Thursday, April 02, 2020

COVID-19 & Art #7: Selling art online (Mall Galleries)

It's interesting to see how artists and art galleries are continuing to sell art during the current health emergency.

Providing opportunities for art collectors / fans to continue to purchase work during lockdown allows artists to continue to generate an income stream from sales and hence continue paying their rent and feeding themselves!  In other words, pretty basic and important stuff!

I'm going to be looking at different examples of how people are selling artwork online over the coming weeks/months/however long.

Today I'm looking at how a national art society sells the art which was supposed to be on exhibition to the public - on the walls of the Mall Galleries right now.

The 2020 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours should have opened to the public this morning at 10am on the first day of its exhibition.

Instead - like all other art galleries in the country - the Mall Galleries has had to close (although it took the decision to do so, in advance of the government instruction, in order to protect both staff and visitors). The planned exhibitions are all currently postponed.

Images below are from my past sketches of past RI Annual Exhibitions at the Mall Galleries.

Sketch of the RI Exhibition at the Mall Galleries ten years ago - in April 2010
See RI Exhibition at the Mall Galleries (2010)
This sketch appears on page 103 of my book Sketching 365 
available via a link in the side column or from all good art bookshops
© Katherine Tyrrell

Selling art via the Mall Galleries


The one major advantage that the Mall Galleries has is that it had already developed its own online platform for selling to the public.

Their platform allows them to:
  • create virtual exhibitions of all the national art society annual exhibitions held in the Mall Galleries
  • sell art on an ad hoc basis by artist members of the national art societies that are Federation of British Artists
  • enable buyers to use the national Own Art system - which is only available to accredited galleries. This allows art buyers to use an installment system for payments (See How to own art)
I'm going to look at each of these in turn and use the 2020 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours as an example.

Private View of the 199th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour
11" x 16", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils
© Katherine Tyrrell

Sales from a Virtual Exhibition


The work selected for exhibition by the RI back in January is online in a virtual exhibition. (SCROLL DOWN this link).

In fact it's been online for some time - as the galleries's practice now launches the virtual exhibition in advance of the actual exhibition. This provides
  • a boost for sales once the exhibition opens at the preview and/or to the public as a number of works already sport red dots because they sold in advance - and red spots generate red spots!
  • the capacity to create virtual exhibitions and extend the marketing time for the art - both before and after the exhibition - is greatly helped via a submission process which has moved to using digital images of all paintings.
I rather think artists will realise during this health emergency why having a good quality digital image of your artwork gives you a significant advantage over those artists who depend on their work being shown in art galleries which are not encessarily internet savvy. They're certainly not open right now....

So how does the sales process work?

Basically, sales for the RI Watercolours exhibition work exactly as they usually do. The same process is then followed whether buying at the desk or online - as detailed below....


the beginning of the display of the virtual exhibition of the RI Annual Exhibition 2020

  • first you have to click on the image or title of the work you are interested in the Virtual exhibition
  • then complete the "Make an Enquiry" form on the page of the work they are interested in (which also provides a much larger image of the work in question)
The individual page of "Portrait of a Brush" by Lilias August
On the right is the "Make and Enquiry form"

  • the Mall Galleries (currently working from home via the gallery system) get back to interested customers
  • customers are advised of their options for making payment, which include:
Cards accepted by the Mall Galleries for payment for artworks
  •  They will also be notifed of the Online Exhibition Terms and Conditions for all online sales
  • Payment can be taken directly online.  If the purchaser would like to use Own Art, or make a payment in a different method, they need to get in touch with the Galleries.
  • Artwork is then available for collection after the exhibition finishes. 
    • In this instance this means once lockdown finishes 
    • Buyers are being advised about collection just like they are after the exhibition finishes in normal circumstances.
  • Delivery of art is possible - if buyers would prefer works to be delivered to them after the lockdown is lifted. They must contact the gallery and the additional cost can be calculated and delivery arranged. 

Sales via the Buy Art section of the website


This is the section which allows art collectors/fans to buy art all year around from artists featured by the Mall Galleries in their Buy Art section of the website
The Buy Art page on the Mall Galleries website

Buying work via the Buy Art section of the website is a slightly different system, but also remains unchanged through lockdown.
  • Postage and packaging (within the UK Mainland) is included in the price. 
  • The art is located with the artist rather than at the Gallery
  • Works are then dispatched by the Artist directly from their Studio
What is different is that this option is currently reliant on the Artist being able to access
  • their Studio where their artwork is located and 
  • the Post Office (or a courier service) 
Neither of these can be guaranteed at this time.

Depending on the shipping agent used, with luck the same 2 weeks delivery time will be in operation. Although many artists are noting that deliveries are taking longer - in much the same way as it's taking longer for us to buy other supplies.

Of course, in theory, you can of course buy direct from an artists BUT......
More about how individual artists can sell art online in later posts.

(Experienced online sellers who wuld like to volunteers for case studies are welcome to get in touch with me)


Previous Coronavirus Crisis Blog Posts


I started my seris of coronavirus posts back in early March. You can find them listed below - in reverse chronoligical order with the most recent first

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