Saturday, 16 October 2010

Galleries and Internet based artists.

To a large extent I'm an internet based artist. I create certain works with a view to selling them online.

I’ve come across a bias against artists/work on POD sites recently among galleries. It seems like many gallery owners have decided to take a common stance against anyone with a substantial presence on POD sites. I think this is short sighted. The whole online selling thing has developed so far and so fast.. my view is that in order to survive galleries really need to adapt to this changed world.

So here are some arguments I've developed to deal with this entrenched "head in the sand" position.

First if I sign works for a gallery.. then surely the work signed has a greater value than unsigned POD’s sold via Red Bubble ? It may not be the way many galleries have operated in the past but I would honestly expect a commercially savy organisation to grasp the basic idea... that signed works are more valuable.

I’m uncompromising when it comes to this argument.. I say “if a gallery can’t see the potential in selling signed works on the back of POD popularity then I don’t think they are the sort of organisation I will have confidence in”. My view is that many galleries still think they can turn their back on internet art sales.. and survive. They should be using internet popularity as a way of establishing which artists works are selling.. as part of their decision to sell an artists “signed” works.

I support this argument by pointing out, I have no control over the final quality on a POD site.. and this basically puts POD prints into the same bracket as unsigned “wholesale” prints sold through IKEA or any other national store. Would they reject signed prints of a work that became popular through high street sales.. no they wouldn’t. So why should it be any different with POD’s ?

I also argue strongly that sales of POD’s will ultimately increase the value of signed prints, and any gallery owner worth their salt should be able to grasp this. For example if a POD image sells tens of thousand (I wish).. and is found to be very popular online then surely a gallery is going to benefit from selling the same work signed on the back of this already established popularity ?

As an example I have a POD print based on Manchester that sells pretty well.. so I am actively seeking an outlet for signed prints in Manchester. Its not rocket science is it ?

I also tell them that my marketing efforts will continue (including online marketing) even if they agree to sell my signed works, and that I see my them benefiting from my marketing efforts. I will often include the following “this work consistently sells well online as a POD” in my communications with galleries.

I have and will agree deals to withdraw specific images from POD sites with galleries.. but will try and argue against it. (politely)

I’m genuinely surprised so many don’t get it.. I suspect there is “control freakery” in all this !

I have also made progress with galleries by offering to embellish prints that I sign for them.. this can often be an area of extra colour or a few more lines added to a work. I don’t find this very difficult because quite often I get further ideas after I have finished a work.

Part of the reason I’m posting this is in the hope that gallery owners monitor blogs like this, and it gives them something to think about. Gallery owners should be getting smart and cashing in on the success of artists selling via the Internet.

I want to build up trust with those galleries I sell to.. so its important artists maintain a consistent approach. I also think it sounds good to tell a prospective gallery.. “I’m sorry I can’t do as you ask because it would unfair to my buyers and other galleries to change my policy at this stage."

I had a heated discussion with a gallery owner about POD sales a month or so back.. I stuck to my guns and a couple of days later she rang back and said she’d thought abou it.. and we made a deal. My thinking is that many gallery owners want you all or largely to themselves.. which is fine and dandy if they can provide a good income but in these difficult times we all (galleries and artists) need to be adaptable and try different things.

Think of one or more USP’s (unique selling points) ! Things that make you and your work different from the rest.. and push that at them.

But if a gallery hasn’t got the basic confidence to point out to a potential buyer the differences between a POD and a signed, authenticated and numbered print. Then I really don’t think they know their business… and I’m not sure they are right for me.

As for internet based artists all we can do is keep chipping away at it. if gallery owners are going to make restrictive demands on artists, then artists really need to have a common response.

There really is no benefit at all to an artist in agreeing a bad deal… if you don’t like the deal move on.

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