- by Barney Davey
It’s a fact, art collectors are everywhere.
If it is true that they are in abundance, why does the task of finding art collectors seem so impossibly hard? The lifeblood of any business is in attracting new customers and making repeat sales to existing ones. It is no different for artists. Potential new customers can seem just as invisible and difficult to obtain to chiropractors and plumbers as they do for you.
The definition of an art collector is debatable.
In this post, we’ll say an art collector is one who purchases multiple pieces of art. Your job is to find buyers who are your potential collectors and to work to gain their trust and sell them multiple pieces of your art. Ordering four posters from Art.com would not qualify someone as an art collector to most artists or me.
Differing buyers from collectors.
An art buyer is a person who may buy a piece of art on a whim. They get swept away on a cruise line pitch, fall in love with a piece on vacation in Maui, or find something irresistible at a local art fair. What defines them as a buyer versus a collector is they have no further intentions of continuing to buy art. If that should happen, it is only by happenstance, and not because they were actively looking to buy more art.
Art buyers are part of the equation for you. They will help fill your coffers when they do purchase. It’s just that you can’t count on repeat sales from them. So you want to court them. If treated right, some may become collectors because of the experience they have with you.
Collectors hunt for art. They buy it with intention.
They go where they can find new art. They are looking for stimulating art that may motivate them to make a purchase. Many put themselves on the mailing list of museums, galleries, and artists they like. They are the ones who will make an excursion to galleries and museums as part of their vacation. Others may limit their hunting to art that informs and delights their passion such as art based on golf, wine, sports, horses and so forth.
Artists need to hunt collectors.
While by no means inclusive, here is a mind map of more than 50 places and activities you can use to find collectors. In the nearly 600 posts on this blog, or in my monthly art marketing Hangouts with Jason Horejs, many of the topics mentioned have been covered in detail. See the YouTube video at the end of this post for a broadcast on how to find art collectors.
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You cannot bank your art career success on expecting collectors to find you.
You cannot bank your art career success on expecting collectors to find you. Unless you are famous, expecting collectors to find you is a delirious, fatal fantasy for your career. The reality is you have to work hard and diligently to find and develop collectors. Don’t feel too sorry for yourself because every other successful business from the smallest to the largest has to constantly search for buyers. To ensure your success, you should commit to becoming an expert at finding and developing loyal collectors. Make taking the actions needed part of your daily routine.
You can go the route of letting galleries find your collectors for you, but you still have to hunt for your galleries. While working exclusively with galleries is possible, it is increasingly harder for most artists to make a living strictly from gallery sales. In my opinion, galleries are never going out of the equation. There always will be a need and room for competent galleries in the art market. Artists who understand and embrace this should include galleries in their distribution plans. It makes sense on multiple levels.
The value of finding art collectors who directly buy from you.
I don’t think in today’s environment, and for the foreseeable future, that artists can discount the importance of finding ways to sell their art directly to collectors. Of course, you want to sell to those one-time buyers. However, I believe the key to a fruitful and long-lasting career for artists today is developing a solid, growing base of collectors who buy from them.
How 100 Collectors Can Bulletproof Your Art Career is the subtitle of my Guerrilla Marketing for Artists book. The premise is the greater the number of collectors who buy straight from an artist the less danger they have of a calamitous disruption of their art sales. Galleries will come and go, and social media darlings can falter or change they way they do business. Direct buyers help immunize you against the inevitable failure of other distribution channels.
A believable, achievable number of collectors for most artists is 100. If you can amass that many or more people who love your art, you can indeed bulletproof your career. Although 100 collectors alone will not likely be able to purchase all the art you create, but it is probable they will buy a significant amount of your oeuvre.
Moreover, with the right kind of networking and professional referral techniques put to use, the odds are, several of your devoted buyers will also be influential to your career in other ways. It is not difficult to imagine some of them providing you with powerful introductions to others who can positively affect your career in monumental ways.
Make a commitment and make a plan.
Now you have some useful ideas on where to find collectors, your next step should be organizing and prioritizing your activities to find yourself in their company. Whether socializing at a museum event or exchanging comments on LinkeIn or Facebook, you have the means to get to know collectors. As the famous statement says, “Just Do It!”
Here is a replay of a “How to Find Collectors” broadcast I produced earlier this year with my co-broadcasting partner, Jason Horejs.