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 decry 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 ten years to a point where online sales make up about 15% of total revenue.

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 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, Premiere Pro, 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 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 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 and other online art retailer’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!

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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

45 Comments

  1. It is easier and easier to get exposure online these days to a worldwide market. However, that does equal instant sales for the artist. The age old idea that people want to know the artist as well as have an interest in collecting their work. I am finding more and more now days that the more I get out and interact with my collectors the more sales I get. It may seem like the statistics are pointing in that direction. I still think the more steam the internet and online sales gather steam the more they will become their own worst enemy!

  2. Jason,

    You’ve left out one very important point above. Art sales through galleries has taken a severe downturn because many of them are simply not prepared to think outside of the box. The Castellis, Guggenheims, etc took risks in showing new artists – but they DID have the kudos in being utterly instrumental in introducing and perpetuating new talent.

  3. Thanks, Jason. Your articles are always helpful and insightful. I have been selling art online that is typically in the lower price ranges, eg. small works and giclee repros of my larger paintings. I have sold paintings up to 24 x 36 in an earlier brushy style from online or back then from only a photo, but not any of my largest works yet , which is highly detailed and tends not to show as well (I don’t think) in digital as it does when one stands in front of it and absorbs the experience so-to-speak. Having said that, I did sell a large painting that a couple had seen in person at least 5 years previous. The sale was done online, but they originally saw the painting in person.

    We are currently in an historic home which we use for a gallery, and I agree, people tend to visit for the art walks or my open studio partly for the experience or night out with a spouse. We try to accommodate by giving them a lovely atmosphere, some light refreshments, but so far the events that have been most successful are the less-frequent, invitation events for which people can plan ahead, and we do a bit more with the foods. In other words, more emphasis on the pleasure of the art-buying experience as you mentioned above. So for us, no I don’t think we can eliminate the gallery experience.

  4. Excellent article Jason. I believe very strongly in all you said, both about on line purchasing of art and gallery purchasing. Two of my galleries fell through the recession but then more have come to me with invitations to show my work in their galleries. Even a brand new one just opened. I thought some clients purchasing, as you said, will have not problem buying on line but then there are still and always will be, I feel, those who want the touch, feel and eye of the art.
    Thank you for your blogs. Geri

  5. Great article Jason. I agree with your point that technology is having a profound affect on the art world. I still think collecting art is a very personal and emotional experience, and that most people like to purchase in person. I show in Maui and the collectors I interact with really enjoy meeting the artist and making that connection. Once that is established I think they are far more likely to acquire more work via the internet. Keep up the good work!

  6. Hi Jason, this is the most balanced, accurate and honest article I’ve read about the future of galleries and art sales. Several nationally known artists and I “chat” about these things through email. I can’t say who they are, but I will say this.

    They have worked with galleries, museum shows and have had many articles in art magazines Recently, they’ve been distraught over their galleries closing or their art not selling to the point where they are no longer making a living. I can say for sure that thee artist friends do NOT want to sell work on their own if they don’t have to. They’d prefer to work with galleries, but it’s just not working for them at this point, and they’re not sure what to do. These are traditional, long-standing career artists who have mastered their craft and are reluctant to change their style.

    Not sure what to tell them. I’m going to share your blog/ article on Facebook and forward the link to a few through email. This is an important article! Not only because it’s honest, but it’s written by a successful gallery owner who also has an entrepreneurial curiosity and willingness to experiment with changes that are taking place.

    Bravo Jason! Thank you so much. I’ll re-read this a few times and I’m looking forward to seeing how you work with changes in the industry.
    Lori

  7. The traditional Art Gallery is and will always be a large part of the art world. Any statement that declares “art galleries are dead” or “painting is dead” is not useful nor ever accurate.
    Thank you Jason for providing your comprehensive pro and cons to this and all issues!

  8. Hi Jason – yet another great article and advice.
    I do NOT believe galleries will disappear and fully agree that it is a forever changing world – and digital is where it’s at. I like to touch artwork – and see it up close at an exhibit. That should never change. But…Galleries and Artists need to adapt to this new tech world. And Jason – you help all of this with this – thank you for you.

    I am not in many galleries – only one really that is consistently interested in my work and sells my work on a regular basis. http://www.studiobgallery.com/
    I sell more online and in person… I don’t sell through my ‘store’ on website. and thinking of removing it. Which brings me to a question: How do you feel about galleries not allowing e-commerce on their represented artists’ personal websites?

    Thanks!

  9. Thanks for your insight Jason. I agree with you that this is (still) a period of grand transformation in the art-gallery-artist world. I equate the internet to the period of the gold rush -reality being that it is still so relatively young, and how the dust settles is yet to be seen. This being said, the effect of the internet on the art-world has been profound as you’ve pointed out, yet I believe that the visual arts have an ‘organic’ element that will always be cause for ‘brick-and-mortar’ contact. As you’ve demonstrated with your art business ideas, it will take flexibility and forward thinking to rise to the top. I have had a website for several years, which tends (for me) to work more as a digital portfolio. I have much more success at exhibition sales, and have decided to continue towards promoting my own studio visits (open studio) where clients can (and want) that organic interaction with the artist, the process, and the artwork.
    Love your blogs Jason!
    Jenniferlee

  10. Oh, also wanted to say that the artists I know who are still working with galleries are those who prefer NOT to sell on their own. They don’t sell directly behind the gallery’s back. I myself, have chosen to sell without galleries because I do enjoy self-marketing and talking with potential buyers. Plus, I don’t get enough time in the studio to supply a gallery and by selling through my website, I can post the work with a “buy now” button without worrying about how much inventory I have.

    That said, most of the artists I know personally would rather just be in the studio and not have to sell or market their work. Thing is, even artists who would prefer to leave everything to the gallery need to know how to self-promote online. (my opinion).

  11. Hi , I am fortunate to live in a small bedroom community in a river town 30/45 miles from a major metropolitan city . This town is going for it ! They have been renovating the old downtown buildings for a while now and they house funky , independent restaurants & shops and one block from the river and park . We have big center for the musical art& visual arts and a community-art center and a hospital that hosts healing with the arts shows and a Art Fest with actual ( Art Buyers !) Besides all of that TWO Art Gallery’s downtown that i have seen move into bigger & better locations since i moved here in 1991 . One of those moves was just in October . One of these galleries is very eclectic has a in house silk artisan that offers classes and well attended first Fridays featuring new art show for the month.Both of these galleries are beautiful !

    I have been thinking about how incredible all this has been for a while and just had to share .

  12. Having been a full time artist sine I finished my studies at the Art Institute Of Boston in 1971, I have seen so many changes in the fine art business, not all of them good. The rise of on-line marketing has leveled the playing field and now anyone, regardless of their ability talent or resume,’ can put up a website and post their work via many venues in social media. Gone are the days when, in order to sell you work, you had to go through various screening or jurying processes in a gallery. No longer. Just post whatever whatever you want to call art and watch the accolades and praises pour in! Over the decades I have had relationships with many dozens of fine art galleries, most of which have now closed for the reasons that Jason has noted. The ones that are surviving are inundated with artists wanting a replacement venue for their galleries that have closed. Too many artists and not enough galleries. I treasure the long lasting relationships that I have with my surviving galleries (since 1989) and have seen their sales diminish significantly sine 2008. My on-line sales approximate those of the Xanadu Gallery, about 15%. It is a lot of work to build and maintain a quality online presence and the returns are not yet what I would expect from so much effort. As Jason noted, the competition is very, very stiff and I’m not sure of the younger generations ability to discern good art from bad art due to the cutbacks in arts programs in the public school systems. The issues are so complicated and I’m not at all sure when this will all lead.

  13. I laughed out loud when I read the title of the post. Yes, markets are changing, but art galleries aren’t going anywhere. We are still human beings and need the tactile, the ambiance, the social interaction, and the professional tact of the gallery. I just went to two opens a few weekends ago. Both scenes were alive and jumpin’. Long live the gallerie!

  14. Jason: Great comments as always!

    As you know I have operated my gallery for about 17 years now, focused only on my own work and I wish I could say that the future of B&M galleries was bright, but I cannot. Unfortunately physical galleries with fixed high overheads are seeing a tsunami of competition from so many non-traditional sources. I wish I could say that online was the answer, but I can’t seem to crack that nut. There are many innovative ways to present work online, (virtual galleries, etc) but the real challenge is to find a way of attracting interested buyers to your art. Just look at how many artists there are on Amazon Handmade for example, and how many actually sell. Trying to stand out from the crowd feels like being a snowflake in a snowstorm.

  15. Versatility has been my approach. Photoshop is a great sales tool to show a client what a commission might look like. I just was dealing with one of my galleries with this approach. Their client (interior designer) was looking for an odd sized painting to fit over a fireplace mantle. They sent me a jpg of the fireplace under construction. I was able to take an image of my painting that they liked and fit it into the scene. The client can then make a decision based on a computer generated image. All of this was done via cell phone and email. I’m currently finishing a diptych (abstract)for a design firm’s country club project. The same approach was taken. I am comfortable working direct to designers but for paintings sold on consignment I would rather work with galleries. They are primarily needed as quality control gate keepers for new/young buyers of art.

  16. Hi Jason, I just participated in an established county-wide Art Studios Tour (Fri,Sat and Sun) for the second year. Last year I displayed a limited number of my paintings and prints on the walls of my working studio. This year, prior to the tour, I constructed a 12 x 24 foot dedicated gallery on the lower floor of my studio with a large amount of tract lighting and wall space in order to more effectively display my work. Our guests were very impressed with the organized layout of the gallery and the enhanced viability of the work. I also noticed that for this year’s event, there was much more connection between the viewer and the paintings, as well as enhanced dialogue about the various pieces, not only with me but among other visitors. I firmly believe that galleries are here to stay! Before next year’s Studios Tour, I plan to double the size of the gallery space to 24 x 24 feet!

  17. Jason,
    Your article shows why your gallery is still around and thriving, while many others are not. Your idea of embracing all of the changes currently happening and those coming in the future, seems to be a good idea for all of us.

  18. Jason, I think this is an outstanding article that should be read by all artists as well as gallery owners. I have seen this evolution happening for some time and have even commented here previously about this slowly moving shift away from the gallery system for the sales of art. The internet continues to grow rapidly in size and importance in our everyday life and the art world and artists need to take note. Bravo for you contributing to this conversation.

    I have read several estimates that sales of art on the internet is now bigger than gallery sales, although it is still difficult to authentic. What may be happening is that art sales overall are growing due to the internet and also at nearly the same rate rate of growth of internet sales in general. And art sales on the internet are being aided by the fact that more buyers are willing to buy online often sight unseen without needing to stand in front of and closely examine an art work before buying. And being able to talk to the artist may be a nice perk for a buyer but it is seeming not to be so essential for a sale. And finally buyers are learning they can return an art work if they don’t like it just like they can return a pair of shoes to Amazon if they don’t like them.

    In general the culture of buying online is expanding rapidly and is being nurtured by the growth of more sophisticated internet marketing techniques worldwide. Both artists and galleries need to be aware of this and need to develop strategies to make use of the internet to market artworks. Galleries need to see their clientele as more than just whoever comes in their door and artists need to become aware of the need to be more involved in the marketing of their art. And both need to become more sophisticated at employing the internet to sell art.

  19. Spot On Jason. As a motorcyclist, the safety course teaches scan 4 seconds ahead, expect the unexpected, react accordingly.
    So here’s my analogy for a what it’s worth. 4 second ahead at 60 mph probably should mean 4 years ahead for an artist and gallerist. Expect the unexpected probably means the same for us all. Be ever ready to spot and maximize a good thing, and be agile enough to dodge a bad thing. (your body and your momentum tell you the difference – listen to it).
    Also- we 2 wheelers with a motor know that the real adventure is the journey- every bend in the road, every hill either way, every time, and never the same. It’s also more fun if you are travelling with someone to share the experience. HA- Artist AND Gallerist.
    So I keep my eyes on the horizon, and use my skills to negotiate the road.
    What do you think?
    In the end, we have to be opportunists because the “road is so crowded” but being aware of the “traffic around you” only makes you able to think more globally and take advantage of every situation pro or con.

  20. Great article. I think so many galleries and artists misunderstand the structure of the art industry. There are multiple tiers within this structure just like with any other market sector or social structure. I’ll define three that both the gallery and artist fall under.

    The ” Boutique”.
    Galleries that rely on random chance of making a retail sale to someone who happens to walk in to their store or someway discover them through the saturated online content. These galleries mostly generate income through local and regionally represented artists. These galleries are also the ones who close there doors or change there marketing plan regardless of the economic historical timeline.
    Artists who only go as far as creating a website and staying current through social media and rely on galleries to do the rest.
    Both of these cater to the low end of the price spectrum and are mostly selling art to a decor based clientele.

    The “Merchandisers”.
    Galleries who have an established clientele of collectors, designers and dealers who have repeat requests for commissions and new material. Most of these galleries have one or two artists that make up the majority of there sales. These galleries follow the the traditional approach to sales basing their success on retail sales volume to the mass consumer market.
    Artists who have an accelorated level of online social media connection through email newsletters, updated progress on projects and interactive sales influence to their followers. These artists participate in juried art sales events and have a retail line of prints of originals and other retail merchandise including printed publications and limited edition screen prints. Artists who lisence their content to third parties. The majority of sales are to supporter fan based and entry level collector clientele and fall under the $5k price point.

    The “Exclusive”.
    Galleries who have an established clientele of brokers, museums, institutions and auction houses. These galleries participate in international art sales events around the world. These galleries make purchases of art and often have their own collections. These galleries are featured in industry wide publications both in print and online. These galleries have expert professional curators. These galleries have a clientel that consists of mature collectors. These galleries create the market for the artists they represent.
    Artists who often represent themselves through their own gallery name. Artists who advertise themselves in printed and online publications. Artist who represent themselves at international art sales events both domestic and internationally. Artists who are represented by exclusive entities that have earned their 40 to 50 percent commission while they are still alive. This sector is at the top of the price point.

    The gallery and the artist aren’t going anywhere. The level of inclusion at the given target market is what determines attrition. The buying experience for the collector is still the key. Having an online presence doesn’t mean that your reaching your target market. Creating a market, networking with industry leading resources and staying active in international exposure is the rule. Unless you’re representing Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons or Peter Max, you should be exploiting your artists and repertoire at the highest level of exposure that’s available.
    As an artist you need to establish the difference between the definition of art and artist. Art is merely an adjective that defines the artist. You are the venue that creates the reason why the industry will recognize you. Be unique in your method of how you generate contemplation and provocation.

    So many galleries and artists view themselves as “small Business'” and that is the reason why so many small businesses fail.

  21. I live in LA and it’s probably a bit of a different scene than other parts of the country. The art scene is booming. By that I mean there must be 10-30 art events of some kind EACH week. The trick seems to be to make it a “happening”. It’s entertainment and people come as something to do. Social media is used to promote the events. It gets your art exposed. There are tons of galleries and seems like new ones all the time. The Downtown Arts District is growing like crazy. My point is that here, at least, it seems like social media is used to bring people to events as opposed to making on-line sales – although I have no way of saying if that is happening as well. As always, either on-line or brick-and-mortar, competition is fierce for people’s attention.

  22. I 100% agree that many galleries still need to gain a better command of technology. It’s imperative that they are able to move as quickly as those artists who are able to aggressively market themselves online. But there is more to digital marketing than just sales–there is the story of the artist, which I think only the gallery can tell best. I don’t think that collectors really understand what they’re buying until they see it in person. The idea that you are buying something you like enough to live with seems a little thin in the online context. Maybe that’s the permanent change ahead, but I think even farther ahead there is the potential for the handmade object to take a new and higher importance in our ever-more-automated world.

  23. As an artist I am also not too worried. I think galleries are somewhat like books, some people will switch to kindle but others want to own a book with pages to turn. I prefer seeing art for myself as online images does not do it justice, others do not. My problem is not the changing technologies or galleries or no galleries it is the courage and confidence to actually do it all and believe in myself. I think ultimately, that is where the problem lies with those who don’t succeed.

  24. “Third, galleries are going to have to place a lot more emphasis on the art-buying experience than the process”

    I’ve had my best year ever and the bulk of my sales are coming from galleries. I believe the galleries that are emphasizing the experience are the ones with the greatest sales..

  25. I am currently showing Santa Fe N.M. artist, Sandra Duran Wilson, here in regional Australia (www.fyregallery.com.au) and her work is getting rave reviews. People want to see the art “in the flesh” if they can, but I have also sold several works from ALTITUDE on line to folk who cannot travel to Braidwood NSW where my gallery is physically located. Sandra is very active on her own behalf on line and her followers in the US have been very interested to see what she is doing on this side of the Pacific. I have been running my gallery for 15 years and I deliberately build relationships with local and international artists (specifically in the USA) to bring work on paper to the widest audience possible. Making the experience of showing and selling art as good as it can possibly be, while looking after the artists who work with me is the only way for my gallery to survive, and I work at it every day in every way I can think of, taking help and inspiration from anyone who can show me how to be even better in the future.

  26. I’ve seen my favorite gallery in the SW close six years ago and it was traumatic … it was an iconic, traditional gallery in a landmark building. It was owned by knowledgeable partners (they retired), and they held an annual competition that was internationally recognized. *sigh* So rare ….
    I think galleries are going through the same angst artists are … what type art to feature and what business model is successful. What works in one region won’t in another. What sells here won’t sell there. Is this a trend or just another fad that will pass in a year? How do legitimate artists compete in a glut market with so few galleries? Good luck figuring any of that out. Art is in a state of flux and will be for some time.
    What artists must understand is representation isn’t a sure path (or only path) to sales and success. Leaving selling to a gallery so we can go paint will disappoint. You’re your own advocate and must continue self promotion. You’re partnering with a gallery.
    I’ve been in and out of galleries and have had fair success marketing myself. I’ve developed a following and invest considerable time in maintaining that relationship.
    The main problem I see repeated in closed galleries is the democratic business model … art for everyone, usually low to mid range prices. In trying to offer something for every budget prices dropped along with the quality. To quote an old car salesman who owned eight dealerships … Mercedes, BMW, Lincoln, Audi, Porsche, Lexus: I asked him why these and not US automakers. His answer; “Because it takes more effort to sell a pickup truck than it does a luxury car and the profit margin is lower.”
    Beyond that, no trip to any city is complete without a visit to a local art gallery. Long may they reign and thrive ….

    1. Thanks Jackie. I agree with what you say here. Especially this part:
      What artists must understand is representation isn’t a sure path (or only path) to sales and success. Leaving selling to a gallery so we can go paint will disappoint. You’re your own advocate and must continue self promotion. You’re partnering with a gallery.”

  27. As an artist, I think the changes that are happening are good for me. Yes, we are being treated better by galleries these days but why is that? When we look at history, who are remembered & admired, the galleries or the artists?

  28. I think people are seeking authentic experiences and relationships, and many (but certainly not all) art buyers want to get to know the artists they are supporting. This relationship building can happen with a gallery (openings and artist talks, or online video interviews) or without (open studios being the prime example, but creative web sites/videos also apply). I know some artists find it hard to interact with the general public/ potential buyers, but the more you can put yourself out there and be comfortable talking about your art and your creative process, the better off you’ll be in the long run, with or without a gallery. I think galleries will continue to play an important role, but only the fittest/ most adaptive will survive!

  29. Thank you Jason for an excellent article. I think this is a wait and see situation. It is challenging to maintain any business that depends on sales. Commercial real estate has become a risky investment. Many sales are made online and art is no exception. As a collector I have purchased art only after seeing it in person but often when I least expect it and just because it speaks to me. As an artist I am just starting out and have thought a bit about the Gallery situation. I have found that I enjoy showing my work (I’ve only shown a few paintings) but am unsure about giving a Gallery exclusive rights to sell the work in the future. Maybe a painting will show in a space for a month . At the end of the month if my art does not sell then I would like to market the painting on my own or with other contacts that I have developed myself. For me, the show is a place to have a discussion about the work in person and I really enjoy listening to viewer comments but it may seem unrealistic to sell in that short time frame. I think that I read that most art sells before the show or opening night. Artists might need more time to sell and they might need to increase venues to get their work in front of as many viewers as possible.

  30. I think artworks are like people – some photograph a lot better than they look in real life! Importantly thought, many of the images online are photographs taken at a low resolution and this can distort the colours of the original artwork. So while I think it’s important to have a web presence, and can acknowledge the role it plays in ‘pre-shopping’, I think you really need to see the artwork in real life before you can judge it properly and see if it ‘calls’ to you.

  31. I’ve been selling my work online for years with okay success, although I’ve sold over 400 paintings in the last five years. Still, the marketing aspect, which I do all on my own… FB, Instagram, blogging, e-mails, website maintenance, etc. can be exhausting and leave less time for painting, specially now that my paintings and prints are selling faster. So, I would love someone to help with that part of the process and that is where I am coming around to looking for gallery representation. So, no I don’t think the need of the gallery will go away, I just think galleries have to rethink their role in the relationship between them, the artists, and the patrons, and how the internet fits in those connections.

  32. One thing that needs to addressed is the enormous overhead of a gallery paying rent. In a big city where they jack up rents simply because they can, even the best gallery could get priced out. That along with other factors addressed here to don’t do any favors to the brick and mortar type galleries. The over abundance of artists is also a factor.

  33. I do not believe that galleries are going to disappear. The rapport and relationship that a gallery builds with its base of collectors and clients is indispensable for future success. The gallery will have to play a more consultative role. In addition, in my personal opinion, buying a piece of original artwork, $5-1ok and over, on-line is a bit ridiculous. It would be like buying an expensive fur coat or diamond ring on line. Never! The buyer needs to personally see and experience the piece. However, I recognize and agree that the limited print market lends itself to an e-commerce platform and I am all for that. You make some very excellent points Jason in your article to which I need to get cracking on. I agree that better social media marketing by galleries will be one of the keys to success in the future.

  34. This is for sure a timely article and very carefully thought out. Thank you.
    I always wonder when I read an article about struggling galleries if the marketing model I saw as an art director for Intercoiffure might work. This organization brought together the best salons in the world to market and gain awareness. The salons had to be judged into Intercoiffure. There was no one style or image.
    As an art director, I went to shows, photo shoots and designed ads for Bazaar, Vogue mag and other top style magazines.
    The advantage also was that they had support and networking.
    Just a thought.

  35. Just read through all the comments, and this thought popped into my head: What experience do the majority of art buyers actually prefer? Has anyone done research with art buyers? Do they actually prefer shopping for art online in the comfort of their home, or do they prefer to travel to the gallery and see it in person?

    It also occurs to me that most of what is sold at a B&M gallery to people who enter the door – they are locals or seasonal visitors. That’s a limited market. Recently, a popular annual art event in the southwest – where every work is sold by draw – started accepting names by phone and email. Then the gallerist put the names of those who live remotely into the boxes for the drawing. I’ve been to that show for 20 years, and it used to be that collectors flew in from all over the country to attend opening night to personally drop their names into the box for the paintings they wanted. No longer… just a phone or email will do.

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