In my last post, a part of our How Galleries Work series, I wrote about the process galleries use to select artists. Today’s installment in the series will be more nuts and bolts as I explore how we create our wall labels and tags.
This may seem like an inconsequential topic, but I’ve found that providing information to potential buyers in an accessible, simple format is extremely helpful in making sales. I have long been an advocate of giving viewers as much information as possible as they peruse the gallery. I have found that making it easy for a viewer to find the name of the artist, the title of a piece, and, most importantly, an artwork’s price, facilitates the sales process.
While this seems like common sense to me, I’ve been in a number of galleries that don’t provide easy access to the information. I remember visiting a gallery in Vancouver, B.C., a few years ago and finding pins with small numbers next to each piece of artwork. The numbers corresponded with price lists that the gallery staff would hand out upon request.
I can see the appeal of this approach. The pins were small and subtle and didn’t interfere with the aesthetics of the display. A client asking for a price list allowed the gallery staff to interact with the visitor, and the request for a price list alerted the staff to the client’s interest.
I see several problems with this arrangement, however. First, when the gallery is full and the staff busy, it can be difficult to get the attention of a staff member. During busy times, some clients wouldn’t be able to ask the staff for a price sheet and would be left to wonder at the pricing. Second, printing a new pricelist every time inventory changed would be a chore. During our busy season, we may sell 4-5 pieces in a day. Each shift in inventory would necessitate a newly printed price list.
Prominently displaying the price also reassures clients that there is no funny business going on with the pricing. I remember reading of a gallery in L.A. where the staff was trained to hand out different price lists depending upon the client’s apparel and the car in which the client pulled up.
Displaying a piece’s price allows the viewer to instantly ascertain whether the piece is in within his or her price range. It also serves as a subtle reminder that we are not a museum, and that everything on display is for sale.
How We Do It
When I first started in the business in the 1990’s, the gallery where I worked would type price tags on cards using an electric Smith Corona typewriter. I took it upon myself to create a database for the gallery that could print labels, thereby bringing them into the twentieth century. When I opened my own gallery, I knew that I wanted to have an inventory system that was integrated with our website and able to create wall labels for the art.
We played around with a number of different ways we could accomplish this. Ultimately, we decided that the best approach would be to use clear Avery™ labels. We would print all of the information about the art right on the label and then adhere it to the wall next to the piece. These clear labels were subtle and worked on any color wall.
Though the underlying system we use to create these labels has changed, the principle is the same. After we consign a piece of artwork from an artist and hang it in the gallery, we print a label and place it next to the piece of art on the wall.
We now use our online inventory system ARTsala.com for our inventory. It provides similar functionality for artists who need to track inventory and print labels. One particularly handy feature of ARTsala is that it allows you to print a whole sheet of different labels if you have a lot of art to label, or it will allow you to print just one label if that is all you need. You can run the label sheets multiple times through an inkjet printer, making it so that you never waste a blank label.
Just as I try to hang all of the artwork at the same level, I try to get the labels at a uniform level as well. The center of hanging artwork in the gallery is 60″, and the labels typically hang at 54″.
For the sculpture in the gallery we stick the label to heavy, folded cardstock. This card then sits on the pedestal next to the sculpture.
In addition to informational wall tags, we also display narratives next to a number of pieces in the gallery. If the artist has provided us with a story about a particular piece, we type it up on a half sheet of cardstock and use two-sided tape to hang the narrative next to the art.
These narratives are another great tool in the sales process. Many buyers enjoy learning the story and inspiration behind a piece. Providing the work with a narrative allows those buyers who are interested to dive deeper and learn more.
I’m planning to write an in-depth post about creating vinyl wall signage, so I will just briefly mention that we recently purchased a vinyl cutting machine that allows us to create our own wall signs. These signs are very effective for drawing clients’ attention to a featured artist’s work during a show.
How do you Label Your Artwork?
What approach do you use to label your artwork at a show or in your studio? How did you develop your system for labeling? Share your experience and thoughts in the comments below.
In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.