Art Gallery – Is there a Better Venue?

Lately, I’ve been looking at alternative ways to sell paintings. The old-fashioned ways have a lot of competition from online galleries, auctions and from private collectors who use agents to scour these online galleries. Much easier for the agent to hop onto the internet than to call or visit galleries throughout the world. The artist like me has a lot of competition in galleries from established artists. The research required to find galleries that accept new artists would take more lifetime than I want to spend.

Here’s what bothers me, especially since I don’t want to take 20 years to build my notariety:
First, local galleries of the membership type charge fees to join, fees to show and a 1/2 day of volunteer gallery-sitting per painting. This is all BEFORE any work has been sold. The gallery-sitters are not professional sales people. And some are not even able to use a credit-card machine. Their fear creates a “please don’t buy while I’m here, today” energetic that gets translated to visitors. Once a painting is sold, the gallery can take up to 40%.

Second, consignment galleries charge no up-front fees, but often have ineffective art marketing and a 50% split on sales. What can inhibit fast turnover is when the gallery also does framing. Their clientele is bringing their own paintings to be framed, not looking for new work.

Something I’ve been looking for is a website hosting service that comes complete with marketing, email, POS, shopping cart (where I can sell my originals) and inventory tracking. Many companies have tried making inventory tracking software, but they are pretty lame, IMHO. I got my money back on ArtTracker, and GYST was just clunky so I never bought it. These are not expensive, less than $50 and reside on your machine. The negative is that you can’t access your data from anywhere but your machine. So if you move around a lot, you need to take your computer with you. But, you don’t need wi-fi to get your data.

A web-based service that will be available soon is from Masterpiece Solutions. The difference between their $50/month hosted website service and their $30/month subscription service is just having your own website be hosted by them, and using their templates. If you pay $20 a month for a hosted website, then the switch over will be painless. If you pay less, say $9/month, then having the integration could still be worth the switch. Here’s what the promo for their web-based new Version 10 says:

If you just want a hosted website to show off your paintings and photographs, you can do it for $30 a YEAR at Fine Art America. You do get the opportunity to sell framed prints of your work, list events, and do bulk emailing. However, be warned that your recipients will see the FAA promotion at the top of your promo or annoucement email – in front of your message. They basically are using you and your mailing list to market their services. I have not been able ascertain if they strip your email lists for their own use.

Comparing these two sites, the difference in price is $320 per year additional with Masterpiece Solutions. If you are heavily promoting your work, then you would want the shopping cart feature so you could sell originals from the site. You can’t do that with FAA. Also, I’m told by Masterpiece folks that the bulk email feature is yours alone and that they don’t put themselves front and center in your promotional emails. You do get inventory management so you know where all your art is – which gallery, whose home for the 2 week trial, final resting places once purchased. Although there are some fine features, like integrating with Quickbooks, that only comes with a more expensive version.

Currently I use FAA. The price can’t be beat for showcasing my work online. But, I have to do my own push marketing to get people there. It’s great if people want to buy prints, but they have to contact me directly to get the original. I’d rather them be able to just buy the original online. For now, i use PayPal, which works fine, even though they nick me a bit for a part of the transaction. It’s still not $320 worth of nicks.