Last night Marion Castle of Kilkenny, Ireland, wrote, “I’m in a lamentable predicament. I wish to offer for sale forty of my paintings that have not been on the market before. I formerly lived in Cape Town, South Africa, where my work sold well. Now, in Ireland, I work in seclusion and isolation. How could I arrange for someone knowledgeable to come by and assess the merit of the works? I wish to keep the collection together and am still reluctant to sell piecemeal, although I have sold a few here. Could you possibly give me a road plan?”
Thanks, Marion. Yours is a common predicament for late-career artists, and for a few early-career ones as well. Some of us actually have thousands languishing in the dark. I take it you would like to raise cash. As your work is really quite excellent, there are several plans you might think about:
Attract a significant dealer.
Consign them to an auction house.
Continue with local piecemeal sales.
Investigate a public museum connection.
Donate them to a suitable charity.
For the sake of this letter, I’m going to describe a plan built around my first suggestion. You need to make a complete photographic record of the works you wish to sell, including shots of the back of the works and any related provenance. You need to submit this material by email to whom you think may be appropriate art dealers in Ireland, South Africa, perhaps Britain, Canada, or other countries with a currently healthy art market. If something clicks, allow the dealers to suggest what they might be able to do for you. Some may offer low-ball cash so they can speculate; others may be willing to work on consignment — generally 50/50.
If you cut a deal with someone, give them exclusive rights in a large geographical area, and for a specific time — say, three years. Don’t sell under their noses or undercut agreed prices, no matter how high they might push them. Dealers look on art as a commodity. They need to take control and manage rarity. Proper (not amateur) dealers have talents and connections that you probably don’t. This is the price artists pay to sustain cash flow. Be firm, be fair, be pleasant. Neither an ogre nor a patsy be.
PS: “No man will work for your interests unless they are his.” (American psychologist David Seabury, 1885-1960)
Esoterica: Marion is an artist who, because of a change in geographical location, has lost touch with her economic base. At the same time, her work has a universal, humanist quality not based on a specific place, so it’s suitable to market pretty well anywhere. Thus blessed, Marion owes it to herself to keep on rolling her wheel of fortune. Self-doubt and a shortage of recent reinforcement can cause artists to lose this sort of focus.
Marion Castle’s paintings
Back of the painting
by Peter Reid, Chatsworth, ON, Canada
Why photograph the back of the canvas?
(RG note) Thanks, Peter. Many artists asked this question. The back of a work can give an indication of a lot of things; title, type of support — canvas, wood, etc — sometimes location and often the date and the artist’s signature. In older paintings it may show dealer or auction-house labels. It’s all in the name of establishing quality and authenticity, as well as adding the possibility of further interest or insight about how the work came to be produced. What’s on the back can help to carry the works through successive collectors down through the years. It’s called “provenance.”
Driven to direct sales
by Morton Wesley, Birmingham, UK
With the amazing number of painters now on the scene, and the great shortage of effective galleries, many of us have been driven to doing our own marketing and going for direct sales. Approached as one would any other product, while adding a degree of discretion and sensitivity that is befitting art, one can do quite well by just building a personal customer base and going from there by referral and reputation. As you have said somewhere else, Robert, everyone of the general public needs their own personal artist. If work is of sufficient quality, maybe not even top notch, it’s been my experience that you can build your own cottage industry and your own success.
More ideas for Marion
by Jan Ross, Kennesaw, GA, USA
I think Marion Castle’s paintings are truly wonderful! Your suggestion to find a gallery owner in a larger city is one I strongly endorse. I know that Ireland is a terrific place for artists to live as they are not required to pay income taxes as the government encourages/supports the arts. Undoubtedly, she has a lot of competition with other fine artists there, but given the quality of her work, I think she’ll rise to the top. I wonder how much exposure Marion has given her work through the press, online etc.? These are hard economic times, for sure, but her work can certainly draw some buyers.
Since Marion is obviously able to connect with people online, as she contacted you, I wonder if she has a website and what she’s doing to promote her fine work? Has she tried an “Open House” for locals to come by, meet her and see her beautiful work? People love meeting artists as well as seeing who painted such fine work. Next, I’d suggest she try to reach a gallery/agent in Dublin, where tourists are abundant, to make arrangements to sell her work. Also, how about if she contacts an Irish airline magazine to promote her work to visitors to Kilkenney?
by Mimi Ball, Murcia, Spain
Well I am in the same predicament as Marion. I moved from south France, to Spain near Murcia, and a completely different environment. It was modern apartment with not too much room, of course somewhat sized patios, but having lived in an ancient house around 1000 yrs old with beams and stone walls, it was quite a change. It has taken me some time to acclimatize, so I have not done a lot of art. I also live part time in Oslo, Norway, and also in UK, as I am French-English. Anyway I have quite a few paintings.
(RG note) Thanks, Mimi. Many artists let us know they were in the same predicament. The system I suggested to Marion will work where quality is high and the artist has some sort of a track record. Where the disappointment comes in is where work is substandard or not suitable for exhibit and sale. Merely setting up a website or actively offering it may not do the trick. For those who would try to sell their work online, generally speaking, art that does not sell in brick and mortar galleries will not sell for life-sustaining prices on the Internet.
Artist Advocate Magazine
by Lisa Freedman
Artist Advocate Magazine was created by an artist to provide a venue for traditional and contemporary artists in every medium throughout the world to connect with galleries and art buyers around the world, and in the short year that it has been on the market, it has proven to work! We have testimonials from many artists and galleries thanking us for bringing them together.
The premise is very simple. Artists take out an ad in Artist Advocate. All we need from them are a few simple images, a short statement or quote describing their work, and their contact info. Our production team will create the ad to provide consistency to the publication. The artist will receive copies. And we distribute the magazine to over 6,500 galleries, as well as over 8,000 venues online.
Artist Advocate is published 4 times a year: Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall. We are currently accepting ads for our Fall issue, for which the deadline is August 14th. Interested parties may contact me for more details. Should you wish for me to mail you sample copies for your own distribution, please send me your mailing address, and I will be happy to do so.
The publishers of Artist Advocate also publish Fine Art Connoisseur. This is for galleries, museums and event coordinators interested in targeting collectors directly.
Galleries and dealers
by Jennifer Nilles, San Diego, CA, USA
I am an artist and I am having a hard time selling my art. For the last 10 years of oil painting I have been getting progressively better at my craft and finding my voice. I have won awards for my art and have sold pieces here and there from various shows and exhibitions, usually to family, friends and the occasional stranger locally. I also recently uploaded multiple works for sale on The San Diego Museum of Art Artists Guild Website.
I am working on creating a cohesive body of work and I must say have been interrupted by selling a piece here and a piece there. So now I am holding back on exhibiting some of my most recent works because I am trying to create this body. I do have lots and lots of work but it consists of some plein air, some landscapes, some sky scapes, some surrealistic, some drawings, some mixed media and some figures. I have the ability to create great portraits.
After seven years of painting and teaching on my own. I discovered that I love teaching almost as much as painting so I have been attending college to pursue various degrees in Art and will eventually achieve a Masters Degree, so that I may teach in the college atmosphere. College Art teachers are expected to be successful artists. I also expect myself to be successful as well.
Here are my questions:
How does one find a dealer?
Do you contact galleries?
What is the difference between an art agent and a dealer?
How large does a body of work need to be to qualify as a body of work?
(RG note) Thanks, Jennifer. While there are lots of galleries capable of hanging anyone’s work, there are a small percentage who can be considered “dealers.” Dealers (or agents) generally have a direction and a preference in art, an eye for quality, and are able to influence people to acquire work. The best dealers are ones who believe in you and are loyal to you. You don’t find them so much as they find you. The best you can do is to show your work discretely and in moderation on the Internet, (such as in our Premium Listings) and let potentially desirable dealers know that you exist and where to find you. Let yourself be informed who’s doing what in each geographical area, and if you do strike a deal with a dealer, give him or her a degree of exclusivity. To answer your last question, dealers like to know that the goose that lays the golden eggs is going to continue laying more and more.
Expand with Facebook
by Gavin Calf, Cape Town, South Africa
Marion and I were couched together in Observatory a long time ago and it is truly wonderful to see her work again. Excellent!! RG declares the best medicine is to produce good art so in the long term she won’t have a problem. I remain down south in Africa and I haven’t sold a bean since January save for one commission. It’s the same for Jeanette Unit and many great artists. If it is her Facebook account: Marion Castle, Ireland then I suggest getting more active on FB. It is great. Also become a Premium Artist on this site or start with the free listing at least. I received an invitation to exhibit at the 7th Florence Biennale 2009 because I have a website and I am on several art blog sites. Raise your profile. Upload your art onto Facebook. You needn’t put prices and a lot of galleries have Facebook pages.
Systems for a travelling artist
by Angela Treat Lyon, Kailua, Hawaii, USA
When I moved from Hawaii to New Mexico, and then from there to New Zealand, it was as if I’d moved to a different planet each time. It was as if I had never had a single customer in my life before. Took a while for my fragile little ego to get over that!
I didn’t have much money, so after I met some of the local folks in each location, I asked people who had nice places if they’d be willing to have a show at their homes to showcase my sculpture and paintings. They were always delighted to have artwork all over their house and grounds for a whole weekend, and always ended up buying a piece from me, even though I gave them something as a thank you. They also invited many of their friends and acquaintances and introduced me to them, which was an instant ‘in’ in the community.
In New Zealand, I made friends with the woman who ran the local history museum, and who was an excellent painter. We had a third, mutual friend and the three of us started putting up shows in local restaurants. This got us an invitational to a ‘real’ gallery in another town and sales. Restaurant shows are fantastic because the people who don’t usually go to galleries can see and enjoy and talk about your work — and buy it. I think of all the venues that have been most successful for me, restaurants have been the best for my paintings. And not just sales of a few hundred dollars, either — sometimes quite hefty ones up to 5K.
I’ve also held contests — usually a win-a-painting contest both locally and online — even people in other cities can participate. You have to be really diligent and check out contest rules carefully.
I love all-together collections, and have striven to keep them together, but after a while, ‘why bother’ has seemed to prevail – mainly because Mr. So-and-so likes this one and later on Ms Other liked that one and eventually they all sold. Why pass on a sale to someone who loves the piece? I see them every day — why not let the joy go out and be shared instead of hanging on to them all and have no one see them?
One major thing people forget about is to call past collectors and buyers and ask for referrals. I call my major collectors at least once a year to reconnect, even if it doesn’t result in a sale. They know I don’t see them as a walking pocket full of dough — I know them, their kids, what they do, etc., and I care. So they send people to me, no matter where I live at the time. It’s a small world now, and with websites showcasing your work and email, sales can be made pretty rapidly and easily. Referrals are a great way to do that. And people not only don’t mind you asking, but love to feel helpful.
There is 1 comment for Systems for a travelling artist by Angela Treat Lyon
A walk near Sesembre
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Joseph P Hampden of London, UK, who wrote, “Good art does not need to be advertised; it is automatically found, treasured, sold and resold.”
And also Norma who wrote, “When an artist is poorly off or has low self-esteem, for one reason or another, she must break old habits and put herself forward vigorously. No one will collect you unless you make connections for yourself and become actively sold.”
And also Dick Wilson who wrote, “Who cares? I paint for me and can’t get it stopped.”
Enjoy the past comments below for Divestiture…