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Throughout time, artists have been challenged, not only with creating beautiful works, but placing them into the world. When I get together with artists, musicians and creatives, there is always a discussion about reconciling the need to create and the need to pay the bills. Most artists, including myself, are happiest when we are working on our craft and not spending time on marketing/accounting, grant and proposal writing etc. Recently, I was discussing with several artists, the merits of gallery representation vs. going it solo. Here’s some of what I thought about.
I love to paint and create works because it allows me to express myself and because I believe I have something important to say. The fact that I can start to support myself and my family through the sales of that work, is a bonus. My bottom line is that I would create whether I got paid for it or not. That became painfully apparent to me in the past year as I struggled through cancer, and was unable to paint. I felt my soul had been sucked out and I was never going to be able to communicate from my soul again. The sweet spot is to find the beautiful balance of paying the bills and creating thoughtful, deep works that may not be commercially ‘en vogue.’
Some artists paint/create purely to earn income. When that happens, you’re then faced with defining your markets and finding the best agent, gallery or self-representation platform available. You have to think like a business person.
I’ve been making art (as an adult) since 1989. I have changed, and so has my work. Over the years, I’ve seen several market trends cycle through — enough to know that if times are bad….keep making art, and it will all come around. The internet has made huge changes in the art market on every level — local, regional and international selling agents and artists have all benefitted greatly from an open global market and the abundant research that accompanies it. Not to mention the collectors, who can now easily access information about artists and their works from any place on the globe.
I would encourage everyone to find out what works best for them — some artists like working with physical galleries, who then use the internet themselves for marketing and selling purposes. Some artists like taking control of their own marketing. I’ve done both and at this point in my life, I really appreciate a good relationship with a physical gallery vs. selling online and going it alone. I also appreciate the accessibility of the web and love writing this blog. I maintain a website that directs clients to the galleries that represent me.
There are no end to blogs and information, opinion and critical discourse on the merits of artists and their work and there are a number of very reputable online platforms for artists to go it on their own. Many artists are selling their fine art paintings on Saatchi. With a good international reputation based on a bricks and mortar model, Saatchi’s aggressive search engine placement program is burning up the online art sales. Their brand name instills confidence in collectors across the globe. Other artists go to ‘print on demand’ services online such as Fine Art America, a company with a longer history that makes it economical for the starting artist to sell their original work and print on demand to clients who are not yet ready for the original art market.
What about the audience? The collector? The buyer?
“Since sites selling art online are unencumbered by the physical infrastructure of the traditional gallery or auction house, they can also make their commissions lower and the whole business of buying art much cheaper and more accessible. Buyers can discover new art and potentially build a whole collection from the comfort of their own homes, not the occasionally intimidating setting of a gallery. In the highly fragmented art market, bringing art and art buyers together wherever they are in the world is no bad thing either.” — Forbes Magazine
For me personally, I enjoy the face to face interaction with reputable galleries who have their own internet marketing strategies. In my opinion this is the best of both worlds. There is a distinct relationship between the artist and the dealer, and then the dealer and the gallery. The galleries that I work with all have different approaches, streamed towards their clientele — from local, to corporate, to regional and international. They all have websites and good social media campaigns that keep the work foremost in the collector’s minds. I currently work with four galleries for my work, and they all have beautiful, well-presented work in their street addresses as well as good websites, easily navigated and finely featuring the work. Please visit the galleries that represent my work to see those examples; Bluerock Gallery, Black Diamond, AB; Canada House Gallery, Banff, AB; Effusion Art Gallery, Invermere, BC; and Gibson Fine Art, Calgary, AB.
In the end, make choices which allow you to be the best artist that you can. Whatever platform you may choose to have your artwork seen, remember that creating it and being comfortable and safe in that environment is how you can best contribute to the beauty of the world.
Additional Articles and Resources:
Online Art Sales — How Galleries Sell Art Online
Selling Solo Vs. Working With A Gallery
15 Places To Sell Art Online
235 Places To Sell Your Art Online
Should Artists Show their Art in “Vanity” Galleries?
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