Magic Walls | How Some Spaces in My Gallery Sell More Art Than Others

High Noon Trail Blazer by Michael Swearngin - sold out of a hotspot this weekend
High Noon Trail Blazer by Michael Swearngin – sold out of a hotspot this weekend

Two recent sales both occurred in what I consider to be hotspots in the gallery. What do I mean by “hotspots”? These are areas of the gallery that tend to generate more sales activity than other areas. Some of you may have experienced this in your galleries before, or at art festivals or open studio tour events – there seem to be certain areas that generate more interest and activity, no matter what is showing there.

Getting ready to rehang this perennially well-performing wall after the sale.
Getting ready to rehang this perennially well-performing wall after the sale.

What I find particularly interesting about the hotspots in my gallery is that they aren’t necessarily in the areas where you might logically expect to find them. Yes, there are some major walls near the entrance that get a lot of attention, but there are also hotspots around corners and in the back quadrant of the gallery. My gallery, at 2300 square feet, isn’t huge, but I’ve tried to break up the space in a way that invites visitors to explore and allows me to show a good amount of art in an optimal way.

Emergence by Guilloume - another sale this weekend
Emergence by Guilloume – another sale this weekend

Some hotspots are artist dependent. For example, I had one wall off of which I was selling an artist’s work like hotcakes for several months. I started to worry that the gallery would get boring if I kept her work there forever, so I moved her to what I felt was a more prominent wall and gave her more space. Sales promptly dropped off. Interestingly, the work I put on the wall to replace the first artist’s work also didn’t sell. Guess what’s back on that wall?

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to come up with a satisfying hypothesis about why a particular area will attract more attention. I suspect that some of it has to do with lighting, some with the scale or prominence of a wall, but, as I mentioned above, some hotspots seem to be in corners and well off the beaten path. I can only conclude that to some degree, there are some deep, underlying crowd psychological factors driving buyers to certain walls and pedestals.

Since I can’t come up with a scientific explanation for the hotspots, my reaction to these sale-generating spaces feels a lot like superstition. I try not to think of our hotspots in a supernatural way, and I try to work to optimize every space to generate sales from every cubic inch of the gallery.

Here are some ideas I’ve had about reacting to these hotspots, and ideas that might help you better deal with them in your space.

  1. Know your hot(and cold)spots. They say that knowing is half the battle, and that’s certainly the case here. If you know an area tends to generate more activity, you can optimize your display to generate more revenue. Which leads to number 2:
  2. It makes sense to place your most impressive and most expensive work in the spaces most likely to generate sales.
  3. Rotate your inventory. This is especially important in a gallery where you want to generate sales for all of your artists, but it’s also a good idea in your studio or booth space. Rotating inventory frequently keeps things fresh and will help you gauge where your hotspots are more objectively. It can also help prevent hotspots from going cold, which can happen if your inventory is stagnant.
  4. This wall by our entry was underperforming, so we put a video monitor up and these climbers by Ancizar Marin. Now the wall is doing great!
    This wall by our entry was underperforming, so we put a video monitor up and these climbers by Ancizar Marin. Now the wall is doing great!

    Find ways to warm up cold spots. If we have an area that doesn’t seem to generate as many sales, I’ll try to liven the area up. I’ll give the area more light, place an artist there whose work is more colorful or energetic to draw attention to the space.

I should be clear that what I’m talking about in the post are trends. Hotspots don’t guarantee sales, and we’ve certainly sold art from every wall, nook and cranny in the gallery during the 8 years we’ve been in our current location. Still, I’ve found it helpful to pay attention to the flow of sales in each area of the gallery.

What do you Think?

Have you experienced sales when your work has been displayed in a certain area of a gallery or booth? How have you reacted to hotspots? Share your thoughts, questions and experiences in the comments below.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

10 Comments

  1. When I first started doing art shows seriously, some 50 years ago, I had just sold a small piece when my neighbor came over to chat. She asked about the empty space, and i replied that I had just sold the piece. She looked at me…and said why haven’t you replaced it! I replied, I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. She insisted that people’s good feelings about your work remain as an “aura”…and I needed to put something up immediately to take advantage of that.

    I’m someone who has my feet firmly planted on the ground, and as I placed another piece up on my wall, I thought “yeah, sure”. Well, sure enough, within a few hours, that piece sold, too.

    That event didn’t change my belief structure, but to this day, I faithfully replace sold artwork at my earliest opportunity…no sense messing with the other dimensions!

  2. I’ve experienced the same thing in a gallery where I show regularly. It’s a traditional rectangular space, with no interesting nooks or corners, yet two of the walls seem to sell the majority of work. Not only that, but certain areas on those walls generate more sales! Can’t explain it, but I’m always happy to see my work hanging in the hot spots. One of my artist friends has also experienced the same phenomenon, and she identified the same areas as most likely to produce sales. We can’t explain it, but it could warrant further study!

  3. Jason,

    Even in my little Studio / Gallery (cleaned studio lolol) I have a hot spot. I have framed and put a piece on that spot and had it sell in 3 days. There are locations it seems that do that! Even when I have tried to make a focal point on another wall that is slightly larger…..

  4. I worked in a gallery that did lamp working. Many traditional pieces were on display. The owners, rarely there allowed us to use the equipment. The shop area wasnt very big, but the lighting was very good everywhere in the store. And yes there was a magic shelf. I experimented with many different objects everything from biirds to dragons to wedding toppers many objects that sat for weeks on other shelves. Cant explain it but it was strangely consistent. It was our go to shelf if too many of something was sitting too long.

  5. I think it might have something to do with “sight lines.” In my small gallery you can see all the walls when you first walk in — a “hot spot” for us is the left corner on the back wall furthest away from the front door. If something really colorful and unique looking is placed there it often sells. It is like a beacon — you immediately see it when you first walk in, are drawn to it, and then you want it.

  6. What I noticed in working a gallery was that people entered, walked along the right side wall, then around the back & finally up the left wall & out. Those with less time or interest stopped looking before completing the circuit. Hence you were better off being in the 1st half of their journey. I also noted that by far our best selling work was randomly shaped scrap granite pieces priced at $35-45. My conclusion was that these made affordable gifts that were heavy & felt substantial for the price, which was low enough to make a spur of the moment decision feasible. We even had one client who bought so many he needed help carrying them out to his car! These were positioned in the middle of the gallery about 15 feet from the entrance.

  7. I have often wondered about this concept as well, as I am in a gallery of 24 artists which is comprised of two suites with an open doorway between them. I have had my work in three spots there, including the far back corner in direct line of sight of the front door, and have found that it doesn’t seem to matter where the artists are located, their work either sells or it doesn’t, but I have observed customer behaviours and will often invite them on a tour of the gallery the days I work there to ensure they see everything and have the backstory on each artist’s work. Because the work lines the walls for the most part, the customers tend to observe it right up close and I wish they would stand back in the center of the space to look at my paintings as well, because it gives them the ability to see it in a different way; however, most of those walking the streets of our little historic town and tourist destination tend to not stand and study the works.

  8. I’d like to add a couple more thoughts to the conversation which has already made some good points. I am speaking as an artist who has frequented galleries but never worked in one nor sold work through one. I wonder if discovery and privacy are factors. If I walk around a corner and feel like I have discovered a treasure that is not obvious from the entrance, I may want to acquire the treasure. Also, if I feel like I have the privacy to savor a work without feeling watched/hunted by someone wanting me to buy it, I have time to build my appreciation for it, possibly enough to buy it. I think the sight lines and placement on the tour mentioned above are probably real factors as well. Thank you for sharing this topic.

  9. My bet is on customer psychology! Wonder if the unexplained ‘hot spots’ in your gallery are ones that more closely emulate customer’s homes? For instance, you mentioned of the climbing wall did better after a video monitor went up beside it. Since the video monitor almost looks like a T.V. screen, all of a sudden people can visualize how fabulous the climbers would look next to their own T.V.

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