on buying art

April 13, 2007  in  Art as a profession       Related posts:  

One of the challenges of being an artist is trying to convince people to actually buy your art. There are a tons of art fans out there, but not so many art buyers it seems. I’ve had so many people visit my studio, appreciate my work, and fall in love with one particular piece, only to turn around and leave with just a thank you and a handshake. Sigh, it can be a little frustrating! I think this is because most of us just don’t really think of art as something you buy. I put myself in this group — so many times I’ll visit an art show only to walk out with nothing more than a postcard. And I’m an artist — if anyone should buy art, it should be me!

Why does this happen? Why do so many art lovers never buy art? The Washington Post recently did an experiment that I think sheds some light on this. They asked a world-class violinist to take his Stradivarius and play for change in the subways of DC. The result? People pretty much ignored him. But Seth Godin wasn’t surprised:

If your worldview is that music in the subway isn’t worth your time, you’re not going to notice when the music is better than usual… it doesn’t match the story you tell yourself, so you ignore it.

I think the same is true for visual art. Even if you see a piece you love, for a price you can easily afford, it would never occur to most of us to actually buy it. I think this is because most people consider art buying to be something that other people do. We are quite comfortable with going into a bookstore to buy a book, or buying a ticket to a concert, because these activities are part of our world — something normal people do everyday. But for some reason, art feels different. Buying art feels like something only the wealthy or elite do. It’s not that people feel they can’t or shouldn’t buy art — it just falls outside their normal experience, so it doesn’t occur to them to go ahead and do it. The challenge for an artist is what to do about this. How can we reach out to our fans, and encourage them to be our patrons as well?