This weekend I picked up some paintings I had on display for a local event. Joking, I said to the manager, “I thought you were planning on selling all of these for me!”
“Art sells itself,” he answered.
That is patently untrue and why, in a nutshell, artists need galleries.
A good gallerist is knowledgeable about art. He has his own personal vision. This is reflected in the work he sells. It may cross a range of styles, but it’s not discordant. He can tell buyers the salient points about “his” painters because he has some sort of relationship with them. He remerchandises constantly, yet the work is always clean, undamaged, and evenly lighted—so evenly, in fact, that you, the visitor, aren’t even aware of it. He advertises, and he knows the value of good real estate with good foot traffic.
I’m a fairly dab hand at selling my own work but I already have so little time to paint that I’d rather concentrate on that. Gallery representation allows me to specialize.
Artists sometimes express shock that there is a 100% markup on paintings. “They take half!” When I worked in retail 40 years ago, that was the standard in every store in the mall. Today, people may unknowingly be paying many times that markup for their designer clothing and other heavily-advertised items.
“I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like,” is a sentiment that is often lampooned. It may not even be true. I can’t tell the difference between DSquared2 Women’s Neon Steel Logo Damaged Jeans ($528.41) and the jeans I paint in, except that the pricier ones don’t come in my size. Connoisseurs can, however.
Likewise, there are qualitative differences between paintings, and they aren’t necessarily about style, composition, paint handling or palette. The bottom line is that the work must fit in with the buyers’ lives and be something he or she can live with for a long time, something that draws them in reflectively through various moods and times. It’s hard to judge that in bad lighting or chaotic displays. In those circumstances, brilliant coloration always pulls the eye first, which is why many great paintings go unnoticed at street fairs or auctions.
Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park from August 9 to 14. That’s—gasp—next week! Click here for more information! Download a brochure here.