Twenty-plus years of watching the art market has allowed me to make a few observations. These aren’t based on scientific research, of course, but just on what I’ve noticed. I think of the art market as four different worlds within the art universe, and I know that each world functions a little differently. They each have their favorite ways of selling art, they each have their key players, and they even have a different set of publications that support them. I’ve summarized my view of the universe in this little diagram, but again, these are just my thoughts.
The question is, Where do you want to be in this universe? Which planet do you want to live on? To some extent all of them are open to you, but you must choose where you want to be. I know artists who make their living by selling just a dozen pieces each year, others who earn their annual income by selling countless reproductions at low prices, and yet others who don’t earn their full income from their art and are perfectly satisfied with that. Some people may have strong opinions on the “right” place to be in this universe, but my opinion is this: If you’re happy doing what you’re doing, that’s all that matters.
It’s important to choose, however, because your destination will set your path and guide your decisions. Let’s look at an easy example: Generally speaking, an art enthusiast is not going to spend $5,000 on a work of art by an artist he or she doesn’t know without seeing it first. A person who can afford $5,000 paintings will most likely buy them in galleries and not from a website. So if you’re an emerging artist who is not well known to anyone, it wouldn’t make sense for you to price your works at $5,000 and attempt to sell all of them online. You’ll be waiting forever to make a sale. Fortunately, you do have a choice of alternatives: Find a gallery to represent you at that price point, or market your work online at much lower price points, or possibly market reproductions of your work online at very affordable prices. It all depends on which one or possibly two worlds you want to live in.
Once you know where you want to be, it’s time to figure out how you’ll get there. Let’s say you’ve decided to sell affordably priced works online, which seems to offer an easy on-ramp. You just need to find an online gallery and get going, right? But first you have to decide which online gallery, so you’ll need to research them. Maybe ask some friends which ones have worked for them. But actually, before you can put anything up for sale, you have to shoot some awesome digital photos. And write up your bio story, and start building a social media following, and… See where I’m going with this? If you want to be successful in achieving any goal, you have to break it down into small, manageable steps.
Then it helps to make yourself a timeline so you don’t overwhelm yourself with a massive to-do list. Kimberly Adams, a very successful artist I interviewed several weeks back, reminded me of the 30-60-90 plan, which works great. Ask yourself, which of the tasks on my list can I complete in the next 30 days? In the next 60 days? In the next 90 days? Looking at your steps from this perspective helps you organize the steps in a logical way, plus it helps you focus on just those tasks that need to be done right away. Personally, I love it when I get to cross something off my to-do list. What a sense of accomplishment!
I’m going to be sharing a lot more about strategy, tactics, and goal setting in the weeks ahead, but for now, start thinking about your destination in the art universe. If you’re not moving forward, it means your art career is just standing still, so start with the end objective in mind and chart your course. And if you have questions, let’s connect.