Saturday, September 01, 2012

2012 Poll Results: What's the best place to sell art? (Part 1)

In the last 12 months, most artists have generated most of their income and profit in one of FOUR places - according to the August Making A Mark Poll

The four places are as follows
  • direct from studio - rank#1 for revenue and #1 for profit
  • via a commercial gallery and/or as a gallery artist - ranked #2 for revenue and #4 for profit
  • via an online gallery / shop (which is NOT either eBay or Etsy) - ranked #3 for revenue and #2 for profit
  • via an Annual Art fair or Festival - ranked #4 for revenue and #3 for profit.
These four places account for:
  • 68% of the responses identifying the best place for generating revenue
  • 58 % of the responses identifying the best place for making the most profit
Seven other places for selling art identified in the August Making A Mark Poll generated 5% or less responses.

75 responses in August 2012

59 responses in August 2012

My Annual Poll which seeks to identify the best place to sell art changed slightly this August.  It became two polls rather than one and aimed to separate out venues which generated sales from those which generated profit - on the basis that it's perfectly possible to sell art in some places and make no profit at all!

The questions asked by the two polls focused on which were the most effective marketing channels for selling art:
  1. What was the best place to sell art in the last year (most revenue)?
  2. What was the best place to sell art in the last year (most profitable)?
As the Poll topic for August was marketing channels, the Poll for September - which I will publish next week - will focus on the range of marketing tools (eg advertising / blogs / word of mouth etc) which artists use to alert people to where they sell their art

Analysis of the results

Direct from the studio

I've yet to do the analysis of the trends (which is Part 2 of this Poll report - coming next week) however I have an impression that artists have decided to do something about increasing the profitability of their art - and selling direct from an artist's studio is certainly one way of doing that.

It reduces gallery commission and travel costs.  Postage costs are also limited to items which have sold as opposed to artwork you hope to sell.

Obviously Open Studios also fall into the same category of venue as 'Direct from the Studio' and inclusion of these increases the importance of this top ranked option for where to sell your art.

Commercial Galleries

These of course rate high in terms of generating significant income for some artists - however they do less well when it comes to generating profit for an artist due to what can be high costs (eg framing all work irrespective of whether or not it sells), additional costs (eg commission)

IMO artists should only be in art galleries if:
  • they produce larger work 
  • and/or the artist is able to produce artwork to a consistent good standard 
  • and/or the artist can work to a deadline
  • and/or the gallery manages to sell their work on a regular and consistent basis (ie "bread and butter income")
One could comment at length on what makes a gallery effective from an artist's perspective - and maybe I will do - in another post.

What's your opinion?

Other Online Gallery / Shop

I'm intrigued by this result.  Sites which are NOT eBay or Etsy are generating significant sales.  I'm wondering which ones are the ones which get results!  I'd particularly like to hear from those who opted for this "venue".

For more about the explanation re eBay see below.

Which online galleries / shops are the most effective?

The Art Fair/ Festival

I wasn't surprised by the high ranking for this option.

These appear to be holding up in both popularity and effectiveness.  My impression is that artists appear to me to be putting much more effort into working out how they can present their artwork better at an Art fair (eg see this week's post Nicole Caulfield and her Mobile Art Studio / Gallery) and how they can make an appearance more cost-effective.

Are you thinking of ways of making a visit to an At fair a more profitable venture?

It should also be remembered that Art Fairs can also be a more cost-effective way of purchasing for art collectors given the scope and range of artists who participate.

The Art Society/Art Competition - Juried Exhibition

It's very clear that exhibitions associated with art competitions and art societies are NOT viewed as great selling opportunities.  I suggest this could be for one of three reasons.
  1. Sales have picked up but the impact of the recession is still evident in the number of exhibition sales
  2. Most artists are unlikely to enter many such exhibitions and hence it's very unlikely that they will generate a significant proportion of an artist's turnover.
  3. That said, there's probably some considerable scope to improve the way in which artwork displayed in such exhibitions is sold.  Galleries are beginning to get to grips with the notion of the parallel online exhibition - but I'm not convinced that all art societies and art competitions are fully engaged with the notion that marketing exhibitions online is ' good thing'.  However I reckon I know which art societies work hard at their sales and generate good results for their current and aspiring members.
Do you consider the exhibitions of art competitions and art societies a serious option for selling your art?

eBay and Etsy

I'm rather surprised to see both eBay and Etsy doing relatively badly.  It's apparent that Etsy has now got the edge over eBay - in terms of both revenue and profitability - however this conclusion could be related to the sample size.

[Update: I started to look at the trend statistics for Part 2 of this Update and it's apparent that The Art Shop on eBay has lost 61% of its traffic in the last year.  According to Traffic has dropped from 466,146 (July 2011) to 181,394 in July 2012.  

By way of comparison, Etsy's traffic is down 19% in the last year

More comparisons will be highlighted in Part 2 of this post next week]

Have you started or stopped selling art on eBay or Etsy in the last year?  If you stopped using a site for art marketing what were your reasons? 

What are the main changes in the last 12 months?

See Part 2 next week!


  1. We were part of a large art studio tour called the Two Countries, One Bay studio tour for the past 5 years,but the sponsoring institution cancelled this year for unfathomable reasons. We decided to try our own "one stop studio tour" yesterday and it was a success! We will continue to do this on a regular basis next year. Even though our Gallery is open 5 days a week during the season, some people prefer to come during the open studio days.

  2. Hello Katherine, this is not directly relating to the above post, but I just wanted to say that if you are going to the Bite PV tomorrow night, it would be good to make contact! Lynne

    1. Hi Lynne - I usually dodge the PVs unless I know artists who are exhibiting as the numbers of people attending usually make the event rubbish for taking photos (very difficult to get clear shots) - unless I turn up early.

      I'm not sure whether I will be attending yet - but if I do you can see a photo of me on my website "about me" page. Plus I'm the tall woman with a camera slung around her neck!

  3. Well, you know me!! However, I understand why you wouldn't go. I will look out for you. Of course I will be the short one, so you might struggle to find me in amongst the crowds! I am excited. My first Mall Gallery experience.

  4. Great Post Katherine! All your hard work is truly appreciated.

  5. I am interested in your poll results. I took part and my best sales and profits have been via a little local gallery this year, I would be interested to know more about the art fairs/festival option.

    I am not surprised about Etsy. It seems to work for some people I know but it's not original paintings that they sell. Although it looks inexpensive to sell there the time and money spent can mount up especially as they have a search system that often changes and seems to be weighted in favour of frequent relisters. This which escalates costs for sellers.

    1. All the feedback I get about Etsy is that it works well for those who have a lot in their store and list new items on a regular basis. The people who do well are those who are serious about retailing using this venue. Those who have not got to grips with what it takes to do well are unlikely to get much of a response.

      Bottom line as with many things, selling art is about marketing and time spent on marketing is what gets traffic and buyers. Listing on its own is simply not enough - you've got to generate and drive the traffic.


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