Thursday, July 5, 2012

Presenting your art like you mean it

Presentation, presentation, presentation. In Real Estate they say the three principles are location, location, location. I'm pretty much saying the same thing. The idea being that it is where it is and you're stuck with that. Would you rather have the best house in the worst neighborhood, or the worst house in the best neighborhood? You want the worst house in the best neighborhood if you were forced to choose. You can't change the neighborhood ( not very easily, anyway) but you can always fix up the house. And the fact is that most of all what defines the value of real estate is less what it is and more where it is. Similarly I've found that if your art is in a high end gallery, you're going to do better with it than if it's hanging in a run-down coffeehouse. Same art, different location and inherently better presentation will help to equal either more sales or sales at a higher price.

Don't get me wrong, I like run down coffee houses. But then I'm not currently an art buyer. If the run down coffee house is what you have access to, at least try to make sure that you have your work nicely matted and framed and well lit. You may or may not sell anything, but you will have made a start and that's important too. I think the most important thing when considering where to hang your stuff is to get an idea who the clientele is. Maybe the run down coffee house is frequented by a clientele who can actually afford to buy your art--- like, if it's near a University, you never know, an administrator or a tenured professor with a few bucks stashed away might take a liking and buy a piece. In that case it's also pretty important to make sure that everything is decently labeled and priced. You may or may not decide to say much about each piece, but if you leave out the words aspect of presentation, make sure it's a very deliberate choice. In the very least say something about yourself even if you don't care to define each individual piece. This may just be my preference, but my artist statement will probably include a nice photo of myself, and I will at least look approachable, friendly. If your coffee house is frequented by doctors, lawyers and other professionals that's good too. The people who buy your art have to have the money to buy your art. There's no getting around that.

If your run down coffee-house is frequented only by college or high school students, don't expect to sell anything unless you're selling whatever is currently popular amongst that age group by way of a large poster for about 6 bucks. I don't in any way claim to know what's popular with people 30 years younger than me. I'm pretty sure a lot of 20 somethings are spending their life savings on tattoos. In fact I know of a few younger artists who are concentrating their efforts on tattoos because at least they can get paid that way.

When we spent a couple of months in Santa Fe, we asked every single gallery owner about the marketing of art. We thought they'd all have the same things to say about what worked. Well they didn't. There was a surprising amount of variation, but one of the common threads was all about presentation. All these galleries were in the known gallery districts of Santa Fe. The prime locations were the most accessible locations: like right on the plaza, or on the lower to the middle part of Canyon Road.  Santa Fe, New Mexico is within the top three art markets in the country. Even at that, there are galleries going bust. If you're in all alleyway off Canyon Road, that might be enough to drive you out. If you're the last gallery at the top of the road, that could be a problem too because the road is on a slight incline. It's walkable but the altitude of the town is over 7000 feet. A lot of art buyers are elderly. Many of them are from sea-level climates and are just visiting, they aren't acclimated and they never will be. They can't buy your art if they're about to pass out getting to it.
So. . .  rather than try to detail or compile what all the gallery owners imparted to us ( it would be impossible, there were too many contradictions ) I'm just giving an example or two to show the common sense of it all. Selling art is like selling anything. The presentation includes the location, the lighting, the overall atmosphere, the access to "qualified" buyers and so on.

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