Galleries have traditionally been the primary conduit for buyers to find quality art and craft. The galleries were responsible for marketing and promotion as well as supporting a physical retail space to show art and craft. Artists and makers typically felt ill at ease in such marketing efforts (with the exception of wholesale/retail shows) and preferred to devote their time to the studio.
The Internet has changed the equation - permanently.
One of the new realities is that artists and makers CAN market and promote their work via the Internet without gallery representation. Potential buyers CAN find artists and makers without gallery vetting. The days are past when clients can only find an artist exclusively through a gallery.
However, in an age of information overload, galleries still offer authoritative credibility regarding the merit of represented work. For the client, galleries also offer expert guidance, appraisals, and insight well beyond the mere display space for viewing. For the artist and maker, galleries offer skilled promotion and reliable sales support.
But the Internet is a multi-lane highway connecting many destinations. So here is a radical idea . . . Artists and galleries need to work together in their marketing efforts.
Huge opportunities are lost when galleries and artists don't act as a team to fully benefit from their respective resources.
Artists need to have their own websites for credibility and visibility. Galleries need to use the Internet more effectively to showcase all the work for which they are responsible. An exhibition should no longer be presented to the public as one image on a postcard or one page on a website. With minimal expense, the entire exhibition can be posted as an online catalog of the show.
Galleries and artists can both be more effective with online marketing. Improved SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one goal, i.e. a bigger "web" of links (more links earn a higher rating). SEO can drive more traffic to the websites of both the gallery and the artist.
Galleries can benefit by linking to all artists' inventory and exhibition pages. Artists should email and post on their websites any relevant gallery link such as upcoming events, openings, exhibitions, juried shows, etc.
Likewise, artists can benefit by helping galleries link to any new resources such as newspaper reviews, magazine articles, open studios, or selection into books.
Both parties need to trust that purchases generated as a result of either website will be positive and boost credibility, visibility, and revenue.
If a customer arrives at my site via the gallery's website and purchases work from my site, hopefully, we can work out the appropriate commission for the gallery.
Commission strategies need to be reconsidered. This is an area that needs a lot more discussion. For example, the websites for both the gallery and the artist could set up affiliate links that pay commissions in both directions. There are many other mutually rewarding scenarios that encourage ongoing collaboration. We need to adapt to a new future.
Yes, there are areas of overlap that will need negotiation. But realistically, was there ever a time without issues to discuss? I expect to revisit this topic in the near future.
Like it or not, the multi-lane highway of the Internet is going to get bigger and better. A collaborative effort can be mutually beneficial.
Do you have any ideas or comments?
This post was updated on December 27, 2021.