To the online artist, it might seem a paradox, at first glance, to hear a recommendation to hold back work. The artist on the Internet often overproduces and displays their entire body of work. In essence, by placing it for casual viewing, known as “shopping” the work, devalues its worth by defying the Law of Supply and Demand.
How can the artist benefit by applying the advantages of the Internet with the successful business practices of the traditional gallery? Let’s look at the traditional gallery’s sales structure.
At the Preview, in an inner gallery, and by invitation only, previously unviewed works are presented to the gallery’s selected collectors. The works are tagged as sold, but left for viewing. An aspect of human nature, wanting what one cannot have, has been accommodated as well as a relationship to supply and demand.
To paraphrase Israel A. Kirzner, the, almost, universally accepted theory of supply and demand shapes production and consumption, and is, not only the skeleton, but the flesh and blood of the economic system which determines the artist’s survival in the marketplace.
[“The Law of Supply and Demand”, by Israel Kirzner At the time of publication Kirzner was an economist at New York University. and The Freeman, a publication of The Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., January 2000, Vol. 50, No. 1.]
The show opens to the general public. As the show closes, unsold works are then considered shopped, since the public has viewed them. Then, they are placed in an outer gallery for the casual onlooker. Those traditions have held true, stemming from the basic nature of human beings and how market prices are determined.
This brings us back to the question of how might the traditional practices be adapted to the Internet? The artist could, for instance, set up a number of galleries.
The Inner Gallery would contain works previously unseen. A collector might pay a one-time fee, the purpose of which is to discourage window-shoppers. The fee could then be applied to their purchase. Those who purchase are the collectors who go into your special Guest Book to receive Preview invitations, thus, eliminating the major pitfall of current Internet based galleries, the window-shopper.
How does one structure a Preview Page? Obviously, for your Preview Page you wouldn’t want just anyone dropping in. This could be accomplished through a member login given only to your private collectors. By closely monitoring their login dates, you can determine when the Preview is over and it’s time for the show to be opened to the general public.
A Middle Gallery is for works that didn’t sell in the Preview, but are only available to those who have registered in the Guest Book and agree to receive future newsletters and updates. Finally, there is an Outer Gallery, that is for browsers and only contains images that have been sold, their price, but never to whom it was sold.
Although there will be many window-shoppers, as the exclusive nature and as the reputation of the site grows, the more exclusive collector will come to the site, sign the Guest Book, and come to the Preview ready to collect.
Perhaps Museum Directors, Curators, Critics and Reviewers could be contacted as well. Given passwords, they could actually look at the work online, without the artist having to physically move the works as in a land-based gallery. Their reviews could be then added to the Preview Page and the artist’s resume for future use.
Anyone with experience on the Internet knows you can’t just create a web site and expect people to show up. The site must be properly marketed as well as have something the web surfer desires. Go to ARTNews and see how the ads are structured. Ask yourself what it is about that ad that makes you want to visit that gallery. What makes it desirable?
Look at the size of the images in the ad. Are they thumbnails or full-size images and details? Collectors want to see brush-strokes and have the monitors to do so. Remember, that the majority of the nation’s assets lie in the hands of those over fifty years of age. Many of them wear eyeglasses. Accommodate their eyesight. Bigger is better.
Of course, not all artists who put up a web site are going to be worth collecting, just as galleries will not find all artists suitable. Not all collectors will want a given artist’s work. Without demand there are no sales.
Therefore, critical analysis of the web statistics should be carefully monitored. If you get a lot of hits and no sales then the problem is not in the marketing. Conversely, no hits, or very few, would indicate poor marketing. At some point you have to figure whether or not you’re no good at marketing or the work is not collectible.
As for meeting with the artist, the web cam, if not a personal visit, makes for an enjoyable time. With the development of Japanese graphic technology, one day soon the collector and others members of the art community will view the minute details of the artist’s work in truly a virtual gallery without defying the laws of human nature which drives all mankind.
Cynthia Houppert is an art consultant in Atlanta, Georgia and the author of “Art Gallery Safari: Bagging the Big One”