Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Where to sell art is the wrong question

I received a query about selling art yesterday.  Below you can read the query and my response
Hi Katherine

I've been enjoying your "Making a Mark" blog for years, and I'm hoping that somewhere in the archives you address my question. If not, I'd love to have you do a poll!

I'm part of a professional art group, and we are in the process of developing a web site. Some members say we absolutely should have an online store for selling fine art; others, including me, say that anyone hoping to make serious sales that way is overly optimistic, and that it is very difficult to make significant sales online.

I believe the idea of selling fine art online is mis-represented, mostly by people who design web sites intended to help artists sell art online. What are your thoughts on selling fine art online? Is it viable - or not?

Thank you!
This was my response - which I have to say was written off the top of my head late last night in about five minutes!

It is however the distilled view of having looked at very many websites and the activities of very many artists over the last eight years
Both views are correct - however you have omitted the key factor in the equation.

  • There are a lot of websites which make their money out of persuading people who don't know any better that they can sell their art through their website. Wrong! The only way they will get traffic is if the artists generate it themselves and if they're doing that then they might as well sell via eBay or Etsy. There again there are websites where people list and sell virtually everything they list. The latter are people who have developed a following. Look at certain painters on Daily Paintworks to see what I mean eg Dreama Tolle Perry; Taryn Day; Jacqueline Gnott; Karin Jurick; Carol Marine etc etc They're good at what they do, they have a distinctive style, they have themes for subject matter etc. 
  • It all depends on your pricepoint. Galleries won't touch cheaper art - that needs to be sold direct by the artist. Remember there is no commission only the costs of putting it online. That means that some people will make more money out of selling large volumes of cheaper art direct than others will make from selling more expensive art selling via galleries.
  • Bottom line it's all down to the marketing. You will sell via:
    • a gallery if the gallery is good at marketing. If not then it will sit in their backroom gathering dust 
    • your own website if you are good at marketing
    • via an online gallery if you are good at marketing
So bottom line - I think your professional art group needs to get professional at marketing - because it seems to me they are looking at the whole question of how to sell art the wrong way round.

The channel isn't the issue.

Selling art is difficult period.

The issue is about how much time and effort you want to put into marketing! If you want to sell art then you need to allocate time to marketing and you need to ensure you are doing the right things in the right way.

Do the wrong things in the wrong way and it really doesn't matter how much time and effort you apply to marketing!
My view is that if professional galleries are selling art online - which they are - then professional artists should very definitely be selling their art online.

In fact a number of artists have been able to build a portfolio of bricks and mortar galleries to represent their art because they could demonstrate - via online sales - that their art sold and that they had a following.

What's your View?

How would you have answered the question?

Do share what your view is about the pros and cons of art groups having an online ecommerce set-up for selling art via their website.

Resources for Artists

You can find resources to help you sell art in my websites listed below

How to sell art online
How to sell art online
Do you want to sell your art online? This is a compendium of sites providing advice and information to visual fine artists who want to know more about where and how to sell their art online. It provides links to my websites for visual artists who want to earn more about how to get a good service

E-commerce for Artists
E-commerce for Artists
Do you want to know about e-commerce for artists and how to sell art online? This site helps you find out about: * THE RULES about selling art online and where best to sell your art * YOUR OPTIONS for where to sell art online - via your websites, blog, shopping carts, auctions, online galleries

How to Price Your Art - Resources for Artists
How to Price Your Art - Resources for Artists
Check out different approaches to "how to price art". Identify costs that need to be recovered, review different pricing models and factors that influence the setting of prices Many artists "How should I price my art?" - especially emerging artists getting to grips with the art business 

How to pack, post and ship art - Resources for Artists
How to pack, post and ship art - Resources for Artists
How do you pack art? How do you post art? How should you send a painting by post? How do you get artwork to an exhibition - and back again? What are the best packing materials? What are the best methods for different types of art? How do you ship art internationally?

Sell Daily Paintings - Resources for Artists
Sell Daily Paintings - Resources for Artists
Do you want to know more about how to sell daily paintings online - or improve your knowledge about the painting a day movement generally? Check out this site to find out about websites which aim to help daily painters to sell their art online. 

Online Art Galleries and Stores for Artists
Online Art Galleries and Stores for Artists
Online galleries offer to help you sell your ORIGINAL ART - but do they actually work? Which is the best and which gets the most traffic? This site provides you with lots of information. So - if you're trying to find out more about online art galleries - this is the site for you! 

Print Art on Demand - Resources for Artists
Print Art on Demand - Resources for Artists
Check out the suppliers of print on demand ( POD ) services for Art Prints / Art Books & Catalogues. Review what artists think of them & traffic to their sites. Find out about: - what is print on demand / publish on demand? - suppliers of print on demand services for art - and reviews 

How to Make A Mark with Art
How to Make A Mark with Art
Answers for artists wanting to know how to write about their art and being an artist; how to price art and market art, how to sell art online and ship art and how to review and critique art. When people start to create art, they have lots of "HOW TO" questions. 


  1. Thanks for posting this, Katherine. It is an important question that I think many of us are wrestling with these days. I think it takes a ton of marketing - and persistent marketing - to steer eyes to a selling site. "Build it and they will come" doesn't work with websites.

  2. This is so timely - I've just returned from giving a presentation on using social media to sell your art! I agree with all that you have said, Katherine. It's simply a matter of effort coupled with a marketing plan. If you understand your difference, know your customer, and are able to tell a story via internet tools that marry your difference to your customer base in an authentic way, than you can generate sales via the internet. The thing is, though, many artists aren't comfortable with the technology and don't wish to become comfortable, and they also don't want to sacrifice creation time for marketing time. And when artists tell me this, I remind them that they are paying gallery staff a commission to sell their work and do all this marketing stuff for them (if they are lucky enough to have gallery representation). Noone knows or can talk about artwork like the artist who made it - so why not pay themselves to do the same work a gallery might? 80% of my sales originate from the internet, and I have a website, blog, FB presence and membership in other professional affiliations that help me to share my art with the public. I also have gallery representation - galleries that embrace the exposure and work I do and partner with me to help further market my work. And every sale I close on my own, I make a mental note of that commission fee and recognize that my hours at the computer earned it.


  3. Selling art online was the topic of a Webinar on Smart About Art: http://www.besmartaboutart.com/blog/111/why-and-how-artists-galleries-sell-art-online-second-wednesday-webinar-recap-video-jan-2014

    They talked with Jonas Almgren, CEO of online art marketplace Artfinder why and how artist sell onine.
    One of the major questions buyers have before they buy a painting online: Will it be what I expected? (Image on the website and original work should not differ too much). Will it ship safely?
    How exactly will it be shipped; does it arrive in good condition?
    Is it a fair and good price?

    Transparency is another important aspect. If you don't show your price on your website the customers will assume that your art is expensive. Collectors want to compare prices and not to feel cheated.

    In the end it's all about marketing your art.

  4. Thank you Katherine, for making it so clear!

    I know for a fact that art, even how good it is, do not sell itself. I am the youngest daughter of an artist who was brilliant ( yes, other people who have a great knowledge in art thought/think so too;-) ). But he never ever "promoted" himself, as the phrase is nowadays. He was in a way innocent enough to think that good art sold itself. Instead he saw absolutely horrendous artists make huge sums just because they lacked self doubt and , in a way they, ( I am his daughter after all) shamelessly promoted themself in the art establishment. Many are the art equivalent of the emprors new clothes. It was sad to see that he was not as praised as he should have been, considering his quality. ( We have never made a website, he died in 2004, but if you are interested google Christian Due.You might find some of his etchings and engravings on a picture. O dear, I just promoted my father on the Internet for the first time, sorry, your blog is not the right place for that!)
    These days it is even more important. I do not like it in the least, but if you do not exist on Internet, you do not exist at all. Horrid but true! I know that if I will ever consider trying to make a living of what is now a hobby, I would have to just let my sense of shame,for thinking I am something interesting, go and just market myself on the internet, through all different channels there is. I really wish every really good artis good luck in this. Your art is badly needed "out there". There are too many Kinkaid ( sorry if misspelled) who sell their horrid cheap, in quality not in price, art! And people think it is good because they paid huge sums for it! There are good artists too, but they are ususally more "quiet".

    Thank you again for an excellent blog and really good luck in writing your book!!!


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