Imagine. You walk into a shoe store. It’s a special shoe store filled with very fine, interesting, hand made shoes. Many of them are one of a kind. You’re just browsing. Looking for something really cool and handmade. You have a particular style and of course, shoe size, and you’re curious to see what this place is all about.
The storeowner/shoe maker/designer/the “artist” appears.
He makes no sincere attempt to learn about your needs or if his creations are really a good fit for you. Enter the artist who makes no attempt to solve a problem or alleviate a pain for their target market. The artist just starts talking at you about his creative process and his inspiration for one pair of shoes that he’s particularly proud of, his latest work. And he is wearing a really weird hat that you’re trying not to stare at it. Enter the “artist’s statement” and the unrelatable artist who does not understand or appreciate the sales process. But you didn’t go to art school so you really don’t know what the heck he’s talking about and you’re starting to feel a bit embarrassed for him. Then he mentions something about his work “holding space.” “Whaaa?” You think to yourself but you stop yourself from speaking your inside thoughts out loud. You’re starting to feel like a bit of a dumb a$$ even though what he’s saying just makes no damn sense. You prefer his earlier work over his latest works of art and he senses it.
You can feel the artist’s pride crumbling.
He starts to sulk a bit and he remarks, “A lot of people just don’t understand my work. It’s very intelligent art.” “Okay. If you say it is. So I’m not intelligent because you can’t explain yourself. Frankly it sounds like a crock of sh$t.” But you silence your thoughts and the awkwardness builds. You don’t want to hurt this guy’s feelings. You’re just looking for a pair of cool shoes, a pair that you like and that fit you. At this point you’re feeling a bit pressured and awkward. But you find a pair of one of kind shoes and they look like they fit. You’re excited to try them on. You ask the storeowner about the price and he responds, proudly, “Oh, those are sold. Didn’t you notice the red dot?” Enter the artist’s website that displays sold inventory amongst available inventory. “Ugh! You sigh.” You look around some more and happen upon another pair of interesting shoes. They are really cool, even though you can’t explain why, AND they fit. You really don’t want to talk to this guy but you ask how much the shoes cost. Enter the art inventory with no prices listed. While he is fumbling around looking for his price sheet, thinking about another price he might offer, and if he should give you a discount, he asks you to explain why you find them interesting. When your response doesn’t match the answer in his head you can just feel him concluding that you are uncultured. Enter the all too common fruitless refrain from artists. “People just don’t get my art.” After asking three times, he gives you a price, that seems like he’s just made up on the spot. He let’s you know that he’s just done you a big fat favor and he’s discounted the price. Even though you did not ask for the discount because you were prepared to buy the shoes at full price. Now you’re starting to wonder if you are getting a fair price, even at the discounted price. But you whip out your credit card anyway. The storeowner says. “Oh. Yeah. Sorry. We just display things here. I can’t take payment.” Enter the artist’s website that is not e-commerce enabled. It’s like having a store without a cash register. The moral of this story? Collectors are people who did not attend art school. They usually attended, law, medical, or business school or they quit school and just started their own successful company.
My art patrons do not read Art News and they grew up middle class, like me.
So. You can and you must put yourself in their shoes. Does any of this ring familiar? Please share how below.