Artists and the galleries that represent them both benefit from taking steps to act as partners with each other.
It just makes good business sense for artists to work in tandem with galleries by taking regular actions to promote them and send business their way. Likewise, there are many incentives for the gallery staff to work closely with the artists they represent.
Your goals are both the same; to sell more of your work. Your working relationship starts with the basics. Trust is the foundational building block in any relationship. Both the artist and the gallery must act with integrity, and be honest with each other in their dealings. It means that:
Both parties honor their written contract and the spirit of that agreement.
The artist offers consistent pricing and never undercuts the gallery’s prices.
The gallery always notifies the artist when work is sold and pays them on a timely basis.
The artist delivers or ships when they say they will.
The gallery endeavors to promote the artist’s work whenever possible.
The artist refers customers to the gallery to buy their art whenever possible.
These are pretty basic principles, and of course they make sense. But there is so much more to building that strong, beneficial relationship than simply being honest and transparent. And, whether you consign your work at a traditional art gallery, or wholesale to any type of retailer, the idea is the same.
When a gallery or retailer is invested in your concept, and your work, there are quite a few ways to work together. It’s a two-way street. The artist has much to offer the gallery, and the gallery has much to offer the artist.
What can the artist do?
Provide excellent images of your work for marketing purposes. Let the gallery know you are willing to send images of your artwork, studio photos, etc. that are professionally taken. This will enable them to easily create promotional material.
Provide selling points to the gallery for staff use. What does the staff need to know to sell your work? Send them a sheet of “selling points” filled with information they can use when speaking with customers. This may include the concept behind your work, your inspiration and technique, care instructions, installation instructions, suggestions for display, and more.
Provide display fixtures if appropriate for wholesale accounts. Artists who ship their work to a store and offer display options make it much easier to merchandise and sell product. This can even make the difference between closing that wholesale order or not.
Gain local press for your galleries. What would a gallery owner say if you solicited press in their local area to gain exposure for your art and refer readers to the gallery? Would they be impressed that you have gone above and beyond in your effort to act as a marketing partner for them?
List galleries that sell your art on your website. Your art website should have live links to the galleries that feature your work (and you might want to send readers to the page on the gallery site that shows your work.) Let the gallery know that you are referring traffic to them.
Promote your galleries in your marketing activities. Write a blog post about the gallery, or promote them in your next email marketing campaign. Follow them on social media, interact and share their posts with your followers. Introduce your network to them, and make every referral possible to help them help you sell.
Offer outstanding customer service. The more responsive you are to the needs of your galleries, the better you can help them serve their own customers. Do they have questions? Is there an issue? Does something need repair? Make it a priority to always provide the best customer service to all of your galleries, collectors and prospects. It’s not exceptional these days, it’s expected.
Ask how you can provide assistance. Become a standout to your galleries by offering any type of help they may need to better represent you. Do they need more materials? An eblast to your list on their behalf? Think of ways you can be their partner in the promotion of your work and let them know what you can do. Take a look at this artist who regularly gets a huge response because she has thought through ways to build anticipation for her collection and help the gallery present her line.
Make it easy for them to take commissions for you. Are you willing to take commissions or special orders? Send the gallery step-by-step instructions on what you need to take commissions, including terms, deposit, turnaround time and more. If you wholesale, send the gallery a line sheet without prices, so that they can show your whole collection to their customers without revealing their costs.
Give them an “exclusive” (if they earn it). Your gallery may not want local competitors to sell your art, and that is understandable. Providing galleries exclusivity can be a great arrangement, if both parties are committed to working together, and if you are getting sufficient business from the gallery to warrant your turning down other business. Read more about exclusivity here.
What can the gallery do?
Offer co-op advertising to the artist. A gallery that is acting as a true partner, and who has made a commitment to representing you, may be willing to participate in co-op advertising. This type of advertisement presents your artwork or your collection, with your name and the gallery name on the ad. It clearly reinforces your partnership.
Invite the artist to appear. Is the gallery that carries your work planning an opening? Or an artist talk, social event or trunk show? They can feature you as the artist to meet shoppers and collectors, and promote your work. Meeting the artist is a big deal to many people; they are more likely to make a purchase when you are available to speak with them about yourself, your work and their needs.
Present a solo show of the artist’s work. Galleries that have made a commitment to an artist and are experiencing sales success may offer you a solo show to put a focus on selling your work. Gallery shows are expensive. This type of promotion reflects a good working relationship, and a profitable one.
Increase the artist’s presence in the gallery through expanding to other collections. As you work with the gallery to make sales, and are getting a good response from their customers, it is appropriate for them to consider expanding your presence in their space. If you wholesale, you might ask them for a commitment to increase their buy for the year. If you consign, discuss any other collections that you make, and how they may be displayed.
Use your images in advertising their gallery or store. The flip side to providing those excellent photographs is having your art featured on postcards, in advertisements, online ads and more. Compelling images grab attention and pull customers in the door. When your work is used to attract those shoppers, it’s a win/win arrangement.
You can build a strong, reciprocal relationship with a gallery that pays off for both of you. Start with that basic trust, and following through by taking responsibility in helping the gallery sell, you become a very important partner. Artists who stand back and assume that the gallery will take over all marketing and promotion do themselves and their galleries a disservice.
The next time you have an opportunity for representation, or gain that opening order, consider ways you can step up and increase your importance to the gallery, and add to the success of both of your businesses.