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

Sales out of our Scottsdale Gallery slow significantly during the summer months, and understandably so. With daily highs ranging from 102 – 119 (and lows that only get down to the upper 90s) Scottsdale is not a place you want to spend much time during the summer. Still, this last Saturday, Xanadu Gallery’s communication’s director, Chelsea, initiated two awesome sales with some of the only human beings we’ve seen in the gallery in the last few days.

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

These 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.

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.

This isn't even a wall - this large cabinet conceals our kitchen/catering area. It sits in the back corner of the gallery . . . and is a great wall for selling work by John and Eli Milan.
This isn’t even a wall – this large cabinet conceals our kitchen/catering area. It sits in the back corner of the gallery . . . and is a great wall for selling work by John and Eli Milan.

Starving to Successful

StSBookSHave you always wondered what it takes to show your work in galleries? Is your work being seen by qualified collectors?

In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.

Learn more and order today.

2015-01-07 14_43_10-CSS Button Generator

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 ARTsala. 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. Connect with Jason on Facebook

22 Comments

  1. Hi Jason,
    Im a Norwegian amateur photographer and have learned that the price on photo art here in Norway is much lower than in the US. Off cause the different artists have different values but here we find gallery prices from 300 – 2000USD when a artist like William Roop has prices on 4500USD for his photos in exhibition in the US. Why is it so? Is there because that photo art has been around longer in the US?
    If you want to sell photo art from Norwegian artist in US, whats the best procedure?
    Thank you for your thoughts,
    Øyvind Ludvigsen

  2. Hi Jason, Thanks for the interesting article.
    My work has been in Carmel Valley Art Association for 17 years now and what we find is that certain art sells more because of the consistent mental and emotional engagement that is stimulated by the artwork. When art is easily accessible to the subconscious mind it communicates with and reinforces the buyer’s values and identity. When that is triggered then there is a signal that is literally sent to the conscious mind saying “you must buy this and bring this home with you” it’s not rational, even if the conscious mind makes up a rational reason to agree with the subconscious mind. The Subconscious mind makes the Conscious mind buy everything because the thing is more valuable than the money and the thing reinforces and resonates with a subconscious positive feeling and value. The things purchased reinforces and affirms the identity of the subconscious mind.

    I only know this because I’m a metaphysician and hypnotherapist and my job is to help people become more of who they want to be and less of who they don’t prefer.

    The selling is successful when the inner GPS says “we found more of what we want and more of who we want to be”.
    One of our biggest sellers is a humorist illustrator Will Bullas. His humor is playful and fun and focused on puns. He creates images for the seasons as well. He is very savy at marketing and knows how to display his wall for maximum impact. People magnetize to humor. The Feel Good Zone! The subconscious mind is the feeling center and drives the bus of our lives.

    Take good care
    Jody Royee

  3. Thank you for this wonderful post! From the artists’ end, I have seen time and again how much moving a display can positively impact sales trajectory. For our work (as I know you’re aware!), a display that encourages interaction makes an incalculable difference. I’ve seen some galleries try to hang up the artwork behind the sales desk thinking it would bring more attention to the display, only to discover that when art or product is displayed to look ornamental or “part of the furniture,” it gets ignored. While I can’t speak to the gallery-owning experience, I have designed several booths for art shows, and every time I design a new booth, I consider the traffic flow. I watch where people approach from, where and when they stop (or don’t!), where their eye levels arrests, and finally at what point they engage or walk away. I take all of this into consideration and reorient the spacial parameters and “flow” of the booth to best catch those “deer in headlights” show attendees. I don’t have it down to a science, but I keep trying new methods, and I think that is more or less how it should be. 🙂 Thanks again! Heather @ Houston Llew

  4. Hi Jason, So true and yes, there are definitely prime areas to place work. I had an outdoor show this weekend and placed one of my best and most colorful paintings in a prime location. It was one of those areas that you had to walk by and the painting started to draw people in to the display. l ended up selling the painting and more that were inside of the booth area. The key to my home gallery is the shuffle that you mentioned. I am often surprised when I move things around, how much certain paintings will suit a location that I may never have thought of until I moved it.

  5. Jason,
    I’m really surprised that you have left out an important part of the sales process in this conversation – your buyers! Do you think such things as privacy (of those nooks & cannies) might have something to do with sales? or even the acoustics different areas? I know that some galleries have a “viewing room” where they bring works for potential buyers to view in private, with seating and special lighting… I’m not suggesting that every gallery can provide this, but it’s something to consider… I think the selection of art is a very private thing, and folks who actually have the opportunity to “sell to themselves” become good clients (at least in the car business.) Of course, leaving people to their own devices is a cardinal sin in the sales profession, but trying to make this kind of decision in a very public area might hinder sales, as well… what do you think?

  6. I think when one feels like they have the time to experience a painting, not feeling pressured by other visitors to move along, it can make a difference. Having someone in the gallery talk to you about the artist after you have had that optimum time to look at the art, and take it in, is what I think is that sweet spot. Maybe that is part of your “hot spot” areas. I do know I have stopped entering shows when I have had art placed in “cold spots” like just off the ground below the average visitors’ waistline or under a stairwell. A well-lit spot at the optimum viewing distance and height can’t be beat.

  7. In our gallery there are definitely areas we call the money walls. Often artwork that had nor gotten enough attention will move when we relocate it to these ‘hot’ areas.
    I will move artwork every week or two to take advantage of our hot spots.

  8. Thanks for the nice article. I know in retail in general, the area to the right just as a client comes through the door is the most valuable area in the store. I don’t know if you have found that to be the case in selling art or not. Another question, I am curious about the hanging system you use? I don’t see wires from the ceiling extending to the paintings, so I assume it’s along the wall? Looks beautiful. Thank you again for your blog.

  9. ~ Hmmmmmmm! Interesting article and I can relate to it when working in sales and also Artist in residence in the early 80’s. I was fortunate to have a small area off the framing section to also paint between working with customers who were viewing the art work or custom designing the framing for work brought in. I would place a canvas straight off the easel in one of the two South windows of the gallery off Memorial Drive in Houston ‘Lantern Lane’ – a shopping strip. Many times I would watch as someone would walk by the display and with an impulsive moment that person would walk in and – then my ‘original art’ would find a new home. – Sometimes I wonder ‘IF’ those days will ever return in this ‘art market world’ – WE now live in? What do you think? . . .

  10. Hi Jason, your articles are always interesting. Because I am not in a gallery my work is never seen on a certain wall. I have noticed that you always take different snaps of images, but the images appear to be from the same artists the majority of the time. Could this be one of the reasons that some artist do better that another? Could sales also have to do with the way or amount that they are promoted? Just an observation.

    I don’t believe that I have seen the work of the horse artist before. I enjoy seeing the variety of artists that you represent.

    1. ~ Suzanne – I think its not only about ‘Hot Spots’ but ‘Hot Artist’ – like Perez Guilloume that sells well and are seen but shows how promotion of his work and style are a great hit. It’s rare for working artist to spend a lot of time in the business world thats needed – In a perfect world an agent working the business part of sales and public relationship would be ideal but not realistic unless one produces mass amounts of work . . . Google thee name and the answer is there. . .

  11. No magic, just good lighting. Yes, easy access and viewing … but more so critical lighting.
    I’ve just finished my best home and garden show in three years. Suburb location “in the midst of things” but I’m aware lighting made the difference. Those of us who show in alternate venues deal with different light quality every time. I know my location at the next one and am already planning to bring my own lights. Lighting was fairly good one year but I know I can improve on it, and control it.
    I don’t consider this a negative at all. A gallery has a set arrangement and displays their artists’ work the best possible way they can. An artist can’t and shouldn’t dictate that. Some will be optimum, some not.
    I left a gallery that always featured one artist in the windows and front while my work was displayed on a back wall. My question about a better location was met with silence. There may be a perception the gallery thought better of that artist than any other, therefore he must be better than those in the back.
    Retail stores have brought this subject down to a fine science by installing heat sensors to monitor traffic flow and to see where people pause, what product was there, and if it resulted in sales. The images are analyzed by color and they arrange their stores accordingly.
    Gee, and I just thought it was because they liked one of my paintings. 🙂

  12. Nan Thpmpson
    New email. NanThompson.photo@gmail.com
    Hi Jason, I love the art you showed with a vibrant red piece and others less colorful. I Love it that way also.
    I have a solo photo show coming up at a Café It is associated with MD. Federation of Art. I went to the venue to take measurements and pictures to decide where best to put most of my work (over 30 pieces). I wanted to show certain pieces in certain areas. Hope it works out.

  13. Yesterday I sold 3 pieces of art by 3 different artists and all art was hanging on the back walls of our gallery. Art on the front walls lures the people in. Yet as they venture through our space, it’s like they are more excited to find and discover art that appeals to each individually. Perhaps it’s the “hunting and gathering” by nature.

  14. As an artist who has also worked in a gallery- I have hung a lot of shows both for myself and others. My goal is always to do everything to make the work and the overall space look as good as possible. There is no system- I follow my gut. When I step back, and the space looks ‘right’ to me then I consider it done.

    This has worked fairly well but after reading this I wonder if I could do more to incorporate expected traffic flow and ‘hotspots’ in the space. Thanks for bringing up this subject- it has given me things to think about.

    My one comment to add is that the appearance of the overall space is important. It’s a mistake to cram too much work into a space or hang works together that don’t agree.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *