Video: Ask a Gallery Owner | The Buyer Who Disappears Without Completing Their Purchase

This week’s question:

Hi Jason, Last year, I posted a painting on Instagram that I had completed. A good friend said that she wanted to purchase it. I framed it and gave them a price which they agreed to. It has been a year. I mentioned it once but do not want to pester them. I am completely fine with them having a change of heart. I would also like to hang it in the frame shop where I hang most of my work. What should I do? Thanks, Holly, MA

This is challenging, and every artist and gallery consultant will likely face a similar situation at some point. What should you do if you run into a client who disappears? Watch to find out!

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, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. Great reply to this situation. I think we all have had this experience at one time or another as artists and or gallerists. Just being responsible and honest with the client as well as considerate can go a long way to resolving this issue. Above all do not internalize it to something being wrong with you. Life changes and being truthful to yourself and the client will help the client at least be honest as well.

    1. Excellent take Darryl, and exactly right – it’s hard not to take this kind of thing personally, but remaining professional and working to keep the lines of communication open will lead to the best outcome.

  2. A buyer is not a buyer until money changes hands. If someone shows interest in a piece of art that’s nice, but If they aren’t willing to accompany that interest with cash then thank them for their interest and move on. Most artists invest in the compliment and think it is a sale which it isn’t, knowing the difference saves a lot of disappointment.

    Th artist’s lament is “I lost a sale” or “I lost a project” , but in fact they never had that sale or project. They may have talked about a sale or project but that does no mean anything more than their work was considered, and consideration does not mean that the artist’s time or talent is put on hold.

    Artists need to value their talent and their time, it is their source of income and once they realize that the choices become easier, don’t let anyone waste your time or talent.

  3. I have had this experience happen a number of times; most recently with what I consider a ‘Signature’ piece that I wasn’t ready to let go of. The prospective buyer agreed to a Giclee print of the piece in the size of the original, 18 x 24 in. I sent them a leading email about discussing options on the phone instead of email or texting. No response. Should I try further? They are in my Friend Network on FB

    1. I would go ahead and follow up again. If you handle it from the perspective that you are trying to serve the client and help them get what they want, you can’t go wrong.

  4. How perfect to catch this today. I had an interested collector that wanted a pastel that was admired and the response was that they wanted to own and buy the art. It was framed ready to go and I placed an orange dot indicating an interested party. Told the individual that is what I do until our sale is finalized in case someone else may be interested after which I would notify them if they would still want the art. They understood that and now it’s been a month or so and although I see them in Church weekly we have not discussed the art work again. I saw today that my Framework was not efficient enough to lead to a successful sale. Love when the work is admired but see that the business of getting my work out does not stop there. Will work on a Framework that is practical and graceful. Have enjoyed your books and your discussions on line and in print. Thank you again. Feel confident to move on with the resolution of this particular art sale or unsale.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that the sale didn’t go through, but it’s happened to us all. It sounds like you’re doing a great job of learning from the experience and working on a better framework to successfully sell your art in the future.

  5. If a person expresses interest in a piece, I am quite willing to set a piece aside on a layaway payment plan. When I was a student at a university, I did earn a small salary. Saw the most exquisite piece of art in the window, screwed up my courage and asked about such a thing. I explained my situation and the gallery owner and I worked a modest plan. I still have the piece. The lesson is that a) if you fall in love with a piece, you will find a way. b) with a plan in place, you can sell artwork to people of modest means.

  6. With my background in corporate sales I have no problem (1) asking for the close (2) following up or (3) graciously accepting the loss of a sale (there’s always tomorrow). That said, I can tell you I have been ghosted SO. MANY. TIMES. People buy from people they like – they also sometimes have a hard time telling people they like “no thank you” – so I try to make it easy for people to respond either way. I recently sold a large (4×5′) piece, and brought the clients another they had expressed interest in to see if they wanted to try it in their new home. They were delighted with the first piece. I checked in after the had the trial piece for about a week, but they ultimately decided against the second. Very apologetic. I was as casually gracious as I could be, cheerfully made arrangements to retrieve it, and when I picked it up reassured the client there was ZERO issue. Well. She bought another 4 pieces! And is asking for my next show location. What a lovely client.

  7. On a closely related topic, I regularly see “add to cart” advice in my membership analytics on a well-known online Australian art site, but no sales ever eventuate. My partner would suggest that the “would-be collectors” were simply distracted and did not return to complete the purchase. I am not so sure. These “abandoned cart” instances happen too frequently.
    Given that the online art site jealously guards member details, I do not know the identity of the “would-be collectors”. However, the online art site promotes an abandoned cart follow-up process whereby it emails thrice a week and calls the potential collector (without appearing to harass). Fine, but my request to share the resulting anonymised findings goes nowhere. Was the artwork too large/small, was it too expensive/cheap, did you want it framed/unframed, or did you buy something else from the opportunity shop around the corner?
    So, in summary, despite the impressive statistics on artwork views, impressions, profile views and add-to-cart instances, the only thing worth receiving is an email, “Your artwork has been sold with order number #123456789”.

    1. We see a lot of this as well Dai. We’ve developed a system that follows up with folks who put the art in their cart (at least with those who get far enough along to input their email address). I suspect a lot of these abandoned carts are from folks who were mostly playing around – it takes very little effort to click the “add to cart” button online, and they were likely never planning to buy. You will occasionally get someone who was legitimately interested but got distracted, but I think those cases are pretty rare.

      1. Another thing to consider. Sometimes I go through a registration process and put something in the cart to ascertain the shipping price, if that hasn’t been made clear on the site.

  8. Great advice Jaso, as usual! I am going thru this scenario as I am listening to you podcast. My client approached me when the artwork was posted on social media. She said that she would have the money the following month. Fast forward 8 months later and I have not received any money even after suggesting a 4 month payment plan that she agreed to (with reminders sent out also). The first 2 deadlines passed with no payment received. I saw that this was getting nowhere and texted her to see if she was still interested and again was put off and given no specified time frame in which to receive a payment. I then suggested that I could have a giclee done of the artwork in various sizes and price points. I think that this was a better fit for her. She thanked me profusely and apologized and said that she would be in touch after returning from a trip. Whether that happens is yet to be seen but my gut tells me that the original sale probably would never have happened anyway and it frees up the piece to enter into juried shows.

  9. If someone expresses interest in buying a painting, and can’t purchase it immediately, tell them you will hold it off the market if they will make regularly scheduled payments. If they miss a payment, the painting goes on the market. A lot of people talk, but they don’t walk the walk.

    Also never release a painting until it is paid in full and the check clears at the bank.

  10. This post came at a perfect time for me, Jason, as our gallery made a huge sale with more than 20 pieces, and when we went to ring up mine, the patron’s credit card refused the sale. Now all of us have waited for the patron to show proof of identity, but no proof. Our attorney says further action will occur after 65 days, about mid September. This blog reassured me that it happens. BTW, the patron’s credit card has been cancelled.

  11. In this situation, waiting for the art to be framed, the seller could do as you suggest, but add at that time: “By the way, when I frame my work, it usually goes on the wall (in this case in the frame shop), so I will contact you before I hang it. If for any reason you cannot commit at that time, and it is sold, then I can paint something similar for you in the future.”

  12. What up if they say they are still interested and will you hold it for them (how long) but have an excuse they are working on some financing i.e. mortgages or other issues? Should you NOT put it in the gallery and possibly miss a real sale or do you have to agree to continue to hold it for them with the possibility they will not come back due to issues. How would you word that.

    1. Definitely give a short time to have the artwork on hold (say 5 days), and stipulate that after this time it will be displayed in the gallery and up for sale. Have this in writing – either email or text etc.
      Or take a 10 percent non-refundable deposit, with terms that the full amount is finalised in a set amount of time (eg: 4weeks). At a set agreed date, the deposit will be forfeited if full amount not paid. This should all be in a written contract or email.
      If the “client” really wants it, they will put it on their credit card !

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