Art Galleries— Post Prices On Your Website!

by

 Diane Burket
As the Artist Agent for Armand Cabrera, I’m passionate about internet gallery pricing because failure to display prices diminishes our ability to sell paintings. Armand is a full time artist who shows his art in fine art galleries across the United States. Many of his galleries neglect to include prices on their websites. They are losing business, frustrating potential customers and ultimately—costing Armand and I money.
Art Galleries are in the business of selling art. It’s a mystery why some galleries (and artists) don’t post prices on their websites. Art collectors go to art gallery websites for information. If potential buyers don’t see basic information, they become frustrated and navigate to another gallery website. At the least, collectors want to see:
· Pictures of Available Paintings
· Prices
· Artist Information
· Gallery Information
Gallery Point of View
Some dealers argue that omitting prices helps to start relationships between the gallery and the buyer. If the customer calls to ask for the price, the gallery feels they can pitch the customer and, if necessary, offer incentives.
My View
Art collectors are not naïve. They know art costs money. Why withhold information and manipulate collectors into calling the gallery? Many avid art collectors will never pick up the phone to inquire about the price of art. In addition, the customer can’t contact a gallery after hours, so the probability to make a sale can only occur when the gallery is open. One of our collectors told me there’s so much art out there from which to chose—she’ll go to a site that displays prices rather than pick up the phone to inquire about a price.
Gallery Point of View
Posting prices devalues art. They’d rather “soft sell” the art.
My View
Internet visitors want details at their finger tips. The gallery does a disservice to their collectors and their artists by not using every opportunity to sell their paintings. Every major fine art gallery and auction house displays prices on their sites. It must be working for them!
Gallery Point of View
Their artists don’t have consistent prices. The artists inflate their prices for some galleries and reduce them in others. The gallery doesn’t want the customer to know the price discrepancies.
My View
Artists that don’t maintain consistent pricing are unprofessional. Fine art galleries shouldn’t represent them. The art market across the world is very intimate, thanks to the Internet. It’s easy to discover if an artist sells his work at significantly dissimilar prices. (Of course, one must consider the cost of framing—gold metal, gold leaf, etc. —but that’s another subject.)

Gallery Point of View
The gallery uses the website to get potential customers interested in their works—not to actually make sales from the site. They want the collectors to come into the gallery to purchase their art.
My View
It’s very short-sighted to think that all customers will visit a gallery. Many art collectors don’t live anywhere near the gallery. Countless 21st Century customers are Internet savvy and often purchase paintings they see online. Granted, the collector will call to discuss details with the gallery—but having accurate pictures and prices on the website helps to seal the deal.
FACTS
1) Our best selling galleries post prices and sell many of Armand’s paintings from their websites. Some of their customers never walk in the art gallery door.
 2) Failure to list prices has become such a problem for website visitors that usability expert Jakob Nielsen recently deemed it the number one web design mistake. I quote Mr. Nielsen—“The worst example of not answering users’ questions is to avoid listing the price of products and services. No B2C ecommerce site would make this mistake, … Price is the most specific piece of info customers use to understand the nature of an offering, and not providing it makes people feel lost and reduces their understanding of a product line. We have miles of videotape of users asking “Where’s the price?” while tearing their hair out.”
3) Your website acts as your salesperson across the world, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
4) People looking for discounts will ask for a discount. If Internet customers like a painting and the price is in their ballpark, they are intelligent enough to realize they can communicate with the gallery by email or telephone and request a discount.
5) The gallery will save the customer time and embarrassment by listing the retail price on the website. A buyer would be embarrassed to find a painting retails for over $50,000 when he assumed it would be under $10,000.
6) From extensive research, I have found that failure to list prices is a collector’s pet peeve. One collector told me she saw a painting she wanted to purchase in an advertisement in a national art magazine. She went to the gallery website and was frustrated— they did not post prices. Rather than call the gallery, she Google’d the artist’s name and found him at another gallery—one that posted prices. She called that gallery and bought a painting from them.
The time has come for art galleries to make it easy for collectors to buy paintings.
The 21st Century art buyer demands it!
About the Author:
Diane Burket is an award-winning Voice Over Professional. She has been voicing scripts for over 20 years. She can be heard on National Commercials, Corporate Films, Training Videos, Telephone Prompts, Internet Sites and Multimedia recordings. In addition to her Voice Over, Diane is also the Agent for Armand Cabrera, a nationally-known oil painter represented by fine art galleries across the United States.
http://www.dianeburket.com/

 

Artistic Integrity

by

Armand Cabrera
There is a great discussion going on over at Leif Peng’s blog, Today’s Inspiration for the last few posts, about what constitutes selling out as an illustrator and artist.
I thought I would take a different tack because this blog deals with illustration and gallery painting and the two don’t always overlap. First let me state that as a former illustrator and production artist, I see no difference in gallery painting and those other disciplines. So no, I don’t think artistic integrity has anything to do with working for clients or making money per se. I always thought it was laughable that easel painters who spent half their life writing grants begging for money from the NEA looked down on illustration.
I would  like to broaden the discussion from Leif’s track, which focused mainly on doing work that was beneath the skill of the artist or overly art directed. While those things can be frustrating, I don’t think they pose any real moral dilemma.
When the economy is bad people seem to use situational ethics to justify bad behavior. Artists think because they need or want something they are justified using any means to accomplish it. I think artistic integrity also comes into play when someone asks you to paint something or use your art for something that goes against your moral principles for money. Here is an example of what I mean. I worked for almost twenty years in the games industry. In that time I worked on over fifty games as an artist. I never worked on any game like Grand Theft Auto or any game that had pornography in it. Now, I did work on fantasy and science fiction games that had violence and scantily clad women, so what is the difference? Well, I had a cutoff point and made a distinction between violence and what I considered exploitive violence. This caused me to turn down work on more than one occasion when I had been offered the job.
With gallery art, it is a little different, but no less clear for me. Artistic integrity means not copying someone else’s work or style for profit. It means not cheating in competitions. It means not claiming studio work as outdoor work if venues require it to be outdoor work. It means not cheating your galleries by pulling paintings and selling your work outside the gallery and not giving them a cut.
Of course there are gray areas like, what would you do if you were a Christian and an abortion clinic wanted to buy your work for their offices? Would you sell it to them? What if you needed to feed your family does that make it okay then? What if you were against the war and the government wanted to use your art to recruit men and women for the military, would you allow it? Would it make it okay if you take the job because you know someone else would if you don’t and then donate the money to a cause you believe in?
Art has and always will be used in the service of things. As artists I think we have a responsibility to not only uphold our commitments to our business partners, even when times are hard but also to our craft. This means to make moral choices about how our art is used. Do you agree?

 

Copyright Images are Norman Rockwell, James Montgomery Flagg and Harry Anderson

The Value of Art

by Armand Cabrera

I was painting the cherry blossoms in the tidal basin with my friend Palmer Smith. We were having a good day; we both had sold paintings off the easel. We had started in the morning and worked all day. I was on my fourth and last painting of the day when a group of ten Amish children came up to me to watch me paint.
Soon an Amish man in his late 50’s joined them and all the children became quiet and watched him as he stood there looking at my painting.
“How long does it take you to paint one of those?”
“About three hours” I said
“How much do you want for it?” he asked sternly.
“I get $1,300 dollars for them framed” I said

All the children were impressed, “ooh $1,300 dollars” they were all saying.
The man eyed me with a cool smile “$1,300, that’s too bad, I was going to give you a thousand for it, but you said thirteen hundred.” He turned and continued walking, ending the conversation.
The children lingered for a moment s looking at me and the painting. “Is he always like that?” I asked. They looked around me to see where he was and then quickly shook their heads, yes.

The children ran to catch up with the man and I was left thinking about my brief conversation with him.
In a few sentences he showed them how to do business and the value of a thing is not fixed. It is only worth what someone will pay for it. It was sound advice for most businesses, especially for someone farming or ranching. What a great lesson he had just taught them.

Of course art is not a field of corn and I have an ethical obligation to maintain my prices, a farmer doesn’t. He gets as much money for his product as he can as quickly as he can since he is dealing with perishable goods. If I undercut my galleries by selling cheap paintings on my own the galleries would drop me. Still, the value of a thing is never fixed, it is only worth what someone will pay for it. In a good economy a lower offer is met with disdain, in a bad economy a lower offer is usually welcomed. It is a lesson worth remembering.

 

Variety in Painting

by

Armand Cabrera
Artists are always asking about how to improve their painting. I think one of the best things an artist can do to improve is become aware of the variety in everything they paint.

Variety creates interest it can be used to move the eye through a painting and its complexity is endless. To see variety you must make yourself aware of the differences between pictorial elements that share similar traits but have a unique quality that creates their individuality. A successful artist can reveal subtle differences that most people over look.

Variety can be created in a number of ways within your image, you can vary the size (contour, height and width) of elements in your scene you can vary their coloring or their angle or spacing to each other. All of these changes add interest and they can be designed into the painting once an artist learns to see them.

Variety can also be added through brushwork and surface quality. Some passages can be painted thinly some with thicker paint. The calligraphy of the brushstrokes can be varied so no two are the same in direction or size.

Edges are another area that gives an artist many opportunities for variety. Edges can be soft or hard optically or they can be physically blended or left sharp and unblended.

Adding this kind of interest insures the painting has lasting appeal beyond the attention of the image itself. Although the subject matter in the image is what draws many people to a particular painting eventually it is the structure and handling of the painting that gives a work power and separates it from current fads or cliché. It is the strength of the design that allows it to stand the test of time.

All paintings for this article by Willard Leroy Metcalf

Knowledge versus Formula

by Armand Cabrera

As artists we constantly strive for truth and originality in our work but to do so requires many incidental pieces of knowledge, some experiential or practical and some theoretical or constructive.
The best painters use the knowledge they have obtained as an outline or guidepost for the efforts, many times adding their own unique perspective to age old fundamentals.
We must all beware of the trap knowledge brings which is a formulaic approach to painting. The phrase formula painter gets bandied about a lot, especially when someone hits their stride stylistically and makes some subject matter their own.
Many times it is used to marginalize the success of that painter as if the mere fact of their success has tainted the purity of the work. The painter has sold out in the eyes of their contemporaries.
In my mind it is not about success or having “made it” whatever that means. To me formula is less than a best attempt, where an artist will rely on convention and ability to get them through, but not breaking a sweat with the effort put forward. This is not tied to style or subject; many non-objective painters fall into this trap and in my opinion they do it more often than representational painters do.
I don’t really mind the exploration of a theme as Monet did with his haystacks or paintings of Rouen Cathedral where his focus was not so much the subject itself but the exploration of light and atmosphere and how that affects our perception some familiar thing. In these cases the motif is the anchor for the viewer and the different canvases challenge our experiences.
Some painters like John Fabian Carlson or Fritz Thaulow explored an area of the country over and over again but each time, the experience was captured with a fresh eye and keen observational skills. The unique experience of that time and place is what the painter was after.
The line is crossed though when nothing is being added to the original idea. There is no transition from one canvas to the next, except the movement of the pieces of the design. It becomes an endless assembly line of the familiar and the banal. The artist explores nothing but the tolerance of their audience to suffer through the same thing for as long as the artist can sell canvases.
A great artist keeps their fire and passion for their work, and while being human allows them some leeway in difficult times of their careers; overall, they approach each painting as a student, seeking knowledge and truth from the places they know and love. This is what makes great art.
Images for this article, first five, Claude Monet, next two John Fabian Carlson, last three Fritz Thaulow. All copyrights are wth the families or institutions that hold the paintings.