This article is excerpted and summarized from an interview with artist Leslie Neumann for our members. Leslie generously shared her experience working with art consultants. The key points here are provided by Leslie and with include my annotations.
If you have a solid studio practice and welcome the challenge of commissioned work, art consultants might be a good opportunity to help you make a living.
What Art Consultants Do and Who They Are
Art consultants are people who seek and buy art for a client, whether it’s a healthcare company, a private collector, or a hotel.
The difference between art consultants and designers is that, generally speaking, a designer is responsible for the whole job and not just the artwork. They’ll do everything from fabrics to lighting, accessories, and furniture.
Designers know design. Art consultants should know art, and how to show it properly.
Art consultants might specialize in placing artwork—period. End of story. Or they might be involved in all aspects of a project.
They almost always want to commission work from you rather than buying a piece you already have, so you must be willing to make work on their terms.
The difference between art consultants and galleries is that art consultants are not brick-and-mortar outfits. They don’t usually have a physical space.
Leslie’s Tips for Finding Art Consultants
Above all, you should be networking with other artists and asking if they’ve worked with art consultants and how they found them.
Keep in mind that artists are protective of their sources and don’t necessarily want the competition. Asking the name of the consultant outright might prove unfruitful.
You should Google “corporate art consultant” or “art consultants” and pore over the sites you find to see what kind of work they place. Study their projects and staff so you can add this knowledge to your networking experiences.
Pricing Your Work for Art Consultants
Your contract with a consultant might be a 60/40 or 50/50 split. Keep in mind that you have the power to negotiate, and agreeable terms might vary from project to project or consultant to consultant.
After you’ve decided on terms, you must be able to quote your prices.
If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written on pricing, you know that you have one price and one price only for your art. This is the retail price.
Some art consultants will ask you for a wholesale price, but it isn’t in your best interest to work that way.
If one of your pieces sells for $3000 at a gallery, it should also sell for $3000 through a consultant. If you have a 50/50 split, you each earn $1500 from a sale. But, if you tell the consultant that you just want $1500 from the sale, she could sell it for $4000 and you’d never know.
You have to be the one controlling your prices, not the consultant.
What’s Your Experience?
Have you worked with a consultant? What tips can you share with other artists?
24 thoughts on “Are Art Consultants Right For You?”
An art consultant contacted me through Zatista (online gallery)- first by asking me for some explanation of one of my pieces, and once I answered that question she revealed that she was an art consultant and wanted to know if I offer art consultants and designers discounts. She then sent me an email via my website and again asked a simple “do you offer consultants discounts” – I was sort of thrown by her question. I expect to pay a commission to anyone who sells my work for me, so why wouldn’t I expect her to get a commission? But she wasn’t using the word “commission,” she was using the word “discount.” So is this “discount” the 50% Alyson is referring to or is this a way of opening the door for purchasing the work “at a discount” and selling it for whatever price she wants?
Thanks Alyson, for this article. It helps! I haven’t heard from the consultant since that initial battery of emails (4 in about 15 minutes) just before Thanksgiving. The rest is silence!
Jim: The “discount” is (in this instance) the same as the commission. It’s very confusing the way some of them have set up their businesses.
When I did some consulting more than a decade ago, I asked artists for a 20% discount and passed that on to my clients.
I have worked with two different art consultants and have poll vaulted forward in my business skills and understanding which has taken me to a place of being better able to provide for my family and create more ambitious projects. It has challenged me and helped me grow. So thankful for people like Alyson who work so hard to share their information and wisdom to all the artists out there stuck in their various versions of Valley Forge.
Rick: So happy to hear that you have had success working with consultants.
I am an artist, an oil painter, and often sell my art through art consultants. I find it to be a lucrative niche and a channel that is easy to work with (hint: no consignment is required and art sells in multiples). I have written all about it: What art consultants are looking for, how to price art for this market, how to contact them, and then went ahead and shared my Rolodex of key qualified contacts. It is packaged as an ebook downloadable at: http://artistadvisory.com/ebook.html
Thank you for sharing that resource Liron.
I was an art consultant for many years. Now I am a full time artist.
As an art consultant , I got business by cold calling and word of mouth. Working with clients of Corporations setting up art collections consisted of viewing the space, creating an environment right for the individual business, working within a budget,finding artwork, presentation of art works and suggested placement. Framing , delivery and installation.
Yes I would get commissions for artists. Being an art consultant was both lucrative for myself as well as the artist. As a side note I sold my art as well.
Presently I am enjoying growing my art……
Marla: What do you mean “I would get commissions for artists” ??
When I was first starting out, I read a magazine article about a local art consultant so on a long shot contacted her by phone(which is how we did things in the old days)…
Surprisingly, she came down to my studio for a visit…
I had a colour photocopied catalogue of my work(old days), which she was very glad to have to take with her for future reference…
Ok, so now why it wasn’t for me…(But why maybe for you)…She indeed needed multiples, like alot, she was doing hotels & restaurants & spaces that needed could be 50 of a variation on one theme…Preferred work was works on paper(light & cheap), but framed(traditional look), in a uniform colour tone(we are trying to match the couch here)…
Pricing should be discount for multiples-volume type deals…
It wasn’t me at the time(total snob), but for artists who can work in bulk to spec, it is a hole ‘nother field…
Yes, excellent point, Sari. That’s what Leslie says in the interview. Multiples.
Typo above: I meant “whole” not “hole”…(possible subliminal mistake though)
An Art consultant approached me with a commission and the price she was expecting.
I told her I could not do it, that price was not enough even for the foundry.
She offered an other price that was not very good, but told me that was the top that the company will pay.
I didn’t want to miss the opportunity for a large outdoor sculpture and accepted.
At the unavailing, I was talking with he CEO of the company and realized that they were paying over three times
what I was paid.
That was the last time I had anything to do with a consultant.
Now I know better ( after Bootcamp) to guard my work and like you said Alyson to have control.
Ellen: Ouch! I hate that that happened to you.
But I would also hate for you to close the doors on other consultants who might treat you better.
Thank you for this article.
I am a sculptor who has worked with art consultants. Sometimes they are pitching, competing with other consultants for a project, so not all projects come to fruition.
As in all situations, some of them are worth working with, others are not.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Kevin.
This is very interesting. I’m still at the very beginning stages of my art career, and thank you for introducing me to the idea of art consultants, Alyson.
Lucy: Happy to see you here.
At one very happy point in time I had a few consultants and 3 galleries then the post Clinton crash which took all but one gallery. I really liked working with the consultants and am working on trying to get back on track with them. I built terrific working relationships with them and look forward to doing that again.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Ann Marie.
Hello Alyson, Thank you for the post. I am presently “pitching” to consultants after looking at their websites, looking for the right fit, etc. It takes an enormous amount of time to configure my email packages, and I think it will be worth it. I appreciate your continuing reminders to stay in control of pricing, and I remind myself to be honest with what I can produce/offer. Looking forward to more of your wisdom! Cherilyn
Cherilyn: Good work! Yes, the effort is definitely worth it.
I received a cold call and was offered $250 one time use fee for them to take my images and make giclees. THe follow-up email said their budget was $150 each. they want to use three paintings. They will print four 5’x 4′ prints. I like $250 much better than $150 as I will have to get the images photographed professionally. I told her I preferred to use the first price and I was interested in working with her.
It was the first time I have been brave/stupid enough to say I wanted more. We will see how it plays out. THey are beautiful paintings and the project is for summer 2016. There is plenty of time to find someone else, but I am very hopeful.
Holy cow! $150-250 for four 5′ x 4′ prints? They are getting a bargain.