Of course no one is expecting artists (and, surprisingly not entirely new or student artists, either!) to be perfect – after all, their job is to make the art and mine to sell it. But, there are a few things that falls under the artist’s responsibility that really hurts my chances of selling a piece – and without selling things, it is awfully hard to for you to become “successful”. These are some things I’ve seen time and time again, through my time as an intern at various galleries and as the founder of blankspace that may seem small and simple, and indeed violating just one is no big problem, but if you find yourself routinely checking “whoops” off this list, then you may find yourself having a hard time seeking, or maintaining, representation in the art market.
These are in no particular order (though I would say #5, #6 and #10 are incredibly important)
1) NOT FRAMING YOUR WORK
Now, some galleries prefer that you do not frame your work, as they prefer to either do it themselves to maintain consistency or, in some cases, their buyers are so picky about frames they sell it “raw” so the buyer can choose one themselves. But, in most cases, you are in charge of framing, and the expenses thereof. Always opt for a better quality frame, avoiding thin wire frames that scream “I was the cheapest thing the artist could find”. Buyers want to know they are paying for quality, and as we all know your artwork is probably quite nice, wrapping it in a terrible bargain frame takes away that elegance you strived so hard to achieve. Don’t insult a buyer by expecting them to pay $1,000 for a piece wrapped in a $5 frame. A thick, black, wooden frame is always a good go-to, but of course you can up it a notch and opt for shadow boxing, matting (if applicable), stand-alone mounting. Putting time in this step will make you look good.
NOT WIRING YOUR WORK
Awesome! You found a sweet frame. Now, if you went to a framer and had it done (NO shame in that!), this step was probably taken care of for you. If you went the “handy-man” route and made a frame yourself, or bought one from a store, then please – for the love of Jeebus – wire your work. I cannot tell you how incredibly irritating it is to open a package of wonderful, beautiful art and go to hang it and, low and behold, there is no wire. And, no, those little doohickeys that come on the back of the ready made, photo frame you bought don’t count.
Of course I have wiring tools and kits here that I can do it – but this breaks the cardinal rule of making me do things that you were supposed to do.
INVEST IN NO-SCRATCH GLASS
This may not seem like a big deal and it isn’t – until it is. One tiny scratch on glass (or, worse, terrible plexiglass that came with your cheap store-bought frame) can ruin an audience’s interest. Imagine seeing the Mona Lisa with a huge gash down the middle of the glass. OH THAT’S RIGHT, YOU WOULDN’T. It completely ruins the effect of a piece of work, if your eye starts focusing on a place where, apparently, someone has taken a medieval sword to your work. Was that the effect you were going for?
Normally if you follow step 10 properly, this isn’t too big of an issue. And buying new glass to replace a scratched one isn’t the hardest thing to do, but having to pay for glass twice when you could have “upgraded” to a higher quality of product in the first place, and not make me run around the day of a show to replace it, would be very nice. This step is what differentiates newbies from pros.
INVEST IN GOOD QUALITY, ARCHIVAL PAPER
This, again, is a step that really takes a student to a next level. No, the quality of your work will not normally be effected (professionals everywhere still can’t agree what type or brand of paper is the best), so for your own working technique, it is up to you what type of paper you use. For example, for illustration jobs, once the final product is submitted and printed (or whatever the final product is) the original artwork is fairly useless. But for Fine Art, this piece of paper must withstand the aging process of sitting behind a piece of glass for the rest of its life. Yes, it will start fading and crinkling –and far sooner than you’d think. Though galleries tend to be fairly climate controlled – shit happens. Maybe the AC breaks one weekend. BOOM – now your beautiful watercolor / lithography piece is permanently wrinkled from the humidity change. If you had only spend $2 more on that piece of paper before you started your piece, I would now be able to continue to try to sell it for $2,000. No one will buy it once its damaged like that.
INVEST IN HIGH RESOLUTION PHOTOS
This is a step so often forgoed that I feel like I should write it in all caps.
GET YOUR WORK PROFESSIONALLY PHOTOGRAPHED. NO, YOUR IPHONE THUMBNAIL WILL NOT DO. (unless you get that sweet new Nokie Lumia 1020 – that shit looks HELLA TIGHT.)
Most work is “sold” online – as romantic as it is to assume that a millionaire walks by the gallery window, sees your work, begins to cry while running into the store and slamming multiple crumpled hundred dollar bills from his pocket and then begins to embrace your artwork like a long lost lover, it doesn’t happen. As often as Amazon is used to buy completely silly and random things by humans everywhere (though I am waiting on the monkey who figures out how to buy those banana protectors), it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that a lot of art dealing happens online as well. Granted, most buyers insist on coming to the gallery and seeing the piece personally, and rightfully so. But the first thing most viewers see first is your online presence. This goes for seeking representation, as well, and for outside of the Fine Art world. A picture is worth a thousand words, so please don’t make me describe to the buyer what the piece is like – I’m not very good.
HAVE AN EASILY NAVIGATED WEBSITE
This goes more for artists seeking representation than maintain one, but seriously, its 2013 – there are literally DOZENS of high quality, easily updatable websites for FREE that you can use. Your flaming banner text from the 1990s called and it doesn’t even want your website back.
Yes, I have to be able to clearly read the text. I do not want to feel old and grab my granny glasses to read your white text over a ill-proportioned landscape painting you did back in the 9th grade. I want to see crisp, legible links directly telling me where to go – or even better yet, BOOM – right on the homepage a small gallery summarizing your work. Then, if interested, I can continue to browse through your other galleries. I have an attention span of a 2 second old moth, if I have to do it myself, I probably won’t.
WRITE A SHORT, PRECISE BIO
Not everything has to be full of meaning. I don’t want to hear your life story (now, Hulk Hogan – THAT’S a life story I want to hear). But a paragraph highlighting your frame of mind and thought process, as well as how you came there throughout the years, is pretty beneficial for me to better understand your art. Limit this to 1 paragraph.
Don’t be afraid to throw some accomplishments in there – everyone else puts their best stuff at the top, so being humble here will not help you (However, please refrain from bragging. That shit gets old fast). You kind of maybe got a small thumbnail in Juxtapoz magazine? Tell me! Got interviewed by Southwest Art Magazine? Woohoo! These types of things not only impress me, but makes it easier for me to impress buyers. Though, don’t worry if you don’t have any accomplishments yet – it isn’t always a turn off to see no highlights.
And, while I’m kind of on the topic, I will check your gallery references – so if you have nothing but coffee shop shows listed 100 times, I will begin to doubt your integrity. (Though, certainly, in the beginning, they are beneficial!)
RESPOND TO EMAILS IN A TIMELY MANNER
Ugh. Isn’t this just common courtesy? Do I need to go into details why this is irritating? I do not have a smart phone, or any internet access a lot of times. Does that mean I cannot check my email once a day and at least reply back “Ok, I will look into it. Be back to you shortly with blah blah blah”. Making me wait 6 days to receive something simple like the dimensions of your piece is probably the #1 reason why I won’t be interested in your work.
RESEARCH THE GALLERY
I am a very open minded gallerist, one of the few people who thinks that anything in the world done passionately and without bounds is art (even say, in accounting). That being said, do not expect me to jump on your hyper conceptual piece, or your performance art which mainly consists of you rubbing mustard and ketchup alternately over your body while playing David Bowie in the background (though, I would watch it on youtube…). I am excited to see the art being made, and am happy you considered us good enough to represent you. But keep in mind that your chances are very slim. Perhaps a better route would be to get acquainted with the gallery, talk to the director, and ask them if they are aware of any galleries in town that would like their work. This puts the pressure off of me (ie: director/curator) to sincerely tell you, YES I think you are interesting but NO we are not interested.
In addition, if you try to submit your work to the wrong gallery, even if they do accept you, they might not be able to give you the credit, attention or representation you’d like – I certainly cannot talk about installation art as well as I can traditional visual art.
And, I’m too nice of a person, even if I don’t think your work is up to par, to tell you to bugger off.
Wrapping an old sock around your sculpture and putting it into a FedEx envelope does not work.
Most delivery service insurances also do not cover damage to artwork done during shipping. It is considered “irreplaceable”, and as flattered as I am by that, it still sucks to think that if your canvas receives a bazooka hole into it, you are not compensated. A chip in a frame is pretty devastating, but imagine if the work itself is ruined -I’ve seen a lot of glass get broken and subsequently thrusted into the canvas. There goes your last 217 hours of work. Here are some tips:
- First off, wrap the artwork in brown paper, and label it with your name and the title of the piece. This will help protect the piece, and galleries reuse this paper to protect it during storage.
- Put foam core on the front and back, cut to fit your piece.
- Put corner protectors on.
- Wrap the entire thing in layers of bubble wrap. (Don’t think that the frame is safe just because you put corner protectors on. Make sure the entire piece is level with bubble wrap.)
- Put it in a fitting box. I know it is irritating to not just use the old box you’ve had sitting in your living room for weeks, leftover from that huge Amazon purchase you made, but a box that is too big (or obviously too small) is just as dangerous to your piece than not having any wrapping on the inside at all.
SUBMIT YOUR WORK WITH ALL THE DETAILS
I need to know dimensions, medium used, title, year created, price, and edition number for each piece. This is incredibly standard! I cannot show anyone a piece without the title. I cannot sell a piece without knowing the price. Submit this when you apply either for representation, or showing additional work for a show and it will save me the hassle of having to nag you for it later.
And, having work titled “Untitled #1 – #987092” just screams procrastination.
The best advice I can give, in general, for literally anyone anywhere at any time is to make the job easier for whoever is one step “above” you, or, working laterally with you. These things listed above will make your gallery rep a much happier person, as no one wants to feel like your mother and nag you to keep up your end of the bargain. As much as artists, like myself, like to think that talent is enough to get you by in the business world, the truth of the matter is is that the market is entirely too saturated with good artists – I had over 400 listings in my folder for this blog for artists to post about (before the folder was accidentally deleted…see? we all make mistakes!) and it was growing by such an alarming rate that it was nearly non-navigable. So, what I’m saying is that it takes way more than talent to stand out in this growing market today – more artists are doing more work better and faster than you somewhere in the world. Being on good terms with a possible navigator in that market is only in your favor.
I say these things because I love you, dear reader.