The artist reception - A social event or a business opportunity

Selling at artist reception

All images are for sale at reasonable prices and can be clicked on for more information.

You may also be interested in reading my related articles: Selling art at art shows or
The artist / gallery relationship in the world of the alternative art gallery.

Most artists are not full-time and live solely off of the money from their art.  With this in mind, most artists selling or displaying their art either treat this as a part-time business or as a hobby.  If you are trying to sell your artwork, the artist will need to decide how much time at the artist reception they are going to devote to the social aspect and how much towards the business side to selling.  I feel that there is plenty of time to do both.

This article will point out several easy steps that artists can do at an artist's reception to improve sales while still enjoying the social aspect of the artist's reception.   While this article was meant for the artist showing at alternative art gallery spaces and not for full-time art galleries, some of the topics listed here could apply to both places.

I was at an artist reception last night and I made some observations that might help artists see things from a customer’s point of view.  These are things that the artist may not be realizing are going on that could reduce your sales and are easily correctable if the artist chooses to do so.
At this reception, a group of about five photographers was showing their art.  This was more of a temporary gallery set up in an empty store. The store was in a busy and popular shopping area in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.

These were some of the steps that the gallery did to setup a nice gallery environment.

  • The gallery area looked professional and had some small couches in the center with a few tables for artists to place their business cards and promotional items on.  One would not know that this was a temporary art spaceRoute 66 trailer.

  • The gallery allowed the artist to put up some print racks to display matted artworks.  Two of the artists took advantage of this that allowed the customers to see additional art from the artist and also at less expensive price points.  Artist, ask if you can bring additional artwork in a print rack to the artist reception or have on display even during regular business hours.

  • The art was hung well and each artist had their well-defined section. While all artist were of the same medium, all the photography was distinctive.

  • All the labels supplied by the gallery were consistent among all artists for a uniform look that tied the different artists together.

  • The lighting on the art walls was bright with minimum reflections on the glass frames.

  • An artist reception food table was set out with a good assortment of snacks and drinks.

  • The reception was consistently crowded with many people from invited guests to those who walked in from the street.  The gallery manager did send out promotion for the reception.  The artist also sent out notices about the artist reception since I got one from the gallery manager and also from one of the artist.  During a group show, it is important for the artist to send out promotion to their email list or personal social sites.  Among the many artists, this adds up to a lot of friends and potential customers being notified which is an advantage to all the artists.  

I felt that the gallery manager had things set up right for the best opportunity for the artists to sell.

From my experience, art sells best when the artist is at the gallery interacting with the customers and not as well if the art is hanging on a wall at an alternative art gallery during regular gallery hours. As an artist myself, I try to have the social experience of the artist reception with a mixture of the business side of selling.  At this reception, I only observed one artist doing this in the best manner to balance the social aspect and the business side.  This is what he did right that led to an advantage in sales that the other artist did not take advantage of.

  1. This artist was wearing a name tag.  The tag has his name in large enough type to read easily and had listed under his name the title of ‘Photographer’.  While just listing your name is fine, I think adding a title like photographer or artist adds a little to say that your art is somewhere on the walls at this time.  If a customer cannot find the artist or distinguish the gallery manager or sales staff from the rest of the artist reception crowd, then the artist can just lose a potential sale.

  2. This artist stood by his art much of the night and because he had his name tag on, he was more approachable to customers to talk to him simply because they knew who the artist was.  All the other four artists were probably in the gallery but in the hour I was there, I could not distinguish them from the other guests in the crowd and I never got a chance to talk to them.

  3. When the artist is socializing at the event with his friends he should be aware when customers are looking at their art, especially when they are taking their time admiring specific pieces.  This is the time for the artist to temporarily break off his social time with his friends and approach the customer.  This could be a simple ‘This is my art and if you have any questions, please let me know’.  This can be done in a friendly but not pushy manner. At this time the customers will choose to talk to the artist or continue with viewing the artworks. Some customers are just looking or just want their space and others come to these artist reception events to specifically interact with the artists just like they would at an outdoor art show.

    The artist's friends should know that this is a selling opportunity for the artist and should not mind the temporary conversation interruption.  The artist can go back to their friends when the customer is done viewing their art.

    Perhaps this artist/customer interaction was going on with the other four artists but I could not tell since I did not know who the other artists were. What I did see was this same artist with the name tag having interaction with the customers talking about his art repeatedly and it was obvious.

    I did see a couple looking thru a large group of matted prints in a print rack. They were there for at least 6 minutes, a very long time for this, looking and discussing some of the prints with each other. At no time did I see anyone come over from the gallery or a visit from the artist. That could of very well led to a loss of a sale.

Indian Head Hood Ornament So the basic premise here is that one of the five artists chose to take extra steps to sell his art while also having a good balance of the social aspect of the artist's reception.  At this particular alternative gallery location, I was told that a few of the artists have never shown their work before.  There is a learning curve to the art of selling and perhaps they were really at the reception totally for social reasons despite having prices listed.
There is nothing wrong with the artist mainly making the artist's reception a social event with friends since this is a personal choice. However, the gallery owner may prefer if the artists sell their artwork during the artist's reception so that they can recoup the cost of running the gallery and the extra costs of putting on an artist's reception. 

The other four artists may have been interested in selling but did not realize that customers might not know who they were among the crowd.  I hope this article points out the advantages to sales that wearing a name tag has. Another advantage is being aware of customers admiring your artwork and how interacting with them can increase your chances of selling your art.

Side note:  One other artist, while not wearing a name tag, did have a large printed bio on the wall with the artist’s picture at the top.  This is good not only to identify the artist during a crowed artist reception but also for customers wanting to know more about an artist during regular gallery hours when the artist is not available.  I usually hang a bio or a recent article written by a newspaper or magazine on my art on the wall.  You can also place this type of artist documentation on a table near your art along with business cards when permitted.  The customers are not just buying art, they are buying the story of the artist with it and the customers do want to know about the artist.

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