How do you handle “clearance sales” for artwork?

ShawN shawN • Good question Felta. There is a danger of marking down too much your artwork for clearance sales. You don’t want to endanger your long-term prices as galleries will start to drop you as an artist if they see your prices fall. On the other hand, if you have gotten to too high of prices, then maybe you moved too quickly up in prices and need to move the price point down to selling levels. The key I believe is to offer reasonable prices, where you are selling your work regularly and not discounting in special sales. A good way to handle this is not to offer open discounts on your website or gallery, but if a client asks for a discount, then to allow that discount. This way you don’t have to reflect the price discounts openly, but can still keep your sales coming in in a soft economy.

Another thing you have to remember about art is that it is a luxury item to the select upper class and possible upper-middle class. So how do prices work there? Look at how they sell luxury watches, cars, houses, jewelry, etc. Do they have 2 for 1 prices? Free this, free that? Not really. The way they handle selling is to work the brand and then when they have a problem selling a particular item they use back-channel sales minimally. So the luxury retailers always have very remote outlets in the middle of nowhere or 3rd party like Ross and Marshalls to dump their product, but they offer little or minimal sales discounts in the true stores. This way 70% of sales are full price and they secretly sell in other places items on sales.

How do you do a clearance sale then without affecting your core prices? I have seen some artists do special sales at garage sales or even a bit of eBay to move product while leaving the gallery prices the same. Again, the same principal of moving the majority of product with minimal discounts and then secretly discounts in other less known outlets. This is a bit tricky for if you start to eat too much into gallery sales, then you for sure have sunk your boat selling there regularly. So you need a line in the sand type of marketing.

Another great option I have seen artists use is to offer limited edition prints at great prices to reach the middle class, but keep their painting at close to full price. Another option is to do very small paintings to reach this group and then monster large work. The smaller budget customer can buy a small work and later aspire to buy the large work as they get a raise/promotion that allows it. It offers a tier system that the rich will appreciate as they get exclusive access to your larger work since they can afford it.

What types of scams have you run across?


Have you ever seen a Nigerian scam?

Yes, this is one of the most infamous and regularly emailed scams around the world. It is truly classic and hats off to these guys raking in people. Basically, they send the victim an email saying a close relative has died and left them money, but they cannot access it. In order for them to get it, they need a third party and ask for your bank account. That is the initial hook, then they start worming out money from that account.

Have you had other types of specific art scams?

The one I have run into a few times is that they email you and say, “I will pay for all the shipping”. That clues you right off the bat, as they have no idea where you live. Then they ask you to take a check and need your mailing address. Right then I just request them to take Paypal only, since that leaves me anonymous to the scammers. I’m not sure how the rest of the scam goes, because they can only do it via check and I always stop them right there. The other clue that you KNOW they are a scammer is they start to distrust you immediately, which is a HUGE red flag for me. They will say things like “can I trust you with the check?”

Have you seen other types of scams?

There’s another strange one that works on your interest in the opposite sex. They send a message saying they want to meet or something like that. Then who knows what? I always find that a bit obvious, so I just delete those without a thought. You can tell that is a scam as well, since they don’t even bother to put a picture with their profile, which means they just set it up. Why would you meet someone without even a picture is hilarious way to start!

Have you seen scams from other countries besides Nigeria?

No country can have the monopoly. The Chinese ones are hilarious as well. They misspell all the words on purpose! I guess you will think they are an idiot and will pity them. To me I just think they are truly an idiot for trying that obvious a scam. One scam misspelled “drawing” as “drawrings”. Too funny! How can you say you sell art drawrings? I crack up just reading this stuff. That one I found on LinkedIn.

Is there a simple way to protect oneself as an artist?

Besides trying to sell your work yourself, you can have your work sold via third party like a gallery or artist representative. They will protect you from the obvious email and website scams directly. The only trade-off is that you could hire a dishonest gallery or representative to sell your work. Then your art may sell and you don’t receive payment or you aren’t paid in full. Be aware though that these types of galleries don’t stay in business long as word of mouth spreads among artists, so a long term business operation is a good sign they are fair to their artists. A good way to find out is to ask some artists already represented by the gallery or agent to see if they are on the up and up.

In the end, you as a small business owner need to be aware of scams from any party and ask your artist friends of possible scams before entering them. Your friends and trusted galleries can act as a shield for you.

What is a reasonable gallery exclusivity in sales area?

ShawN shawN • Linda good question. As far as what is reasonable, I think about 30-50 miles is easily covered by one art dealer. Ideally, you want multiple locations in different cities, which may be the situation as you ran into. There is a basis for the gallery for exclusivity within a major city, so they can drive sales to your work and they don’t feel undercut by another gallery. Galleries will sell at different price points, so this is relevant to a gallery. If you are highly productive and selling a large volume of work, I would assume you would want multiple gallery representation, but again likely 1 per major city. Some artists like Gehardt Richter use one gallery exclusively and the gallery will farm out the sales of all his works. How one gallery manages all his sales I don’t know, but that model can work. Hope this helps!

Do you give customer names to a gallery?

ShawN shawN • Good question Yoram. I think your response depends on how reputable the gallery is. Why is that? If you have a good relationship, then giving them contact info on customers, they could expand your sales at existing customers if you continue to sell with that gallery. Some artists are very fond of their galleries like Gehardt Richter.

Another take is if you have little confidence in the gallery or you believe they are not representing you well, then yes, I would keep the list. If you have such a bad relationship with the gallery, then why are you even selling there?

A third take is that this is a gallery in business to make money. By giving a reputable gallery or proven gallery your customer list, they should be able to drive sales from them and their friends. Additionally, any 3rd party selling your work needs to be paid, so there will be a commission. They cannot stay in business otherwise and generally should multiply your sales vs. steal sales. I personally tripled my sales price going to a gallery.

If you have an art show, you should promote the show to your own contacts as well with your own invitations and not depend solely on the gallery. Hope this helps!

Art exhibition spaces in theatres – are they really commercially viable for the theatre?

ShawN shawN • I believe that the theatre could generate a bit of sales, but is likely more beneficial to the artist vs. the theatre. Most art patrons occasionally go to new venues, galleries, etc. to check new art, so I think the impact would be minimal for the theatre. As an artist though I would not pass the opportunity unless you are already selling well. If you are selling well, you would likely do best focusing on positioning your brand into the highest selling venues and highest priced venues.

As it is in a theatre designed to show art visually and musically, you may want to consider those elements in selling. You could have a performance art show on stage, music band or just music playing to heighten the entertainment value. You could do special effects with film onto the stage as well.