Control your art market


So proclaimed a headline on a luxury goods site last week. Before you let this news upset you, consider the context.

Whenever the art press talks about the Art Market, they are referring to the auction market–the secondary market in which art that was previously purchased is offered for sale by the owners.

The above headline leads into an article that declares auction estimates are way down for October from the previous October. Unless you are a collector offering art at the major auction houses or an artist whose work is in one of the auctions, this number doesn’t affect you.

You have your own art market.

You–not the auction houses–can control when, how, and for how much you sell your art. You can even control who purchases it if you like. Here are six ways to make sure your art market doesn’t take a nosedive.

1. Above all, make the best work you can.
High-quality work blessed with original ideas will always be in fashion.

2. Don’t raise your prices too much at once.

Prices need to change gradually.

You may have had an Aha moment and realized your art is worth much more than you’ve been selling it for, but you will have to do a whole lot of talking to convince your previous buyers that they should suddenly pay double for your work. (Note: This doesn’t pertain to you if you haven’t yet completed a number of sales.)

Sheona Hamilton-Grant, Legacy. Pencil on paper, 34 x 37 cm. ©The Artist
Sheona Hamilton-Grant, Legacy. Pencil on paper, 34 x 37 cm. ©The Artist

3. Articulate your work through writing and speaking.

By writing or talking about your art, you are setting a tone for how others look at it.

You are giving people clues as to how your art should be appreciated. Every major auction has an expensive glossy catalog to accompany it.

You don’t need the hyped-up language that is used to sell multi-million-dollar works at a public sale, but you do need solid, authentic words.

4. Build relationships.

Read any book on the Art Market, and you will be convinced that nurturing long-term relationships is critical.

Art doesn’t appear randomly at Sotheby’s or Christie’s. It’s a hard-fought battle to see which auction house will end up with the best works.

Of course, deal-making comes into play (a lot!), but the sellers need to trust whomever they do business with.

5. Get your art out of the studio!

Exhibit as much as you can and make sure people know about it.

Send newsletters, postcards, and email. The more personal your correspondence, the better.

Since you’re not able to send personal notes to everyone on your mailing list, it becomes even more critical to pay close attention to your top buyers. That’s what my No-Excuse Art Biz Bootcamp is all about.

6. Live by the best business practices.

Keep your promises, exceed expectations, meet deadlines, follow up, and follow through.

Do these things, and people will love you as much as your work.

FINAL WORD: You can control your own art market. Don’t rely on outside forces to take care of you. Take the initiative to guarantee that people will continue to fall in love with and purchase your work.


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2 thoughts on “Control your art market”

  1. Alyson is hitting the key points and well. We all gradually create our own, individualized art market as a culmination of the thousands of little steps we take, both in creating the work and then what we do to get it seen. There really aren’t any secrets.

    A few years back one of the graduate students at MICA who helped me teach my Life Drawing class asked if he could take me out to dinner in exchange for hints at how to have a successful painting career. I knew he was broke, so I turned him down on the free dinner, but I did talk with him at length about life after art school. Pretty much told him exactly what Alyson listed above.

  2. Alyson Stanfield

    Thanks, Philip. And how nice of you to spend the time with the grad student. I’ve heard of many profs who are territorial with their secrets, which just blows me away. Your students are fortunate.

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