Be Smart About Art

Long gone are the days of sitting back and waiting for clients to come to you

written by: Susan Mumford July 6, 2014 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan's weekly blog post 4217 views

Long gone are the days of sitting back and waiting for clients to come to you

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

Long gone are the days of sitting back and waiting for clients to come to you

A veteran London gallerist friend of mine talks about how different today's art world is from the one she entered in the mid 1970s. On her first day of work as an assistant in a Mayfair gallery, a famous actor walked through the door. She thought, "If this is what the art world is like, I'm in!" It turned out that there was an actor's guild down the road, and many of them were frequent visitors.

Others visited too. In fact, a lot of people came into the gallery every day­. Of course, the gallery actively promoted exhibitions with printed invitations and catalogues. But no matter the effort made with their existing audience or advertising directed at the general public, passing trade was remarkable, with conversions to buyers high. Business was not just good, it was great.

Things initially changed in the early 90s with the recession. Some galleries closed, and most were badly impacted. One way that sales were hit was a lack of American collectors. Whereas they had previously represented a high percentage of London art buyers, they simply weren't around as they had been in pre-recession days.

Fast forward to the 21st Century. The gallery assistant eventually became Director, a role she holds today. They coped with 9/11, and the deep recession following the 2008 credit crunch. Between the economy and changes resulting from the digital age, it's a changed industry. One New York gallerist I know has said that that the art world pre and post recession are two entirely different places.

The Mayfair dealer closed the bricks & mortar gallery a few years ago, and moved the business online. With the proliferation of art fairs, continual increases in rents and new opportunities for exposure with the internet, many galleries have done the same. Her clients frequent the fairs and she arranges for artists to be present to talk with visitors.

And there is certainly no more sitting back and awaiting the crowds to come. Nor is that the case for most art spaces still remaining in prime locations (although it can still work a treat for art at the lower end of the market). Google is now the place to be discovered. Galleries and artists have to be active and strategic to secure prime placement. Complacency won't keep your ranking high.

The veteran gallerist promotes the fairs with targeted email campaigns and is an active user of Twitter. With a smile and a jolly laugh, she states that she has to be there in today's changed world. That's undoubtedly the same charm that won over actors as collectors back in 1975.
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Photographs © Chris King.

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The internet has given artists an extraordinary opportunity to reach people all over the world, particularly through twitter. For myself I have sold more paintings on Face Book than from my website and I belong to several on line galleries. The downside is the scammers who write to you telling you your work is fantastic and they can make you the hottest thing around. There's always a catch and usually a high price to pay so tread carefully. You know what they say... if it's too good to be true, it probably is!