Mary-Alice Stack, director of ArtCo Projects, Arts Council England
Put the customer first: I’d say that the sector as a whole could do more in terms of this. I know that from the artist’s perspective the process of creating and presenting contemporary art to an audience isn’t necessarily always about making a sale, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be clear about the opportunity to buy, if it exists.
Make it fun: The process of discovering a piece of work, bidding, buying it and taking it home for the first time is an exciting and rather addictive experience! That’s the thrill of collecting – no matter what you are interested in or how big your budget.
Stop chasing ‘collectors’ only: Too often both artists and galleries are concentrating so hard on that elusive and mythical ‘serious’ collector that they completely overlook the opportunity to foster the potential interest from ‘normal’ people. Even serious collectors were once first time buyers. Let’s not forget that.
Bare all: We all need to work together to help customers develop an understanding and appreciation of the way in which art is created and produced, so that they are able to get to grips with way in which work is valued and priced.
Helen Bonar, officer for Own Art, Arts Council England
Experiment with access: For example, there’s an excellent space in the North East who let you live with the work you’re interested in before committing to the purchase – they will deliver it, hang it for you and then stop for a cuppa! It’s proved extremely popular and has helped develop a committed and engaged repeat buyer base.
Pop up: I’ve recently seen some really good examples of where galleries have moved into empty shop spaces on the high street for short periods of time. These pop up experiences are a great way for galleries to immerse themselves within the ‘everyday’ life of an area and encourage a completely different audience.
Rebecca Morrill, head of collector development,
Contemporary Art Society North
Everyone is a collector: This is the most important thing to realise. Help people understand that collecting art is not just something for uber-rich people (which is how the media often portrays it when they report on big auctions etc) and nor does affordable art have to mean formulaic, easy work.
Make connections with other organisations selling art: And try to find ways to work together; it’s something public arts organisations have done in terms of marketing and audience development for years. I was involved in a fantastic initiative called Love Art Later in 2001 which got art galleries promoting each other’s late night openings and encouraging cross-pollination of audiences. Why not try something similar with fellow art selling galleries?
Buy art yourself: It’s a good way to understand things from the perspective of your clients.
Try a membership scheme, then use it: The one we run asks members to pay a small amount (currently £50 a year) and in return we offer access they wouldn’t otherwise get to artists, curators, other collectors and so on. And it works! We have members buying critically engaged art who were previously either not buying at all, or buying in an uncritical way (entirely based on aesthetics, and without any ongoing engagement with the gallery or artist).
James Woodward, director, No Walls Gallery
Know your role as a gallery: Whether an artist is well established or taking their first steps to putting their work out there, a good physical gallery puts their work in front of new buyers, generates sales and interest, educates buyers about their work, creates new fans and brings opportunities their way. Most importantly, by handling the negotiation, payment, admin, shipping and all of the hassle, we allow our artists to spend their time creating.
Julia Alvarez, director and founder, BEARSPACE Gallery and The South London Art Map
Think outside the box: We are planning a series of artist-cooked meals followed with discussions led by gallery artists. Selling art is about developing relationships and these are not just about selling art if that makes sense.
Peter Tullin, founder, CultureLabel.com
Explore selling art online: It’s a serious growth area. We organised a panel session with the Own Art scheme which explored some of the key trends that are emerging in the online space. Viewing and buying art online is one of the growth areas of the internet.
To summarise some of the outputs: in common with other areas such as the luxury sector, consumers are prepared to pay more online than ever before, but top end purchases still seem to be transacted offline (although some US sites are tackling this area and the big auction houses are using more online technologies to transact).
Also, everyone was unanimous that you really need to understand the online consumer in the same way as offline and have a clear audience in mind. Free tools like Google Analytics are essential for this. Finally, it is so important to tell a compelling story online in relation to the work, artist and gallery in the same way you would do offline.
The cost of getting into the online game is so much lower than ever before the barriers to entry for galleries are disappearing.
Ian Murray, director of photography in film, Arty Farty Films
Communicate value: Beyond the emotional attachment to a piece of art, one of the additional attractions for me is that it’s an object more likely to hold its value compared to most consumer products. It’s as if it has the ability to be a good investment alongside being a beautiful thing. I had my savings in a grubby bank up to all kinds of mischief; now it is being invested in a bunch of young artists. So for me it’s a combination of beauty, investment and karma!
Peter Liversidge, artist
Times are changing (always): If we look at how the art market has changed here in London from the late 1980s, from what it was and now is, there are almost no similarities at all. Things move on and are doing so all the time.
Susan Mumford, founder, Be Smart About Art
Price your art right: There are a few things to consider: one, research comparable artists (in terms of experience exhibiting and selling, and medium/style); two, test the market; three, establish prices; and finally, be consistent – that is, sell at the same price across the board at galleries, open studio events and art fairs.
Philip Bradley, commenter
Give as many reasons to visit as possible: Be it live performance, night time opening, educational workshops, how-tos by the artist, food and a lecture and so on. However, remember that there should be a decent way for the gallery or exhibition area to get the message across to the public that something is happening.
I think you would only really have to get the ball moving before it generates its own momentum and then you have a little cultural hot spot that people will gravitate towards.
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