It seems for the last five to ten years, there has been increasingly more discussion about how to reinvent the art gallery business. It’s a worthy discussion that has turned up many new or experimental ideas about how to run an art gallery business in the new millennium. Some ideas have been more successful than others.
Adam Sheffer, president of the Art Dealers Association of America, published an essay called Predictions for 2016: Reinventing the Gallery that highlighted some key areas from which to start reinventing your gallery business. Below are a few of his thoughts that resonated with me.
- Consider the multifaceted role a gallery plays in the community.
- Examine the competitive challenges online art platforms present to your gallery and which of these your targeted collector base may use to learn about art.
- Think of the value you can bring to experiencing art beyond it being a commodity.
- How does your client’s lifestyle change the way they want to collect art and how will you evolve for the next generation’s buying preferences.
- Most importantly, evaluate all that you do beyond just selling art and define the total value package you provide to both savvy and new collectors.
For some art dealers, the most pressing challenge has been trying to compete with the new role auction houses play in the market and determining which art fairs would have the greatest impact on sales. But for many small to mid-market art galleries, these are not factors of doing business.
Sheffer also points out that art dealers are creative people and have the opportunity to reinvent their gallery business in innovative and creative ways. Here are some ideas we can offer to get the wheels turning in your mind about your gallery’s evolution.
- Hire a marketing professional to ensure you are not missing opportunities to reach new audiences. Hiring someone from outside of the art world will likely bring fresh ideas and perspectives.
- Become proactive about forging partnerships with other galleries in new markets in order to expand your collector base and the reputation of both gallery and artist. This kind of industry cooperation can be a win-win for both galleries.
- Expand your sales force through outside sales agents. They could be bored socialites or long-time collectors/supporters of the gallery. They should be well connected in their community and act as champions of the gallery by selling outside the gallery on a commission basis.
- Create more opportunities for collector participation. For example, this could include holding annual exhibitions where collectors collaborate to curate the show. Be creative.
- Study other luxury industries to see what ideas they are implementing. You may find valuable inspiration for your business.
We all agree that there will always be a need for art galleries. Presenting art, nurturing new talent and advising collectors are really just part of a gallery’s importance in a community. Reinventing your gallery will not happen over night. Be creative, be patient and be open-minded.