The basic economic flow of art is pretty straightforward; An artist makes the art and a collector buys the art. The artist is the producer and the collector is the end consumer. But any artist can tell you that selling art to collectors is anything but straightforward.
In between the artist and collector is a maze of gallerists, advisors, website managers, publishers, and social media promoters creating a pulsing, overwhelming environment I like to call The Middles.
The main thing any artist needs to know about The Middles is that they only want one of two things: your money or your art. But the Middles are necessary partners for art business success. So it is important to know The Middles! I have divided the middle into two sections based on where they get their money. I call them the Artist Side Middles and the Collector Side Middles.
The Artist Side Middles get their money from the artist. Their business model is based on the reality that today’s artist has to fill a lot of business roles. An artist must act as the designer, the producer, the fabricator, the salesman, the advertiser, the billing department, the shipping department, the installer, and at all times the customer service representative.
This is an impossible list to achieve with consistent results in each category. Artist Side Middles know this and want the artist to hire them to help. I find myself inundated with emails and Instagram DMs offering services to help me on any and all facets of my independent art business. I am regularly contacted about paying for Instagram promotion, printing services, shipping services, art writing services, printed art catalogs, art website catalogs, inventory management, and art supplies. Am I capable of doing all these things myself? Probably, but I don’t have the TIME. And frankly, the only jobs that are important for me to do is designing and fabrication.
After all, I am an artist. I make things. So these Artist Side Middles are providing useful services for artists. My advice for artists is to identify your biggest weak points in the above list of artist business responsibilities and consider hiring someone to help with those jobs. Spending some money to strengthen your weaknesses is always a good thing.
What about the galleries who represent you and take care of all those things, you ask?
They are the Collector Side Middles who get their money through sales to the art buyers and collectors. These Middles are mostly galleries and art advisors who have developed a list of clientele who are willing to pay higher prices for higher quality work by better known artists. Getting representation in a gallery is really the goal of most fine artists. It is important to remember that any gallery will want you to maintain an active role in your self promotion. Lots of blue chip artists are committed to keeping their Instagram feed lively and engaging. Usually, the artist has already built up a healthy following before they were offered gallery representation.
Having an audience is an important part of being a successful artist. Start now and work to build a diverse audience of enthusiastic fans of your art. The most important thing for the gallery is that the artist continues to produce good work on a regular basis. Remember, galleries are stores and your art is their product. This is why they are more willing to take on some of the other responsibilities of promotion, packaging, shipping, installation, and billing. At the end of the day, they need you making more art because there is only one you.
It is important to remember that all of these Middles have a stake in your success. Your success means they did a good job. I often hear artists say that Middles are only in it for themselves. This makes me laugh because we are ALL in it for ourselves. That’s why we do what we do! It has been my experience that Middles love art and like helping artists succeed. It is the job of the artist to understand the Middles and utilize them in the most effective way. After all, the art market is based on the art artists make and the people who love and buy the art. If people can figure out a way to be part of that transaction and make money at it, More power to them!