Be Smart About Art

Storytelling: Tales of First Art Sales

written by: Susan Mumford Aug. 20, 2017 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 1018 views

Storytelling: Tales of First Art Sales

from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here)
[Image above: Susan in days of yore!] 

Several weeks ago while in the midst of an online mentoring session, with me on one side of the Atlantic and a start-up art dealer on the other, she declared her current goal: to make her first art sale. 

This shot me back, not to the time I sold my first photograph, nor to my first sale as a gallery assistant or independent curator, but to the first time someone had sufficient trust in my start-up art dealership, under my own name, to make a purchase. 

The story of that first sale follows... What about your own, too? I would love for you to add your story into comments below, helping to inspire others who are yet to overcome this important hurdle, however distant it seems in your own memory. 


The year was 2005. A friend from university had built a website for me and I was preparing to take European artists to America for an international exhibition. Ahead of that, the business was participating in an an open house event, presenting about twenty pieces throughout the flat. While there weren't any sales, the endeavour was worthwhile as it prompted the delivery and consignment of pieces, enabled me to get a feeling for curating shows by the group of artists, prompted putting together biographies and resumes for all artists, and grew the starter mailing list. 

Ambassadors are always important, and accordingly a girlfriend had shown support by attending. Afterwards, she found herself continually thinking about one painting in particular. Concerned it would sell State-side, she asked to view the piece 'in situ' at home before my departure. I took over the piece (on the bus, which was... interesting, given it was a large piece). She loved it and committed to the purchase straightaway. We agreed a payment plan over several months and she paid a deposit to seal the deal. 

With the business's first sale under my belt, I headed to the States confident of doing more of the same (and did). This brings to mind something I often hear artists and gallerists alike talk about: the importance of making the first sale at exhibitions and fairs. Once that's been made, it's like the ice has been broken and you're off and away. So when you're talking about the first ever sale for a new business entity in entirety, getting over this hurdle is an astonishingly important achievement. 

This story highlights: 
> Building relationships with prospective clients lays the groundwork for future business; 
> Showing art where it will live is an effective selling tactic; 
> Tapping into the psychology of scarcity (only one is available and it will likely go at the next show) works a treat; and 
> Providing payment plans can help to close a sale. 

What's the story of YOUR first art sale? Go on... Add it into comments below! 

p.s. Want to know more on the topic of selling art? Check out our forthcoming online professional development program: Making It As An Artist in the 21st Century. 


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