Keeping up with changes in the art market is a fundamental part of my job, so that I can help artists come up with new ways to get their work seen and sold.
I’ve worked with artists as young as 17 and as mature as 78. Each sees the market changes through different eyes and draws different lessons as a result. That’s as it should be.
Here are a few timeless perspectives about change from a sampling of the A.C.T. community of artists:
“When I went to school in the early 90's I was told not to waste my time painting as a classical realist. Only a handful of artists like Odd Nerdrum dared to do so. After I came home from studying for a semester in Italy my artistic mold was cast. I couldn’t shake it. I had to follow my heart.
"Today realism is a worldwide revolution again. More academies have started, more artists are learning and passing down traditional techniques and museums and galleries are showing and selling this work.
"I’ve learned in this short time to trust my instinct and to weather the storm.”
"I was already seeking alternative ways to promote and sell work right from the beginning. So even though there was a market shift, it never really affected me because I was already in a different mindset than the traditional route. I've produced every show I've been a part of on my own or with friends. It's always been an underground sort of approach.
"The greatest lesson I've learned through the years is to be ready to work hard. Shows don't produce themselves and there are many things that need to be taken care of to produce a successful one. It's a labor of love but it fosters growth to tackle the organization of a show."
Fine Art Nature Photographer, Conservationist Connie Bransilver
“I started with black and white box cameras, advanced to high quality slide film, and then proceeded through various printing techniques, each time-consuming and tedious but satisfying. Digital technology in cameras, lenses, computers -- hardware and software -- printers and papers, canvas, and now even metals, change almost moment by moment. I'm now experimenting with video because movement has always been important to me. I was a dancer, horseback rider; I see movement in animals. I want to integrate movement with music and stills.
“Tastes, styles, fads and economic factors affect the market. It's a market so things change, which means you need multiple revenue streams: I sell art, I teach, I do web work, videos. My ceramics help because I can do multiples and it's easy to have low, medium and high priced objects. My teaching provides a steady, reliable "paycheck" for a small investment of time.”
“I live and work in a high-tourist area and am fortunate to have a large base for sales. Immediately following 9/11, my sales actually increased. It wasn't until 9 months later that I noticed a drop in sales. I suspect this is due to the fact that people plan trips to Hawai'i pretty far in advance. Those that couldn't cancel their plans came to visit. Those that could cancel did so and we had about a year-long dip in tourism. To cope, I added new venues to exhibit my art. I continue to add new, better, bigger venues. If the dollar looks like it's shrinking, I need more of them.
"Change is the constant. Fortunately I’ve learned to expect it rather than be surprised by it.”
“Art is a luxury item so some people hold off larger purchases. The gallery business is more challenging- not sure if it’s the economy, technology, different ways to go to market or all of the above. I partner with galleries any way I can, knowing they are under a lot of pressure. I do demos’, classes, send announcements to my mailing list and other things that generate traffic and income.
"If business is a little slow, it’s a good time to work on art and business skills.”
“One way to look at markets is geographic, although the Internet has made all markets accessible now. That affects how I price my work. The intrinsic value of a work of art doesn't change because of its geographic location. What I've learned is to do your research and price according to work of comparable skill level, originality, size and career development. Weigh these factors against your current work and career level. Find a number of artists across various regions of the country for comparison, not just one or two.
"My Hawser Series needed to be all large works and the same size - making the originals expensive and harder to sell. My new series will include a number of smaller originals as well as some large pieces. For me, it will actually be a challenge to make some smaller works. But I’ve learned that if I want more originals sold, I need to go there.”
"I am witnessing a classical revival in the art world and quite possibly the re-emergence of classical art leading the market.
"Because of the downturn in the economy I decided to engage the art market when others believed it was not economically sound to do so. It was the right decision. As the economy strengthens -- and it is – I am already positioned to sell into it."
Liturgical Sculptor Karen Schmidt
“It is taking longer for churches to raise the money they need for building projects and artwork. I have experienced delays before, but the delays are longer, and there is a hesitancy to buy. I've had the experience of having a meeting and thinking it was all done. Then people hesitated. I don't spend money until it's in the bank. A contract is not done until it's signed and delivered.
"I'm using this time to sculpt more, build relationships and network with artists. It takes more courage, but I am watching it pay off.
I think the economy is starting to rebound, and there are still people with money to buy art. I'm not using the economy as an excuse. I've trimmed whatever I can, and I am taking the steps I can, while remaining optimistic.”
”Illustration used to be a lucrative career and now Art Directors can buy royalty free images, or buy the repro rights to images, putting illustrators out of work. So those illustrators, ended up in the fine art market. More fine art is available now than before.
The way I see it, is that the more art that sells, the more art will sell.
Realistic art has reached a prominence in the market once again - thanks to organizations like Oil Painters of America and the California Art Club in particular, they promote traditional representational art. The art schools are back teaching it. As long as traditional basics are being taught in the art schools, it will remain prominent - direct correlation there.
"The market is changing under social media and direct access between artists and collectors. Galleries have to work harder, and the relationships between artists and reps have developed more towards the artists calling the shots. Galleries are still highly relevant though. It used to be that artists took it for granted that galleries were the only avenues to sales, but the gallery model isn't even that old.
"I have learned to stick with my decision, which is gallery representation, and to partner with the gallery owners and directors with the goal of selling my best work.”
"I got in early. I was selling art on line before Etsy existed. I don't want to sound overblown about this but I navigated the changes by pioneering. I used to make my living predominantly via commission work and gallery sales on consignment. A couple of years ago I stopped doing consignment altogether because I have to do accounting for work that has or has not sold. I just don't have time to keep track of it. If the art never leaves the house until it's paid for, I only have to keep track of what's sold. I also find that if a gallery invests money in the art, they'll put a lot more effort into selling it because they want to recoup their investment and reinvest. If they get it for free. There's no real incentive.
"Doing art fairs takes a lot of time, money and work. A lot of artists are successful this way. There are a lot more art fairs than there used to be and still only so many dollars to go around. There is a lot of work sold made outside of the U.S. and the jurying process is not as stringent as it used to be. A lot of art fairs have become a lot more about entertainment. There's nothing wrong with that, and I love putting on a little show but it's no longer practical or desirable for me. I did the Ann Arbor Art fair in the summer of 2010 and it is the last art fair I will ever do. I sold one firebowl. We spent more money to get there and back than we made. By comparison, while I was away I sold 5 on line.
"I do fewer commissions. They are fun, I get to make something new and interesting, but nothing totally new goes smoothly the first time. I'll spend ten times as much working on it so unless the pay is commensurate it's just not worth it. Besides if I am working on a commission, since the studio is pretty small, I have to suspend work on the firebowls, and that's not fair to the people who click the 'Buy Now' button and think that 'now' means now. I'm still open to doing some commissions or customizing a firebowl a little bit, but the project has to be extremely cool, extremely lucrative or extremely high profile, or all of the above. Again, sometime I'd like to go back to that but in the meantime it's just not practical."
What changes have you naviagted in the life of your art business? What lessons have you learned that you can pass on to other artists?
P.S. If you want some making changes to your art business, just let me know. Think of me as an “art business change agent” who sees what you are already doing, helps you raise the bar s to make your art business more resilient. If you haven't already had one, start with a complimentary 15-minute conversation. Sign up here.