Want to sell art in another country? Welcome to the club...
from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here)
The first show I ever solely ran in London premiered original drawings and paintings of an American artist. The costliest aspects of the event were the result of the ocean that lay between the artist and myself.
When later setting up as an art dealer, I had an original idea (or so I thought): As an American in London I would bring artists from my homeland to the UK. This idea was seriously considered as the USP (unique selling point) of the business. Until I tried it, that is. The challenges in working out what to do with unsold art, the lack of the artist being able to attend events and the inability to readily change art works on consignment resulted in a swift move away from that concept.
Fast forward to today in my role as a mentor to artists and gallerists alike, and there are a couple of ‘ideas’ heard time and time again: new dealers from another country want to bring artists from their home country to exhibit and sell; and artists want to show in a foreign country.
While the internet is opening up the globe for selling art, making people increasingly aware of international opportunities, there are challenges in setting up artist-gallerist partnerships across oceans and continents – that is, unless one of those two parties is committed to regularly traveling to and fro.
Consider the startup gallerist who was keen to bring Brazilian art to the UK. She hadn’t considered the storage of unsold art and what to do long-term about pieces that didn’t sell. In the minds of the artists and herself, the concept was to exhibit mixed media pieces in a glorious Central London showroom, where every last piece would find new homes. Wake up and smell the coffee of reality! Particularly as a new dealer, it would take time to build trust with eventual clientele and she would inevitably end up sitting on pieces for many months on end, working on following up sales leads while generating new ones. It wasn’t long before she was showing pieces by local artists, too.
Also consider the other side of the coin. As much as artists want to show in foreign countries, particularly in the major international cultural centres, success is no easy feat. Even if relatively successful wherever they are based, showing somewhere new normally necessitates starting from scratch in reputation and following. Not only this, the tastes of buyers in other countries might be very different.
While there are artists and gallerists who make this happen, it takes a significant amount of dedication and investment. Though it might seem glamorous to send pieces abroad, or to have pieces consigned by others from foreign parts, think long and hard about the feasibility of being able to collaborate over the months and years to come. It’s the long road that sees results, which necessitates miles travelled by the art pieces and their makers and/or exhibitors.
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