Preparing for change (and loving it!)

The way art is bought and sold has been changing for decades: new galleries co-ops, art festivals, art fairs, open studios, licensing, the print market, and now the Internet.

While the good old boys will still be around for some time (or will they?), the average artist can circumvent them and still find a satisfying, successful career.

During this recession, how many galleries will close their doors (we have no way of knowing how overextended some of them are or anything about their investments)? How many museums will shut down? Don’t forget that magazines and newspapers rely on advertising dollars, and newspapers have been cutting art content for years now.

You just can’t count on things being the same. What you can count on is that things will change. I encourage you to start getting used to that idea and falling in love with it. You can sit back and pine for the good old days or you can get excited for the future–trusting that it will be better than ever.

Are you ready for it?

You can and should be marketing directly to art “users” and art collectors. Here are some resources to help you do that.

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5 comments to Preparing for change (and loving it!)

  • Hi Alyson, I know that your work here is primarily focused on the “business side” of art so this may end up being slightly off topic (or will it?). It seems to me that with so many of our art istitutions in the beginning stages of closing doors (some have actually been in this stage for a while now) questions may need to be answered. Who is at fault here? Is it the overall economy? I don’t necessarily think that’s the case although it could certainly be argued. I tend to look at things in a foundational sense. Meaning; the fault, in my opinion, may in fact be with our school systems. I could rant about how the funding for the arts in America has been all but stripped away in our school systems but I’ll keep this short. If we take away the arts from our children then how do they grow to appreciate them later in life? Where do our new artists come from? Where do our new art appreciators, buyers, curators, and viewers come from if they aren’t exposed to the arts early in life? I promised myself I wouldn’t rant but it’s hard not to. Thanks anyway, Damien

  • Yes, I too believe that education is at fault for the organizations as appreciation/value of the arts needs to be taught in schools in order to create new generations who support the arts. In terms of galleries, most have extremely high overhead. In the wine country in CA, think 20K/month. Noe many galleries there are gone or doing very poorly. That was the same for one of my galleries in Miami, before they closed. A lot of galleries are probably prepared for a slow season or a slow couple months but since 2000, the art world has been hit with one crisis after another. There have been pockets of good times but a .com burst, 9/11, war/invasion, the housing bust and now predictions of deep recession. And the fact of it is that even if a person is not truly effected, just the talk of these issues make people cautious. When we first invaded the Middle East after 9/11, the events for galleries went silent. I know as I had receptions for a large Florida and Atlanta gallery during that month and the time before and after were very, very quite. So much that with that particular gallery, they fell behind in paying artists, including me, when work did sell and eventually staged a robbery to recover funds. It was a big mess! I wrote about how I got out of the situation in Art Calendar. So it is economy, for sure, that hits galleries hard.

  • Alyson~ From my over 30 years of small business experience, I have a unique view of how quickly business cycles – aka the usual way of doing business – can change, seemingly overnight. And for a while I have been talking about the idea that artists should be looking forward, rather than backward, when they work on their art careers. What worked in the last decade will not work as efficiently today. What does this mean for the aspiring artist? Thinking outside the box, constructing a new view of what being an artist means, throwing out old assumptions and looking at reality with a fresh eye…I don’t know, but this stuff sounds pretty exciting to me. And while it might feel as if you’re doing something to rationalize why things aren’t working the way they used to work, if the unspoken hope is that somehow, miraculously, the tilting ship will suddenly right itself, then you could be wasting a lot of precious time. That’s why it’s so important for industry leaders such as yourself to bring the subject to the forefront. Thanks.

  • I think the galleries who have managed their finances well, treated artists with respect, and who have built up a clientele over the years will survive. It’s also exciting to see that artists can take advantage of new avenues for selling their work… ie Internet. We no longer have to rely on “the gate keepers” of the art industry. Artists who are creative in their marketing efforts will do well in any economy because they understand who their buyers are and why they buy.

  • Damien, see the Deep Thought Thursday for 12/4–especially the comments. Sue: Thanks for your experience and insight. I love this: “constructing a new view of what being an artist means, throwing out old assumptions and looking at reality with a fresh eye…” All: I think things are changing more rapidly than we are led to believe. They’re certainly changing more rapidly than the media (art magazines, art critics) let on. Those people are too much steeped in tradition to see the world outside what they already know. Trust me–I was one of them.