Be Smart About Art

Educate potential art buyers and everyone wins

written by: Susan Mumford Feb. 16, 2014 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 3520 views

Educate potential art buyers and everyone wins

from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here)

A few years ago, a dealer friend contacted me because she knew I had access to hard-to-find sculptures by a contemporary artist. She had a client interested in buying. Luck was with us that day, for I knew of a collector who wanted to sell pieces from that exact series.

However, I came across a stumbling block. The collector did some online research and found that the going rate was £10,000. He emailed me, and said he would take £10,000.

Sound okay? It wasn’t. While the market value was indeed £10,000, that amount is what would be asked of the end buyer. The broker (in this case, we two art dealers) also needed to make something for putting together the deal.

Taking a deep breath, I called the client. I thanked him for the email and congratulated him on doing such excellent research. I proceeded to explain that yes, I hoped the end buyer would be prepared to pay the full market value of £10,000. I then explained to him that the other art dealer and myself would need to be paid commission out of that total for finding the piece and arranging the sale. He immediately understood, and was happy to oblige. The entire process was transparent and everyone was happy.

The need to educate potential buyers is a regular occurrence for artists and gallerists alike. Wannabe art buyers often don’t understand what a limited edition print is, why paintings cost more than a print, why art is priced at the same amount from the artist and their gallery – and so on! Name it, and you might need to explain it.

I recall once taking a call in my gallery from someone who had spotted a painting a year prior. He was ready to buy it, and was calling to commit to a purchase. My reply was along the following lines: “I am so sorry, but that was an original piece, and it sold last year.” The man was shocked. How was this possible?

Potential buyers who do understand the rarity of original art pieces are often prompted to take action as a result. The thinking is that if they want it, then everyone else is going to want it, and therefore, they need to take action straightaway, or lose the opportunity.

When you have someone wanting to buy or sell a work, talk with them to find out what they understand, and work out what they need to learn from you. Make certain that they understand the risk of walking away, and why a piece is priced as it is.

If  you establish yourself as a source of knowledge, it will help people trust you all the more as the expert you are. In conversation with potential buyers, you can be flattering and educational, and both parties win.     

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Let other readers know about your personal experience of this, and what wisdom you have to share.    

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Photographs © Chris King.

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Posted by : maria marro-perera 20/02/2014 17:14

Absolutely! Esp. in a sector that has not always been very transparent, one must be ready to address questions and concerns in a professional and, yes, didactic manner... Just read an article that very much echoes your advice
Amateurs Get Angry With Clients. Professionals Educate Them via @99u

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One personal point is the great diversity of the regional markets - pieces that have sold in London are (apparently) drastically overpriced for my local market in Cornwall. Smaller in scale doesn't seem to work - so much less impact.
I suppose it requires different sort of work!