When I read this report it struck me at the end that they did not include the voice of the artist–a key component in this art selling equation some might say (not sarcasm). How is it that they interviewed buyers, gallerists, and online platforms, but not artists? What did artists have to say about all this? What were their struggles in trying to sell online? I asked someone close to the online art space why artists were excluded from the report, and they speculated, “galleries probably wouldn’t like what they had to hear [from artists], and [furthermore] this report was written by an insurance company whose client is a gallery” Perhaps this is true, but I would be willing to bet that solving the needs of the artist would help address the needs of the buyer.
So, at Vango, we took it upon ourselves to talk to 30 artists and get their opinion on selling art online. Here is what we heard, accompanied by some insight as to why fixing these issues would help to sell artwork.
“I spend 3 hours managing, uploading, selling for every 1 hour creating”
We surveyed artists and found that between social media, their own web page, Vango and other online galleries, they were on an average of 5 platforms. Although this is great to increase exposure, it also means that every new piece created has to be uploaded to all sites; the same goes for when any piece sells (the listing must be removed or marked as sold on each page). This is frustrating and time-consuming. As a result, it prevents artists from keeping all their profiles up-to-date and/or prevents them from joining new channels that may prove successful.
The real, unforeseen consequence is that managing listings takes up time that could be used to create new work. In fact, we discovered that artists dedicate an average of 12 hours per week just managing their online portfolios. 12 hours/wk is the equivalent of about an additional art piece per week. Furthermore, we see that artists who create more, sell more. In fact, artists who upload between 8 to 25 pieces not only increase their chances of selling, but the likelihood of selling also continues to increase at a compounding rate.
Facilitating with time management and online presence is where the art industry could be immensely helpful to artists. Yes, a lot of industries are already doing this (to some extent), but the approach and execution could be a lot more efficient. For example, online galleries could standardize their upload files so artists don’t have to upload the same images in different sizes with a variant number of tags to comply with the specifications of each platform.
“I don’t know who my buyers or followers are”
Artists have little insight into who their collectors or fans are. It feels like gallerists intentionally keep artists disconnected from collectors. Online galleries vary; some let you direct message buyers, most of the time artists will include their business card with their work so they can connect with the buyer directly. We also discovered that an artist might know that they “shipped ten pieces to California” but not realize that those ten cities are all within ten miles of each other, and thus discover it’s word of mouth that spread.
Furthermore, artists have NO idea who their fans are; these are folks who favorite, follow, and add the artist’s artwork to their cart. Artists don’t expect to know all their details, but demographic data or location data could prove useful to them; possibilities include: targeted ads, the creation of specific work, the opportunity to apply to galleries/shows where they already have a lot of fans, or the knowledge to use specific tags for their work to attract more of one type of demographic.
“I don’t see where my artwork lives”
Building off of the last point, artists rarely see where their artwork ends up or where it travels from there. One artist said they worked hard to keep an updated album of all their artwork hanging on the walls of their new homes. Online platforms could help by collecting these images and even make these albums.
“There are too many artists on this platform; I can’t get noticed.”
There are hundreds or thousands of artists, how am I going to get noticed? I understand where they are coming from. This is a challenge because art is very subjective and if a gallery or online platform does not have artwork browsers like that potential buyer leaves. Once those users leave, they don’t return and they don’t share the site with friends who are likely to have different art tastes than they do. At Vango, we strive for diversity. Diversity in price, style, the location of an artist, medium and push to have the best in each of these categories (e.g. the best $200 street art from local artists). I strongly believe that if artists create more, have a strong profile, and use tags appropriately, they will get discovered. Now it is on the platforms to build in a good discovery and recommendation algorithm, but this is important whether you have 10 artists or 10,000.
Now, I will be the first to admit that artists aren’t always the easiest to work with 😉 and often ask for things that I don’t think is in their best interest (i.e. Vacation mode); however, if we can help solve these issues for them then everyone will benefit. So let’s be sure we listen to the artist moving forward (@arttactic I’m looking at you).
Reviewing the Online Art Market Series 2017