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  • How Not to Sell Your Art



    Artists employ a variety of techniques and strategies in order not to sell art. ArtBusiness.com has received numerous requests for pointers on how to sell as little art as possible, and is making a number of the most effective techniques available in the following easy-to-use checklist. None of these are made up; they're the real deal. Please note that the more of these techniques you incorporate into your art selling strategy, the less art you will sell. Good luck!

    How Not to Sell Art is regularly updated with new non-selling techniques that artists actually use, so stop back from time to time and keep current on the most effective ways to sabotage your art career...

    • Act important, especially if you've had or are currently having a show at a museum or gallery.

    • Corollary 1 to the above: Act important regardless of how many shows you've had.

    • Corollary 2 to the above: Be a legend in your own mind. No matter what your resume looks like, believe that your art is "worldclass." Better yet, refer to your art as "worldclass."

    • Act incredulous around people who don't know who you are or aren't familiar with your art.

    • Don't price your art at shows, openings, in your studio, or online. Forcing people to ask how much your art costs eliminates potential buyers who, for whatever reasons, feel uncomfortable asking.

    • For potential buyers who are comfortable asking, don't have anyone available or identifiable, including yourself, to help them.

    • When a potential buyer is fortunate enough to locate or recognize you and ask a price, try to figure out how much they can afford to spend, and then quote that dollar amount.

    • Don't provide a resume. People like to know who you are and what you've accomplished before they buy your art; not telling them anything helps them make up their minds not to buy your art.

    • Make sure half of your art still sits on the floor or leans against the walls, waiting to be hung, as your gallery show opens.

    • Only talk to people you already know at your shows and openings. This way, anyone who's interested in your art enough to want to meet you will have a really hard time doing so.

    • At your shows or openings, decide who's worth or not worth talking to based solely on the way they look or dress. Or better yet, if you don't know 'em, ignore 'em.

    • When you're not talking to anyone at your shows or openings, act aloof and/or inaccessible. Appear preoccupied and move around the room like you're looking for someone.

    • When you talk to someone about your art for the first time, act like you're not interested and avoid doing anything to make the conversation go smoothly. Then act impatient, like you have to catch a plane. Abruptly end the conversation when someone you know shows up.

    • Only talk to people who you think are likely to buy your art or advance your career.

    • Hint at or make references to your upcoming show in every conversation you have.

    • Try to convince people who show little or no interest in your art that it's worth owning and that they should buy it.

    • Try to convince people who prefer other artists or styles of art that your art is better or more worthwhile.

    • Overindulge in drugs and/or alcohol at your shows, openings, or open studios.

    • Show up late for your shows, openings, or open studios. Better yet, say you'll show up, then don't.

    • Make appointments and then don't keep them. Say you'll call or email people, and then don't call or email them. In general, be as unreliable as possible in as many situations as possible.

    • Make sure you're difficult to contact. When someone does succeed in contacting you, either respond days or weeks later, or better yet, don't respond at all.

    • When you email a gallery, dealer, or anyone else for the first time with requests to represent you, show your art, sell your art, or advance your career in any other way, don't identify yourself, don't give any reason why you're sending the email to this specific person or gallery, don't sign your name, and don't provide any background information about who you are or what your art looks like.

    • Corollary to the above: Send an email with the subject line "Looking for an agent." In the body, include no message, contact information, or images of your art-- only your first name.

    • Corollary to the above: Send an email with the subject line "I am an artist." In the body, include no signature or contact information, and only one image of your art.

    • Corollary to the above: Send an email with the subject line "ART" and in the body, include nothing but a website URL.

    • Corollary to the above: Send three consecutive emails entitled "Look at My Art, Part I," Part II and Part III, along with 40 megs of zip files, and no text or contact information.

    • Corollary to the above: Forward the same email to one gallery after another asking them to show your art, and leave the email addresses of all the previous galleries you've forwarded it to in each email.

    • Corollary to the above: Send the same email over and over again and leave the vertical lines along the lefthand side of the text so that the recipient can see how many different times you've already sent it.

    • Email total strangers, say you've entered a piece of art in a competition and ask them to vote for it as many times as possible.

    • Complain a lot. Some of the better complaints are that you don't get enough shows, people don't understand your art, you're just as good as (you name the artist), you're better than (you name the artist), all art dealers are crooks, all art critics are jerks, all museum curators are prima donnas, art collectors only buy big names, art collectors are ignorant, nobody's willing to spend any money on art, all art by (you name an artist who's currently having a major museum retrospective) sucks, nobody needs art teachers, paint costs too much, and art school was a waste of time.

    • If you see an art critic, writer, curator, or any other recognizable personality in the art community anywhere within the vicinity of your art, at a gallery or group show or otherwise, walk up to them and without introducing yourself (whether or not you've met them previously), point to your art and ask, "How do you like it?"

    • If you get mentioned in a review or have a show that's reviewed, make sure you contact the reviewer or critic and tell them all the mistakes and misinformation contained in their review. If the review is online, ask them to correct it.

    • Corollary to the above: If you see the review writer in public, introduce yourself, tell them they should really know more about your art in order to fully understand it, and then invite them to your studio so that you can explain it to them.

    • Price your art much higher than art by artists with similar career accomplishments and experience to yours. That way, anyone who comparison shops for art by price, and many people do, won't buy yours.

    • Never accept an offer, no matter how reasonable it is, to sell a piece of art for less than your asking price.

    • If a dealer, gallery, rep, or anyone else in the business suggests that your asking prices might be too high, argue that they're wrong. Arguments include that your art is worth your current prices in the right venue or in better lighting, that they haven't looked at it closely enough, that they need to see more pieces, that it's as good as art by (fill in the name of a famous artist), and so on. No matter how they respond, keep arguing.

    • Act offended whenever anyone asks to pay less than your asking price.

    • If you accept an offer, act unhappy and make sure the buyer knows how displeased you are about accepting it.

    • When someone says they can't afford to spend what you want them to, tell them they can't get much for that amount of money. Another option is to let them choose from your worst art and make sure they know how little you think of it.

    • Never say anything good about your fellow artists.

    • Give the impression to everyone you talk to that you know much more about art than they do. Use whatever tools are at your disposal to make them feel inferior.

    • Corollary 1 to the above: When someone asks you about your art, answer them in unintelligible insider art jargon gibberish.

    • Corollary 2 to the above: When someone asks you about your art, use this opportunity to tell them the story of your life as an artist. Start with when Mommy bought you your first box of crayons.

    • Corollary 3 to the above: When someone asks you about your art, inject your religious, social, and political views into the conversation as soon as possible. That way, you maximize the chances of polarizing, offending, or insulting the person you're talking with.

    • Corollary 4 to the above: When someone asks you about your art, do not pause or stop talking even if you see the person's eyes roll back in their sockets.

    • Corollary 5 to the above: When someone asks you about your art, don't pause to ask whether they understand what you're saying or whether they have any questions. Just keep talking.

    • Corollary 6 to the above: When someone asks a question about your art, ask a question back, and then critique their answer. Then tell them they need to spend more time learning about your art. Then walk away.

    • Corollary 7 to the above: When someone asks you a question about your art, tell them that's not a question you can answer.

    • Corollary 8 to the above: When someone asks you a question about your art, tell them that you can answer it in a variety of ways, and then don't answer it.

    • If you're showing a series of pieces that are related in some way, only sell them as a group, not individually. This strategy eliminates anyone who can't afford the whole group, doesn't have enough room to hang or show everything, or only likes one or two pieces.

    • Instantly correct anyone who misinterprets your art or sees it in ways other than how you want it to be seen.

    • When someone talks about art in his or her collection, make sure they can tell how little respect you have for those artists.

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