Installing Artwork for Clients | The Personal Touch

Recently, Xanadu Gallery director, Elaine, sold a couple of pieces by Xanadu artist Jeanie Thorn to a local client.  I had the opportunity to deliver and install the artwork in the client’s home. I don’t get to deliver and install every piece of artwork we sell locally (sometimes the client takes the piece home themselves, and sometimes one of my staff will handle the installation, or we will have an art delivery service take care of the installation) but I love doing it when I get the chance. There is something very gratifying about seeing where the art will live, and spending time in a client’s home (or office) is a great way to strengthen a relationship.

Over the years, I’ve made hundreds, if not thousands of these kinds of deliveries and installations, and I’ve developed a approach I find effective. In this post I would like to share that approach with you.

The Basics

Setting the appointment

When we sell a piece of artwork, we typically try to make the appointment for installation while writing up the sale. We ask something like “Would you like to take the art with you today, or may we deliver and install the artwork for you?”

If a piece is large, or if there is anything complicated about the installation, the client will almost always opt to let us take care of it. If this is the case, we ask the client for dates and times that work best for them, and then match those to the best times for us. We try to cluster our deliveries so we can do as many as possible on the same day.

When setting the appointment, if the client is close to the gallery and first on our delivery list, we may give a specific time (say 2:00 p.m.). If, however, the client’s home is some distance from the gallery, or further down our delivery list, we almost always give a delivery window (between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m., for example). The greater the distance and the more complicated the day, the wider window we give the client.

It is also important, when setting the appointment, to ask if there are any special considerations or requirements for the installation.

Reminder Call

If the appointment occurs more than a day or two after the sale, we call the day before the delivery to confirm the appointment and remind the client of the delivery.

Departure Call

Right before we leave the gallery we call the client again. Ostensibly, the reason for this call is to offer a final courtesy reminder, but in truth, it is to make sure nothing has gone wrong with the client’s schedule. I once arrived at a client’s home in North Scottsdale, only to find the house empty and no one home. It turned out the client had an appointment that ran long and ended up being almost an hour late.

In my experience, you can never have too much communication. The client appreciates the attention, and the additional phone call can prevent missed connections.

Contact Information

I always make sure I have all of the client’s contact information with me when I leave the gallery. It use to be that I would have the client’s address and phone numbers, along with a map, printed and placed in a file that I could take with me.

Now, I use Google Calendar to manage my appointments, and so, I have my staff create a calendar event that includes the address and phone numbers. The calendar syncs to my phone, and not only do a get a reminder on the phone, I get a link to have the phone provide navigation, and, should I need to call the client, I just touch their number and the phone dials for me. A recent update to my phone OS made it so that I now get a reminder that tells me when I need to leave for the appointment to arrive on time, taking into account current traffic conditions – I love technology!

Tools

Before leaving for the appointment, ensure you have every tool you might possibly need for the installation, and then some. I take a “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to packing tools and installation hardware. I figure it is better to over-pack and have tools and hardware I don’t end up using, than to under-pack and not have the tool I end up needing. Even on the simplest installation, I pack everything.

My tool list includes the following

Tape measure

Hammer

Level

Drill/screwdriver – with drill and screwdriver bits of every conceivable shape and size

Extra charged batteries for the drill

Pliers (regular and needle nose)

Razor knife

White cotton gloves

Dust rag

Cleaning solution (I use Formula 409)

Hardware

Picture hooks and pins

Picture wire

Drywall screws

Concrete screws

Mirror Hooks

Felt pads (for sculpture installations)

Installation

Arrival

Upon arrival, I park the car, and approach the door without anything in my hands. Only rarely do I walk up to the door with the artwork, or tools in my hands. I first want to greet the client and get the lay of the land. As soon as the client opens the door, I state my name and the purpose of my visit. “Hi, Mr. Smith, Jason from Xanadu Gallery, I’m here to install your new art.”

Even though we’ve been in communication at the time of the sale and through our reminder calls, I feel it is a courtesy to announce my name and the purpose of my visit. Sometimes clients will forget your name, and so you’ve now eliminated any possible embarrassment if they have.  In an age when everyone is concerned about their security and safety, I feel it doesn’t hurt to announce the purpose of my visit. This is especially true if one of my staff made the sale and I haven’t yet met the client. Obviously, if I know the client very well I’ll forego the introduction, but I’ll still announce my name again.

Surveying the installation site

Once the client has greeted me, I will ask to see where the artwork will be installed. The client usually ushers me into the home and takes me to the installation location, where I make certain I understand the exact requirements for the installation and the client’s desires.

Compliment the Client’s Home

On the way to the installation location, I like to begin a conversation.  I’ve found that a great way to do this is to praise the client’s home. I am always sincere in my compliments, and I try to give something specific that I admire.

“You have a beautiful home, what a spectacular view!”

“I love contemporary architecture, you have a beautiful home!”

This will usually break the ice and lead into further conversation.

“How long have you lived here?”

“Did you build the home?”

“Where did you live previously?”

All good ways to keep the conversation going.

Bringing in the Artwork

Once I’ve surveyed the installation location, and eliminated any obstacles between the car and the spot, I return to the car and don a pair of white cotton gloves, pick up the artwork and walk it into the house.

I’ve talked about wearing gloves when handling artwork in front of clients before, so I won’t go into the reasoning in depth here, but let’s just say it give the client the right impression about the importance of the artwork you are installing.

Be very, very careful with the artwork at this point. You should always take care when handling artwork, but especially when delivering a sold piece. Your relationship with the art has now changed, as you are no longer the owner. Don’t allow the artwork to bang into anything, and move slowly and carefully.

Hanging or Placing the Art

I won’t go into the finer points of the actual installation here. You can read my extensive post on hanging artwork to get the specifics, but I’ll mention a few things that apply to an installation in a client’s home or office.

  1. Ask for the client’s ideas and input. This is their home, and even though you may have very specific ideas about how to do the installation, ultimately, the client is going to live with the art, and you don’t want to do something that runs against their ideas.

  2. If you do have a suggestion, couch it as exactly that, a suggestion. “I see what you are saying about the height; If we moved it up just a hair, we might find that it would be more in line with the other elements in the room,  would you mind if I tried?” Always be diplomatic, and if the client feels adamant about their preference, you should acquiesce.

  3. Measure carefully before putting any holes in the wall. Though you may end up needing to make adjustments to the placement of the art, you want to make as few holes as possible.

  4. Use the appropriate hardware for the installation. The hanging hooks we use have a weight rating (see the video mentioned above), but when installing in a client’s home, I will use hooks that have at least twice the capacity I need. Better safe than sorry. My worst nightmare is hearing that something I’ve installed has come crashing to the floor.

  5. On that same note, confirm that the hanging hardware on the piece itself is secure. Recently, I had the large painting over my fireplace come crashing down onto the dining room table. There was nothing wrong with the hanging hooks, but the picture wire had pulled the mounting hooks out of the frame. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t too major, but it was a good reminder of the importance of checking all the hardware.

Finishing Up

Cleaning

When the installation is complete, I use a dust cloth to remove any mess I’ve created. You want the artwork and its new home to look great when you leave. If my hammering or drilling has created dust on the floor, I will try to wipe it up, or, if there’s enough, I will ask to use a vacuum to clean it up.

Take a photo

After cleaning up, ask the client for permission to take a photo of the piece. Photos of artwork in situ are a great addition to your portfolio and website. Sometimes the client will even agree to join you in the photo while you have a third person take the snapshot. Let the client know you will email them a copy of the photo.

Congratulations and Gratitude

Finally, be sure to offer congratulations on the new addition to the client’s home.

“Congratulations on the new art! I couldn’t imagine a better home for it. We truly appreciate your business!”

I want to reassure the client they’ve made a good purchase and that the artwork looks great.

I will also let the client know that we want to be of service in the future, and that if there is ever anything we can do, we’re no more than a phone call away. Be sure that you truly are always ready to be of service.

I do consider the delivery and installation to be a value added service, and, as such, we don’t charge anything for the service, or for subsequent service. I have found that this kind of customer service is an investment that pays dividends for years to come.

Read my posts about providing service, and about an installation I did for a client 2,422 miles from the gallery.

What do  you Think?

Do you install artwork for your clients? What have you learned? Any tips or tricks to share? Feedback on this post? Please leave your comment below!

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13 Comments

  1. Question regarding the liability of doing the installation…would that be a provision under your business insurance that you would ask for from your insurance agent should you make a mistake on an installation and the piece gets ruined? Heaven forbid that should happen, but who knows with drywall and plaster. The hook might not fail but the drywall might.
    Thank you.

    Tina

    1. Great question Tina. My business insurance would cover this kind of damage, but I’ve never filed a claim. I did once have a heavy piece of art break a hanging hook about two months after I had installed it. Fortunately the artwork wasn’t damaged, but it did crack a tile on the floor. Rather than file a claim and risk an increase in my insurance costs, I paid for the repair. This would be another argument for having a professional art installer do the installation since the liability would then be theirs, but, as I said, I just haven’t run into problems.

  2. Great post! I think it’s great when you can meet the client at their home and provide such a great service. It ensures next time they are looking for art, they will come to you first. Very smart.

  3. I like to leave a typed paper with a client with cleaning instructions. Simple, but I have been surprised at the cleaning products people think an oil painting needs, or on the frame. Different surfaces demand different care. They don’t want it gathering dust but neither do they want to damage it. Artists use so many different mediums it is no wonder patrons are confused; oil, acrylic, giclees, glass covered pastels, drawings, and watercolors, bronze, terra cotta, stone, fiber, wood. Frames can be real wood, synthetic, metal …. instructions are appreciated.

  4. I never expected to actually install artwork. Most of the time, the work is purchased and carried home by the buyer. However, just last week, I delivered artwork and, for the fourth time, I was greeted with an excited customer holding out a hammer with an expectant look. As I had done previously, I thoughtfully worked through the mounting process, but realized I needed to be better prepared in the future.

    This article and the accompanying Hanging Artwork are very helpful. I’ve always mounted into drywall with anchors, but wondered if they were overkill. I can see now that they are, and I will confidently be using Floreat hangers in the future.

    1. No, and if someone else hadn’t brought it up, I would have! Some of the mentioned hanging issues wouldn’t have occurred if the mounting hardware had been screwed in to a wall stud.

  5. Very informative as usual. I haven’t had the need yet but will be using this info as a guide to do it right.

  6. Embarrassing story when I was only participating in art fairs to market my photos: A couple, having renovated their large kitchen, asked me to show them more images . My first potential commission! My mistake was not getting advice from experts. The couple chose nine images, various sizes, of food, fruits and vegetables. When I delivered them, they expected me to hang them and I was not prepared for that at all. It hadn’t crossed my mind that I might be responsible for installation. The look on my face was probably that of “a deer in the headlights.” Luckily, the husband was handy and he nailed while I helped with the placement.

  7. I’ve installed my work in private houses, hotels and restaurants, private houses are fairly straight forward, hotels tend to use their maintenance staff who are not used to handling art and move it same as a fridge if your not on top of them, so those I have done I always assist in the hanging.

    I’ve not done a lot of private houses as I normally sell my work to tourist or online but those I have done gives me a lot of satisfaction especially when you can see on the clients face that they are happy with the piece and it fits in.

  8. How do you approach whether or not there is an extra charge for delivery and/or installation? If there is a fee, how do you address it?

  9. I don’t mean to sound negative but the photo attached to the article on installation begs a question–what if where the client wants to hang the work is not the best place for it? In this example, the small vertical piece looks lost over the enormous sofa and the placement neither compliments the space nor the artwork itself. Do you ever try to suggest alternative spots for the artwork? Frankly, I am a little surprised you chose this photo as an illustration.

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