The Art Gallery is Dead . . . Long Live the Art Gallery

Over the last several weeks, I’ve had several of you send me links to articles that decried the end of the gallery system. It seems like these articles come around every few years. Though each of the articles came at the question from different angles, the points can be summarized as:

  • Art galleries are dead because now artists can access buyers directly on the internet
  • Art galleries are dead because they are too greedy and dishonest and aren’t treating artists well
  • Bricks and mortar art galleries are dead because the online sales of art are increasing.

To some extent, I realize that all of these points are true, at least to a degree. One has only to survey the gallery market to see that many galleries that were thriving ten to fifteen years are no longer around. The poor economy from 2008-2011 certainly played a larger role in this, but it’s also clear that more and more art sales are shifting to the internet. It’s always hard to get any kind of well-documented industry figures, but I’ve seen Xanadu’s online sales grow significantly over the last five years to a point where online sales make up about 15% of total revenue. Our Studios Program has played a big part in that, as has our Catalogue, but even with my traditionally represented artists, we’re seeing growth in online sales.

So is the demise of the traditional gallery model in the tea leaves? Looking at what’s happened in the music and publishing industry might lead one to believe so. It seems logical that the sale of artistic creations, whether it’s music, books or artwork, can be done more efficiently and cost-effectively online than in the bricks and mortar world. While many in the art industry (both artists and galleries) would argue that art is different, that you have to see it in person and touch it before you can make such a high value purchase, many art  buyers disagree. I’m finding my clientele more and more willing to buy artwork sight unseen. As we all become more and more comfortable with the internet as a medium for commerce, we’re willing to make higher value purchases.

If those purchases are backed by respected and trusted venues (like Amazon and well-established galleries) it seems possible, and even likely, that the trend will continue.  Keep in mind, too, that if the current generation of art buyers, typically well-established in their careers and finances and aged between 40-70, can adapt to buy high-ticket items online, the next generation of buyers, who are digital natives, will have no problem buying art online (if they buy at all, which is another story altogether).

What does this mean for art galleries?

First, I believe that the gallery market is going to contract in the coming decade. The contraction began with the recent economic recession. Many smaller, and some well-established galleries, closed their doors for good. The bad economy forced many of these galleries to close, but even before the recession began, many galleries were struggling in the new digital environment. I’ve watched galleries on Main Street in Scottsdale (where my gallery is located) fade away. The profit margins of the gallery business are already razor-thin and the added pressure of competing with online retailers will push many galleries out of the market.

Second, I believe that galleries need to come up with aggressive online strategies. I don’t believe that anyone has developed the perfect model for selling art online yet.  However, it’s not going to work to have a static website with a few images of artwork and artist’s bios thrown up for visitors to review.  Deep and media rich websites are going to be expected, and  e-commerce will be mandatory.

computer with artThird, galleries are going to have to place a lot more emphasis on the art-buying experience than the process. In some ways, buying art is more like the performing arts than traditional retail. Art buyers often visit galleries while they are travelling and are looking for a cultural experience as much as a retail one. Shows and studio visits have always been important, but they are going to become even more so.

Fourth, galleries are going have to become media experts. We’ve had success offering multimedia experiences to buyers – video interviews with artists, for example, and we will be doing ever more to create a richer experience for people who visit the gallery. Not all of that experience can be duplicated online, but a lot of it can. The tools to produce rich media content have become less expensive and more accessible. My staff and I have learned how to use DreamWeaver, Photoshop and InDesign to some degree of proficiency and we’re leveraging social media (including YouTube) to an ever increasing degree. There’s a learning curve, and the benefits have been slow to materialize, but I’m convinced the investment in the tools and education will pay big dividends over time.

Finally, I believe it wise for galleries to think of their relationship with artists in a different light. As artists gain more independence by using online tools and more savvy marketing techniques, galleries are going to have to think of artists as full partners in the business. While it should have been this way all along, many galleries have treated their artists (especially emerging and early-career artists) as minor partners or second-class citizens in the marketing of the artist’s work. Moving forward, artists are going to see galleries as only one of many marketing venues for their work. Galleries are going to have to earn their artist’s business.

What does it mean for artists?

Artists are at an interesting crossroad with the changes in the industry. There are seemingly more opportunities for exposure than ever. An artist can create a website in a few minutes (I’ll toot our own horn with our ARTsala site building tool as an example) and have  a virtual gallery that has the potential to reach collectors around the world. The challenge, however, is that every other artist also has this same ability, and there’s suddenly a tremendous amount of artistic noise online. It’s very hard for the individual to get exposure and generate sales online.

Well-established artists have been able to siphon off gallery sales by selling directly to collectors online. This has certainly benefited those artists but has been another nail in the coffin of galleries who are promoting the artists but getting cut out of the sales. It also leaves a big question mark for those artists – what are they going to do if their galleries disappear and they no longer have a source for new collectors?

The contraction of the gallery market has even more impact on emerging and mid-career artists. It’s significant to note that in the reports I’ve read, Amazon’s efforts are to be focused on well-established artists and galleries, not early-career artists. Until someone comes up with a better system (I’m working on it!) galleries remain the most reliable way for artists to gain broad exposure and sales. With fewer galleries and less gallery space out there, the path to gallery recognition and sales is going to become ever narrower. As the gallery market becomes more competitive it’s going to become more important for artists to bring their A-game to bear on their gallery relationship building efforts.

Artists are also going to have to take more of their sales efforts into their own hands. Establishing a track record of sales at shows and through direct and online sales will not only help an artist make a living, it will also help them prove to galleries that they are worth the investment of precious display space and marketing dollars.

Some artists will find that they enjoy the marketing so much and are so effective at it that they will decide not even to approach galleries at all. Instead they will run their own virtual and even, in some cases, their own bricks-and-mortar galleries.

Most artists, however, don’t want to spend their time marketing and selling their work – they want to be in the studio. Many don’t have an interest in that side of the business, or don’t feel capable of doing it all while at the same time continuing to produce the artwork. For them, gallery representation is still the ultimate goal, and the best model for maximizing their profitability.

The Reports of my Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

So are art galleries going to disappear completely? As I said, I’ve recently read blog posts and articles suggesting that this is the case, and that their demise is imminent. I suspect that this assertion is somewhat premature and that, in fact, galleries aren’t going to disappear as an institution, but rather are simply going to go through a major transformation.

There are great opportunities ahead for both galleries and artists. Our industry is being disrupted by massive technological changes, but in the end, those changes are going to be broadly positive for artists and collectors. They will also be good, I believe,  for galleries that can adapt and for those who find new ways to get the artwork out to collectors (the virtual art dealers). That said, there’s also going to be some real pain while we find our way forward and not everyone is going to survive the changes.

As a gallery owner, I personally am looking forward to this brave new art world, and I hope you are too!

 

What do you Think?

Do you think galleries will still play an important part in the art market? Has the internet made it possible for you to make more of your own sales and freed you from having to work with galleries? What do you think the future holds for artists and galleries? Leave your predictions, thoughts and feelings below in the comments!

Starving to Successful

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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

82 Comments

  1. very good article and I do think that galleries will remain the most important place to visit in the art world, although I think also that there will be a change, better has to be, in
    the choosing of art works quality . Professional artists (with an art degree) should be separated from the hobby artists .education still counts in quality, not just a representation of emotions.

    1. I find your comments about ‘hobby’ artists as being strictly defined as notchaving had the good fortune to obtain a college degree really offensive. I have worked for 40 years as an illustrator and painter, and think the artist’s work should speak for itself!

    2. Just because someone has an art degree, doesn’t make them a better artist!
      Did the Masters have art degrees?..maybe what you need is talent and dedication…

    3. I totally disagree with this. I am a self taught abstract artist, with no rules or boundaries to hold me back. Iam also making a living. Trail riding on my horse is my hobby.

    4. What a crass attitude… There are many fine “non-educated” artists in the world, as well as people with degrees whose work is effortlessly bad.

      This was a great article looking into real issues and real possible futures without being lowered to this sort of snobbery.

    5. I think this is the most condescending comment I’ve seen on this blog. Usually, the comments are well thought out, cogent, and add to the original post. I’m a photographer with a degree in biology. I know several photographers with art degrees. I seriously doubt you could tell whose are whose.

    6. I agree totally, i have never met an artist with a degree with any originality. Unfortunately they only see 1% of spectrum of light.

    7. I agree with Jason’s comment that the “experience” is what separates the gallery from on line venues. At J.Petter Galleries in Saugatuck Michigan that has been our goal. It’s not just a trip to a “store.” It’s an afternoon of visual delight with a huge variety of artists and 1300 pieces of art to enjoy. There is music and wine plus artful foods. Beyond that, it is a place focused on developing new collectors. Creating a place that milenials want to visit is a big key to any art galleries future.

      1. This is wonderful!
        I believe art galleries are a hive of creative individuals where we can socialise and find new inspiration. Meeting artists them selves is always a key factor. I find nothing but opportunity inside art galleries.
        Not just this but also a place where art buyers can do the same.

    8. The art galleries of today for most people line the walls of stores like Ross, Target and Walmart. I can’t count the number of times someone has told me of the wonderful “painting” they bought at one of these stores, and each time I think to myself, “Fine Art is dead”. The shame is that these people could well afford at least a painting or two. I don’t expect them to buy from me – but come on! Or I go to someone’s house and their walls are hung with these cheap prints, often produced en-mass in China. What’s really sad are some of the artists who’ve had their work ripped off by some overseas corporation who then reproduces their artwork for which the artist will never see a penny, and good luck to the artist in trying to fight the outright theft of their artwork! It is true, perhaps, that the very high-end snobbish galleries will continue to exist – it seems like a step backwards to a time when real artwork was only within the reach of the very wealthy. It seems that today, one must be rich to be an artist, and one must be rich to buy art. Everyone else will just go to Target, Walmart, Ross – even Home Depot. And poor artists will continue to struggle along.

  2. I don’t think art galleries will go the way all things, at least not yet. However, I can foresee a synthesis of techniques of getting one’s work out to the buying public through the gallery system. Going Indie is fine too, however, I like to hedge my bets, the best of both worlds would be cool. Nice article on the subject. Certainly not the last.

  3. Hi Jason
    I don’t want to market my own work. I think that galleries that promotes their artists is the only way to go. I think you are personally doing a great job moving into the online market. It is a great resource to show work, but in a gallery you can actually experience it. My daughter’s generation shop for everything except art online, but still go to art fairs and galleries to shop for art. I taught art history for many years and always encouraged students to see original art. Many would come back and tell me how different it was in person than in the photos in their textbooks. Keep working at it Jason. Xanadu will survive because of your efforts.

  4. This is a well researched article written from an unbiased point of view. The way gallerists and artists conduct business is changing at such a rate that it hard to keep up.

  5. Jason , You did not mention the cost of shipping Paintings. I have been finding that the cost of taking my paintings to get them mailed out has been really adding to the cost, Maybe it is not so bad for little works but my paintings are large and the ones that have beautiful frames can really add up. BEA

      1. Hi Catron-
        Btw loved your reply about education, above.
        Jason’s done some really helpful videos about shipping in the past, and includes tips on which carrier to use for best prices re: sizes as well. Doesn’t make it less of a pain but takes a lot of uncertainty out of it.

      2. I sold large (42″x60″) paintings to a wholesale dealer for a number of years. These were oils on canvas. For shipping I rolled them (paint on the outside) and put them in a heavy duty tube. I did not ship the stretcher bars for that dealer, but for some other situations I did ship the bars, which I rolled up inside the canvas. It was much cheaper and safer to have the canvas rolled up in the tube, than to ship it stretched in some sort of a box. I bought the tubes from Yazoo Mills in New Oxford PA.

  6. This is the best piece I have read so far on the artist- gallery relationship in these changing times. I think two other important considerations are the gallerists role of curation, and validation that being in a gallery provides to the artist.
    Does being in a brick and mortar gallery give an artist more credibility? Sometimes I feel that I need a gallery simply so collectors will feel I have been “vetted”

  7. Dear Jason!
    Thank you for all tips to survive as an artist!
    I think and hope galleries will still play an important part in the art market. I love to show my art in reality, it’s not the same on internet. On internet you can’t see if the surface has relief and if it’s glossy or matte.
    Kind regards

  8. In my point of view as a sculptor, galleries are always going to be the ideal way to market. It is so difficult to experience sculptural art online, even with the 3D video capabilities out there now. Any art may be tough to really grasp online, but sculpture is particularly tough, even with excellent photography. If you want to sell sculpture without a gallery, you’re going to have to get it in front of a lot of potential buyers. You’re going to have to pack up your work and travel and/or hold your own studio shows. Marketing your own work is fun, but exhausting, and leaves you with a lot less production time and even less down time to stew the creative juices. I admire your tenacity, Jason. Keep up the good work. I have no doubt you’ll be one of the survivors.

  9. Hello Jason and thank you for this well thought out article. It was good to hear your take from the perspective of a gallery owner. I have been a gallery artist for 40+ years. From the very beginning, I have always consider my involvement with a gallery a partnership and a privilege. I have chosen not to enter the galleries that have assumed that they were doing artists a favor. Being loyal to the gallery has been important in my relationship. I have not taken sells on line and have directed all inquiries to my galleries. Although, I have sold work to collectors outside of the USA independently. Galleries have even given me collectors contact info, knowing that I could close a sale. Sales have been slow in recent years and I have given much thought to how I should move forward. Many of my painter friends are encouraging me to sell on the internet and cannot understand my reluctance. For me, this is a huge decision and at the moment I will continue as a gallery artist believing that the Gallery still plays a very important role in the art market. I will look forward to watching you as you approach this puzzle. Wishing you a big success!

    1. There are so many people getting ripped off from online imagery, directly and indirectly, that I am very reluctant as well. I don’t include very large images of my work for that reason. My ceramics are quite unique and people looking online “borrow” ideas extensively. You can put watermarks, but people can work around that, so my paintings are not displayed very large, and embedded in a slideshow which helps prevent direct ripoffs as well. I have made friends with a woman who does very cute, stylized pet illustrations. She has made illustrated posters showing dog body language and covering other issues. Organizations use these with permission. She has to spend a lot of her time fighting ripoffs. The dog “body language” images have suddenly appeared on pajamas sold at Kohl’s! Images pop up in searches and people think everything is up for grabs, and collect them on Pinterest for more people to steal.

  10. I notice that the businesses that employ the “both – and” approach survive better than the “either – or” style. The artists and galleries that have BOTH a physical sales place AND a strong online strategy seem to be fairing better than those with just one or the other. So, it looks like Jason Horejs is (once again) a few steps ahead of the pack.
    Curiously, I’m hearing art buyers say that they seek a reprieve from digital devices and look for PLACES to go that offer an EXPERIENCE (art festivals, galleries, art studios, artists’ cooperatives, studios, etc.). Yet, guess how the art buyers are finding these places to go? Yep, you guessed it … the internet.

    Since I moved from the bustling Northwest, I’m having to do things MUCH differently, i.e., get into more physical art galleries.

    What I like about the Art Business Academy is that it mentors me in the steps to take to do that — get into more galleries. I’m convinced that as art buyers grow saturated (to ad nauseum) with tasks done on electronic devices, they will seek physical places to go to shop for art. Hence, the art galleries will likely grow more desirable into the next decade, especially the ones offering an enriching personal experience. I also notice that the artists and galleries that are surviving are also finding creative ways to generate steady streams of income (i.e., space rentals, mentorship, informational subscriptions, advertising space, book sales, print sales, memberships, etc.).

    Judging by how well Jason Horejs and Xanadu Gallery achieve these, I’m placing my bets on their long-term success.

  11. As a new gallery, selling at least 70% online and what is sold in the gallery itself often was first seen online by the collector, I completely agree that the nature of how a gallery sells is evolving. I too was shocked by the willingness of collectors to buy sight unseen. But that is where the relationship to the gallery reputation really plays a part. A collector feels more confident knowing that the gallery has already “vetted” the work and found it worthy of representation. It is scary and exciting times to be a gallery owner. I often say that my gallery is a partnership between myself, the artists and the collectors.

  12. I don’t think brick and mortar will be dead for a long time, but do agree with all that you said, especially about artist’s taking an active part in being a ‘working partner’ with the gallery. Outside marketing is key for both the artist and the gallery, as is transparency and honesty.

  13. The times they are a-changin’, but seriously folk, the art world is changing and if a gallery wants to survive it needs to change with the times. There’s no law that says galleries can’t sell work online, and all it requires is that the gallery puts as much work into online sales as it does with it’s brick and mortar set up. A gallery that puts up pretty pictures online and then walks away from the site is going to have as much success as the artist who does the same thing. Websites need to be as interactive and interesting as a b+m site and I think most artists want to be a webmaster as much as they want to run a gallery. My guess is galleries that don’t include the cyber world in their sales strategies are the ones that are going to fade away. The internet is not the end-all and be-all but it is another tool the galleries need to use. R.

  14. Just as galleries benefit from embracing technology tools, as you have done, I think it wise for artists to do so as well. Hardly what I wish to spend time on, but if I don’t, then I may need to hire it out. My strategy is to employ as many angles of art sales as feasible – galleries, art shows, technology & licensing – all as the “CEO” of my own business. I do believe that in most cases, an artist needs to be willing to embrace and adapt to the changes in order to be successful at gathering enough sales to live on. It doesn’t do any good to dig in our heels & get stuck in the “old” way of doing things!

    1. Lisa,
      I completely agree with you. And you got me thinking that perhaps a new role will be created in the art world, that of a Personal Manager for Artists. This person will completely manage the artist, including gaining exposure in galleries, art shows, and online, optimising social media, licensing, opportunities for talks and demonstrations. This would free the artist to BE an artist rather than spending too much time being CEO. What do you think? Or do these types of managers already exist?

  15. Artists have to do their OWN selling . The art gallery bizz is very different these days. Real artists do their own outreach and PR. I learned over time to do my own business. See my Tools 4 Artists on Lori McNee’s website. Simple but doable.

  16. The gallery still and will continue to represent the parent’s home where the lovers taking their relationship to the ultimate level, would finally present themselves before the crucial presence and endorsement of the parental authority. The lovers is the artist and the potential collector relationship, and the place of parental consent and blessings is the gallery.

  17. Excellent article and as a new gallery owner I am taking everything you say onboard!
    I wrote a comment 4 months ago when opening my gallery in a regional area south of Hobart in Tasmania, Australia . I have gone through a winter with snow and flood and no tourist but have sold 29 paintings in 4 months and 27 of those paintings were to locals – only 2 paintings were shipped interstate to Sydney and Canberra. I represent 15 different artists and my point in this is, if the art is of an excellent quality, affordable across a range of price points and the staff (me) are excited and passionate about serving their clients as well as honouring and respecting their artists (that means they are paid with 24 hours of a sale). I believe a hands on gallery can work but I respect what you say about the future. I have sold 2 paintings via my fb page (huon art) and know that I now have to embrace technology so thank you for the great article. It is not only artists who read your blog but gallery owners such as myself.

  18. Thanks Jason for clearing that up and putting me back on track. Since I love making, promoting, selling and managing my art collections. A couple of years ago, I decided the best path for me was to open a brick and motor that will house my working art studio and a showroom. It’s been a year since moving to a small commercial store front. My experience so far is most of the people who purchase my originals and limited-editions actually took a trip to my studio/showroom to see the work first hand. I am base in NYC, one art collector come as far as Boston, to come to check a piece he saw on line.

  19. An excellent and thought provoking article. A gallery does offer a finite shopping space if you will, and obviously no screen display can substitute for being in front of an artwork. There is no reason for artists not to be in both marketplaces and galleries not to have a virtual outlet. We all know the virtual side of the market can be bloated with works buried in the noise. I am not at all enticed by ads inviting me to enroll in their site with 50,000 or more other artists. I believe on-line galleries providing focused and effortless search and shopping will be at an advantage over those who are merely on-line with simple search taxonomies that churn up hundreds of pages to swipe through. Customers cannot buy what they cannot find.

  20. We Can tour Italy on our computer; but it is NOT the same experience at talking to the locals and seeing the “Art” of the environment. This TOO is the experience of a Fine Art
    Gallery. It is making memories. My favorite pieces were an event, a memory.

    The computer will have it’s place for many, of course. However, unless, the public chooses
    Not to travel….even in their town….the Gallery will not be Dead.

  21. Jeffrey Davies

    Sorry, Helga but I am basically a self-taught artist and have since 1967 been selling and making my art. Who can really judge “art”?? Are dog portraits really art?? Who knows!!
    Certainly it is not for me to judge. I make my “art” and and people buy it . I work and create without rules and love the freedom to do what I want, to experiment to really make what moves ME. When I was based in Dallas I was a young guy with little experience but loved the creative process and sold my work. After years of adventure in art and business, I opened my art/antique gallery in San Francisco and now after 22 years in S. F., I sell almost exclusively thru sites on the internet ( mostly Saatchi, Zatista).

  22. I live in the wasteland of art galleries. We have absolutely zero in this area. Los Angeles is about 75 miles south of us. I would love gallery representation as I feel it gives validation to artists. LA is a difficult scene for emerging artists to get into. I have sold online and through a few juried exhibits out of my area. There is something special about seeing art in person, though. The layers, colors, textures don’t always come through online. I believe the next generations will be very much online collectors making it important for galleries and artists working together to market their work to reach both the b+m and internet shoppers.

  23. Jason, Its good you’ve faced up to the fact the art world is changing and it’s obvious you are ahead of the game so well done for that. High Streets are changing,(they always have) but now the change is different store are closing (they always have) but they are not been replaced by new stores.

    I’m really pleased that you acknowledge that gallery owners will have to change their relationship with artist, becoming more partners. A lot of gallery owners can’t even be bothered to reply to artist’s emails, I’m glad to say your not in that category.

    I don’t sell in bricks and mortar galleries or have access to art shows / fairs they simply don’t exist over here, don’t get me wrong I’d like nothing more then to be associated with a b&m gallery. So I have no option but to sell on line and being reasonably successful I’ve sent my work to 10 different countries, but its hard.

    Selling on line is exciting and frightening, exciting because you have access to a world wide audience who are looking to buy art, frightening because the sheer amount of artist and work on there, very difficult to get exposure and some artist will watch what’s selling at what price and size and will copy work and sell for half the price.

    The competition is formidable unless you put the work in which is very time consuming and constantly update your dead in the water.

    I’m sure good b&m galleries will still be around for a long time but on line has to be the way forward, If I’ve got $10,000 to spend I can go to a gallery and have a choice but limited if I go on line my choices are unlimited, and don’t forget on line you have 100% guarantee of your money back if for whatever reason your not happy with you work.

    I’ve learnt a lot over the last couple of years but boy I’ve made mistakes and wasted a lot of time, and still I know I’ve got a mountain to climb.

    Btw my best customer lives in Amsterdam which is not short of artists or art galleries but he’s bought 6 of my works all hanging in his home, I’m very proud of that fact.

  24. The problem I have had with galleries is that three of them, who did sell my work very well, closed. I have resorted to teaching, juried shows, and commissions. I now working on a new website.
    So why should I trust a gallery that may go under at any time?

    1. Hi Christine, I wish I could get into a gallery, must be great to have your working hanging on the wall of a great art gallery and there are some brilliant ones about so don’t give up on them.
      Love your work. Ta

  25. I think that good galleries will prevail as will artists who work at networking and being partners in marketing. One of my favorite gallerists has moved to working as an art consultant. She appreciates my efforts at marketing and I have partnered with her on several projects.

    Gallerists need artists. Artists can be successful with or without galleries. There are many factors that come into play on both sides.

  26. A thought provoking post that has built on other discussions across your site over the past couple of weeks. I have been intrigued and excited about the conversations and observations you have generated with these Jason. Your willingness to explore and put out there the issue of ‘to be or not to be’ an artist who shows in galleries has opened up a host of possibilities and helped enormously with my journey. Your generosity of spirit and practical support for artists like me, who are beginning their journey is also proving invaluable. Having access to learning through watching and listening to the mentorship programe, your starving to successful workshop and the conversations generated by your blogs is enriching and enabling me to make some strong decisions about how I traverse the art world in the future. I appreciate your willingness to share your experience and your generosity in making resources available to us as artists in a professional, cost effective, business like yet thoughtful and nurturing way. I also appreciate that you are willing to take on and address some tough questions regarding your role and responsibilities with regard to the artists you work with. Glad I came across your blog and grateful for the insights, learning and opportunities it is affording me as a relatively new artist.

  27. I definitely don’t think art galleries will disappear as long as people still travel. One of the big delights of travelling is to visit an art gallery and I think if you are in the right location then you can be very successful.
    I know of one artist who shows her work in her brother’s restaurant and the visitors, often from other countries, buy a lot of her work and this had led to her becoming a full-time artist. I’m not sure if her price range is that of a normal gallery but it is enough.
    I also think the remark about having a degree in art makes you in some way more qualified than others is hard for those who have a degree in another subjects but have dedicated a lot of their lives to their art – for me it is that sincerity to your work and the pursuit of it that is the most important thing.

    1. I think that instead of getting an art degree, it is best to find a professional artist or several that you admire and study with them directly. I tried some college art courses when I was younger, and was very disappointed. One man told me that he would have to teach me to paint all over again. He painted terrible black paintings that no one would buy. I have heard that Utah has good art schools taught by professional artists and has produced many good artists, but in general I would beware. Marketing, computer and business courses are more practical.
      As for galleries, I think that people do need to see the art in person. There needs to be more follow up with customers via newsletters and sending new images out regularly. Maybe hiring someone to handle that is a good step. That is the way to get online sales, but I think it helps if they can see it in person first. There is more credibility to the artist if you are in galleries.

  28. Jason, I have to applaud your wisdom and vision in looking at the future of galleries. It is pretty well known that the amount of art sold on line exceeded that sold in galleries somewhere around 2004 and it is only increasing. Improving technology makes it possible to see enough of a potential purchase artwork from a distance without the buyer needing to be physically in front of it. Shipping is easier and faster than ever and buyers can return a work if it is not right for them.

    I suspect many galleries are going to close if they continue to be only about selling art off the showroom floor in a small regional venue. Successful and smart galleries will make use of technology to expand both their stable of artists and lists of collectors and buyers and marketing techniques so that sales do not need to happen just at one physical location. And like Jason does they will expand their services by educating artists on presenting and marketing their art direct from their studio rather than from a gallery showroom.

    An art gallery will have to move beyond being just a storefront serving a local market and become an expansive and multi-faceted national and international operation to survive in the future.

    1. Thanks for the comment Stan. I would love to see the data that you are referring to (that online sales are exceeding gallery sales). I’m a little skeptical of this for a couple of reasons. I have contact with thousands of artists and hundreds of galleries and I’ve surveyed them on this question and my results still show that the vast majority of art sales are occurring in galleries or at art shows and festivals, not online. I also have the opportunity to work with a lot of buyers and as I see their collections, it seems to be a pretty small percentage of the collection that might have been bought online.

      This article on Forbes indicates that online art sales in 2015 make up 5.1% of the art market, though it’s focussing on auctions as well, which aren’t a big factor for the majority of artists.

      Your point is well taken though – the technology is advancing and the level of comfort buying online is increasing. Galleries that can’t adapt or don’t prove their value in other ways are going to suffer.

      1. Jason, I thought I saw this data stated in a New York Times article sometime recently but I did not make a note of it at the time. I was surprised at the time but then as I thought about it, it seemed quite logical that over time this will happen. The thing of course is when. Regardless of that the Forbes article is quite clear about saying that online sales of art are on a rapid rise and even if it is not ahead of gallery sales it may be in the near future. To me this is not only handwriting on the wall for galleries but also for artists who think the only way to success is getting into galleries. Even the Hiscox report is suggesting the art market may be shifting to a new sales model. It is a new time and we need to think about selling art in new ways.

        1. Absolutely Stan, the timing may be in question, but the trend is not. However, as I said in the article, the savvy gallery owner will be able to capitalize on the fact that there is going to be less competition in the gallery marketplace.

  29. Interesting article, Jason. One thing you didn’t mention (at least directly) is that art sales are enhanced when people can talk to someone. In my experience, if I can talk about a specific work and what it meant to me to paint it, I’m more likely to sell the piece. I suspect a lot of “maybe” sales just go away in an online environment without anyone being the wiser that a sale may have been lost. While you can set up “talk with me” links to enable live chat on a website, I doubt most artists will want to sit around waiting all day for possible customers. Also, in most cases, I think people with the most sales experience can sell more. That gives an edge to reputable gallery staff–like you and yours–who make an effort to excel at their work. Sales is as much of a specialty job as making art, in my opinion. While some artists may be good at both, the rest will still seek out galleries, I think.

    1. Great point Nancy – and you are exactly right – my staff makes a huge difference when it comes to moving people from interest to purchase. I have seen artists and galleries using video recordings on their websites to tell stories about their art and to engage visitors. It’s also important to note that some buyers prefer the mechanics of buying without all of the talk, as they can on a website, but you are right that a skilled salesperson has the ability to guide a buyer through the process.

  30. It is hard to imagine that we as a society will be satisfied with living in a virtual world. In our small downtown there has been a revitalization of small business: coffee houses, beer pubs, restaurants, ice cream, chic home boutiques, web development companies, and even our 40 year old bookstore is seeing a revitalization. They bring the community to them through coordinated evening open house events once a month, called “first fridays”. While I am not sure how much of this traffic results in sales the First Friday events are widely attended. I think one thing that Starbucks knows how to do well is create a community hub. I think in spite of our digital addiction we still crave community and it seems that a gallery, like a book store, might provide this cultural beacon. People (especially the generation of digital natives that my daughters belong to) seem to love hip places to hang out/meet and they are interested in supporting culture and arts. We just need determine how a customer who comes for wine tasting and jazz moves on to making a purchase. With regard to the self taught artist vs. the art school artists…we’ve all see a wide variety of skill regardless of which camp one belongs. One of the great services galleries can provide buyers is some level of organization/judgement. And I think consumers still value that opinion—Which is why I still have brick and mortar galleries on my radar for representation.

  31. Art is in a prolonged transition era and I don’t think the business model has solidified as yet. It’s struggling. Art galleries are a first love and bookstores right behind them … I remind myself how easy it is to search for a specific book online, find it in minutes, and the ease in which the whole process is completed.
    All industries are having to regroup to find relevance in the Internet age; newspapers and periodicals in particular, clothing, shoes, furniture, jewelry … good grief, even groceries can be bought online.
    No argument, retailers have it rough. I’ve thought of opening my own gallery, but I’d rather not work that hard. 🙂 I’ve been successful in marketing myself but even that takes time away from my studio. I WANT brick and mortar galleries to not only survive, but thrive.
    I can’t imagine an art world without galleries! Regardless of patrons willing to buy a piece sight unseen there is no greater pleasure than discovering a new artist or a particular painting that truly speaks to you. Travel always includes a stop in a gallery. It is a cultural reflection of a region. It is a gratifying experience to see other artists’ work and inspiration … and that can only be seen in person. It is a visual feast.

  32. this is the key…, galleries are going to have to place a lot more emphasis on the art-buying experience than the process. In some ways, buying art is more like the performing arts than traditional retail. Art buyers often visit galleries while they are travelling and are looking for a cultural experience as much as a retail one. Shows and studio visits have always been important, but they are going to become even more …
    Another great and thoughtful article.

  33. I do feel very often that galleries show a double standard. They’re all enthusiastic about an artist, but it’s only because they think that artist will sell. They don’t give you the time of day if you’re “unknown.” Although I appreciate galleries need to think about their overheads, they are in a privileged position to get visitors to look at different art and stir up interest and enthusiasm. But they won’t, they’ll only do it with proven artists. Artists they would have ignored a while back when they hadn’t sold enough. To me this is more a follower’s attitude than a leader’s attitude.
    To be fair, Jason, I think gallery owners like you are extremely rare. You do put effort into sharing information and helping artists out there, even just by explaining how it is to run a gallery. But some gallery owners, they come out with the snobbiest attitudes. It’s any wonder they can keep a business going. They can’t seem to use their own judgement. They can only follow. I don’t want this industry to fold, but it’s an extremely fine line the artist has to go to pitch it exactly right, otherwise they’ve blown it forever… I don’t know, then the future for these galleries looks grim.

  34. Jason,

    Thank you for another well presented article which reflects your dedication to the arts, artists, art galleries and the wonder of owning and collecting! I love reading your in-depth analysis about the health of the art world in this ever expanding landscape.

    Just remember ALL the times it was propagated that PAINTING WAS DEAD. Well we see where that went. This is precisely what I feel about the aforementioned statement regarding the health of the art galleries. Phooey!

    I will forever be an advocate for real-time experiences. Nothing replaces the experience of standing in front of an artwork. Art galleries offer this with the added benefit of our ‘Permission to Own’ and take the work into one’s life .

    Here is to LIFE ENRICHED WITH THE ARTS!

  35. Great article, thank you. Galleries perhaps could be more flexible in a number of ways to explore more diverse ways of contacting and engaging their markets. Using several models and not just the bricks and mortar approach. Casting a wider net in order to find, create and attract their markets. Buyers still like to know that an Artist is represented in a gallery or is even an associate of a gallery. Your comment about Artists and Galleries being almost partners in the business is a good idea.
    About 5 years ago my private sales overtook gallery sales. I began more direct marketing and demonstrating my art by painting outside more. Plus more people were finding my site. My rule was that if a client found me in one of several galleries I was in they had to approach the gallery to purchase the work and the gallery would contact me . If they found my site themselves and approached me directly they were my client but I would send them to the gallery if it had works they liked. This is loyalty to the gallery so I could not be accused of using them as a shop front to help my direct sales. Nevertheless most of them closed down with the economic downturn from 2008 and 2 laws introduced here in 2010 and 2011 that really hurt our gallery system. All other factors made it worse. Galleries and Artists should work together and combine their strengths to generate new paradigms and opportunities. Established Artists like myself have more freedom to be independent, partially dependent or free to create their own galleries in places. Perhaps with the management input of their galleries. We are more at the coal face than ever before with e-commerce and online tools. The us and them thing could dissolve into a partnership where we pool Artist and Gallery marketing and selling tools. Everybody wins.

  36. I have always been amazed that people buy art online without seeing it, yet I’m glad they do. I have sold more than $250,000 worth of work online (including commissions) and the numbers keep increasing. One was a $50,000 sculpture! (I do not say this to brag but to give people an idea of what is possible.) I think you are on the right track on how galleries can take better advantage of the Internet. That being said, I don’t think it’s an either / or situation. My work is in three galleries in addition to my Internet presence. Each contributes to my success in its own way.

  37. First let me say I do not have an art degree and my art is far from being a hobby. I sell equally on line and in the gallery, but I do think for the most part good galleries are needed because in my experience people want to see art in person before they buy, but having read Kevin’s comment maybe I am wrong.

  38. Great article. Sorry to chime in so late.
    Some art simply doesn’t translate well to the online market. I’ve experienced this with my own work- it may look interesting in a photo, but it loses all of the depth, suspended layers and luminosity.
    I know there is a lot of art out there that, like mine, really needs to be experienced in person. For the artists creating this kind of work, galleries are hugely important.
    I do also feel that gallery salespeople can make a huge difference in closing a sale, and the many ways Jason and others described the benefits of customer service that enhances the art buyers’ experience can’t be reproduced in an online market.
    However, I agree that galleries need to enter this century and have a better online presence if they are to survive. As I’ve been researching, I’ve found that in gallery rich areas many have little to no online presence. And it’s hard not to judge a gallery harshly when they have a lame social media reach – but perhaps they know their market and the experience of their level of buyer would be lessened by a friendly FB page…?
    Thanks again Jason for such great posts, videos and classes. It’s all been really helpful.

  39. When I travel, I always look for galleries and enjoy the experience! Shipping is always an issue however so I only purchase prints that I can easily carry with me. In all other cases, I like to see the art I buy but I must admit that galleries are a bit intimidating and expensive! Being an artist and designer myself, I wanted to offer people the option to be able to buy affordable original art. This is how my business started, representing independent LOCAL artists using an online gallery. Since it is all local art, I bring the art to people to try it out and offer art consulting expertise. The art is more affordable because it is online yet very accessible because it is local. I think the combination of both seems to be working for me so far! Thanks for the interesting read..

  40. Hi there!
    I read your posts regularly. The posts as well as the comments are truly enriching. Kudos to you! And best wishes always. I live in Mumbai and manage artists on a freelance basis. Can we talk about sponsorship for artists sometime? Would like to hear your experience regarding this. Have a good day!

  41. Two things left out of Jason’s piece:
    1) Some art can not be reproduced online or in printed publications. They can ONLY be truly seen in person. My work involves metallic paints and they simply don’t reproduce. Not to mention that even static 2D paintings are often not really static and the effect of a piece varies as the viewer changes position. 3D art is even worse. Getting a true impression of any piece involves seeing it from potentially infinite angles and distances.
    2) The gallery experience needs to evolve in the direction of more thoughtful and rewarding experiences for the buyers. Bookstores went thru a revolution when places to sit and browse publications were added. Not to mention places to EAT. This is intuitively difficult for galleries since they are ALWAYS trying to show more art and ALWAYS need more space to do so. BUT. I would argue that galleries need to show less art (per artist) and provide a place to sit and REALLY LOOK at pieces, preferably with a beverage (even alcoholic) in hand. Any brick and mortar business that doesn’t become a social organism is going to be struggling. Most galleries operate on the basis of providing someone to answer questions with no place to sit and look. On the basis that “art sells itself” and all you have to do is write up the sale. How many gallery owners watch how often and how long staff chat up buyers? How many galleries provide workshops for buyers about how to buy art? How many galleries work with interior decorators to host workshops on how to create beautiful environments in the home and how to do it cheaply?

    It is hard to run a gallery without any of these factors, but galleries that just display art, write up sales and wait for buyers to come in are going to go out of business.

  42. An excellent and thoughtful piece. I’ve been following your posts for some time but this is the first time I’ve commented. I’ve been thinking a great deal about this because I sell well, usually very well, when my work is seen (but live in an area packed with artists and with few galleries). But because of its nature it needs to be physically seen, and online selling hasn’t worked for me. Books are an interesting comparison. People said the book was dying or dead a while back. But now Kindle sales are dwindling, and look what beautiful objects many books being produced now are! A pleasure to touch and see (and read). We’re told people are buying experiences not things. So we need to make buying art a treat, an experience.

  43. I’m not worried. People like to get out of the house and shop, and go to galleries just to look at beautiful things. If your gallery, or any business, has something about it that makes people want to go there regardless, it will withstand anything. In my old like ours was a roadside attraction and we had plenty of art buyers.

  44. In regards to outdoor art fairs and festivals, I live in Michigan and have seen multiple artists who work was destroyed by winds at an outdoor event. First, is that their fault for not securing it or do they rely on insurance money to cover it? I know there are lots of events, but after paying the booth fees, all the set-up equipment, and potential damages, how are artists able to make that work?

  45. Hard to add much more. While the sale of art via the internet will grow, the true love and purchase of art is quite personal and a journey so many real buyers will continue to take. The cold simplicity of buying online will never replace a first time and repeat art buyer’s journey from interest, to illumination, to close in viewing of brush and pallet knife strokes. The journey will survive.

    Great introspective and thank you for sharing your vision!

  46. It’s a dying industry. 10 or more well known gallery’s have closed here in Dublin Ireland in the last few years. One or two new ones also popped up and only lasted about 2 years.

  47. Hmmm . . . guess someone didn’t like my reply. Perhaps I didn’t make it clear enough. What I’ve observed, and it IS just my opinion (but shared with many) is that I am seeing a couple of trends here. Both have to do with wealth and status. It seems we are regressing to a time when only the wealthy were able to support and enjoy original art. When the printing press arrived, citizens of ordinary (average) means were finally able to enjoy art, albeit not “original” art. During the 1980’s and 90’s, I sold quite a bit of artwork, mostly to those of modest means who were still willing to shell out an amount I was happy with. And that was true of my fellow artists’ experiences who also catered mainly to the middle class. What I believe has happened more recently, is that THIS particular market (middle class) has turned to buying reproductions found in discount stores, and even hardware stores, because now they “look” like paintings (that is, they have brush-like textures, etc.) and they are SO much cheaper than original art! This middle-class market, which I once relied upon and which at one time supported me, can no longer be relied upon (for me, anyway – but I’ve heard the same thing from other artists). I am trying to approach this market differently. Since I am fighting an onslaught of cheap prints from overseas, produced by some companies which have STOLEN original work from artists to make their reproductions from, I have gone the reproduction route myself – making reproductions that are “reasonably” priced and targeted to the area I live in, and the people I do business with. I have found that people are willing to buy my reproductions, and while some artists may frown upon this, I can keep painting and/or taking photographs and be able to pay my expenses. Artists who have no money worries like I do can frown all they want – but this is the reality in my world, and I do think technology has put a damper on selling original art to the middle-class masses who I believe could shell out the money for some original artwork, but seem to think that cheap reproductions made overseas are “just as good”. And they don’t seem to care to be “educated” concerning original artwork, either. Price is the bottom line.

  48. Mr. Horejs – I really would appreciate it if you would engage with me on this issue. I do not believe that all the education, all the salesmanship in the world, is NOT going to convince the people in the market I deal in (middle class) to spend the money to own a piece of original art. Technology and overseas markets have combined to destroy this market, which a lot of artists once looked to for support. Not all of us deal in the very high end of things, you know. So, I am arguing that it is not only a wearisome prospect to try to convince someone to buy original art when they “reasonably” argue that mass-produced prints from discount stores “look just as good, and are 1/4 of the price”, but I don’t have the time nor the resources to try to educate or convince them. Instead, I have to accommodate to what THEY want: cheap, but good, “art”. If this is in the form of a reproduction, so be it. It doesn’t mean I can’t continue to paint. But my chances of selling the original painting versus selling reproductions of it have dropped dramatically! Please engage me on this. I really would like to know what you think.

  49. I was lucky to be involved and developed a gallery back in 2003-2004 that did very well for one year, our model was a “show” experience with the main artist. We made a profit and packed Santana Row with people who spent money in most every shop. Experience
    is the key, something you can’t buy online. I would love to help and foster new projects.

    leo 408-836-5935

  50. Interesting you should use music as a comparison. A very young generation found all this new tech exiting,and thought being lazy would become a thing it did and many new things hatched from it. But hey if you have never been to a live Music experience you have not fully experienced it yet. Now bands go back to vinyl and make most of their money playing live. Same for galleries this tech trend will increase for sure but will never replace living physical art in any form the 2 will co exist humans are not as dumb as digital thinks.

  51. Interesting article. My wife sold to people like Disney, tv shows, celebs in LA in the eighties & nineties as an abstract painter. She started using the computer as a medium
    And also started doing classic cars. Her audience changed. The galleries have no clue
    On where art is goin & to whom. At best they are repeating the fifties. The skill set is down. Graffiti all over the place. 50% doesn’t at all relate.

  52. Terrific perspective! Tough for both sides. Once an artist elects to self promote all value to a gallery of that artist is gone and extremely tough to recover. The relationship between galleries and artists can be a very slippery slope. Lots of miscommunications and distrust whether what art is acceptable and how does the artists get paid. Too many galleries use the “float” to build their businesses which is unforgivable. If you don’t have the cash reserves or cash flow to promptly pay an artist you should not take in their works. While original works do sell online, I believe the real online market is in paper pieces. Finally, there are many great artists whose works sell themselves. That said, the majority of art sells because a gallery owner/manager believes in the artist and is able to clearly and convincing explain why to a potential customer/client. This aspect of the gallery business takes trust which can only be built by a very close partnership relationship between gallery and artist.

  53. Hi, i think that i saw you visited my weblog so i got here to go back the favor?.I’m trying to find things to improve my site!I guess its adequate to use some of
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