because it is they who often have the money to buy. I have not ventured into on-line sales.

  22. I show only limited-edition prints in such venues as restaurants and banks, and offices. I occasionally sell a piece; however, It is usually during a “reception” where I am on location also doing Art Demos. In addition, I have found that I need to self-promote the show, as well as the reception on my own Studio’s FB page and also the business location’s FB page.

  23. This is an interesting topic. I live in the metro Detroit area and have found local galleries not too interested in my artwork. Obviously, the qualities of art are subjective, but my pieces have been doing well in national competitions. This market just isn’t that great and galleries not that plentiful. Add to that the fact that my artwork is in a very unique niche and rather large, makes it even that much tougher to find galleries. Because of that, I am finding it much easier to find venues such as hospitals and restaurants that are very interested in exhibiting my artwork. I like the fact that there is no commission but I also know that you get what you pay for. Galleries have a marketing machine behind them that helps with PR and a mailing list with existing art collectors.

    It’s all a bit of a crap-shoot, wouldn’t you say? Pros and cons all over the place but when it comes down to it, it’s all about who can make the sales and how far the artist can reach to find new eyes and possible pocketbooks to connect with. My best luck has been in restaurants. I sold quite a few pieces last year in a local restaurant. I’d prefer to be in a gallery but beggars can’t be choosers.

    And…in my specific case with my large pieces…I simply have no room to store them in my house!!!

    1. Kenneth, have you thought about trying to find out who makes the buying decisions for the permanent collections of the places where you show, and similar venues in your area? Most of my experience is working with hospitals, but larger corporations sometimes work the same way. Sometimes corporate clients buy through galleries, but often an art consultant assists them with choosing work for their permanent collection. For office settings, this may be an interior designer, but for hospitals there are art consultants who specialize in healthcare settings. Most of the time, the consultant negotiates a wholesale price. Winds up being the same for the artist as if you pay a commission to a gallery. If you’ve been showing in their spaces, you may already be on their radar just waiting for the right project to come along, but no harm in introducing yourself. If the venue where you’re currently displaying isn’t buying right now, another institution nearby might be, or might be soon. Unlike individuals, they usually aren’t able to just buy right away whenever they like a piece. Instead, they’ll have a budget for art in conjunction with a new or remodeled space, or for hospitals, sometimes when a donor gives them a donation in commemoration of some event. Then nothing happens again until the next project. If you realize that, you can start making connections so your name is in the mix when the next suitable project comes along. The trick is to make yourself known to lots of target institutions/corporations, just like you would try to market to lots of target individuals. (I could see your “I do know Jack” series being very appealing to a hospital for a physical therapy or OT space where they want the atmosphere to be energizing and fun.)

  24. I’m not going to say anything about the potential pitfalls, because I others have had plenty to say about doing shows for “exposure”. In general, my reaction is, “uh-oh”. If the person coordinating things thinks this is an appropriate lure, it usually means problems. (This is different from me asking myself what kind of exposure will result, which is just one piece of the puzzle for any show opportunity.)

    In this situation, however, I’d like to point out there is a potential for exactly the right kind of exposure for certain artists. More and more healthcare settings are participating in “arts in healthcare” or “healing arts” initiatives, in which original artwork is used to promote a soothing, healing and uplifting atmosphere. If you’re interested in getting involved in this type of work, it can be valuable to show in rotating displays in doctor’s offices, even if that particular exhibit might not be likely to generate individual sales.

    It’s a good way to gain experience in the special considerations that may apply for showing in healthcare settings–everything from subject matter to learning about special considerations of safety or protection that may be needed for work placed in procedure areas or hallways where patients may need to use railings for assistance or be transported by gurney. And yes, those “super bugs” one commenter mentioned. Some work won’t be acceptable for some settings unless it’s behind glass or otherwise can be disinfected. So yes, it IS a specialized market, but it can be very rewarding.

    A doctor’s office is a great place to have work available for scouting by the art consultants who assist hospitals, nursing homes and larger clinics in acquiring art, and for being seen by the doctors, nurses and administrators who may have input in choosing art. Rather than simply sending a portfolio to a consultant, you can mention that the work can be seen in person at the doctor’s office.

    I started out doing such shows as a way to give something back to my community–not knowing at the time about the larger movement–and now have art in the permanent collections of numerous local hospitals. In every case, I was approached to submit a project proposal because an art consultant or hospital staff member had seen my work in a rotating show in a healthcare setting. These rotating displays are my very best marketing tool for this type of commission. I’d do these shows anyway, because it’s such a rewarding way to do something positive for my community, but if you want to be involved in this type of work, don’t overlook the value of exposure to the people who are likely to be the decision-makers in acquiring art for healthcare settings.

    (I should add that this can be a long term process. Even if a consultant loves your work, they may have to wait for the right project to come along before contacting you. It’s not unusual for a given show to take a few years to bear fruit, so this kind of show probably works best for artists who find it intrinsically rewarding rather than just a marketing ploy.)

  25. Last December (2016), my dentist approached me about hanging some of my artwork in the waiting room and I didn’t hesitate to say “yes.” I figured what do I have to lose especially since I don’t hang in galleries or shows anymore due to my age and medical issues. I sell only thru my website, EBay and word of mouth. It took only 2 weeks before I sold my first painting there but haven’t sold one since. My dentist just last week told me that there is a lot of interest in my work which is encouraging. Would I recommend taking advantage of public places such as doctors, dentists, banks etc to hang artwork, my answer is “yes.” Most artists have a lot of inventory and instead of just collecting dust, stacked somewhere in their studio, why not give it exposure. Like I said above…”what do I have to lose.”

  26. I always think one should turn the tables and ask these venues if they are willing to give their services for free for the exposure and a possible sale . almost invariably they wouldn’t. I agree that art can be healing and if you can’t manage to get a sale to a Hospital or healing arts location then donate your work it is bound to be Good Karma. I understand that artist that are new to the market can see these venues as opportunities for exposure but don’t undercut the rest of the artists that could gain a sale from the venue. I have never had any sales generated from showing in restaurants, banks or offices. The irony is that I just sold a painting through my gallerist to the Rex Hospital in Raleigh NC. I wonder if showing in these Free Art venues would preclude an artist from gaining gallery representation as many Galleries may be looking at these venues as possible sales

    1. Kevin, I’m sorry I wasn’t quite clear. I’m not donating the work, or selling it cheap, nor am I advocating for anyone to do that, newbie or not. My point was just that it can be good exposure to do rotating display programs in healthcare settings as long as you use it as a marketing tool for getting your work in front of the people who do the buying for hospitals and clinics, instead of thinking you’re going to selll to patients (which I agree almost never happens). All of the work that I now have in hospitals was done on commission (for prices well worth my time and energy), not donated. Most of the time multiple works were commissioned at the same time. It’s been a great source of sales. Well over half the time, the commission was the direct result of someone on the art selection committee having seen my work in a rotating exhibit. Perhaps a better way to phrase this would have been to say that it’s worth asking “exposure to whom?” I’ve never thought I was going to sell a piece to someone waiting for an MRI. But brightening that person’s day while getting my work in front of the people who make the decisions about buying multiple works for the hospital when they remodel a wing? Sure! Does that mean that sometimes I do a rotating display that doesn’t result in commissions later down the road? Maybe (although as I write this, I can’t think of one.) No marketing strategy pays off 100% of the time. And this one does take time to develop, because art purchasing often happens as part of an expansion and renovation project. But it IS potentially different from the usual bank/coffee shop/beauty salon or whatever, for artists who want to sell to healthcare providers.

  27. My only additional thought pro/con is that the reality of the alternative space is that it is an alternative space. The traffic in that space comes in with certain expectations including what might or might not be on the wall. So that would be the challenge as I see it.
    A long time ago, the local bank where I lived had a long-standing “artist of the month” which they actively promoted. It was specifically local talent that was screened and/or recommended. I can’t remember if there was a “reception” but I do remember an interview and pictures that were used prominently inside the bank, and in all its ads.
    Since I’m just starting out (again) on an art career, I really don’t see myself being able to expend the kind of energy and catalogue on a venue that isn’t geared and focused on the sale of art work.
    BUT- I also think that as there is a great variety of artists and a great variety of alternative venues, there probably are those “fits” out there, as evidenced ion some pf the posts above. Just- that it has to be cautious and mutually advantageous, whatever the arrangement.

  28. This is a valuable question. For the specific person asking, I would say to pass given that she will no longer be local. Overall, my opinion is that there are no “right” or “wrong” answers because everybody’s art (genre, subjects, style, piece size, financial ability, gallery representation level, etc.) and the business asking are so different. For me to consider this option, I would want to think through the liabilities (can I handle worst case?) and the benefits (are they enough for the time, effort and energy involved?). If the benefits outweigh the liabilities, then I would also want to ensure that the business operates at a level commensurate with my ideal client and price point. I also would want to be proud that my work hangs in that venue and that it is helping to raise one’s game. If still a mental debate, to consider a trial run with a limited number of pieces. Keep in mind, too, that all of these variables will change over an artist’s career-span, so once an answer is determined, the entire exercise should be repeated at regular intervals or with other opportunities. I personally feel that this question is not much different from seeking gallery representation. Exposure is a wonderful opportunity, but the right exposure is paramount.

  29. If the doctor [lawyer, banker, other professional] can’t decide what he/she likes or simply wants rotating art, then he/she can RENT the work on a rotating basis. Otherwise, he/she can BUY the work and rotate it along with others he/she “really” likes. Do you see greenhouses selling, renting or loaning-for-free plants in the office? Is the cable TV in the waiting room rented, bought or loaned-for-free ? Now swing down to the parking lot and look at the doctor’s new Porsche 911.. do you think he bought it, rented it or drives-for-free ?

  30. “Honey, since we’re redecorating the dining room, let’s think about some new art for the walls. I’ve scheduled an MRI for next month and we can check out what’s in the doctor’s office,” said no one ever!

  31. I know the image is just an example, but looking at the picture of the doctor’s office made me laugh. I can see why the doctor would want art on the walls to humanize and warm up the sterile lobby. However, the chairs are all facing away from the pictures so not much viewing would be going on and as many have said you are focused on other things when you are in a doctor’s office.

  32. I just came back from retrieving paintings from a local spa that had a few of my paintings hanging in their lobby. I have had them there almost a year, switching them out after 6 months with different pieces. I even offered a small commission to the owner if any sold. Nothing, not even an inquiry. I got worried when the sign was taken down in the front, what if they closed the business? I also have one rotating piece in the teller area of my business bank. Again, not a single sale or inquiry. Without a gallery right now, I will continue to exhibit at the bank. I am in there transacting business anyway.

  33. Jason,
    I have not had any success hanging my art in untraditional venues. In fact, just last week I had several of my pet portraits returned to me after hanging since October in the reception office of an animal hospital in an upscale neighborhood in CT . The doctors and staff were very happy to display the pieces and informational postcards and all the work received many positive reviews. Unfortunately it did not result in sales or inquiries.

    Connie M.

  34. I have my work hanging in several doctor’s offices and in the new wing of a local hospital. Why did I agree to this? …… Because they paid full price for my work.

  35. When I was first starting to get my art out there I showed a few paintings at a bank.
    There was an opening reception for all of the artists at the beginning of the show which didn’t prove to be fruitful in particular. The show lasted approximately 6 weeks. One day I got a call from someone saying they wished to purchase a large painting (the bank took no commission) and that she had to spend a fair amount of time insisting with the bank’s reception in order to get my contact information for the sale. I had left cards etc., but I guess they got shuffled somewhere over time.
    I sold the painting and she subsequently became a collector of my art, following me to other shows. This buyer really marked the beginning of my sales as a professional artist. You never know!

  36. I did it differently Jason. I traded huge beautiful floral giclees and decorated a doctor’s brand new office permanently in turn for cosmetic work. It was a great deal for both of us.

  37. Lots of interesting responses. Most liked was Stephan’s comment about going to buy some art during an MRI appointment. Laughed out loud at that one. I’ve had a couple of experiences, one of which I ‘m now questioning after reading this article. I once exhibited artwork at vets’ offices. I was doing animal art, especially dogs, at the time and it seemed a perfect match. But…people who are at the vets are there because their animals are sick. Sad, depressed people aren’t in the mood for buying art. I would think the same might apply to doctors’ offices. My question concerns a different situation. I was approached by the owner of a pet grooming salon who was expanding her premises to add an art gallery, featuring animals of course. I’ve had several pieces hanging there for quite some time. Nothing has sold. The contract gives the owner a commission, but I ‘m not paid anything up front because, hey, it’s a gallery, right? Unfortunately, after reading Jason’s article, it’s sounding a lot more like a room adjacent to a dog grooming place. Just because the owner calls it a gallery doesn’t make it one. I’m thinking I may have made a poor decision. Anyone agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your opinions.

  38. Well, this is a topical issue, judging by the lengthy responses. I see so many ways artists sign up for disadvantageous situations & showing your work for free is one of them.

    That said there are reasons why one would take this situation and shift it into an equal advantage project. Here are a few reasons why I have chosen to show in locations that are not sale opportunities.
    1- the artist loves and supports the venue: either a close friend’s start up business or a medical facility such as a cancer center.
    2- the artist has need of temporary storage of a body of work.
    3- the artist knows and respects the curator and wants to support the project.

    All Tgat said there is another reason I question myself each time an opportunity presents itself for “free rental”. Most of my artist life I have worked with museum galleries that primarily Rent works to offices, and private homes. Sales generally take place as a result of the client deciding they want to own the work.

    So if I choose to show my work for free, am
    I perpetuating the practice of asking for and getting ones walls filled with fabulous art as well as curated and installed?

    Well, I’d have to say “yes, I am”.

    A loaded topic that has many facets. Thank you all for contributing to this conversation!

  39. For me personally, if I am buying art I really want to be focusing on just that–the purchase of art. I don’t want to be reading a menu. I don’t want to be in a medical office or other professional office. Buying art for me is a pleasure unto its own, and I want to keep that experience in its own unique place. Because of this philosophy, you might say, I am reluctant to place art in offices, restaurants and coffee houses.

  40. Well I was really surprised on a recent venue in a hospital. They were going to hang my pieces in a hall way on the 5th floor for 3 months so I decided they might as well hang there than in my studio so I gave them mainly pastel and a few of my mixed media as I was going to be in an artwalk in two weeks and did not want to hang anything under glass outside in the elements. Low and behold at the artwalk I had someone come up and stated that they saw my art in the hospital and it had only been there for two weeks. I sold in 3 months 5 pieces out of the hospital 4 pastel and one mixed media. I do think that anywhere you are hanging can get your name out there and if your pieces will not be tide up then you should do what you can to promote yourself. You might get lucky and make a sale.

  41. I would lease art work to the doctor at a monthly rate. A signed contract stating length of time, option to purchase by the doctor, etc. If one chooses to market their work at a place of business, a small sign stating art is “for sale, price, inquire at front desk” is acceptable. The office would have contact information on the artist and the artist would handle the transaction. ~ I do not approve of any doctor marketing anything other than his professional expertise and services. Big turn-off!

  42. I was accepted for a program, and as a result am going to place a month-long solo exhibition in the constituency office of a local member of Parliament in August. The office is of a political party that I am not affiliated with. However, I believe that in spite of political implications, this is a good move, solely because it is part of the ‘Art in Parliament’ project, which is a big deal, including well artists placing work in the Houses of Parliament. It is cheeky of me, but with such a thin resume so far, I want to be able to add my involvement with a solo exhibition for Art of Parliament in my resume. It looks much more exciting than it actually is. Completely self-serving!

  43. I have sold a few works over the years showing in alternative spaces like medical offices, bank lobbies and restaurants but also I have had gallery shows with no sales. You can really never be sure when and where you might sell works. However I am also aware that when I show in galleries there are people there on duty to present, discuss, and sell my work to visitors and potential buyers which is not the case in restaurants and offices whose business is not selling art.

    But that said one benefit of such shows may be exposure. I live in a smaller community and have had people tell me they have seen my work in such alternative locations. If it peaks their interest then at some future point they may visit my studio or come to a gallery opening of my work where a sale might be made. Generally I think the more exposure you can get for your work the better it is. After all it is not going to benefit you if your work is stacked up against a wall in your studio and you have no flow of visitors to see it.

  44. It has worked well for me to exhibit anywhere I have been invited to. Sure, one large painting was stolen in a cancer clinic in Atlanta one time but if it was that important to them then that’s okay with me. As a member of the Atlanta Artist’s Club I have placed several paintings in the hallway at Emory Hospital. It always made me feel good when patients would stop to view my art. At least for the moment it took their minds off their physical condition. It wasn’t about sales or the money, but what my art might do for someone else.

  45. I produce faster than what I sell and I can only keep so many paintings in the house. I want to build up a body of work and try to get them in galleries throughout the nation.

    I have to start giving art away at some point because I don’t have any room. But if I were gong to do this I’d offer them at least 30% or more if the painting sold. I mean why not. If it stays at my home, the chance of internet sales are low but I’ve managed to sell a few that way.

  46. Jason, was it not your father that had paintings hanging in a local hospital, which lead the collector to google the artist (your father), and then he found that your gallery had work of the artist, so he can and made a major purchase?

    I am not a fan of having my work in a public location where it can be destroyed (such as restaurants or coffee houses) but if the art work is placed out of harms way and in a busy traffic area, I believe it can be beneficial.

  47. I have had some not so great experiences with these venues. Here are two of these experiences.

    When I was first starting out, I belonged to an art organization that had rotating exhibits in two different venues, a law office and a doctor’s office. As members of our art group, we could bring up to 3 pieces to be on display and had the opportunity to exchange them every three months. Only the people organizing the event were allowed to go into the venues to hang and take down the art. Other than that you would have to be a client to see the hung artwork. Occasionally some people sold something, but not often.

    I submitted three pieces of artwork and three months later exchanged them for 3 more. When I came to pick my work back up, the coordinator could only locate 2 of my three pieces. I asked them to look for it every time they set up a new show, but they never were able to locate it. This was a shame because it was a piece I was particularly fond of. A year and a half later, I was getting ready to move out of the area and I got a phone call that they had located my “lost” piece. I picked it up, but the movers had already come and gone and I had no room in my car for artwork, so I ended up having to give it away to a neighbor.

    Along the same time period as the event above, I was told of an opportunity to place my art in a new restaurant. One of the art league members was coordinating this. I gave her one of my art pieces to hang. When I went to the restaurant to see how the art was hung, I noticed they had someone else’s information on my art. When I tried to confront the staff, they were all too busy to bother with me. I could not do it myself, because people were dining at the table beside my art. I decided to come back when it was less busy. I came back as soon as they opened, but someone told me I needed to wait until the manager was there. It was as simple as changing two labels around. My third visit, I finally got someone to help me.

    A few months later, I returned to find that my art was gone. Again, no one had time for me, but I insisted that I was not leaving until I found out what happened to the art. Finally, one of the workers said that he had seen it in the storage room. The manager had decided to change the decor, but didn’t bother to contact the artists to pick up their paintings. If I had waited another week, all the paintings would have been trashed.

    I learned to be very careful where to hang my art.

  48. A famously wealthy designer saw my paintings in a gallery in Telluride, Colorado, and asked the gallery owner if he could borrow two pieces to hang for several months in his New York furniture showrooms. The gallery owner asked me, and (of course) I said yes. Mr. Lauren re-framed the paintings (my original frames never turned up again), kept them for the agreed months and sent them back to the gallery. When the gallery suggested that he owed me a little something, the designer sent over a shirt for me and some perfume for my wife. The good news was that someone from New York bought the two paintings shortly after they came back to Colorado. Not sure whether the buyer saw them at the showroom.

    Another time, a gallery in Laguna Beach, California, placed a few of my paintings in a restaurant on top of a hill between Beverly Hills and all those motion picture studios in the San Fernando Valley. Sounds like a good place to have lots of qualified buyers see my work. Well, a waiter told me that a well-known singer liked my work, but she didn’t buy it. I think one sale came through that placement, but not one of the paintings in the restaurant. Same with a gallery in in Fort Worth, Texas, that loaned a few of my paintings to a great restaurant that was just opening. No sales. As I’m writing, I think my gallery in Jackson, Wyoming, has a few of my pieces in a nearby restaurant, also a high-end spot, but nothing has happened in several months.

    Bottom line: I don’t know, but it seems like people go to furniture showrooms to buy furniture and to restaurants to eat. The art merely adds a certain amount of ambiance. And sometimes it takes time to find and get those “loaners” back.

  49. Years ago I used to show in restaurants, cafes, banks and hospitals. The only successful venue for sales was a restaurant where the owner was a personal friend I had known for a number of years. He was very friendly and would sit down with his customers and tell them all about me. After a few years he sold the business. I left some work up for the new owners. Nothing sold when he was no longer there and I stopped showing there.

  50. I moved from a small community in Northern Michigan. I have two stories from there. The local art guild showed for a monthly show for a year at the small clinic my husband was a partner. That ended when one artist’s work was not liked. We only heard about this at the end of the month! They then paid an artist to paint three pieces to go with a poster in the reception room. The artist wasn’t a member of our guild! Many of our members could have done the paintings. The local hospital, the largest in a three hour distance, had a small rotating show we did that benefited an art program for chronic or long term illinesses. We did well with some artists selling all shown. The hospital grew and was decorated by a professional interior designer. She purchased a lot art from local artists for a set price for display. But we lost our display.

    Here in my local area in central Montana the art market sales is uneven, even for the galleries. Many of them aren’t even open during the week but only for the First Friday Art Walks. My art guild shows once a year at the library. We feel it is a place the community can enjoy art and is another place for those who wouldn’t go to a coffee shop. And we show at a popular coffee shop. The owner is very enthusiastic about supporting the local artists. He advertises the shows, including his Facebook page and website. But it is hard to see the art close up because of the tables in front of the walls. There is a little time before weekly dinners for the artists to meet the dinners but otherwise only the First Friday Art Walk evenings offer time to meet and promote. Only a few of us are represented in some of the galleries so these type of venues are really the only places to show other than a yearly big event citywide when my guild puts on a more professional show. Using the many ways to sell online is what we need to do to reach out beyond our local areas. Thanks to all who have shared their experiences here!

  51. Over the years I have followed a range of artist so that I could cherry pick the best ideas. One of the artists I follow has done an annual show for nearly 35 yrs. So when I decided to switch mediums from art quilts to painting I chose to take his lead and to host my own annual art show and sale once a year at the end of October. I have been doing this for 4 years, this October is #5. This lead me to apply for an Artist of the Month program at our local Arts and Cultural Centre that has been running for 3 years. After I received notice that I was accepted I sat down with the program director and asked a range of questions. The big one was how much do people sell…’not much’ was the truthful answer. So I have brain stormed about how to make this Artist of the Month program work for me. I decided to have an opening reception (postcard invites have been sent to my list and at my expense). I also decided that on the nights that there are shows going that I would do a 6×6 or 5×7 painting starting at 6 pm and ending right after intermission (they asked me not to stay to the end of the show so that people don’t linger which is fair enough). I will have pamphlets there about the classes I teach and so forth. I even made t-shirts that have my logo on the front, Artist of the Month and their logo on the back to wear when I am painting. There will be a draw for a basket of products made from my past paintings for the last intermission at the end of April to build on my growing invitation and newsletter list. I also have taken the initiative to do all the marketing and promotion of me being the Artist of the Month. I know that their focus is marketing and promoting their shows. At the end of April I will come back and let you know how it all worked out.

    Thanks Jason for having this conversation. It was very interesting to read everyones comments. I am not so convinced that I would do a show at a coffee place or a medical clinic. Happy Spring all. We are nearly to melting here in Yellowknife. 🙂

  52. I am an elderly artist with many large works in storage. Presently, I am hanging some of them in a medical clinic in a very poor area simply for the purpose of cheering up the patients who have little opportunity to see high-end art, and for the staff who are most appreciative. Clearly, I’m not expecting to make any income from this, but I’m very happy with the arrangement.

  53. Along with several galleries and shows in my area, I have also displayed my work in a local bistro for 25 years and though the sales were wonderful in the beginning, the last few years have seen few. The owners have purchased several of my pieces though and people in my town know that the work is mine. They are constantly applauding how wonderful it is to see my work there and how it works perfectly with the ambiance. I am now stuck though as I think it is time to take it out or ask them if they would be interested in purchasing the collection since it is really designed for the space. It would also eliminate the need for the price cards and the staff being too busy to market it. I have the phrase in my mind that you would not serve dinner in a gallery, why would buy art in a restaurant.

  54. I have had a positive experience with my work in a high end gynecological office in NYC. I initially placed 10 artworks in the space. Five paintings and five giclees . They have business cards and a portfolio of my work with artist statement and resume in view at the office The practuce has four doctors who see 20-25 patients a day. That’s a lot of potential eyes on the work .! The work on the walls is not explicitly for sale , but I had a studio visit and a sale through the exposure. After 1 year i approached the doctor I knew and told him that I would be removing the work in three months for another venue . I said that he was welcome to buy the work if he wanted to
    keep it. I know that this was a bit of a hard sell , but I didn’t want the work to just sit there and I did have other venues for potential sales . Subsequently , he bought the work. It was over three years but he has it all . I still have my portfolio and cards there and regularly update the info in the portfolio.
    This ended up being a really positive experience

  55. In my humble opinion, I think that, instead of hanging in offices for free with the expectation of a sale, that we should consider renting the art for a period of time. That way, the business can rotate the artists and still pay something toward our work.

  56. While I wouldn’t tie up all your art at something like this, it might be worth a try with one or two works. I’ve had my art hanging at a local café down the street ~ the town’s old general store from the mid-1800s that was renovated with flea market finds and rustic antiques found in the original owner’s barn and attic. It is often crowded with locals. This exposure has resulted in many art sales, mostly small, both off the wall and through my website. I do limited edition prints, and while I would normally have my work professionally framed, this more casual location doesn’t really warrant it. (It would also be super expensive since I switch up five artworks each season.) The work is in reusable store-bought frames with professionally cut mats to show the signature and edition numbers. I don’t think I’d otherwise tie up so many pieces at a venue like this just for the exposure. As a wise artist once said, “You can die from exposure.” I don’t actually know if an artist said that. Maybe it was my grandmother.

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