Sell to Connoisseurs, Not Consumers

The average person can’t tell why a $40 million Picasso is beautiful.  They just know everyone else thinks it is.  The average person couldn’t tell you the difference between a real Chihuly versus a copycat.  The average person doesn’t know a whole lot about art in general.  So why sell to average people?  If you’re an artists, sell to people who know and understand unique art when they see it.  Sell to connoisseurs, not consumers.

One of my clients happens to be a photographer, and she always gets stressed whenever she has to display her work at a gallery.  We’ll call her Anna.  Anna’s frustration is trying to pick photos that she thinks people might buy, and often she ends up displaying what she considers to be more commercial artwork versus photographs she’s truly passionate about.  Then she gets depressed when no one buys them.  Anna has this same issue with her website.  By choosing more commercial photos, Anna’s portfolio ends up looking a little bland.

The reason why Anna is reluctant to display what she calls her real art is because she is afraid that it’ll pigeon hole her into one type of photography, or that it’ll turn off too many people.  So she compromises and displays her commercial art because she feels it would appeal to a wider audience.  Anna couldn’t be more wrong.

First of all, no one can predict which art or photo will sell.  If the could, they’d be millionaires.  Secondly, I explained to Anna that there is a market for everything.  Stefan G. Bucher makes a living drawing nothing but monsters. makes a living by selling gay and lesbian oriented stock photography.  There are obscure bands like Paper Bird that have cult followings.  Third, real art buyers aren’t looking for bland; they are looking for something unique.

What I suggested to Anna was that she stick to her point-of-view.  Her unique vision cannot be replicated.  Rather than displaying commercial work that looks like every other piece of commercial work, I suggested that she display work that is uniquely her.  I suggested to Anna that she would feel more proud in selling just one piece of her personal work compared to selling 100 of the commercial stuff.  If Anna doesn’t have confidence in her own work, then no one else will either.

I know this sounds obvious but artists need to market to people who will appreciate their art, rather than marketing to people who don’t.  Rather than trying to predict what the market will buy, just sell artwork you are most proud of, work that is uniquely you.  Sell to the connoisseurs of your work.

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