The Problem With Selling Art
Every year, more than 30,000 artists graduate from art school in the United States alone. Despite the strong talent & ambition of many of them, only a small fraction of artists manage to support themselves in the career they are passionate about.
Average Salary For Artists in the US & UK
In the UK, almost a third of visual & applied artists earn less than £5,000 a year from their creative work, according to a survey conducted last year by Artists’ Interaction & Representation (AIR). US based fine artists are better off – painters, sculptors, & illustrators earn on average between $40,000 – $60,000 per year depending on experience & location. However almost a third of fine artists still learn less than $30,000 according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics.
Why Artists Fail
The good news is that most artists fail NOT because they lack talent but because they don’t have the knowledge or skills to market their art.[beautifulquote align=”full” cite=””] “If you want to sell your work you must place the stuff in front of people who buy art. I don’t know of any artist tucked away in their studio who had some major gallery come knocking on the door asking to sell their work. Or clients lined up outside begging to see & purchase fresh, new art”. says Jack White author of Magic of Selling Art. “I recall one excellent painter who was too shy to even open his door for the mailman. He finally gave up & took a job at the local feed store, filling burlap bags with grain. His work didn’t sell because it was never seen. He gave up painting due to lack of sales”.[/beautifulquote]
Selling Art the Old Way
The old way for achieving fortune & fame as an artist (or at least a working income) was all about receiving the favor of gatekeepers. Beginning with the patronage system in Europe & continuing with the galleries & museums of modern times, the old way was all about grovelling for the endorsement of outsiders, who then took a huge percentage of the artist’s income in exchange for the “privilege” of representation. It was very effective… for the gatekeepers.
The old way still works for a small minority of artists, but it is extremely expensive & even the most prestigious galleries are limited by the number of art collectors to whom they can exhibit your art. The clear alternative (the new way) involves taking your art & your future into your own hands.
Instead of hoping for a big break or the favour of art critics, the new way allows artists to build up their own fan base, sell directly to their customers & keep 100% of your sales.
“It is important for me to be the person who is selling my artwork – keeping 100% of my profit margins – because I am the person creating the art. At a 50% profit loss, it is imperative that artists learn how to market and sell their work. They can start by building a strong foundation and utilizing all this technology that we have. Embrace it, because this is the time of visual imagery. People don’t have to depend on the gallery walk anymore. We are all explorers in our own right.”
Ashley Longshore – Artist who sells over $1million of art each year without a gallery
“If you want to sell your work you must place the stuff in front of people who buy art. I don’t know of any artist tucked away in their studio who had some major gallery come knocking on the door asking to sell their work. Or clients lined up outside begging to see and purchase fresh, new art”.
Jack White – author of Magic of Selling Art.
“It is important for me to be the person who is selling my artwork – keeping 100% of my profit margins – because I am the person creating the art.” says Ashley Longshore, who sells upward of a million dollars worth of art a year without the help of a gallery. Her website & Instagram feed has become a virtual gallery for both her fans & collectors. Often, she’ll sell a $20,000 piece of art before the paint has even dried. “At a 50% profit loss, it is imperative that artists learn how to market & sell their work,” says Longshore. “They can start by building a strong foundation & utilizing all this technology that we have. Embrace it, because this is the time of visual imagery. People don’t have to depend on the gallery walk anymore. We are all explorers in our own right.”
Online Art Market Size
The online art market is experiencing staggering growth, up from $1.57 billion in 2013, to $2.62 billion in 2014, to last year’s figure of $3.27 billion according to Art insurance company Hiscox. If growth continues at this rate, the online art market will be worth around $9.58 billion by the end of the decade.
Disrupting The Art Market
Previous studies conducted by Arts Economics for TEFAF have observed that the art market was relatively slow in recognising the potential of the internet as a means both of selling & of enlarging its client base. This is now beginning to change rapidly, both for the auction sector & for dealers. “The new gold rush is online, & it has been spreading into the art market,” says Alain Servais, a Belgium-based collector. For a market that has remained relatively untouched by the revolution in technology, the move is happening fast, says Anders Petterson, founder & managing director of ArtTactic, a U.K.-based art market research firm. “It’s about engaging with a new audience.”
[beautifulquote align=”right” cite=””]“Everybody is online, every age group,” says Christie’s CEO Steven Murphy. “We have a 70-year-old Chinese client who has built a museum or two, who is communicating with us via WeChat every day,” he says.[/beautifulquote]
52% of galleries also said that their online sales are mostly going to international clients, suggesting that the online art market is an important channel for artists to broaden their international as well as domestic client base. Online marketplaces have certainly eliminated some transactional friction for both collectors & dealers based many thousands of miles away from each other. The average inquiry distance on Artsy (an online art marketplace) in 2014 was 2,700 miles.
“Online art platforms cater for all tastes & budgets, but are particularly effective for those just starting to collect – opening up the art market in a way that is hard to replicate in the real world.”
said Robert Read, Hiscox’s head of fine art.
Art & Social Media
The art market is changing, & social media has become the primary way consumers discover art, according to a study commissioned by Invaluable. The survey found that nearly a quarter (22.7%) of art buyers find new works of art via social media, which edged out museums (20%) & galleries (15.9%) as buyers’ primary source of discovery.
More people in 2016 acknowledged that social media in influenced their art purchases at 31%, up from 24% in 2015. This influence remains particularly high in the new art buyer segment, where 38% of new collectors said that social media does impact their collecting habits & their decision on when & what to buy.
Art & Mobile
Consumers are increasingly turning to mobile to view & purchase art. The Hiscox report shows that 40% of visitor traffic & 24% of bids came via mobile devices, & 32% of buyers used a tablet or mobile device to make their purchase.
“The findings indicate that online art e-commerce will not exist as a separate entity – it will augment & co-exist with what is happening in the real, physical art world,” said Robert Read, Hiscox’s head of fine art.