Back in June of last year I wrote a piece about online art galleries. I think that after all this time, it’s about time to givea quick summary of what the passing of time has made apparent.
1) Hosted online galleries do not bring much in the way of sales of fine art. In the two years since the experiment of registering with several organizations the sum total of sales directly attributable to hosted galleries is four paintings. None of these individual sales amounted to more than a few hundred dollars. I won’t name the various sites, not wishing to denegrate any of their services. I relate this as purely my own experience.
2) There are now so many of these galleries, often hosting thousands of hopeful artisans, that the chances of a visitor stumbling across your work have become less and less likely. Information overload will overwhelm most people long before they make a buying decision.
3) What does sell is very likely to be at the very bottom of the price scale. Few people are willing to spend a lot of money on original paintings if they can’t see them up close and in person. This is quite understandable; I certainly wouldn’t do it, unless I was already very familiar with the artist and their work, and this is not likely to be the case for most artists trying to sell through these channels.
4) Serious art buyers go to galleries, read art publications and know what they like. You are very unlikely to tap into such a market through a free or paid gallery hosted by a third party.
So, is it all doom and gloom, are most starving artists destined to remain that way? Well, there are a few positive points to make about these sites. Firstly,anything is still better than nothing, the old “if you ain’t in it, you can’t win it” philosophy. If you sign up to some free galleries, you increase your chances of finding a market for your work by a fair percentage. I would simply caution you not to feel too disappointed when nothing bears fruit.
When I first signed up to half a dozen galleries, my visibility online was not great. After joining them, ‘Googling’ my name at least flagged a few results – but who is going to search for your name if you are an unknown?
I’m sure there will be people out there who will come back citing their successes to prove me wrong and I don’t doubt that they are out there. I am saying that my work does not sell through these channels, and, to be honest, I didn’t really expect it to. A lot of people sell art on Ebay, but, let’s be honest, the biggest auction site in the world is not really a marketplace for fine art, although I concede that some people may well make a few bucks on Ebay, it’s certainly not for me.
I would recommend any artist to have their own website – not so much for direct selling, but as a showcase for their work. People will at least know what you are all about and if they are serious about buying your work, they will find a way forward from there – give your visitors a means to contact you from the site of course.
If you can’t afford a website, don’t have the know-how, then start a blog. I would advise any artist to start a blog even if they already have a website. Blogs are simplicity itself to get off the ground and even some of the free hosted galleries are providing blog facilities for their members. Technical knowledge is certainly no longer a prerequisite – anybody can blog and once you begin you will soon be getting visitors and it’s a great way to network and talk about your own art and that of others. The real attraction is that a blog need not cost you one red cent! You can learn, do and spend as much as you like, there are some very high quality art blogs out there so go looking and find some inspiration.
Ultimately, if you are a serious artist in the field of fine art, looking for serious buyers, and expecting your work to command higher prices, put together a portfolio, start wearing out shoe leather, read the press and art publications, look for representation, push yourself, and have faith in your ability as an artist. Learn from each rejection, or criticism of both your work and your methods. Success doesn’t come looking for most of us, so it really is up to you, to seek it out for yourself.
I shall say goodnight and leave you a link to my latest press coverage – please excuse the photograph!