Find the Right Agent or Website for Your Art
by Alan Bamberger
Q: Where can I find a list of art agents who represent artists? Trying to create art and market oneself is far too frustrating. Searching website after website is not only time consuming but can also put us at risk. What are we really signing up for or will the attachment of our image really be protected? Will that “Virtual Art Museum” really protect our work? We cannot all get shows at local art galleries. Can you assist me in my search?
A: Your situation is one that many artists find themselves in. Selling art is hard enough even when someone’s doing it for you, but artists without gallery representation or agents can find the task of selling their art especially difficult. The good news is that the Internet provides opportunities for selling art that never before existed. The not so good news, as you point out, is that if you ally yourself with the wrong website or agent, you can waste time, money, lose art, or end up in bad contractual arrangements. The following suggestions will help you to navigate the art agent and online jungles and locate the best prospects for selling art.
The two most important qualities of any agent you work with are that she has experience selling the types of art you make, and that she sells it on a regular basis. Evaluate any agent’s qualifications not only by speaking with that agent and studying her resume, but also by speaking with at least two or three artists who she represents. You’ll get the most accurate assessment of how much an agent can do for you by speaking with artists who make art similar to yours and have comparable career accomplishments.
If you’ve never had an agent and don’t have a lot of experience exhibiting, best procedure is to work with someone locally who’ll promote your art in the community or region where you live. For example, working with an out-of-town agent in a major art market like New York or Los Angeles makes little sense if you don’t live in either of those cities and are just starting out. The competition from New York or Los Angeles artists is too great and the chances for your success are slim. The great majority of successful artists begin by getting reputations where they live and then branching out from there.
A couple of don’ts: Never pay an agent money in advance to represent your art, and keep initial contractual obligations to a maximum of one year, but preferably six months. Paying money in advance gives an agent less incentive to sell your art rather than more, because he’s already been paid. On the contractual side, you don’t want to get roped into an exclusive long-term agreement with an agent who can’t sell your art. Once the agent starts selling for you, then think about extended contracts.
Locating a website where you can show and sell your art is similar to locating an agent. As with choosing an agent, you want a website that sells the type of art you make, and you want proof from the website that once you place your art online, it has a reasonable chance of selling. The great majority of successful art websites charge for showing your art or for setting up a gallery of your art, so making sure that they can sell once you pay is especially important.
Have any prospective art website provide names and contact information for several of their artists who make and sell art similar to yours. Contact those artists and find out how satisfied they are with the website’s performance. Also request detailed data from websites themselves on how many pieces of art they sell and what types of art sell best. For example, a website may generate a large number of sales, but if you’re an American artist who paints watercolors of flowers, and the bulk of the site’s revenues come from selling sculptures by Chinese artists, you’re probably not going to sell much art.
Another point to keep in mind is that the larger art websites show thousands of works of art by hundreds of artists. Before contracting with such a website, spend plenty of time on the site looking around, evaluating the quality of art that you’ll be competing against, and realistically assessing your chances of selling successfully. Also find out what options these large websites offer for increasing your online profile such as featuring your gallery, placing images of your art on the home page, and so on. Three major websites serving individual artists and worth checking out are Artspan, Absolutearts, and The Guild.
Regarding copyright issues, guarding against unauthorized use of your online images is difficult if not impossible, unless you’re a huge corporation using highly sophisticated and expensive software. Exercise due diligence and do what you can to make sure your images aren’t used without your permission, but never use concerns over copyright infringement as an excuse for not showing your art online or anywhere else, for that matter. Remember that your art is your business card– your single best means of advertising. The more people who see your art, whether in person or online, the greater your chances for making sales. People rarely buy art without seeing it first.
Is a gallery offering you a show? Does someone want to rep your art? Entering into a business relationship? Signing a contract? If you answered yes to any of those questions, read Common Artist Legal Problems and How to Avoid Them.
Here are other useful links from this resourseful Art Consultant: When to see an Art Attorney
Who Is Alan Bamberger? www. ArtBusiness.com
Site principal, Alan Bamberger, is an art consultant, advisor, author, and independent appraiser specializing in research, appraisal, and all business and market aspects of original works of art, artist manuscript materials, art-related documents, and art reference books. He has been selling art since 1979 and rare and scholarly art reference books since 1982, and has been consulting and appraising for artists, galleries, businesses, organizations and collectors since 1985.
Bamberger has appeared live on CNN’s Daywatch, KTLA’s Making It (Los Angeles), and KRON-TV in San Francisco, and answered art business questions on New York City Cable TV’s Project Art Show. He’s been quoted in numerous media including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the International Herald Tribune, Great Britain’s Guardian Unlimited, the Toronto Star, Marketplace (National Public Radio), the Los Angeles Times, New York Newsday, the San Francisco Chronicle, Esquire, ESPN Magazine, Real Simple, ARTnews, The Arizona Republic and Wired and has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Examiner, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Your Money, and other publications.
Mr. Bamberger’s credentials go on and on. If you want to contact him for his invaluable services – his number is 415.931.7875, his email is firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is http://www.artbusiness.com.