Be Smart About Art

How the time of year impacts your business

written by: Susan Mumford July 17, 2016 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 1977 views

How the time of year impacts your business

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

The majority of London's independent galleries will be relatively quiet this coming week. The reason is simple: Summer has commenced. Schoolkids are now out for summer, and families are taking holidays.

Yet this perspective is relative to the UK. Across the Atlantic, American schools closed for summer a number of weeks ago and thus, the summer holiday has been going strong for well over a month. No wonder that art fairs in The Hamptons have already taken place. When New Yorkers went there to holiday, savvy gallerists followed, presenting art to a captive audience. This fair was started a few years ago by some savvy fair organisers who put two and two together.

For a variety of reasons, seasons have implications for your enterprise. It’s important that you’re aware of this, learning over time how to capitalise on trends and be ready for what’s ahead (as much as you can at least).

The story of two artists who hired a gallery in the midst of the slow season displays such understanding. Traditionally quiet times of the year in London include high summer (mid-July to early/mid-September), Easter and mid-December to mid/end of January. When offered a Central London gallery at a cut-rate price for a week in January, they jumped on the opportunity. While many would’ve balked at the idea, it was ideal for them. Their aim was not to sell a lot of art, but to build credibility. They shared costs and received a major discount (as the gallery would’ve struggled to achieve the full rental asking price). This meant that while the event wasn’t likely to bring in a lot of money, it was a low, calculated risk that accomplished the intention. It worked a treat and they were delighted with the results.

While it’s all well and good for those in the know to negotiate based on season, it’s more difficult for individuals who are new to a field or a geographical / cultural area. So whenever you’re offered seemingly shocking discounts for venue hire, advertising and the like, be circumspect and ask “Why?” Look at the calendar of public holidays and ask friends with children about school holidays (if you're not already in the know). There’s often a reason for crazy good discounts, not in your favour.

There’s also the critical matter of cash flow. Before riding into quiet seasons, think about what you’ll do during that period. What cash will you raise in advance to cover ongoing expenses? And if necessary, what will you do to continue to bring in money? For example, one London-based artist exhibits in Santa Fe each summer. While her British galleries are practically taking a break, the New Mexico one is going strong.

Seasons bring challenges and opportunities alike. Plan ahead and make the most of them. As we slow down into high summer in England, I for one am enjoying plenty of rest, with weekends away to beaches and forests. In professional terms, I’m diving head-first into my favourite time of year for business planning.  

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