6 things I learnt from buying Art in a gallery - for the first time ever.
My husband and me took some days off and went to Maó, Menorca. We planned to do nothing at all, but we ended up doing something that felt very, very important and we had never done before:
we bought a piece of Art from a gallery.
As a consultant and as an Etsy seller I've been aware that hiring or buying from others is a lesson. I'd experience the receiving end of a service. That allows me to better design the process for MY clients and buyers.
As an artist upgrading from Etsy, though, I had never seen what buying a significant original piece was like. And when we faced a piece by Piers Jackson in Maó (pictured above, the white box), we knew that was about to change. We just could not go back home without it.
We had a good chance to talk to Elvira, the gallerist - and I'm writing this post with her blessing. Here's what I learnt from buying from her.
1. She was not shy (and didn't assume anything)
Elvira did approach us in the gallery. If you are going "duh!", I want to make clear that I am a gallery goer and I consider myself lucky if they nod a hello my way. Loads of galleries are staffed by interns, or by ... yes, cliché snobby bosses who don't greet you if you aren't carrying an LV bag. Here we were approached rather decisively and engaged with quickly. As a business owner I am sometimes afraid to appear "forceful" but in reverse I see I'd prefer to be acknowledge than ignored.
2. Storytelling matters
The gallerist not only explained pieces we were looking at, she took a guess at a piece we'd like and told us about the trajectory of the artist, the meaning, the technique... and kind of hinted that she had the feeling that meeting between that piece and us was meant to be. If you've been reading my stuff for a while, you might think this sounds unusually woo for me. You are right. But it was intriguing to see the story develop and whether it was meant to be, or not, that was the piece we took home. As buyers, knowing that that piece was one of the last ones available where the artist had used wax (he can't do that now due to health reasons), swayed us. As a seller, I never know how much info is too little or too much, and in modern marketing I've been told over and over that the story I need to tell is about my buyer. But as a collector, i really did enjoy hearing about the piece, the process and the artist.
3. Boutique economy
I was recently recommended by Caitlin Horton to read Worth every penny, a book about "boutique" economy. Focus on quality of engagement rather than quantity, kind of mentality. I noticed that Elvira took note of everything about us: where we lived, what we worked on, etc. She took time to get to know us and she's been in touch ever since. After reading the book I felt I needed to up my customer service game and this only confirmed it.
4. Money is relative
I spend HOURS struggling to price my artwork. It's a bizarre dance where everything feels like too much and too little at the same time. When we looked at the gallery's price lists, we saw 4 figure numbers that made us think there was NO WAY we were going to buy anything. Since Elvira was engaging with us, she did volunteer the price of the piece, which was well under 1000 euros. We never stopped to think about how a white box with a pyramid inside could cost that money. The fact that the piece was so minimalist didn't deter us from spending money on it, rather it was what attracted us to it. This has changed my attitude towards price in my work.
5. The space was unique and personal
Encant is a weird gallery. It's not a white cube. It kinda looks like a home and it feels colorful. If Encant had been more traditional, it would have intimidated us more and maybe we would have never gotten in. Another lesson on branding for your audience and not being afraid to be yourself.
6. F*ck marketing, we just wanted the piece
You could have described to us the incredible benefits of owning that piece to us: how much more stylish we'd appear to our guests. How it would gain value with time. How we were buying a heirloom for our non-existing children to inherit. The works. But none of these things actually worry us at all. What's more, it might have put us off. We just felt an instant magnet towards it and wanted it BADLY. Lesson is... do amazing, mind-blowing work, I guess?
BONUS - Real life experience
If you see a pic of the piece we bought, it feels nothing like real life. I've talked to several people about selling Art online and it's a challenge in many ways. But one is that some materials and effects just don't translate well into pictures. The piece I so love right now would have gone completely unnoticed on a site. Lesson? figure out other ways to show the piece and try to exhibit in person more.
If you felt your brain tickled, feel free to email me to share what you thought. Also, you might want to go peek at my online gallery (I'm working on it right now). If you enter the code nola2015 before the 15th, you get 20% off.