The Four (The SIX) “P’s” of Art: Part 1

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How To Get More Work Selected (and Sell)

While we always start by saying that art is never one size fits all, and the process of curating and displaying works can also be much the same.  However, there are several general principles that in an ideal world should guide the process of establishing your brand, and how a for-profit gallery should select works (if only we lived in a bubble).  Notice that we say “for profit galleries”.  These make up a large amount of privately held galleries around the world, where works are, as you can imagine, displayed for sale.  If “profit” to you is a dirty word, this might not be the best approach for you.   For now, let’s unpack the new and improved (drumroll) VCG “SIX P’s of Art Marketing”. 

In the basic world of all marketing and sales, you may already be familiar with 4 P’s.  These foundational elements are Product, Price, Promotion, and Place.   We elaborate by adding 2 more to this for the sake of art:  Presentation, Personality and as an added bonus Performance.   One might argue that Presentation is a part of Product, and Personality a Part of Promotion, but let’s break everything down for the sake of discussion.   Before we begin, may we suggest studying these rules, and then forgetting about them.  Why?  It will ruin the fun and spontaneity of making art. 


The foundational layer that without, we would not have the other components.  Let’s be real and say that art is a product, just like a tube of toothpaste, or any other widget.  This is not to say that art isn’t special- it most certainly is.  Stemming from the imagination of the creator, art is so truly unique in that no two products are ever alike  (although themes and subject matter are not always unique).  Even editions, as close to each other as they may be, all have some inconsistencies between them.  Strive for too much “product” perfection, and the art becomes less like art, and more like an item.  There are lines here, and another lines between arts, crafts, and kitsch.  Fortunately for those who struggle with over-perfection, the world of ultra-realistic art is an immediate “wow”, but typically lacks a “why?”  Additionally, the more “product-y” and gimmicky your art becomes, likely the less desirable it becomes at the lower levels of the art world, albeit there are plenty of consumers with little to no taste and plenty of supply for that (and on the higher levels, just as we say this, Jeff Koons is planning to launch an NFT on The Moon).   Artists like Koons however, are masters at the product/art game, whereas, the work is understandably a product of the idea of art as a product.        

Going back to the concept of branding, a portfolio that is consistent and sometimes replicable, will add to your appeal.  Replicable here does not mean that it needs to be mass produced and identical (it falls more under the idea of Editions).  Product is mainly an awareness that art is a product (if sales interest you), and less of the dramatic aspect, whereas you feel that every painting is a divine masterpiece that should enter the market in the $10-15K price range.  Let’s face it, this is a rarely seen case, and rarer to land yourself with art dealers who operate in the higher dollar ranges.  If you do, we say no more.  This brings us to the next “P”: Price.


This is the question that has perplexed so many artists and galleries alike, and in short, there is no right answer to this, only our experience on how to price your art (and you probably might not like this).   For starters, Price does not equal Value.  Art is inherently valuable, but the majority of artists regardless of their skill level, hold no immediate value.  Value is another topic of discussion that surrounds all of the other P’s… or as Obi-Wan Kenobi would say, “it binds us, and it holds the galaxy together”.  We have reached a conclusion that most emerging art, from unknown or semi-known artists, is worth $1,000 and under, and valued at roughly equal to the sale price, or less.  This doesn’t mean that you should start pricing everything at $1,000 to maximize your returns.  The “per square inch” mathematical thing is not worth much to a seller or a buyer, and artists who try to explain their strategy in these terms and in relation to other trades with hourly rates (such as mechanics and plumbers) are often met with a subtle eye roll.   Remember these two valuable pieces of information: 

1.)  Art is not “needed” by consumers in the same sense as mechanics and plumbers, therefore unless you do art as an hourly job, you don’t have an hourly rate.  

2.)  If you could sell it yourself, you wouldn’t need the help of an art gallery.  Therefore, don’t be shocked when the gallery takes a commission from the sale of the work, and don’t mark up the the price of the work with the amount of the commission.  When this happens, you are only upsetting the person you tasked to sell your work by making their task harder,  and don’t then wonder why your work is always returned at the end of a show.   We call this “tourism” and most galleries will still show the work and list your over-price, but more-or-less leave it to the Gods to decide whether it actually sells or not.  Evidence of “tourism” is usually a shipping box with dozens of return labels stuck to it.  If tourism is your things and you just “like to show” work for fun and overprice it, that’s fine, but don’t expect to be taken seriously.  

Pricing art should not look like this: 


Lots of conversations could be held for what type of market you are in (i.e. what city, etc..),  and covering your cost, but one of the first hypothetical situations is to imagine that many years from now, your art shows up on a TV show like Antiques Roadshow, or Pawn Stars.  What would be said?  Is there anything verifiable about the work?  Certificates are important, but easily made, and you cannot create something “vintage”.  Sales of older and vintage work can be a double edge sword depending on the date range.  If the work is say, from 1900 and involves some sort of verifiability, it is likely desired.  If the work is from 2012 and you are still shopping it and raising the prices, it sometimes conveys to a gallery or buyer that in 10 years, nobody has bought the piece- so stop raising the price.  This is also why a lot of galleries and exhibitions look for work made “within the last year” or two.   This is not to say that works 10 years old are not desirable, depending on other factors.    Never to worry, because art has value and likeability for a myriad of reasons in the eye of the beholder.  For some Buyers, they have no problem pulling out a roll of cash, while some others, wouldn’t even pay $40 for a print of the same work that they say they love and adore (but cannot afford).

Next, we also like to suggest “the random phone call test”.  Imagine you have artwork off in a gallery somewhere, you’ve set your price tag, and you are firm.  How “firm” are you?  Well, you are sitting at home at the dinner table… and the phone rings.  It’s the art gallery.  They are standing there with a Buyer who is interested in you work.  They offer you a price below your firm price.  You do the math, the commissions, and you must then consider that you could walk away with that amount-  or nothing at all.   What would you do?


Promotion and Place

Promotion and Place are two concepts that are interchangeable in their order.  Strictly speaking here, place is the physical art gallery.  It can also mean an online gallery or hybrid.  This also includes things like, what city, what neighborhood, what market, and the more ubiquitous “time and place”.  Promotions and marketing  now come in so many forms, it would be impossible to describe them all in the span of this discussion.  In the age of the Internet where ads are constantly being pushed that “you don’t need art galleries”, let us retort by saying that if you want your work to physically show and be promoted, art galleries are among the few options available.  Part of the responsibility of the artist is to vet out which galleries are good for them, and in turn, the responsibility of the gallery is to vet out what art is showable, (i.e. “good”) and what is not.   For if we had no art galleries and purveyors of fine taste in this case, every person would be calling themselves an artist and the marketplace would be flooded with endless amounts of garbage, which is often the case with the Internet.   Galleries exist to prevent the cheapening of the experience and to actually put tangible products in front of audiences. 

“Good” galleries can and should offer promotion in many different forms, both online, and in-person.  Their word about you matters, as it matters then to the audiences who may potentially invest in your work.  In addition to promotion, are more basic things like “does the gallery have open hours?”  On top of that, the gallery has to promote itself, and often, the arts and cultural scene surrounding the area in which it is located.   Nearly every work of art has a potential buyer, it’s just a matter of reaching that specific of a buyer for the work.   

However, as a final thought in Part 1, it is not the sole responsibility of the art gallery to create your promotion for you.  As we have stated in previous posts, artists that have something to go by will often succeed more than those who don’t.  A good gallery will be able to enhance the promotion and ideally, have an audience to see it both online, as well as in-person.  


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Your (Brand)Art Here

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At The Very Least, Coming to Terms With Consistency

While art is never a “one size fits all” approach for both artists and consumers, one of the most important aspects to consider in one’s artistic journey is the concept of branding.  When you hear the word branding, there is usually something that comes to mind- probably a logo (you might be thinking Nike or Coca-Cola, etc).  What you may or may not realize is that nearly everything and everyone with a tangible product and a price is a brand, whether intentional or not.  You may think that Bob Dylan is a folk singer, and a person, (which is true), but he/it is also a brand, and the brand will long outlive the life of the actual person.  Picasso is a brand.  Porsche is a brand and with any brand, comes a certain set of expectations from consumers when products enter the marketplace.  Sure, as an artist you are entitled to grow and change.  Change too quickly and too often however, and it creates confusion.  Take again for instance Bob Dylan.  Sure, he has many different definable “periods”, but as a whole, his fundamental brand identity remains intact.  Change has become a predictable part of your investment into his persona.  Some artists are so stuck to a particular style (i.e. the “one trick pony”) that when they try to change, simply die out.  Needless to say, if you are to survive the course of time, changing tastes and changing trends, you must be brand-adaptable without seeming too forced.  Sudden unpredictability can create “wow” (think Banksy’s self-destructing art) but your fundamental sense of brand identity must be mastered before building the type of audience who might actually take notice. 

Divorce Yourself: Live Vicariously

By and large, to be successful at nearly anything (including art), you must consider your brand, and how you intend to bring that brand and the underlying products to market.  The great news is that you can live vicariously through your brand.  Who you are as your brand and who you are in your home life can be two separate things, and they probably should be.  We say this because so many of the artists we look at cannot separate the two.   There is not bigger “turn-off” than to have excellent art only to click on the artist’s social media and see a stream of family and pet photos- and no other art.  This is not to say that having friends and family are unimportant, but separating your brand and your personal life is essential.  Having a solid story is part of a successful brand, but the story should be somewhat compelling and stick to the “why’s” of “why buy?” or “why does this matter?”  If your art involves family and pet portraits, by all means, the fam photos can be a welcoming marketing tool.  But know this: nobody will buy art featuring somebody else’s family.  That aside, the “lone wolf artist” is exempt from the above.  The lone wolf is so fused into the artistic lifestyle and their persona, that usually no self-divorce is necessary.  You cannot try to be the lone wolf- you either are or you’re not.     

So You’ve Got a Great Product?

So you’ve created that masterpiece and now what?  Sign the work right?!  Congratulations, you have now just successfully branded your art.  The interesting and sought-after thing about artwork is that every piece (or product) is unique, and the signature is the brand identifier.  Some artists keep it minimal, while some sign, seal, and package works of art with actual logos and/or studio/business names.  Regardless of the approach, it all falls under branding. It’s ok to have a few products out there before having a brand.  Don’t try to force the brand or put the cart before the horse but also, don’t wait to try to make every single thing perfect before launching. According to Jon Michail’s 5 Vital Rules of Personal Branding:  

“The very best personal brands will always come from repeated trial, error, mistakes and failures — not from instant perfection — because instant perfection is a myth.”

After going through the motions of your vision, your style, your early works, etc., you have at some point hopefully come to the conclusion “I am an artist“.  That’s at least a start.  It can be a strange hat to wear at first (i.e. “Imposter Syndrome“)  but let’s say you just finished your latest masterpiece or run of prints, and you are left with that ever-bothersome question “now what?”  The “what” is what you are going to do next?  Even more dreadful:  “why should someone care?”  If art is your hobby, and it simply makes you happy, and you believe that everyone deserves an equal share,  that’s wonderful, but then this business is probably not for you.  Giving your work away could actually be fulfilling under some circumstances (to the right people in the right moments) and if you are a street artist (i.e. you are maybe creating art for free), you are still pushing some sort of brand or a tag.  Street art and murals are definitely a way to be seen, but  how much street art do you walk or drive by on a regular basis and actually know the name of who created it?  (It can bolster your brand however, when a consumer knows that you created street art, and are now selling a consumer-grade painting in a gallery.  Disclaimer: Please don’t go spray painting walls.)   Lastly, if you want to keep everything hidden and prefer to wait until you are dead, that’s fine, but not a viable strategy.  Dead or alive, your brand should supersede you. 

Becoming Synonymous

Generally speaking in art, your name is your brand, and it should become synonymous with your works, and vice versa. 

Question #1: When somebody thinks of your name, what do they think?  For the majority of us and newcomer artists: Nothing.  So probably a better question to ask here is If somebody should think of your name- what would you like them to think?  

Break it down to just the essentials.  Simply being an artist is not a unique identifier. 

Question #2:  How do you make your message stand out from competitors?  This is why super genre-specific group shows sometimes might be a bad idea.  Say the show is called “Abstract Art 2022” and there are 20 abstract paintings all similarly sized.  What would cause your work to stick out from the group?  Either you are earth-shattering, have an established brand, or undercut everyone else’s prices.  Let’s face it, most art is not earth-shattering and this is why a lot of art sales are hit-or-miss.  Someone really loves the work of art- but is not sustainable if art is your declared profession.  Branding does not equal marketing.  (It’s never that easy, right?)  If you are not willing to compete for turf and participate, it may be best to go back to hobby.

Question #3:  Why would somebody want to buy my particular brand?  Notice here it says brand instead of “art”.  Usually someone buys art just because it looks nice or matches their dishes, but they may not be investing in a particular brand.  A lot of sales happen this way as mentioned, and that’s fine (hey, a sale is a sale).  However, to become more successful in sales (including galleries), the artists with particular brands or “reasons”, often see higher dollar amounts, and repeatability.  So often as a Gallery, we get interest in something, and then turn to an artist’s website (or catalog), to show a buyer a wider range of work, coupled with the artist’s story or successes.  This is where consistency comes into play.


There is nothing more of a turn-off for a gallery and buyers than lots of surprise inconsistencies.  Often, more serious buyers want to get into the why’s and the “what’s in it for me’s” (WIIFM).  This is where the artist’s website or catalog comes into play.  Imagine a gallery sits down with a prospective buyer and goes to your website- what are they going see?  Are things organized/categorized?  Styles?  Dates?  Consistency?  This is not to say that every single work of art should be the same and you have to be a robot.  Consistency is showing that you work in a particular style (or two), have a presentation style, and it shows as part of a brand that you actually value your output.  On Instagram, one of the modern tests of consistency is looking at somebody’s actual profile- and seeing how the historical flow of images looks together over time.  Be your own self-curator.

Poor consistency is looking at a site where an abstract painting is next to a realistic graphite commission of a neighbor’s cat, next to a clay sculpture, next to a Ford logo, next to a nude with odd shaped breasts and poor proportions.  We understand art is everything and people like to dabble, but you have to make sacrifices, and that can be scary.  Practice your proportions before uploading those nudes, if that is a route that you want to go.  A great example is from a successful photographer who visits our gallery as a buyer.  As a professional, he began narrowing down his photography, such as removing “weddings” from his offerings and website.  “It was scary” he says, because you are cutting off a source of potential revenue.  However, if your goals are bigger and you are purporting to be a “high artist” photographer showing at galleries, having “weddings” on your website can be confusing.  So,  put your best foot forward, stick to something, and the rest should hopefully follow.   A gallery might rather see 4 consistent pieces on a website, than a page full of dozens of random half-baked nothings.   

It may be of some solace to know that many of these same rules apply to galleries as well, and any type of brand/launch, regardless of product. For now, we are clicking “post”- nothing is perfect.  Please share your thoughts and comments and see you next time!

(The topic of branding will likely come up again in future posts…)


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