Monday, October 9, 2006

Art and the Internet



Broadacres Farm, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24







On Wednesday's post about my efforts to find a gallery, James left the following comment:

I'm just wondering why you feel you 'need' gallery representation in the first place when this new age of showing and selling your art via the internet is already having a huge impact on artists lives around the world.
I'm so excited about collecting art from Europe, America and everywhere else! I have to say, I think I'm over the whole gallery thing.
I was recently in a well known gallery seriously considering buying a painting, when I realised I couldn't stand the whole gallery process. It was like dealing with a used car dealer! I could almost feel my Visa card crying out to buy direct from the artist - across the web!!! Needless to say I walked out thinking I should find out if the artist had a website...
Here's the thing, you only need a handful of devoted fans to 'make a living' and trust me, they're out there...

I am very happy that artists now have the ability to sell their own work through the internet. And I toyed with going in that direction when I began painting again. The reality though, is that it takes a lot of time and energy to handle your own marketing, sales, promotion, shipping, bookkeeping, and dealing with clients. I admire anyone who chooses to take that on in addition to creating the art as well. However, with a family that includes four kids I really felt that I had to streamline my efforts, which is why I don't make my own frames or panels, or handle sales. Except when close to a deadline, I work in the studio only during the time that my children are in school. When they are home I want to spend time with them, not to mention taking care of our house and doing other non art-related activities. There just didn't seem to be enough time in the day to do it all plus market my work too.

For some artists this is not an either/or situation, but I am totally uncomfortable with selling work while I have gallery representation. Most people who contact an artist directly are looking for a lower price than what is offered in a gallery. And there is no faster way to ruin a relationship with a gallery than to sell your work around them, at a lower price. I am very careful to send potential clients to galleries that represent me and by doing that I have a much better relationship with the gallery directors than I would otherwise.

Of course, this is simply how I feel comfortable handling my business. Please feel free to discuss how you sell your work and whether you sell in galleries or on your own and how you feel about either situation.

10 comments:

James Wolanin said...

The web is a great place to buy the work of emerging artists, but once an artist reaches a certain plateau in their career, this is no longer an option. I totally agree with you Tracy, why burn a relationship with a gallery by selling discounted work behind their back. In the end, the gallery will do more for your career then the one person willing to buy work directly from you. By working with a gallery, your work is introduced to many important collectors, and the gallery is going to spend thousands of dollars a year promoting you, bring your work to art fairs, give you a solo show, etc. You could never get this type of exposure on your own. If James really wants to help the career of an artist who's work he is collecting, purchase the work from the gallery.

Tracy said...

Perfectly said, Jim. I too, can't imagine that on my own, I could ever be able to get the things I want for my career, by selling my work myself. I might be able to make a living that way, but there's more to it for me.

Angela Rockett said...

It's a tough issue, because the internet is changing how art marketing is done, but it's difficult to tell exactly how.

I'm still searching for gallery representation for exactly the reasons you and Jim mentioned, but so far I've only had shows, group and solo, in galleries. I'm finding that I have to do just as much marketing at this stage just to get their attention. I hope when I do get into a gallery that they will come through with all the promotion they're supposed to be there for so I can ease up a bit on that part.

Lauren said...

I totally agree with you both... I had more sales and promotion when I was picked up by a gallery and I really felt like I was slacking off for a while. Why? Because they had picked up a huge amount of my work and taken it off my hands! Brilliant! I love dealing with galleries and find that opportunities to sell through my website are few and far between. (having said that I don't market my website in a huge way)

Tracy said...

Angela, There is a lot of marketing when you are trying to get gallery attention. But then you get it and that part calms down and you get to focus on the art again. So don't give up!

Lauren, I like to work with my galleries as well and I am glad to be working with such good people. I haven't experienced any of the horror stories I have heard about, but I think I have an advantage in being able to choose who to work with. I am too old and not desperate enough to put up with any crap!

James said...

Good comments Tracy - well said!...
I certainly don't believe the internet will ever replace the 'bricks and mortar' of an art gallery, for all the reasons you mentioned, plus the fact art galleries are still essential for getting 'up close and personal' with works of art! Like buying shoes, it's best to try 'em on in the shop!
However, it's clear the art world is changing because of the internet. After all, here I am, in Australia, being kept up to date with your work via the internet (I guess that makes you an artist with an international reputation!)
Let me throw this in for arguments sake - perhaps it's the art galleries who are failing to realize the potential of the internet. Simply put, a gallery that doesn't have a workable, responsive, up to date website is not serving their artists or their client base to the extent they should be!
By the way James Wolanin, you can actually search for available works by Picasso, Hockney, Freud or Warhol via the internet, contact the selling gallery via the internet and arrange to purchase these works via the internet, if you had the money or the inclination to do so. Does that mean these artists are still 'emerging'?...

Karl Zipser said...

I am not a big fan of galleries, but I agree that if you are showing in a gallery, you should play by gallery rules. I once had a person trying to by my work from me directly while it was showing in an exhibition!

I think the gallery system is not great for artists, but at an individual level, gallery owners are people who are struggling to survive also, much of the time. If you enter into a partnership with them, it is best to stick with agreements. Business at the artist-gallery level is different from big business. You have to be more careful about the one-on-one relationship among the parties. Which is not to say that you should always expect good treatment from the gallery owners in return. But in the long run, that is their problem. Artists who sell well are scarce.

Tracy said...

James, Thanks for the response. I am glad that you still appreciate the value of bricks and mortar galleries. As happy as my self-centered self is to hear that you like to keep up with my work via the internet, I also know that you are missing out on many aspects of my paintings. While they do translate well on the computer screen, much is also missed. Guess I need to get me a gallery in Australia:-)

I think what James Wolanin meant was that selling or buying the work of an emerging artist is fine to do via the internet, however as the artist's stature rises it becomes more problematic for the reasons he and I both mentioned. Clearly anyone can buy nearly any piece of art through a website and buying an established artist is probably a good bet as the buyer usually will know what they are getting.

Karl, thanks for the comment. The gallery system has its flaws, certainly, but I have to say that I have had very good experiences in my little corner of the gallery world.

william wray said...

Why sell it lower? Just sell for the same price. In my limited experience , it seems as if most people what to go though the Gallery anyway. It kind of pressures them to get it before some else does, it sort of makes the sale more official or something.

Tracy said...

I don't sell the work at lower prices, but usually someone who is contacting me wants a lower price and will try to negotiate, which is something that I don't really have the time or inclination to do. I just prefer to nip the whole thing in the bud and direct them to one of the galleries.

I have occasionally sold a piece (at full price) to someone who saw it in a show but is now in my possession, and in that case I reimburse the gallery their share.