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The Future of Marketing for Fine Artists Part I: Is a Gallery Right for You?

For many of us, galleries might appear as the ultimate gatekeeper: since they decide whose work to sell. Being accepted into the ‘right’ gallery is often seen as something that could make your career, while being passed over can be crushing. Just like galleries can help an artist emerge from obscurity, artists can also choose to while away years waiting for acceptance into a gallery. But it does not have to be this way.

I was able to become a full-time artist specifically because I opted to sell my work directly to collectors. And at a workshop this past year, a celebrated artist teaching the course shared that, even for him, the role of galleries is changing. So what does the future hold?

More Options Than Ever

With selling art online becoming more popular and granting artists access to a global audience, the role of galleries has increasingly been called into question. Social media is now a marketing tool used by nearly all working artists and offers artists an edge in growing their audience whether they have gallery representation or not.

To assist the artists who have gallery representation many galleries are asking artists to market themselves on their own social media channels in addition to the marketing that the gallery undertakes. It seems clear that these platforms are inescapably part of our future.

Now, artists wishing to capitalize on this trend and form direct relationships with collectors have more options than ever. Today an artist can grow a worldwide following via social media, sell work directly to those collectors from online storefronts, host their own pop-up events or participate in art shows to build relationships in person. They can even find patrons through crowdfunding platforms like Patreon to create a steady flow of income. And artists who love teaching can reach students all over the world, whether it be via workshops, online courses, or even YouTube videos.

The advantage here is that you are in complete control of your brand and your income, but this is also the disadvantage for artists who aren’t excited to handle multiple aspects of their business.

A Symbiotic History

This brings us back to galleries, and the idea of the gallery as being the marketing and sales machine for your business.

For decades, galleries have created a distinct value for both artists and collectors: they allow artists to eschew marketing and selling to focus solely on painting, and offer collectors a one-stop-shop to connect with a multitude of artists with ease. They are a great way to connect with audiences who expect to work with an expert curator, and as a result the most avid collectors often buy only through galleries.

Additionally, galleries still fill a distinct role not only for artists but for the community as well. They cultivate community around artwork, and in areas without art museums, a gallery could be the only physical space dedicated to art that many of us have access to.

Now with the Covid-19 pandemic and many of us avoiding public spaces, this question is becoming more poignant than ever: What happens when we don’t have physical spaces where the public can come to appreciate art?

Join us next time for Part II of this series, where we will talk about art as a business and help you determine which business model is the best fit for you.

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