To Sell Art Is a Challenge… Then and Now!

From which stars have we fallen to meet each other here?

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Asking the best ways to sell art sounds like a loaded question, but it’s not. Because the art business encompasses a vast array of types and prices, this discussion is about selling original art and high-end prints with prices in the four-to-five-figure range. But the concepts work universally.

Let’s be honest. Selling original art is not easy now and was never before either. Social media, online galleries, email, websites, blogs, and whatever don’t make it any easier, do they? Well, maybe a little. Mostly, they make it different with a new set of complexities. I believe you can sell art without online marketing tools. 

Whether today, 20 or 200 years ago, art is only bought by a precious few. Notably, original art buyers are a rare commodity. This condition has never changed. How art gets bought has changed, probably more in the last ten years than in the previous half-century. That’s because the internet changed everything.

The Internet Changed Everything… Forever!

Consumers are leaning toward buying any and everything online. For example, you can buy cars, $400,000 diamonds on, furs, houses, and everything imaginable online, including art. The need for brick-and-mortar stores is in decline. Huge shopping malls are closing in shocking numbers, and art galleries are feeling the pain, too.

People Have Never Stopped Buying Art

People are buying art like always. The same small but mighty demographic and psychographic that has always bought art is still buying art. They continue to get some of it from brick & mortar galleries. Some come from online galleries or local art shows, but they also buy directly from artists.

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy



Significant Changes Are Happening

I’ve had reports from top-tenured artist friends. They have had substantial gallery representation for years. They are telling me they are seeing a quickening pace of gallery sales declining. At the same time, their direct sales to patrons are on the uptick.

I’m not the least surprised at this trend. Actually, I don’t see it as a trend because trends are temporal, and this change in the buying habits of art enthusiasts looks permanent to me.

In my opinion, how art is getting sold these days is changing. I cannot see the gallery model going out of business and I believe working with a top-tier gallery will always be a good play for artists. It’s just that I don’t see any having the sales wattage to sustain an artist’s career fully. So, artists must find other ways to get their work to market.

Social Media Is More Helpful to a Few Than Most.

I see artists with varying degrees of success with social media because they have a knack for it and it’s their personal attraction to the platform that helps them make it worthwhile. No matter how many stories of Instagram success one reads if they don’t take an active interest in using it personally their chances of making it work are slim. It takes diligence and perseverance to make any tool perform well.

If marketing through social media is drudgery it probably won’t get appreciably better in time. If that statement resonates with you, I recommend instead of looking at it as a marketing tool, start thinking of it as a relationship tool. In fact, start thinking of your business model as a connections business instead of a digital marketing funnel or whatever your perceptions of your current marketing is.

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy



So, What Is An Artist To Do?

My best advice is to make connections and build a tribe around you. If you want the surest way to prosper and thrive from now on, start building a following, and don’t let up. This scenario is where all those nifty tools come into play. Email, website, blog, and social media are free. They are relatively easy to use. And, best of all, they work. But use them mostly to make acquaintances that can lead to deeper levels of relations such as mentoring, friendships, and collaborations, and all else that is possible when humans connect.

The Only Thing Stopping You Is You.

You can do this. You can build a tribe, but I won’t sugarcoat that it takes work. But, I believe it’s work that pays off now. And it will keep paying off in the future. And, when was selling to total strangers ever a walk in the park? Uh, um, like never! Selling to strangers is a much, much harder row to hoe than developing a following and connecting with prospective buyers.

Turn Buyers into Collectors… the most valuable thing you can do!

When you have direct, personal relationships with those who have shown an interest in your art, there is every reason to believe they will collect your art. That means they will buy multiple pieces. And therein lies the key to sustained prosperity.

Even better, some buyers will move beyond patrons and become benefactors. They will help you in ways you could not imagine. Often, without you asking. When the right person comes along and takes the right action, the multiplier on sales, recognition, and rewards go up for you exponentially.

Take a Challenge.

I’m challenging you to challenge yourself. What will you do to make a difference in your career next year? I believe the single best thing you can do is work on ways to connect with potential buyers and collectors. For example, you can use this 12 Tips for How a 90-Day Challenge Will Enhance Your Art Business post to help you.

You can have all kinds of other goals. None will give you the lasting effect of building relationships with buyers who know, like, and trust you. Nothing compares to the value of connections because of the ways they can influence your career.

Figure out who your ideal buyer is, your customer avatar. Dial it in. Make it a work in progress until you know this person down to details that might nearly shock you to know about them. The more you understand your ideal buyer, the less time and money you spend marketing to what looks like tempting targets but are expensive, disappointing, empty promises.

Don’t Let Lack of Sex Appeal Be a Hindrance.

I wish there were some sexy ways to package doing this tribe building, customer avatar defining work. It would be so much easier to sell as a concept. Everyone wants to chase rainbows and unicorns and hope they get found. I get it. I’ve pursued my fair share of them.

Making Connections Is Free to Do and Easy When Done Your Way.

To answer “How do you do it?” I say, To make connections, “Trust Yourself!” Start with the intention to add value to your connections whenever possible. Then start looking for places where having connections are most likely to produce satisfying results.

You’re all you’ve got, baby, and that’s more than good enough to get your career going the way you want. It’s your life and you get to live it your way, including how you make and sell your art.

Be Purposeful.

Humans make connections naturally, repeatedly, but mostly haphazardly. So, it makes a huge difference when you change to an abundance mindset.

Think about how you will make connections intentionally and choose who you wish to know you.

Getting to know people who know people is a valuable thing because you never know what good things can happen. It worked for me; it wasn’t a fluke because it happened more than once. Making connections is relatively simple compared to other types of marketing, but the potential for life-changing results is always present.

Connections at the Crossroads.

Go back to significant turning points in your life, and you’ll always find a connection story. Not every positive intervention is life-changing (Who could handle that?), but any act of kindness or offer to assist adds value to your life and business.

How to Meet Important People and Change Your Life.

Get this report when you join the AMTP

The header above is the title of an exclusive 10-page report for my AMTP members. It is an example of ongoing training on making connections, building a tribe, local marketing, and more available to AMTP members.

If you would like to join a worldwide community of artists and me in our quest to live our best lives as artists and market our work to match our needs, please accept my invitation to become a member. Learn more about the AMTP (Art Marketing Toolkit Project) on this link.

PS. Get a copy of the How to Meet Important People and Change Your Life workbook.

You get a free copy of the report. I’ll send it to you when you join the AMTP. Membership is only $4.99 per month with no contract.

This report demonstrates the type of help, and unique content AMTP members receive. And there is so much more information and education on ways to sell art that will work for them. I hope to get to know you in the group—hit reply to ask questions or get help. Otherwise, please join. You’ll be glad you did.

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  • I’ve seen a lot as an artist and I know there’s no easy way in. As the saying goes, “easy come, easy go”. Your article pretty much mirrors my experience and I appreciate that you are telling us these things. At the same time, you provide an understanding of
    what one needs to do to have a chance to be successful. Thank you!

  • I can share and empathize with the writer. Initially, we all think it below our dignity to charge money for our art. Then with time, we understand that we have to show our artwork, attract our viewers and sell our work to make a decent earning. There is no scope for complacency and procrastination if we are to survive. Art gives us immense pleasure while we are making it and more when someone owns it and proudly displays it.

    So creating artwork and marketing it is essential. Who else will market it as passionately as the artist himself? So all the best for creating and marketing your work.
    Dr. Madhumeeta Banerjee

  • I live in Puerto Rico, there are no collectors for American Art here, What to do?

    • Never say never. PR is courting millionaires from the mainland. Use social media and grit mixed with effective marketing to get known to them. Also, use the internet and social media to build a following internationally. Good luck to you.

  • What I refer to as my “cult following” are, in fact, my art collectors. I’d never thought of it that way so thank you! I gleaned several exceptional insights from your post including the new name of my business, which I’ve been seeking for a solid year. Thank you again. My medium, Sea glass art, is a wonderful oddity and a collectors delight. I’m excited about what I’ve learned from you and am ready to put it into action!

  • Anjie Skaya says:

    ” You’re all you’ve got, baby” indeed:-) thank you anjie skaya

    • You’re welcome. I love it when a reader reads all the way to the last line in a post. Thanks for making my day! All the best!

  • Great advice to all artists. Most Artists need to learn digital marketing. As an advertising Creative Director creating for clients internationally I use all the digital tools and this is what Artists need to learn and Master. Artists need to be pro level with Adobe Photoshop ( cost for Adobe Elements version is $100.) You need Photoshop to prepare art for the Web. Then you can use ALL the free Social Media tools to show art to the World.
    Stan Sweeney
    Richmond, VA

  • Gentile Me.Davey leggo ogni tanto i suoi preziosi consigli e mi piacerebbe ricevere da Lei un parere sui miei lavori perché non vendo niente. O meglio qualcosa ho venduto ma praticamente niente.
    Ho anche accettato le visualizzazioni cachet e ho visto che li guardano però non mi è mai pervenuto niente in soldi. Potrebbe, se possibile controllare la mia posizione su FFA perché a mio parere c’è qualcosa che non va .
    Grazie mille! Cordiali saluti M.Fiorella B🎨

    • Hi Maria, a translation suggests you request me to evaluate your FineArtAmerica site because you are not making sales. That is not a free service I offer. FineArtAmerica has more than 100,000 artists with websites. Because of its size, it is not possible that your art will be featured or found there without you taking charge of driving targeted traffic to it.

      • MariaFiorellaBorrini says:

        Egregio Sir Davey la ringrazio molto per la sua risposta. Ho capito. Le ho scritto perché pensavo fosse un servizio gratuito il suo dato che collabora con FRA ma mi sono sbagliata.
        La ringrazio lo stesso per il suo tempo speso a tradurre e mi scuso ma in Italiano mi spiego meglio.
        Grazie mille continuerò a k leggere i suoi consigli.
        Buon lavoro! Cordiali saluti
        M.Fiorella B.🎨

  • Insightful overview by Barney: one must find their own way, as each path is unique.

    A critical perspective an artist must ask: do I want my art to support me, or will I do what is needed to support my art?

    • Well put. I also think supporting one’s art will in turn enable one’s art to support in return.

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