The Business Part of the Artist's World (c) 2005 Max R. Scharf-All Rights Reserved
From time to time I have been asked to speak to university senior art classes on "The Business Part of the Artist's World" I have enclosed the outline for my talk for your review. I hope it helps you in marketing your work. Please accept it with my compliments. Introduction
A no-nonsense guide on what it takes to position a fine artist to succeed in the business world.
All business starts with a customer. In the fine artist’s case, it starts with a collector.
Preparing for the collector
Collectors buy your work because they like it and/or they feel you may be an investment for the future. Stability in the eyes of the collector pertaining to you and your work is of paramount concern in the early stages of your career. Therefore, the presentation of your art, you personal appearance and your commitment to your art must be professional and honest. You must believe in yourself, in your art, and wanting to succeed as a professional fine artist.
Presentation of your art
Portfolio presentation… Pick art you have created that you feel proud of… art that you can talk about with passion and excitement. With today’s technology advancements in four-color reproduction you can reasonably reproduce your art in many forms… *Computer generated prints from scans of originals, photographs and slides of your work… *Color copies (Kinko’s) of your photographs or originals… Wherever possible show your original work. If they are drawings or paintings on paper be sure to mat them. If they are on canvas, frame them (simply), if possible, or paint the edges of the canvas to create a finished look.
In presentation, handle your works like they are gold; create the impression that they have high-perceived value and they should be viewed as such.
Remember the Collector? Visualize yourself at a party at the collector’s home where he or she is introducing you and your work to their friends. You and your work are the collector’s “show pieces”… Play the part… Dress appropriate for the occasion. I wear a simple black t-shirt (or black long sleeve shirt, depending on function), black pants, etc… you should wear what you are comfortable with but keep in mind what you feel the collector will find acceptable. Create a “comfort zone” between you and your audience. Smile, speak in a positive friendly tone and talk with confidence about your work, your schooling and your experience. I find that audiences like to hear about why
you painted a particular subject. If you have a good story…tell it. Talk with passion. Create an atmosphere of professionalism and carry your head high. (Be sure to thank your host in front of his/her friends for becoming a collector of your work).
Commitment to your art
There is no one who has more passion about your work than you. When you communicate that passion to your audience the excitement begins. Be confident, show commitment and discipline in creating your work, be positive at all times and above all be honest with yourself that you have the staying power to succeed.
Who should represent you
When someone else represents your work it creates more credibility for you. That someone else, if possible, should also love your work with a passion. But you must understand that the needs of that person who agrees to represent you must be fulfilled for the relationship to be successful. Those needs usually are servicing their customers or collectors and to make money doing it. Who should represent you?, a gallery?, art agent?, licensing agent?, interior designers?, architects?, art publishers? or all of these?
If possible, I would recommend working with an art agent who would handle the marketing of your art career. Unfortunately it is very difficult to get one of the better ones to represent you until you have some recognition in the art marketplace (Don’t fall in the trap of an art agent wanting advanced money from you to represent you. He or she should only be compensated when something is sold and the money is received for the sale. Depending on how much the agent invests in time and money on selling your art determines on what percentage he/she should get of what you receive for the art. That could range from 10% to 40% of what you get).
In starting out I would look at working with galleries and interior designers. Under no circumstances sign an exclusive agreement with anyone in the early stages of your career. The only exception I would consider would be an out of town gallery, limited exclusivity to their town only, and only if they agree to reasonably promote your art. Interior Designers are fairly easy to work with. They usually have a client with a specific request and it usually is a fairly quick sale if your art is accepted. I pay an interior designer 25% - 30% commission of the sell price once I have been paid for the art.
Pricing your art
Remember, whatever price you come up with, price it at gallery sell price. This will always protect your representation and establishes the price range for your art. How you are perceived in the market goes a long way in what you will get for you art.
This is of high importance to your success. I can’t tell you the number of times that artists have come to me seeking advice after they have signed a very poor contract that they have given away their rights and have hurt their future earnings. The art business requires contracts for everyone’s protection. There are contracts and agreements needed for almost any situation. Fortunately there are legal books available for fine artists with standard forms to use. Some of the books contain a CD that has the stock forms that you can customize to your specifications. Borders or Barnes & Noble will have them or can get them for you. There are also volunteer lawyers’ organizations to help artists. Contact a local art organization for the names of those local lawyers. Trade Magazines
One of the best resource magazines for starting artists is… Art Calendar Magazine P.O. Box 2675Salisbury, MD 21802
Phone: 1-866-4ARTCAL Fax: 410-749-9626 www.ArtCalendar.com The present cost for a subscription is $37 yr.? The magazine’s slogan is “The business magazine for visual artists” It covers marketing, career advice, juried competitions, fairs & festivals and grants. Marketing of your art
If the gallery likes your work and is willing to commit to promoting your art then you have a fair shot for success. Remember, it is a two-way street, if the gallery puts time, effort and money into promoting you then you must produce the amount of work mutually agreed upon and you must make yourself available to help them when necessary. I remember in 1993 a local gallery representing me called me at 10:00 pm one night asking me to come over immediately as she has a couple there that wants one of my originals but she was having trouble closing them and felt if they met the artist that would close the deal. I “cleaned up” and was there in about 40 minutes. It worked; the couple bought the painting for $5,000. That same week she closed another sale for $5,500. The collector wanted me to deliver and hang the painting for them. I gladly did it.
Picking the right gallery: Look for a gallery that handles artists with similar or complementary painting styles to yours and sells the majority of their works in the same price range that yours will sell for. If your works are the highest price work in the gallery you have little chance for success. Look to be in the middle price range of the gallery. When negotiating, try to get a solo exhibition to start with. Usually a gallery is booked up for at least six months to a year so you would have enough time to prepare enough works for a solo exhibition at a specific future date. Try to avoid the gallery asking for a few pieces to put on the wall to “see what happens”. What usually happens is nothing andthat ruins your chance for a solo show. Without promotion of your art there is no reason for the gallery to show it over their regular gallery artists. If the gallery agrees to a solo show for you then they
are committed to invest time and money into promoting you. I know you are excited about just getting into a gallery at any cost, but believe me, unless the gallery is willing to invest money in promoting you there is very little chance for success.
Your initial presentation to the gallery will determine your success in getting a solo show. Do not go in with hat in hand, do not appear hungry and do not appear to be over anxious. Make a professional presentation, show your professional works, present your bio & artist statement, and discuss your present and future works. Tell the gallery director you will fund yourself while you are preparing the works for the solo exhibition, this shows your commitment, (fund yourself by a part time job). Have the gallery director give you input as to how many works you should create, type of subject matter and size ranges he/she feels would be appropriate for their gallery for the solo exhibition. Once the director gives you the input then he/she is committed to see that the exhibition is successful. Sometimes galleries will ask the artist for financial participation for a solo exhibition. My position in the early years was that I would participate only out of paid sales of my paintings (In my later years, being more established, I no longer participate in expenses). Example: $ 1,000 for opening evening food/drinks, etc. $ 1,000 advertising $500 announcements/postage $ 2,500 total
$1,250 gallery’s share $1,250 artist’s share (NOT GUARANTEED). Artist’s share is paid only from paid sales of artist’s works and only at the rate of 10% of what the artist gets for an individual work and the total amount the artist pays does not exceed his/her share of the expenses for the solo show. Example: $1,000 sale of work $500 is gallery’s commission $500 is artist’s share. 10% is $50 which goes back to gallery for artist’s share of expenses for solo show. Under no circumstances the artist is liable for the balance of his share of the expenses if enough works are not sold to cover them.
As mentioned before, they are good prospects to sell your art as they usually are working on specific projects for clients and decisions come quickly.
The key is to get them to look at your work. The best approach is a one-on- one meeting where you can show your art and discuss possible custom paintings for their clients. Once you have compiled your list of designers send them a letter or e-mail introducing yourself and that you will be calling them on (a specific date) to set up a meeting at their convenience to show your work. The phone book will list interior designers (decorators). You can also go to www.asid.org (American Society of Interior Designers) for leads.
The largest sale of my paintings was through an interior designer where five of my originals were purchased for a million dollar restaurant opening up. They actually painted each wall with a color that complimented the colors in the individual paintings. Since then they opened another restaurant and to date a total of nine originals and 23 framed prints has been purchased for the two restaurants. Best of all, I have picked up over 30 collectors who saw my work at the restaurant and purchased art from me (the restaurant asked me to put brochures of my work in each of their places and when I would eat there the waiters/waitresses would let the patrons know that “The Artist is here & would gladly autograph his art brochure for them”).
You can use the same approach as for the interior designers. The additional plus is that store may want to show your work in a setting in their furniture gallery.
There, of course, is the usual way of selling corporations by offering your works for sale for hanging throughout their corporate offices.
But, there are additional ways, which fine artists can to work with corporations, such as
Using Fine Art as an Instrument of Corporate Strategy
We all recognize the contributions of commercial art and graphic designers have made to the success of various marketing programs, but as the conventional media have become more cluttered, the potential of fine art becomes greater.
Fine art, like no other medium, provides an opportunity to hang, use, or display a tasteful reminder of a company, its product(s), and its services on the wall or desk of the office or home of a customer. There isn’t any question that fine art (especially the Impressionists) generates excitement and is a favorite of the American public.
Fine art products have high-perceived value and are considered classy and elegant. Those who receive fine art gifts are impressed with the sophistication and taste of the corporate giver. The right impression is created and the receiver of the gift will enjoy it for years to come.
In today’s world of four-color printing, new technologies have made it possible to reproduce fine art images economically and in small quantities. When fine art is placed on ordinary products the results are products of extraordinary appearance that can be sold at competitively attractive prices.
To view larger images of paintings click on image.