Understanding the options you have to sell your artwork. In Part One of this series, fine art galleries and artist agents are presented.
A major problem many artists have is that they don’t quite feel confident making a business plan, developing a method to sell their work, and putting it into action. They end up paralyzed with planning and not really doing anything to move their business forward. They may give up their whole dream of making a living as an artist because they really never start.
It takes organization and a lot of hard work to make it as a self-employed artist. Every path that you choose to sell your work and earn a living has advantages, but there are trade-offs too. If you think another artist has been “lucky” because it’s their full time job, you can bet they made their own luck by using smart strategies and working persistently toward their goals.
How realistic it is to expect to find representation?
It is possible to find other people to sell your work for you, but it might not be likely. There are tradeoffs in every situation, such as paying high commissions to others. Many artists find that learning how to be in business and doing the marketing and sales themselves is the best path for them.
Art Gallery Representation
Finding a gallery that will represent you is a very common dream, but knowing how to secure this elusive arrangement may leave you scratching your head. You contact galleries, only to be ignored or rejected, or find that you cannot get a meeting with any decision makers.
Gallery owners and managers are often overwhelmed with requests, and most are not actively soliciting submissions from artists. You must have art that will fit into their vision, and will make a profit for them. They spend lots of money promoting the artists they represent. Just because you want someone to sell your work doesn’t mean that you are ready, that your work is a fit for a gallery, or of interest to their clientele.
Often, they get solicitations from artists whose work is not appropriate. This becomes a huge waste of time for them, and consequently they often do not respond to anyone whom they have not pursued themselves. They are more likely to take a look at work by artists who are referred to them by trusted sources, or they may seek out artists themselves.
Galleries most often find artists through referrals from other artists, and curators. That means you must jump into the art scene in your city and get to know other people. Go to gallery openings without the intention of soliciting them, and get to know which galleries are suitable for you work. Meet people and become part of an art community – participate, share, and refer others. As you develop personal and business relationships, opportunities will open up for you.
Art galleries work with artists on a consignment basis. They will usually take half of the price of the art that is sold. Can you make a profit in this arrangement? You have to know this going in.
Usually artist “agents” are spouses, family members or partners, who work with a single artist. There are agents who work for companies that help promote photographers, illustrators and freelancers. Other agents may work to arrange gallery shows for a limited number of artists. It can be very difficult to find an agent to represent you. You will pay them for this service, and contracts vary.
Many agents need to be paid up front for the work and effort that goes into promoting artists, but that doesn’t always work well for artists. It is always helpful to learn how to represent yourself, and seek opportunities as a regular business practice.