Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Economy of Art

Dark Pond Day, 2008, Oil on Panel, 18x24

A few months ago I began to hear from a few artists that their sales had slowed down a bit. Mine were still ok at that point but with so many bad things going on in the current economy I had a bit of worry at the back of my mind. April and May were a bit slow, but after I looked at my records I saw that historically those are the two slowest months of the year for me. Now it's June and with the exception of modest sales from the show I have up in Hudson, things are REALLY slow.

And while last year all of my work sold at the Affordable Art Fair, this year I didn't do quite so well. Only three small pieces sold. Sales seemed erratic at the fair-some say they didn't sell much at all and others sold out their booths. Hmmm.

I guess this could be economy related. Certainly when things look unsure, people stop buying the extras (that's our plan), which art is considered to be. Or maybe it's just the ebb side of my recent flow.

Whatever it is, I am going to keep painting. And then I really have to get my info together and get a new gallery and push the business side of things here.

Ack! I am sure feeling the loss of the NYC gallery!

Any thoughts out there about art sales and the economy?

14 comments:

Veronica Funk said...

Recently I watched a documentary of successful, mature artists, and each one of them stated that art sales are all about ebb and flow, and that, despite the ebbs, you must keep painting because the collectors will show up again and you have to have work ready for when they do.

Chris Rywalt said...

My sales are way down, too, from zero last to, uh, zero this year.

Last year I gave a drawing to the cashier at CVS who loaned me 12 cents. I haven't seen her since.

This year I gave a drawing to the cashier at Rita's who loaned me 18 cents. I haven't seen her since, either.

Deborah Paris said...

First, let me say this is a beautiful piece, Tracy. Absolutely love this Rothko-esque color harmony.

Sales are definitely slower. However, when I look at sales over the last year, they were up considerably over previous years, particularly last fall and winter, which is usually a slow time for me. Go figure. I am headed to Telluride for a plein air show next week and quite apprehensive about how it will go, even though this is historically a good show for me. On the other hand, my new gallery in Chicago sold the first piece I sent them in three days. So, it is ebb and flow.

Because of the shift in my painting style and technique over the last year, I too am looking for new galleries and shows. I think we have to use this time to do good work, build inventory and look for new opportunities.

Tracy said...

Veronica, Well there is definitely an ebb and flow and I sure have experienced both in the last few years. This ebb just has me concerned because it is coinciding with the incredible rise in oil which is affecting the price of everything else.

What was the documentary? Is it somewhere on the internet, or tv?

Chris, maybe you should be a bit more discerning about who you sell your work to:) Those girls were clearly using you for your art.

And hey, I started at zero too.

Thanks Deborah, I was pleased with that piece too. It DIDN'T sell at the art fair (sob)....

I think my perception is a bit skewed because last year was really good for me. Maybe this year is just normal again:)

Good luck at your upcoming fair!

Chris Rywalt said...

I wish someone would use me for my art. No, it wasn't a trade -- give me 18 cents for this drawing -- it was a thank-you gift. They let me slide for the small change, and I brought the change back the next day with a drawing as interest.

Most days I figure it was just a coincidence, that I gave them a drawing and they left that job, or just haven't been behind the counter when I've been back. On bad days I assume I scared them away. "This big hairy old guy gave me this weird-ass piece of paper with scribbles on it, and that was just the last fucking straw. I'm going to college in Saskatchewan."

On really good days I think that maybe my drawings were so incredibly awesome, so filled with the wonder of the universe, that they said, "I can't waste my life here. I need to live up to the human promise I've only glimpsed in this wondrous work of art handed to me by a stranger I will bless in my heart always."

Then I sober up.

Melody said...

I did really well at the opening of my show at the beginning of the month but I checked in with the other galleries that represent my work and........nothings moving. But as in all of life everything ebbs and flows. You'll be selling like crazy again in no time. Your too talented not to.

Stacey Peterson said...

Drooling over this painting - love the color harmony!!

There are so many things that affect art sales that I have a hard time knowing how the market is! My sales are way up this year, mostly because I've got a gallery that picked me up in December and has been selling the heck out of my work. Last year, my main gallery moved and sold very little, so my numbers were low. So, on paper, it's looks like a good year. In reality? Even the gallery responsible for most of my sales is complaining that things have been really slow... I'm concentrating on finding new galleries and increasing my advertising - I figure if I have more outlets for my work, things are bound to keep selling?? I don't know...

Tracy said...

Chris I suppose this will dash your hopes and dreams as well as your paranoia, but I suspect their leaving had nothing at all to do with you. Those sound like high turnover jobs:) I think it is sweet that you gave them a drawing, and you should do it more often if it makes you feel good. I am all for giving art away, believe me.

But sales are good too.

Meldoy, thanks Melody and it is so cool about your wonderful sales at your show. I am not taking less sales personally, after all I don't think my work suddenly sucks or anything. I guess I am trying to find out what the word is on the street. Oh, I sounds hip, don't I?

Stacey, That's great about your gallery sales too. But as you know having a few galleries is a good idea too. I think it's a bit worrisome though to hear that galleries are saying that things are slowing down.

Sus said...

As you know, Tracy, sales in da burgh are slow in the best of times. My sales are nil. I did sell one piece this year.

And I am one of the lucky ones...

Natalya said...

love the moody colors in this painting...
i have read all about the ebb and flow of the market, my problem is that i am just trying to start selling now, looks like it might be a prolonged start. i'll just keep plodding along.

Tracy said...

Sus, yeah Pittsburgh is tough. I feel for you. Do you show anywhere else? I don't sell anything much locally either, but mostly because it's such a small population....

Natalya, maybe a slow time is a good time to start. Increasing sales (anything up from zero) are way better than a flurry of sales then nothing:)

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Tracy - I wrote a couple of posts on my blog earlier this year predicting that things were going to get bad. It comes from having worked in finance - you see writing on the wall.......

The first time I had lots of people saying 'not so, no way', the second time I heard a lot less from the naysayers. The reality is it's never the same for everybody but there's no mistaking a general drift towards recession.

Over here in the UK galleries are closing. I've even seen galleries closing in upmarket areas - that was startling!

I've heard people doing a lot more active marketing on their own behalf. These are the people who not relying on people in galleries who may have no experience of a slump.

However on the whole other than self reliance, I think most people are stumped as to what to do. For what it's worth:
- definitely keep producing work, these things go in waves. But maybe review sizes - and who's buying/selling what?
- for the future, consider diversifying your income streams. Very few artists live on sales from their artwork alone. (I've got figures from research done by the Arts Council over here for this.)
- Take a long hard look at galleries from the point of view of whether they know what to do in the bad times as well as the good. Also whether their clientele (and the owners) are likely to be also affected by a slump. I'd be pretty depressed if I was a gallery owner right now.

I'd have never come up with the veggie patch as a potentially really sensible solution to some of the stresses of the ebb tide - it looks to me like you saw the writing on the wall too.........

Sus said...

Hey buddy,
No, I don't. Mainly, the problem is financial. I can't afford the travel on what I am making in order to check out galleries in other cities. On my honor, I never thought it would be this hard. Sorry for whining.

I love this work, by the way. You use purple tones so well. I find that I don't have a clue what to do with purple.

Linda Blondheim said...

My commission work has supported me so far this year with a few sales here and there from galleries. I would like to increase my commision work but I'm not sure how to go about it. I did a postcard mailout recently. Hoping that will send some people my way.

Love,
Linda