I feel like sometimes the number can be a stumbling block for artists sometimes, the price that they put on the painting almost in an apologetic way.

There are some avid wealthy collectors where it’s really just a number for them that’s not the biggest part of the transaction.
It’s more about fulfilling their vision for what they have in their home or office or whatever you’re you know, whatever they’re buying this piece for.

I think that’s more the issue than the the money part.

Betsy Swartz

Fine Art Consultant - 28 years

How Do Artists Survive and Thrive?

(Transcript)

 

My name is Betsy Swartz. And I’m out of Bozeman Montana
and my business is Betsy Swarts Fine Art Consulting.
I started the business in 2001. So I’ve been at this for almost 20 years.
Prior to starting my business I was a gallery director for a local gallery here for about eight years.
So I’ve been in the art business for about 28 years.
I can’t believe that, time flies when you’re having fun, right?
and just so everyone knows you’ve all heard me
rail about bad art galleries, bad representatives,
Betsy is not one of them. I wouldn’t be talking to her otherwise.
Thank you for saying that
She is fair, she makes her terms clear. There’s no shenanigans.
So, you know, there are good gallery representatives out there
and you know if you’re not I have a beef with you.
Because I hear from so many artists who’ve been really injured.
I mean very, very injured. And so I kind of am very protective of them.
I’m sure you’ve heard artists say to you Betsy, like that they’ve been,
it’s been hard to find somebody with your level of experience
and integrity to represent them. It’s hard.
I have heard that.
During the 2008 2009 recession, we both weathered that, and made it through
and I decided to become a student of a luxury market during that time
and I learned a number of things
but you have some perspective too on this because you deal with some very affluent collectors.
You also went through different recessions,
and you’ve also, I think it was about 50% of the art galleries in the United States close their doors permanently.
I know a lot of artists never recovered from that. What did you learn?
Well everything kind of shifted over night, right?
Because everyone stopped buying, it was a financial crisis.
So no matter what industry somebody came from there was so much unknown
and it was generally financially related,
so even some wealthy clients stuck their hands in their pockets for a little bit, right, and stopped buying.
being light on your feet
and ready to pivot and open to how can I still continue doing my business in this new climate?
It’s ironic, or maybe not ironic, that we’re talking about this right now
because we’re really going through the same thing but different, right?
Every time something cycles around again it’s similar, but it’s a different environment.
So during that time I saw with this closings of the galleries
and I think that 50% is a pretty good number. It’s pretty accurate
so galleries, were starting to close because they’re paying overhead
and people weren’t walking in the door
and people weren’t traveling and so,
I felt like artists were left a little bit hanging by that happening, right?
Sometimes artists would look to replace that gallery
and end up in the same situation another year down the road
where that gallery would then end up closing so that was painful
but what I learned it seemed to be that the artists who were successful
and who weathered that storm,
were able to take on some of the marketing themselves.
And I know a lot of artists don’t really want to do that part.
They’d rather be in their studio creating
and have somebody like me or a gallery person doing that work for them.
But it seemed like the ones who were the most successful will be able to
were able to pivot pretty quickly
and start to learn how to take on some of that market
because art is visual and Facebook is a visual thing to be able to kind of start to use social media
and I think the people that were able to incorporate that into their businesses right away
and start to leverage that,
artists I mean by people, were more successful
and able to ride that out because they were able to directly connect with the end user, the customer.
There is a natural connection between someone who’s going to buy a painting
and the artist, like they like to see you in your studio working,
painting or sculpting or talking about some aspect of how you came up with an idea
or how you do this certain thing.
And so maybe place a higher value on that than
you’ve been placing in the past might be a good piece of advice
because even little short clips
or short videos of you talking about something,
we talked about attention span, you know, not 20 or 30 minutes, it doesn’t have to be a lecture
but little snippets of your personal life and your artistic life
I think goes a long way in connecting with the buyers.
I cannot agree more and so, in luxury marketing terms that’s called conversational currency.
So when someone acquires that piece of art they now have a connection with the artist.
They now have an understanding about the inspiration behind it.
And then what do they do?
They talk about it to their friends
and family and that talking about it to their friends
and family can generate referrals, everybody!
Everybody has a website or landing page that people can easily search and find.
yeah.
Why did chefs all of a sudden become celebrities?
Let’s think about this right? Like I’ve met with
and worked with Thomas Keller and Michael Chiarello, why, they’re just like,
you know well they’re just making stuff just like artists.
And it’s because they reveal their process in cooking shows and cookbooks.
So take a cue from what they’re doing.
They’re revealing their creative process. They have a very distinct point of view
when it comes to making food.
Thomas Keller his kitchen looks like an operating room. Like there’s no mess.
You can lick floor and you’d be fine.
Right and it had this very specific point of view.
What’s her name? Alice Water? She has a very specific point of view.
So like what’s your point of view?
And what’s your process and that’s actually really interesting and you’re right Betsy.
We as artists tend to take it for granted.
You know, there are some people where there’s not really a budget.
And I feel like sometimes the number can be a stumbling block for artists sometimes,
the price that they put on the painting almost in an apologetic way,
Well, it’s this much you know,
and so there are some avid wealthy collectors where it’s really just a number for them
that’s not the biggest part of the transaction.
It’s more about fulfilling their vision
for what they have in their home or office or whatever you’re
you know, whatever they’re buying this piece for.
I think that’s more the issue than the the money part,
is that when you’re dealing with wealthy collectors,
these people are generally successful
because they’ve had a vision about something
their business that they’ve been able to realize that vision,
They tend to have vision in all aspects of their life.
It’s true.
Let’s talk about like people who are typically collectors, in my experience
they’ve been a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of Physicians, attorneys, and super successful salespeople.
Not a whole lot of engineers, not a whole lot of accountants.
because those personalities tend to be generally very left brain or logical
and don’t necessarily have art as a higher value or priority.
What’s your experience with people who are typically collecting?
Does that a mirror who you find collects art?
Yeah, I never really thought about the accountants and the engineers.
That’s interesting that you get that specific.
If you can step up your confidence.
They have a lot of regard for artists.
They actually have a lot of respect that you’ve taken this risk and that you are also expressing your vision
that’s been my experience.
Yeah, there are a lot of parallels there
because isn’t art, isn’t creating art
and putting it out there kind of a risky vulnerable thing?
and I think there’s a lot of mutual respect with artists.
I think what I’m seeing now kind of mirrors 2009 the ones who are willing to be more virtual
because now we can’t go into galleries,
even if we want to in certain places.

 

 

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