Galleries Have Their Place

It just doesn’t have to be with you

I can see where my stance about galleries can be misinterpreted. I’m clearly not a fan of them and think every artist is better off without them.

Galleries are not all bad though. Here’s the thing: communities need culture. We need the arts to bind us together. I’ve read studies that show that communities with active arts programs and galleries have less crime, have more connected citizens and generally do better economically.

Anecdotally, there’s a town just south of where I live that has been reinventing itself as an arts and microbrewery hub for the past decade or so. They were hard hit by manufacturing losses and had to make some difficult decisions.

If you’re an artist, this town is quickly becoming the place to be. And that’s a great thing! It’s certainly made life so much better for the citizens living there.

But think about it from an artist’s perspective: for every gallery and available show there are hundreds, if not thousands, of artists with work that’s saleable quality who are competing for limited spots.

If you don’t get one of those spots, or are not chosen to be represented by a gallery, it can feel like there’s nothing happening with your career. You’ve stalled.

You haven’t, but it will be that way if you think galleries and art shows are the only way to sell your work.

Putting on blinders, deliberately in the age where we are the most connected in human history is ludicrous! It’s like saying, “all artists starve, I’ll prove it to you,” and then going out and starving on purpose.

I’ve just spent the weekend watching YouTube with my kids. They’re teenagers and live online on various platforms. Here’s what I’ve found: people make good (very good!) livings recording reaction videos, un-boxing videos, ridiculous and impossible craft videos and more.

Reaction videos are literally videos recorded while the host reacts to something online. Trying not to laugh. Trying to understand something. Responding to someone else’s content. Whatever. The best YouTuber’s are hilarious and engaging.

These reacting peeps land tour deals and book deals and have promotional stuff going on. They’re kind of mini-celebrities.

Un-boxing videos are exactly what they sound like. Opening a box of brand new shoes etc and enjoying it. Like seriously enjoying it. And inviting their viewers in for the experience.

Impossible crafts, things that don’t work outside of the video, have millions of followers. You know those ones that say you can grow a whole carrot out of the top of a pineapple? Just plant it and voila! Yeah lol no.

My point here is not to disrespect the people who have found ways to make good livings online but to point out to you that you, a skilled creative professional, making work that requires skill, should be able to do as well or better than the people I’ve just listed.

So many artists make very good livings because they’ve found ways to monetize how they work in ways that works for this day and age.

Success starts in your mindset. Your ability to pivot and flow with what is current. Anything is possible if you are open to it.

Think of it this way: if I told you that your art could be seen in person by maybe a few hundred people. That, maybe, it would be featured in the newspaper or whatever. That you would be better known locally and potentially sell a piece or two, would you jump at it?

Also, that you would be required to pay for this local exposure when you art sells, or worse still, ahead of time by renting wall space. That you have no control over the audience that comes to view the work. That the amount of exposure you get depends on the skill of the person promoting your work and that skill may be iffy at best. And that when people buy your work, you wouldn’t be given any info on who they are or how to follow up with them. Would you still jump at it?

How about if I told you that for ZERO cost, you could reach an audience of thousands to millions of people, depending on your drive. That you could sell your work without paying a commission. That the only limitations you have would be in shipping your work (though people buying art from a distance expect to pay for shipping so YAY!). That you could follow up on every sale, securing more sales from your established client base. That, if you do 2d work, you don’t need to sell it framed or ready to hang unless you want to. That you could sell your work from your studio wearing your jimjams if that floated your boat.

Which one sounds more appealing?

Financially and from a business growth perspective, selling your work online is hands down the better route.

  • you have access to a far larger audience world wide
  • you don’t have to pay anyone a commission
  • you can track who buys your art and sell them more (once someone buys, the odds are they will buy again and usually quickly)
  • you can work on your own schedule
  • you can become as big as you want, an influencer or artist celebrity style online personality, with hundreds of thousands of followers
  • you don’t have to ask someone, who may have ulterior motives, to judge your work. We all know the art world has its politics and favourites. Skip the pettiness and just get down to making and selling your work.

Sure, initially, there’s some work you have to do. Growing your followers, building an email list, having a means to sell (ideally your own website, but you can sell without one if you have the means to accept money).

You also need to define your target market and make sure what you do and who you serve are super clear. Basic business stuff. But once you get going, and you show up online regularly (daily!), you will quickly reach a tipping point and your art will sell as fast as you want it to.

All on your own terms, with your own best interests at heart.

Because, at the end of the day, you want your work in other people’s homes and businesses. You want to make a good living. You want to be known at the go-to person for whatever it is you make.

And you don’t need galleries to do any of that. You can do it yourself. Faster, easier and with more money in your pocket.

Paula Mould

Paula Mould

Paula Mould is a fine artist, published author and business coach for Leigh & Paula.

She also swears, mostly on purpose.

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