Pricing your art – how nobody agrees on the best way!


Designer Chuck Green in his latest online “ – Design Briefing” talks about pricing graphic design. Since Graphic design and visual artistic design are very close, I thought his comment might be worth quoting.



How to price graphic design

Pricing, methods of pricing, the philosophy behind pricing, and so on, is a great controversy and quandary in the field of graphic design. Here are just a few views on pricing-an indication of just how little experts agree about how to do it.

The Dark Art of Pricing by Jessica Hische…

Here >

The Art & Science of Pricing by Ilise Benun for HOW Magazine…

Here >

Selling Your Value Instead of Your Hours by Tim Williams for Communication Arts Magazine…

Here >

Pricing Models by Shel Perkins for the AIGA…

Here >

Why You Don’t Publish Pricing by David C. Baker…

Here >

AIGA Survey of Design Salaries 2014…

Here >


Artist Coach Alyson Stanfield provides 5 Steps to Take Charge of Your Art Marketing (and Why You Must).


She states:

“Stop waiting for the famous gallery dealer to call you up.
Stop waiting for the artist agent-fairy to wave her wand.
Stop waiting to win the lottery.

Start taking charge.”

She goes on to list her five steps for taking charge of your art marketing, which will send you well on your way to getting what you want from your art career.

1. Write down what you want.

2. Understand why you want it.

3. Figure out what it takes to get what you want.

4. Identify obstacles.

5. Take measured action.

With each step she provides more detailed guidance.

Click here for the full article. Continue reading

Beware Of Fraudulent Buyers As You Market Your Artwork.


I only touch lightly on this issue in my book, mostly associated with Vanity Galleries.

A few days ago, I received the following email:


From: paul Lewis <>

Subject: Rhone In Spring, 2009, oil on canvas. 24 x 36 inches. Unframed with painted edges. Original painting: $2,160

Date: September 1, 2014 at 4:58:40 PM PDT



I actually observed my wife has been viewing your website (piece in subject field above) on my laptop and i guess she likes that piece, I must also say you are doing a great job. I would like to know what inspired that work.

I am very much interested in the purchase to surprise my wife. Kindly confirm the availability for immediate sales.

Peace and blessings



The email is sufficiently different from other fraudulent solicitations that I have received, that i paused to think before deleting the message. Cautioning signs that aroused my suspicions were:

  • the specific painting was only mentioned in the subject line, which was a little strange, and
  • the main text could apply to any subject line artwork.

The requestor’s name, Paul Lewis, is very common and may not be usefully searched. But I decided to search using google, the email address.

Surprised, I got several references to fraud, with particularly this message abstracted below: 


Art Quest:

Known Scammer Names used in Art Scams

Scams are on the rise at art sites in general. The latest email scam indicates they are an art dealer or gallery and some emails arrive where a client is indicated.

Many of the initial emails arrive in all caps and all use free email services since it is basically an easy process to hide behind.

If you know how to look at the option header of an email, most of the emails have a LookUp-Warning and indicate that the email address does not match the ip address.

Most emails indicate they want to buy an artwork but are usually vague about what it is they want to purchase. Some actually copy the exact information from our thumbnail page including the listing number and list the particulars you have with your artwork. Shipping is usually addressed and they will have their shipper contact you.

All the emails indicate along the way that there is an overpayment due to them and the certified check will be made payable in a higher amount than their purchase. Of course, this certified check becomes a cashiers check along the way and they’ll request that you send this overpayment to them. The type of payment is always a cashier’s check or credit card. Cashiers Checks are easily counterfeited and credit cards are usually stolen cards.

As the correspondence gathers between the parties, at some point, they may even request that you purchase some cell phones, gameboys or playstations on their behalf to include in the shipment and will give you a hardship story about how they can’t get a company to ship the items out of the country to them.


This introduction is followed by a long list of over 400 email addresses. About half way down the list was:


Paul Lewis – email used:


If you want to explore further, visit the link above the quote.


Artist Col Mitchell recently wrote on “How Artists can Wrestle Insults into Opportunity”


She lists:


10. “I’ll just get my friend to make me one of those.”

9. “You know what you should make . . . ”

8. “Do I get a price break if I buy two?”

7. “I can make that myself.”

6. “Why does it cost so much?”

5. “How do you make this?”

4. “Will you donate your artwork to our event? We can’t pay you, but it will be great exposure.”

3. “My nine-year-old makes this kind of stuff too.”

2. “Kids, this is what happens if you don’t go to college.”

1. “I can buy that at Walmart for $3.99.”

See her comments and suggested replies.


Kate Burridge, wife of artist/teacher Robert Burridge, discusses copyright issues.


I have a rubber stamp for the back of my paintings, declaring my copyright ownership. This is discussed in my website article “Explore Back Of Your Painting.” Peter.


The following article is extracted from the August/September 2014 issue of Robert Burridge’s newsletter “ArtsyFartsy News:”

Ask Kate About Art Marketing

ASK KATE! With every newsletter, Kate will post your questions and her responses on the subject of marketing, sales, and promotion. If your question is selected for the newsletter, you will receive a Burridge Permission Mug. If you have a burning question that you would like to have answered — for your benefit and everyone else’s — email Kate at

Barbara from Illinois asks…. Recently, a customer asked whether he could reproduce my painting, if he were to buy it. What is the best response to someone who asks about copyrights? And where can I find current going rates for image usage rights?

Thanks for your question Barbara! I am sure that this same question has come up for a lot of artists. This is an example of Licensing your Art.

We refer to licensing as “Making Money while you Sleep”.

Concept: You (artist) sell your design (art) to a company to use on a specific product.

You get: Advance payments/royalty or a percentage of sales. If successful, Artist can expect to make anywhere from hundreds of dollars to millions. Time – 2 to 10 years – Donʼt get discouraged. Licensing can be a very slow-building process.

Youʼll need to have more than one idea. Think of a full line of products. Does your design work for a full line of products? Ask yourself – Do your artwork really have the right look for commercial products? Think greeting cards, coffee mugs, jigsaw puzzles, coasters – any product that has an artwork component is more than likely a “licensing deal”.

Back to your customer – I would probably ask him what he had in mind, then draw up a licensing contract and charge him that way. I don’t know if I would be too keen on selling him the original if I couldn’t trust him to honor the artist’s copyright. Hmmm… I think I would also go over these points with the customer.

1) The Artist owns the copyright of their work, period.

2) Any reproduction of the artist’s work must be granted in writing by the artist.

3) Just because the person owns the physical piece of art, they do not own the copyright.

Here is a great website that will answer a lot of licensing

Click HERE for more Licensing Resources.

Here are a Couple of Books I Use For Reference


Licensing Art 101 by Michael Woodward

Publisher: ArtNetwork; Third Edition edition (July 1, 2007)

Paperback: 192 pages

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0940899841

ISBN-13: 978-0940899841

(buy at Amazon)

Licensing Art and Design by Caryn R. Leland

Licensing Art and Design: A Professional’s Guide to Licensing and Royalty Agreements by Caryn R. Leland

Published by Allworth Press; Revised edition (May 1, 1995)

Paperback: 128 pages

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1880559277

ISBN-13: 978-1880559277

(buy at Amazon)

Alyson Stanfield, on 28 August 2014, said “Capture Attention with a Whisper.”


This article raises interesting issues. Not sure that I agree with all her ideas, particularly her wide use of snails mail.

It is expensive, and I prefer email using the personalization tools of MailChimp.

But the article is definitely worth a read.

Survive in the art world: market the brand, sell the product


This is an article by Kim Layman and Ian Fills, published in the blog “The Conversation,” and sponsored by the University of Tasmania. It discusses new skills required for today’s professional artist, including “Branding” and the roll of the “artists as a product.” Both of which are discussed in my book.

Peter Worsley

Selling Artworks Requires Brand Building, Not Advertising.


This article by the great Ad Man Roy Williams discusses the issue of selling long buying cycle products like Artworks.


The Upcoming Fork in Business Boulevard

Type “business plan” into Google and you’ll see an impressive array of articles from BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal, Inc., Forbes, Entrepreneur and

Everyone has a business plan.

Almost no one has an advertising plan.

And we are coming to a critical fork in the road.

I want you to choose your fork consciously rather than unconsciously. And choose you most definitely will.

I’m talking about your choice between brand-building and direct response advertising.

When you sell a product or service with a long purchase cycle – something purchased only once every several years – your business will be best served by brand building. Do everything in your power to become the company that people will think of first and feel the best about when they finally need what you sell. Good brand-building also stimulates word-of-mouth, the original “viral.”

But brand building requires patience, confidence and courage.

If you sell a product or service with a short purchase cycle – something that most people will purchase every few days, weeks or months – your business will be best served by direct-response ads. Create an extremely attractive, limited-time offer, then add an additional incentive for those who act now. Then add a third incentive. This is called “benefit stacking” and it makes a massive difference. Direct-response ads are exciting but to be really successful you need a big-gap offer.

The goal is to create a big gap between the perceived value and the asking price. The more impressive that gap, the more attractive your direct-response offer. Big-gap offers are most easily made when the public has no ability to shop and compare.

Companies that make money with big-gap offers are the ones that can sell products with a perceived value that is at least 10 times their actual cost. I’m betting you don’t have that kind of profit margin. Am I right?

Write a direct-response ad for a product with a widely known price and the public won’t be impressed unless you’re selling that product below your cost. This is known as a “loss leader.” The idea behind a loss leader is that it can drive customers into your store who might make additional purchases while they’re there. Grocery stores have used this technique since the dawn of time.

Direct response is not a style of ad writing. It is a style of offer packaging.

Businesses with short purchase cycles can jump from offer to offer, item to item, incentive to incentive indefinitely. But may God have mercy on the ad writer who is expected to generate immediate response for a product or service with a long purchase cycle.
There are times when it’s possible to run a direct-response offer within a brand-building ad campaign for a product or service that has a long purchase cycle. An example of this would be for a jewelry store to make an enticing offer to finance engagement rings right before Valentines Day.

Add the additional incentives of a romantic dinner and a limousine filled with 12 dozen roses and you might see a bump in engagement ring sales.

Google’s ability to identify customers who are immediately in the market for products and services with long purchase cycles has all but eliminated the Yellow Pages and it is rapidly eroding the public’s need for in-store “experts” as well. Google’s unique ability to do this has caused many business owners to believe they have a right to expect immediate results from traditional mass media.

Business owner, the fork in the road is before you: brand building or direct response. If you sell a product or service that at least 50 percent of the public will purchase within the next 12 months, you might do well to consider running direct response ads in mass media. But please be careful to make a highly impressive offer or you’ll be horribly disappointed.

If you sell a product or service with a long purchase cycle – roofing, HVAC, jewelry, boats, major appliances, etc. – you must use extreme caution when applying direct response techniques or you’ll just be teaching your customers to wait for your next “sale.”

Or you could just bet the farm on your ability to stay at the top of Google search results. I’ll be intrigued to see what you choose.

Roy H. Williams

Update of Endnotes In Soft Back Edtion


The endnotes in the printed edition have been updated. Most of the changes are to the web links. Some of the links in the printed edition no longer work. Also, these links are active and make the research easier.


  1. Jason Horejs, “Taking the Leap: Making Art Your Full-Time Profession,” Reddotblog, September 11, 2013,
  2. McCarthy, Ondaatje, Brooks, and Szanto, A Portrait of the Visual Arts: Meeting the Challenges of a New Era, Monogram 290: Rand Corporation, 2005).
  1. Gregory Peters, “Branding 101 for Artists,Empty Easel, March 2, 2009,
  2. Seth Godin, “Interruption Marketing,” Seth Godin, August 10, 2013,
  1. Chuck Green’s Design Briefing, Issue
  2. Jason Horejs, “Does It Make Sense to Show Your Art in Commercial (Consignment) Galleries?,” Reddotblog, October 8, 2013, http://   
  3. Jason Horejs, “Is Showing Your Art in a Co-op Gallery Worthwhile?,” Reddotblog, October 2, 2013, 
  4. Jason Horejs, “Should Artists Show Their Art in ‘Vanity’ Galleries?,” Reddotblog, September 25, 2013,
  5. Quote from Rebecca Wilson, director Saatchi Gallery. Alex Hudson, “June 2013. Art ‘sold more online than in galleries,”. reported by Alex Hudson, June 26, 2013. BBC Click, June 26, 2013,
  6. “Amazon Makes Splash in Online Art Sales,.” Fine Art Today/Fine Art Connoisseur, August 18, 2013,
  7. EmailEmail Is Crushing Twitter, Facebook for Selling Stuff Online,” Wired, July 2013,
  8. QR Codes,”,
  9. Bloomberg Business Week, October 18, 2013: 96.
  10. Corey Eridon, “How to Choose a Solid Topic for Your Next Blog Post,” Hubspot, October 19, 2013,
  11. Corey Eridon, “What the Best Business Bloggers Do (And You Should Too),” Hubspot, September 25, 2013,   
  12. Tehmina Zaman. “Blogger vs. WordPress,” Epreneur TV. 12 May 2013.
  13. Jay Acunzo and Anum Hussain, “An Introduction To Google+ For Business,” HubSpot,
  14. “How to Sell Your Art on Pinterest,”
  15. Ginny Soskey, “Pinterest Lead Generation 101,” October 10, 2013, HubSpot,
  16. “A Guide to Pinterest’s New Buiness Accounts,” HubSpot,
  17. “Pinterest has 70 million users More than 70% are in the U.S.” Semiocast, July 10, 2013.
  18. Richrelevance, April 26, 2013,
  19. Allen Gannett, “Marketing Where They Don’t Belong? 5 B2B Brands Driving Results With Instagram,” Hubspot, October 3, 2013,
  20. Susannah Fox. Pew Internet: Health. Pew Research Center,   
  21. You Can’t Sell Your Art Until You Learn How to Sell It.” Art Business.
  22. Marisa Smith, “How to Develop a Strong Inbound Company Culture.” HubSpot, September 19, 2013,
  23. Chad Pollitt, “A Marketer’s Guide to Getting Started With Personalization,” DigitalRelevance (blog), September 12, 2013, 
  24. Pamela Vaughan, “10 Ways to Make Your Content More Fun to Read,” HubSpot, October 2, 2013.
  25. David Lavenda, “Time at the Office: 10 Story Telling Tips to Help You Be More Persuasive,” FastCompany.
  26. Robert McKee, “Storytelling That Works,” Harvard Business Review.
  27. “Powerful Value Propositions,” Marketing Experiments, September 18, 2013,
  28. Ginny Soskey, “Is Social Media Killing Brands?,” HubSpot, September 12, 2013,
  29. Jason Horejs, “How Do You Ask for the Close When Selling Art,” RedDotBlog, August 29, 2013, 
  30. Closing Sales. Wikipedia.
  31. Continuous Flow Ink Systems. Wikipedia.
  32. Peter Worsley, “On Scanning My Paintings: An Alternative to Digitally Photographing Your Paintings,” Peter Worsley Website, 
  33. Gary W. Priester. “Consistent Colors For Your Site – All You Need To Know About Web Safe Colors.” HTMLGoodies.
  34. “Your First Step to Accurate Color.” Xrite Photo Screen Color Calibration.
  35. Sara Davidson, “Emails Not Getting Into Your Lists’ Inboxes?,” HubSpot, October 2, 2013,
  36. Ginny Soskey, “The Go-to Guide to Creating Email Newsletters People Actually Read,” HubSpot, August 20, 2013,
  37. Dan Zarrella “The Science of Email Marketing 2012.” Hubspot.
  38. Pamela Vaughan, “33 Examples of Dynamic Tags to Personalize Your Email Sends,” HubSpot, Junee 22, 2012,
  39. “Secret Formula for Subject Lines.” MailChimp. October 29, 2013. 
  40. How to Choose a web Host.” WikiHow.
  41. Christopher Heng. “Tips on Choosing a Good Domain Name.” The site wizard.
  42. “Adobe Digital Marketing Insights,” January 20, 2012,    

Does Marketing Yourself And Your Artwork Make You Uncomfortable?


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As Eric points out in this article, marketing can be difficult for some artists – often as a matter of principle. Yet without marketing tools you are at big disadvantage as a professional artists.

As usual Eric Rhoads makes it all clear.

Peter Worsley

Is Marketing Manipulative? How Re-Framing Your Beliefs Will Change Your Career

Forgeries? Is it your problem?


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Are your paintings being knocked off? Are there forgeries of your artworks in circulation? Australia apparently has a big problem.

Peter Worsley

Is that a Whiteley? Why collectors buy lousy fakes as masterpieces

By Sasha Grishin, 19 March, 2015.

An obsession with names of artists, instead of the quality of the art is a key to the problem of fakes.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Is that a Whiteley? Why collectors buy lousy fakes as masterpieces

One of the Whiteley canvases under dispute. Image via
It was once famously reported that French painter Jean-Baptist-Camille Corot in his lifetime completed about 2,500 paintings of which 7,800 are now in American collections.

The gentle Corot did little to help his own cause and would obligingly sign fakes, made by needy artists, reasoning that if a collector was so ignorant as to accept such rubbish as an authentic Corot, he might at least have a real signature for his money.

This cavalier attitude did cause problems for posterity and despite a huge effort and the undisputed significance of Corot in any account of 19th-century European art, prices for his art have suffered.

A key to the problem of fakes in art is collectors who “collect with their ears”, rather than with their eyes. In other words, it is an obsession with names of artists, instead of the quality of the art. Buying an autograph work, in the mind of a collector, equates with owning a piece of the artist’s genius, with the name of the artist as the cherished commodity, while the quality of the art object often of secondary concern.

If more attention was paid to the quality of the artwork and less to the signature, fewer people would be duped into buying fakes. Picasso when questioned whether he always remembered his own paintings, answered the reporter: “If I like it I say it’s mine. If I don’t I say it is a fake.

The current dispute over the work of Brett Whiteley is a case in point. Two paintings hanging in a Melbourne court room are, according to Whiteley’s ex-wife Wendy, “fakes”.

By the time Whiteley died in 1992, aged 53, he had created a huge, but uneven, oeuvre. At his best, he was one of the finest draughtsmen that Australia has produced and a number of his paintings are stunning and memorable.

The paintings in dispute appear as poor echoes of the Whiteley style. What has been disappointing is the defence which has been trotted out that Whiteley must have created these pastiches in some drug-induced haze.

Surely we have had enough focus on the artist’s colourful biography. He has been dead for almost quarter of a century and we need to critically assess his contribution as an artist. This would make it simpler to differentiate the authentic work and fakes designed for collectors with glass eyes.

The trade in fakes

Fakes in art have been a blight on the art trade for decades.

Internationally, the partnership between John Drewe and John Myatt and forgers including Alceo Dossena, van Meegeren, Eric Hebborn and Tom Keating has attained legendary status fooling curators, experts and wealthy clients.

In Australia, the Sydney artist Will Blundell has attained a degree of notoriety. He painted what he termed “innuendos”, paintings in the style of Russell Drysdale, Charles Blackman, Arthur Streeton, Arthur Boyd, William Dobell, Sidney Nolan, Lloyd Rees, Brett Whiteley as well as Claude Monet and Picasso.

His dealer, Germaine Curvers, sold those paintings allegedly as originals at prices which later reached up to A$65,000 at auction.

Blundell is prolific and claims to have painted about 400 Whiteleys alone. He argued in his defence that he sold his paintings as his own improvisations which Curvers resold as originals. The Sydney Morning Herald reported in 1998:

Her records, produced to the court, show that over 10 years she paid Blundell – always by cash or cash cheque – only about $40,000, typically $100 to $200 per painting. Her profits were extraordinary – often, just by adding an old $50 frame, she could make a 2,000% profit.

In 2002 the Supreme Court ruled that the 917 paintings in the Curvers estate, most of which were “innuendos” by Blundell, could be sold on the art market. The problem may not be essentially with the maker of the work, but with the secondary market which may rebadge it.

Auction houses continue to be nervous with the stream of high quality fakes with faked provenances.

When introducing an Australian Institute of Criminology conference on art crime in 1999, Adam Graycar, AIC Director (1994-2003) commented:

Irresponsible and distorted claims of fraud in the popular media have threatened the major multi-million dollar art industry in Australia. Art crime is often a hidden crime as many public galleries do not report theft which would show their security as being inadequate and private collections may not wish to call attention to their collections. The legitimate art market often unknowingly passes on stolen art, and the criminal art market operates in quite a different way to the general market for stolen goods.

Faking is a multimillion dollar art business in Australia where the favourite targets include Whiteley, Bob Dickerson, Charles Blackman, Russell Drysdale, Sidney Nolan and a number of high profile Indigenous artists.

There are about 15 known fakers at work and an unknown number or minor forgers who rebadge anonymous paintings and drawings by adding a well-known artist’s signature or manipulate a reproduction to make it appear as an original and post the forgery on eBay as bait for the unsuspecting investor.

Last year it was claimed in the Australian Supreme Court that up to 30% of the art offered in the Australian art market could be forgeries, an alarming figure which some claim is an underestimate of the real problem.

In Australia, nine conflicting federal, state and territorial jurisdictions, lack of a proper catalogue raisonné for the work of most artists as well as a lack of a comprehensive register of fakes creates a fertile playground for crooks, forgers and ignorant collectors.

Australia is as yet to adopt a serious approach to art fraud.

Art Competitions as Marketing and a Second Income?


I have admired Eric Rhoads for a long time, as one of todays best advertising copy writers. His writings always draw the reader in and want you to read right to the end.

Do you agree that this article is right on target for many professional artist?

Peter Worsley

8 Secrets To Winning Art Competitions From An Art Competition Judge

 Art Competition Judge

Today, art competitions are all the rage. Yet many artists still ignore them, thinking they’re a waste of time. Competitions are tools you can use to build income and career, kind of like selling your painting more than once — only ethically!

More important, if you become a winner, entering a competition is the single most significant thing you can do to make your career soar quickly.

Not only do art competitions give you a chance to win prize money (which is like getting paid twice for a painting, if it’s already been sold), it gives you visibility — which is great for your branding to potential galleries, collectors, and other artists. People love to associate with winners. Even if you’re not the grand prize winner, just by being a finalist, you’re in the category of winners.

And if you enter a painting that sold, let’s say, for $2,500, and you win $15,000, it’s like selling six more paintings — plus you don’t have to share the revenue with your gallery.

One gallery owner told me, “I find artists by watching who is winning competitions.
I also learn of new artists when I’m judging competitions, and I watch who is advertising.”

What are the benefits to entering an art competition?

  • You can win prize money
  • You can win publicity when winners and finalists are announced
  • You can win other prizes (art materials, etc.)
  • You can win the cover of a magazine (in some competitions)
  • You can win a story in some magazines and websites
  • You have something more to talk about to collectors and newsletter followers
  • You have another success to place on your resume
  • You get the recognition you deserve
  • You have something more to talk about in social media
  • You can get discovered by a gallery

Here are 8 secrets I have learned as an art show judge:

1. Every Judge Tends to Favor a Certain Type of Art 
Before you enter, study the judge. If, for instance, the judge is a gallery owner, what kind of art hangs in their gallery? Chances are they will pick the kind of thing they like and respect. If it’s an artist who paints tight, they probably will pick tight paintings. If it’s an artist who paints loose, they may tend to pick looser paintings. Though everyone tries to remain objective, we all tend to have a style we prefer and are drawn to.

2. What One Judge Rejects, Another Judge Will Embrace
Many artists will enter the same painting every month in the same competition. One artist told me he entered a painting one month and didn’t win, but the next month he entered the same painting, and that time he won. What one judge doesn’t like, another may love.

3. Entering Multiple Paintings Increases Your Odds of Winning
Most competitions allow you to enter as many paintings as you want. The entry fee usually goes down after the first painting, so you can increase your odds of winning at a lower cost. And more paintings, of course, equals more of your paintings seen by a judge. In theory, if you enter five paintings, you have five times the chance of being noticed. In my Art Marketing Boot Camp, I teach the value of repetition.

4. Entering Can Result in Editorial Coverage
Once when I was judging an art competition, I kept seeing paintings I liked, and as I studied them, I learned they were all by the same artist. Since I admired that consistency, I notified one of my editors, and the artist ended up with a story in one of our magazines. We’ve also had other judges discover new talent and tell us about them for stories.

5. Most Winners Never Expected to Win
I have a saying: You can’t win if you don’t enter. I’ve had three different grand prize winners in our art competition tell me they never thought they had a chance to win against the big important painters who enter. All three said they almost didn’t enter because of that — but were glad they did!

6. Some Judges Seek New, Unknown Talent
A judge told me once that even though he has signatures covered when judging shows, he can recognize the work of certain artists by their well known style. He said he likes to help undiscovered artists, so he tends to shy away from such familiar painters. Though not all judges do this, some do — consciously or unconsciously — which increases the chances for unknown painters.

7. Careers Can Soar After Winning One Competition
In our competition, the grand prize winners have seen their careers take off. Each was relatively unknown, or known only among certain groups. And as a result of winning, their stature has been elevated, and they’ve been invited to new shows, galleries, and events.

8. You Gain an Advantage by Entering in Multiple Categories
I once judged a major art show and noticed the same painting had been entered in three different categories. Though that painting didn’t win in two categories, several of the judges thought it was the best fit for one category in particular, and so that painting ended up a winner. You can gain a big advantage if you have a painting that fits in multiple categories. Some categories get lots of entries, but others get very few, increasing your odds even more.

Art competitions are a great value, a great way to be measured against others — which helps elevate quality overall — and the best bargain going for publicity if you even become a finalist. I highly recommend them as a marketing tool, and a great way to elevate a career fast. A few bucks a month can result in a career that soars like a rocket when you win.

Are You Using These Tips for your Email Promotion?


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In my book, I point out how important email communication is with you collectors. Email and Direct mail are very similar. Just that email is very much less expensive. How many of Summer’s tips are you using?

Peter Worsley

Top 5 Ways to Personalize Direct Mail

By Summer Gould, Target Marketing | Posted on February 05, 2015

If I were to ask a group “What would interest you and capture your attention with a direct mail piece?” I guarantee that I would get lots of different answers. All of us have opinions, some stronger than others on certain subjects, but those opinions are what drive each of us. The power of direct mail is that we can create individually personalized pieces so that Tom has an offer that interests him, and Sue has a different offer that interests her. The best part is that the pieces can look identical except for the offer message. This can help you save money while increasing your response rate.

How To Use Personalized Data:

  1. Name: The quickest and easiest way to start personalizing is to include the name. Not just in the address block, but as part of the offer. Use first name so that you are using a conversational tone. This should not be your only form of personalization on the piece, but it helps to include the first name. (Just make sure that it is the right name!)
  2. Gender: If you have an offer that appeals differently to women than to men, this can be a great way to segment your offer. In many cases women look at products and services differently than men. Use that to your advantage with targeted offers. (Make sure that your data on gender is correct, sending the wrong message can make people angry)
  3. Past Purchase/Donation History: Use what you know about each person to personalize their offer. If they bought peanut butter, reference that when offering jelly. If they made a donation previously, note that donation amount and ask if they can help with an increased amount this year. (Make sure that you make logical associations between a past purchase and a current offer. Don’t send me an offer for coffee when I bought tea, it may mean that I don’t like coffee.)
  4. Reminders: If there is an average use time for your product or service, create incremental reminders to customers that they should be ready to buy again. Include a coupon for another purchase, and make sure to have an expiration date to create urgency. (Be careful not to over remind people. Sending too much direct mail can have a negative effect.)
  5. Location: This can be used to entice people to join their neighbors and buy the same things. (The “Keeping Up With the Jones'” mentality) Point out that others on the block have purchased your product or service, and they should not miss out.

The trick to doing this correctly is the database. You need to be collecting information about your customers/prospects in order to give them better offers. The better the offer, the less likely it will be considered junk mail and thrown away. Do not waste your money sending direct mail to people who don’t want it. Your database is your goldmine. Treat it with the utmost care and constantly make changes to it.

If you don’t have much information in your database, start small. Look at the list above and see what you can do with the information you do have. There are profile list services out there to help you learn more about your customers. If you use list profile services, remember the information is more of a generalization to categorize people. Do not use the information as a fact, since it could lead you to assume incorrectly about what people like and dislike. Personalization can be the catalyst to catapult your direct mail response to the next level.

Another Way To Sell Your High End Painting – Maybe?


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High end paintings are becoming so expensive, that many investors/collectors cannot participate. Here is an old idea that gets around this problem – maybe for some, but not everyone’s cup of tea!

Peter Worsley

Art You Can Own but Not Have

Art funds, which trace to the early 1900s, turn paintings like Andre Derain’s ‘Madame Matisse au kimono’ into commodities.

Art funds, which trace to the early 1900s, turn paintings like Andre Derain’s ‘Madame Matisse au kimono’ into commodities. Photo: Getty Images

Most art collectors own pieces they can hang on their walls to admire and show off. But for those who are also in it for the money, there’s another option: owning a share of an art fund.

Funds that pool investors’ money to buy fine art are a tiny sliver of the investment market, with an estimated $1.26 billion in assets under management in 2014, according to Deloitte LLP. But high-net-worth investors are expressing more interest in them, says Evan Beard, who leads Deloitte’s U.S. art and finance practice.

By investing in a fund, instead of buying art directly, investors gain access to pieces they can’t afford on their own. And the art market is hot right now, Mr. Beard says, with global sales having tripled between 2003 and 2013 by one estimate. Investors apparently have taken notice, with some 38% of wealth managers surveyed by Deloitte and research firm ArtTactic reporting demand for art-related services in 2014, up from 11% in 2011.

‘Skin of the Bear’ model

The Skin of the Bear fund, started in 1904, is considered by many to have been the first art fund, and it’s the model investors still seek, says Mr. Beard. Paris-based financier André Level rounded up about a dozen art collectors and pooled their money to buy what at that time was modern art—paintings by upstarts like Picasso and Matisse. The fund sold its assets 10 years after launching and quadrupled the investors’ money.

Evan Beard leads Deloitte’s U.S. art and finance practice.
Evan Beard leads Deloitte’s U.S. art and finance practice. Photo: Deloitte

Of course, that kind of return—or any return at all—isn’t guaranteed for investors in art funds today.

By some measures, art has been competitive in recent years with more-mainstream investments. According to data provided by Deloitte, the World All Art Index, based on auction sales, had a compound annual return of 7% from 2003 to 2013, compared with 7.4% for the S&P 500. For postwar and contemporary art, returns for this period were 10.5%, and returns for Chinese art hit 14.9%.

But art funds are prohibited from discussing their activity publicly because of strict restrictions on solicitation, says Enrique Liberman, president of the Art Fund Association, so it’s impossible to say how they perform. Every one is different anyway, because every piece of art is unique. And the art market is notoriously fickle—even in a booming market, certain pieces don’t sell at a profit.

Lucinda Alden, an art collector and wealth adviser with Beverly Hills Wealth Management, says she would caution most investors against placing more than 5% of their assets in an art fund, because she doesn’t consider them transparent enough to evaluate as investments. Ms. Alden, whose clients typically have a net worth of more than $10 million, says only one client has asked about art funds.

For investors who want to venture beyond stocks and bonds to diversify their holdings, there are other alternative-sector choices with readily available metrics, such as commodity-price indexes and company earnings in the precious-metals sector, she notes.

Cashing out

For those who are interested, an art fund can be hard to find because of the restrictions on solicitation. Art funds aren’t listed on any exchange, and in most cases once they are in business they’re closed to new investors. Investors generally are drawn from informal networks of wealthy individuals.

‘High-end pawn’

—How Bill Gruits of Lexington Capital describes funds that lend money to wealthy individuals who use assets including art as collateral

Typically the funds are run by managers who are paid a percentage of the initial investment capital, Mr. Liberman says. Deloitte’s Mr. Beard says investors should check to see that art-fund managers have worked in the fine-art industry and have a history of art valuation, or at least access to such expertise.

Art funds usually operate for a predetermined number of years, and in some there’s no way for investors to cash out before that term is up. But since 2008, many funds have shifted their approach slightly and now allow investors to cash out of their positions before the fund closes down, Mr. Liberman says.

He adds that the process isn’t as simple as selling mutual-fund shares at that day’s price. Typically, he says, funds require several months’ notice of an investor’s intention to leave, and the price for the investor’s share of the fund is based on a net asset value that’s usually calculated only once a year.

There are roughly 45 art funds around the globe, according to Mr. Liberman. Many acquire art according to an aesthetic, regional or historic theme. For instance, London’s Fine Art Fund Group runs funds that invest in Chinese and Middle Eastern art, as well as broader funds.

A different kind of fund

There is another option, only indirectly related to the art market, for wealthy investors looking for some portfolio diversity. Some funds aim to profit by lending money to high-net-worth individuals who use assets including art as collateral.

Bill Gruits, a managing director at Lexington Capital Group, an investment bank based in Chicago, describes this arrangement as “high-end pawn.” His firm recently launched a fund that lends investors’ money to owners of fine art, jewelry and collectible cars, who present these objects as collateral for six to 18 months at a stretch.

“We have some old masters right now, locked in vaults in New York City,” Mr. Gruits says.

Ms. Hodges is a writer in Seattle. She can be reached at

Selling is a Business, and each artist is a Brand.


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Dragos reflects and enlarges on many of the ideas discussed in my book. Reading his suggestions will help you keep on track.

Peter Worsley

4 Simple Strategies to Sell More Art

by Dragos Baicoianu, EmptyEasel March 2015.

According to Artnet the art market has experienced double digit growth for the past few years. Yet only a small percentage of artists can support themselves solely from their creative practice. Instead, most supplement their income by teaching art or pursuing a job in an unrelated field.

From an artist perspective the competition is fierce. Art buyers have an abundance of choices to find a favorite piece. . . whether from physical and online galleries or artists’ personal websites and social media groups, there are always plenty of artists eager to display and sell their works.

So how can artists break through the clutter, make their voice heard and build an audience for their works?

Selling art is a business, and each artist is a brand. Successful artists accept this reality and work relentlessly to build a strong and differentiated artist brand that capture art buyers’ attention.

The following business-inspired strategies will help any artist (willing to invest their time and effort) to sell more art.

1. Develop a focused and cohesive portfolio

In a market where tastes and preferences vary greatly, a common approach artists take is to build a diversified portfolio encompassing many styles, themes and subjects in an effort to appeal to as many art buyers as possible.

Unfortunately, this all-inclusive approach does nothing to build your distinctive artist brand and make your art more recognizable.

The key to success in a highly competitive market (which art is) is focus and consistency. Narrow your focus to a particular subject, theme, medium, process, and even artwork size—anything that will set you and your art apart from the crowd.

Being focused shouldn’t stop you from experimenting and evolving as an artist. But your work should share a subtle connection that ties them all together under a unified and consistent portfolio. Ideally you will reach a point in your career where anybody who sees a number of your works will instantly recognize you as the artist behind them.

When seeking gallery representation, this is a good strategy too, since artists with a cohesive portfolio are much easier to promote.

2. Don’t let your art “speak for itself”

Original art is a lifestyle purchase, not a necessity. People buy art that reflects who they are, what they believe in—art that reminds them of something or someone. In order to to successful as an artist, your art has to have enough emotional appeal to turn the viewer into a buyer.

Many artists prefer to let their art “speak for itself.” While this strategy might work if you’re dealing with experienced art connoisseurs, or your family and close friends, in most cases you will have to explain why your art is worth investing in.

The first step to creating a solid connection with potential buyers is creating an artist bio that provides the reader with an understanding of your artistic background and career achievements. From a buyer’s perspective the biography is more important than the artist statement, as it allows for an objective introduction to your work, and justify (at least to some extent) its price.

Two other powerful tools that will contribute to building your unique brand is finding evocative titles for each of your artwork, and sharing stories for each piece to help the buyer appreciate them more.

3. Distribute your artwork carefully

Technology has eliminated many of limitations of displaying and selling art. Seeking physical gallery representation is no longer a necessity; artists can sell their art directly or via the many digital platforms available.

But keep in mind, from a branding perspective the channels you choose to associate your art with can help build your brand or work against it.

Would your perception of Rolex watches change if they were sold at Walmart? I am sure it would. Just because a particular website or gallery is willing to accept your work doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be selective.

Some important questions you need to answer include:

What kind of buyer do I want to attract?
How “commercial” do I want my art to be? Do I want to sell reproductions of my works of focus exclusively on selling originals?
What other art/artists do I want to be associated with?
How will my art be promoted?

Most gallery owners (myself included) are not interested in artists who flog their art to every gallery in town and all over the Internet. Art is not (or should not be) a commodity, and selling an original piece requires important investments to promote it, hence a certain degree of loyalty is expected.

4. Have a consistent pricing strategy

Art is very subjective in nature, and establishing how much a particular artwork is worth is very difficult, especially for an inexperienced buyer. So for the artist, keeping a realistic, consistent and transparent pricing strategy eliminates confusion and builds loyalty for your works.

Setting realistic prices for your works has to take into account a multitude of factors: your sales history, your reputation, and (very importantly) any comparable works by artists with similar background and exposure.

Modern art buyers are more sophisticated than ever, and will most likely perform the necessary research before investing in a particular piece. One mistake artists make is pricing particular pieces substantially higher than others, based solely on the emotional factors involved in creating them. From a buyer perspective, these huge price variations are hard to justify.

At the opposite end, some artists are willing to offer deep discounts on their art in hopes of a quick sale. This strategy also sends red flags about the true value of your work.

As a general rule try to keep prices within a specific range you find comfortable justifying based on your reputation, past sales and the characteristics of each piece.

The four strategies above should provide you with a solid foundation on which to build a loyal customer base. Put them into practice today and watch for your sales to increase.

Dragos Baicoianu is the owner of, a selective online gallery specialized in original paintings by North American and international artists.

Listening to criticism may help as well as hurt.


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Self worth and feedback have a big impact on successful marketing of your artwork and yourself. In this article Anna discusses some of the key issues. She is worth reading.

Peter Worsley

Dispelling Negativity

“That’s not real art.”

“When are you going to change your style?”

“You have a ways to go…”

“I’m not impressed with your understanding of art.”

Have you ever been told these things before? I have. And like most artists, I am deeply sensitive to criticism. (Ok, I’m deeply sensitive in general, but that’s beside the point). Sometimes one negative comment, even in a sea of positive ones, can send me reeling and make me want to throw in the towel. Or, I allow my own negative thoughts to creep in and get the better of me.

bain_a_thewaitandthereward“The Wait and the Reward” – 30×30″ – oil on linen

Criticism can be a tough thing to deal with, and with the start of a brand new year, as we artists set out to create our best work yet, I thought it would be helpful to address this topic. Just to clarify, when I talk about criticism, I’m NOT referring to critique. These are two very different things, and I believe that a good critique, from someone you respect and look up to, is extremely important for continued artistic development, even if it hurts to hear. I could write another post on this subject, and I think it’s worth writing… but that’s for another time. Today I want to focus on how to deal with criticism, i.e., negativity, either from others or from ourselves.

In this day and age, art is subjective. We know that not everyone is going to like what we do, and that’s fine. But negativity can put a real wrench in the creative process. How do you move on when someone lambasts you on your Facebook page, or tells you not to quit your day job, or speaks to you condescendingly? I once had someone (a much older person than myself) tell me, “You can’t really paint anything interesting or worthwhile until you reach an age where you have lots of real life experience.” I wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Gee… I guess I should wait until I’m 65 to start painting.

Well, here are a few things I have learned over the years (and some more recently!) on dispelling negativity.

  • Have a high level of self worth. If you believe in your heart that you’ll never be good enough, then negative feedback will get you down. But if you believe that you, as a person and artist, have value, with a life story worth telling, then you won’t be crushed when you encounter the occasional bad apple.
  • "Fledglings" - 20x24" - oil on linen“Fledglings” – 20×24″ – oil on linen

    Own your style, and use it to tell your story unashamedly.Whether you were self-taught, schooled in a traditional atelier, or a frequent workshop attendee… all of those learning experiences have shaped who you are as an artist. Don’t downplay your education, just because it’s not the same as someone else’s. If you don’t like your style or aren’t sure what you want to say, spend some time improving your technique, and seek out council or insight from someone you trust. Sometimes an objective viewpoint can help you see yourself more clearly. Just remember that at the end of the day, no one can create your art like you can. No one else puts down a brush stroke in the exact same way you do, and if you think about it, that’s really cool.

  • Try seeing it from the other side. Negative comments often stem from insecurity or envy. It just might be that the person trying to hurt you is actually going through hard times themselves.
  • Bain-Anna-Innocence“Innocence” – 28″ x 12″ – oil on linen

    Learn to cast out negative thoughts before they begin. Phrases like, “you’re not good enough,” or “your painting sucks today…” are the devil on your shoulder. They are not your thoughts and they are not who you are. Take every thought captive. Don’t let negativity, or the pressure to make money or win awards, or someone else’s worldview being imposed on you (telling you what kind of art you should be making and for what purpose) affect your productivity or your belief in your art. One technique used by marketing gurus is to speak aloud the word “cancel!” every time a negative thought enters their mind. There is power in the spoken word.

  • Turn a negative into a positive. Maybe someone criticized you and it stung. But before you write off their comment entirely, ask yourself if there was some truth to that, and if you could use it to improve your work. You may find you come out stronger and better for it!

So, it’s a new year, with limitless creative possibilities. My goal for 2015 is stay positive. EVERY DAY. I hope you’ll do the same, and I wish you a very happy, artful New Year!

Snapshot of the Author

  • anna-rose-bain-photo
  • Anna Rose Bain
  • Anna’s classical style both idealizes the subject and captures its true essence, while employing a direct painting method. She draws her inspiration from the joys and struggles in her life. Her paintings are an expression of gratitude and an exploration of the questions one faces at different stages of their life. For example, her “Self Portrait at 23 Weeks Pregnant” is a coming to terms with change and a joyous celebration of new life.

Another case study on the problems facing the Collector.


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Another High End Artwork Collector’s case history. Though not directly effecting many of you, your Collectors also read these stories.

Will your artwork keep its price in the secondary market? Make sure your Collectors buy because they love your artwork. Then they likely will always be happy.

Peter Worsley

A Beauty on the Wall, a Disaster in the Portfolio.

by James Tarmy, Bloomberg Businessweek, 16 February 2015.

Falling prices for a once-hot artist show the dangers of investing in art.

As elite guests walked into a new exhibition at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach in December, they were greeted by a cluster of three abstract black-and-white paintings. Created by German artist Anselm Reyle, the monochrome works were nothing less than a middle finger to the art world. The show was assembled by Peter Marino, an architect known as much for his outré leather biker outfits as his luxe retail interiors for Chanel and other companies. Including the Reyle paintings in his show was a trademark act of defiance—an unsubtle reminder to art speculators that their whims often transform art into a terrible investment they’d prefer to forget. “People don’t like artists whose price goes down,” says gallery owner and collector Adam Lindemann, who owns a work by Reyle. “The art market died in 2009 for about a year, and there were some casualties. Reyle was a noteworthy one, and so the art market selected him as a pariah.”

In the contemporary art world, where it’s common for recently discovered artists to sell works for hundreds of thousands of dollars, there’s a perception the market is unstoppable. The precipitous fall of Reyle is a reminder that important backers, high prices, and insider buzz have their limits, and even beautiful art can be a fundamentally fickle asset.

Just eight years ago, the market for Reyle’s work looked invincible. Born in 1970, he became known for his signature “crinkle” pieces, in which colored foil is mounted on a painted canvas and then encased in glass. His first solo show in the U.S. was in 2004 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, a Manhattan gallery known for introducing young artists to U.S. buyers. In 2007 he switched to the mega Gagosian Gallery, having gained such champions as billionaire François Pinault and tastemaker Charles Saatchi. “He was the artist everybody needed to have,” says Thea Westreich, an adviser to powerful collectors.

In 2006 just one of Reyle’s works appeared at auction, selling for $58,000, about 10 percent below its high estimate. A year later, 17 of them came to the gavel. One, a 4-foot, 7-inch purple crinkle work, had a pre-auction high estimate of $35,000—then sold in front of a stunned audience for $192,000.

Subsequent sales that year were even frothier: $489,000 for an oil, PVC foil, and Perspex work on canvas that had been estimated to sell for as much as $143,000; $634,000 for another piece that had a high estimate of $51,000. In one year, Reyle’s record at auction had increased by more than 1,000 percent.

Then the global financial crisis struck, causing even the richest collectors to pull back. Reyle’s status began to wobble—in 2008, a third of his work sold below its estimate or not at all—before collapsing entirely. His unpopularity became a negative feedback loop, and the next year turned into a “wipeout” for Reyle, says gallery owner Lindemann. No one wanted to be seen overpaying for a declining asset, and by 2012 more than half of the German artist’s 39 pieces at auction went unsold. At the most recent sale of his artwork, in December 2014 at Phillips in London, an untitled 2006 purple crinkle work sold for about $66,000—$30,000 less than the same piece fetched four years ago.

Marino and Lindemann blame Reyle’s decline on overproduction and fickle speculators. Westreich has a harsher take. “Let’s get to the real issue: Sooner or later, the art world comes to its senses,” she says. “Some artists look interesting for a period, maybe it’s a month or maybe it’s a year, but what happens is that things sort themselves out.”

Reyle’s arc is far from an isolated incident. Countless collectors and speculators have sunk money into young, in-demand artists only to watch their investment disappear in a matter of months. Colorful, semi-abstract paintings by Barnaby Furnas, 42, a former graffiti artist, first hit the secondary market in 2005. (Secondary sales are between private parties, after the primary sale of a work by its creator.) Divided Sight #2, a watercolor on paper, sold for $10,200. A year later, Furnas’s Heartbreak Ridge went for $520,000. By 2014 the boom was over: Of 13 Furnas paintings that went to auction, only three sold.

The artist Tom Friedman, born in 1965, has had a similar trajectory. From 1998 to 2004, all but one of his works at auction sold within or above its estimate. His biggest sale came in 2006—$856,000 for a grotesque corpse made of construction paper in a pool of red—and his work was exhibited widely, from the Palais de Tokyo in Paris to the Palazzo Grassi in Venice. But neither critical nor institutional support was enough to sustain Friedman through the tumult of 2008. Last year, among 10 works by Friedman at auction, four failed to find a bidder.

Artists themselves usually have little to do with the price swings. And while they reap little benefit from their soaring secondary markets—collecting nothing when their work sells at auction—they can be hurt when those sales crumble. As their stars fade and collectors, even the nonspeculative ones, drift toward more fashionable subjects, it can be devastating. In February 2014, Reyle announced his retirement. His studio costs, which during the boom he estimated to be as much as $900,000 a month, were too high to justify continuing, he told the German magazine Die Welt. “The whole situation was surreal,” he said. “Not necessarily pleasantly surreal, either.” Reyle didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Since the financial crisis, “there’s even more speculative buying and more gamblers than ever,” Lindemann says. “But they’re not going to want to buy the artists that busted. They’re going to want to buy the deals today. They want to move on.”

Marino still owns 14 Reyles, which he calls beautiful. “The art market is, unfortunately, closely allied with the fashion market,” he says. “Just like handbags are in style, and then two years later they’re not, an artist’s in, then he’s out. But I don’t follow that. Now that I’m 65, I go, ‘Who cares?’ ”James Tarmy

Is this a new trend? How will affect you?


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Have you ever thought of selling your art on eBay? Maybe the price range is little high for some of you, but eBay and Sotherby’s are ganging up to use eBay to sell Artworks in the $5,000 and up range. But as Dr. Susan Grundy points out, there are many questions.

Peter Worsley

Wondering what scheme to cook up next, Sotheby’s Googled “eBay”

by , CEO at Mnajdra Discerning Fine Art SL., Feb 18, 2015

Sotheby’s and eBay take a gamble

eBay and Sotheby’s announced last year that they would be joining forces to bring the world of high-end antiques-buying to the widest possible audience, as if they were performing some kind of civic duty. And so the concept of live auction streaming on eBay was born.

“We are joining with eBay to make our sales more accessible to the broadest possible audience around the world.”

In almost whispered tones, hushed by the carpeted atmosphere of Sotheby’s inner sanctums where undoubtedly final points were discussed, the pair continued thus:

“A Sotheby’s-eBay partnership is a significant milestone in our efforts to expand the live auction market. Sotheby’s is one of the most respected names in the world. When you combine its inventory with eBay’s technology platform and global reach, we can give people access to the world’s finest, most inspiring items – anytime, anywhere and from any device. That is an experience we believe our customers will love.” 

Really? This claim purports to offer “audiences” exciting opportunities to link with wonderful art, antiques and collectibles that they otherwise wouldn’t have had? These registered users are already there (128,000,000 of them) on eBay. If those registered uses really wanted to splurge on extremely expensive art, antiques and collectibles they’d have already found Sotheby’s, and other auction houses. What’s really happening is that eBay is giving auction houses direct access to its 128,000,000 registered users. It is as if they are selling their registered users like Bitcoins.

Reason not the need

Sotheby’s/eBay whole preamble is totally evasive. What must we believe? Should we believe that there is an otherwise neglected “audience” anxiously waiting for this new innovation? Are there registered eBay users who’ve woken up one morning smitten by the idea to have a particular antique table to eat breakfast off and have gone to the old-fashioned eBay site, full of ordinary sellers, and been so bitterly disappointed by lack of choice they’ve whisked their brains in frustration instead of their eggs? Now, hallelujah, live streaming has saved them! What? These 128,000,000 “customers” parked on eBay had never heard of Google (if they really wanted a particular antique table)? Do these registered users have a real need, or is that “need” being created for them?

As eBay fine-tunes its “live auction hub,” registered eBayers should expect to be mugged. My favorite is the hype about “winning” auctions. Who is winning at these auctions, as it clearly isn’t the fool parting with his or her money?

Sotheby’s/eBay press-release masquerades as journalistic fact supposedly aimed at interested customers. But realistically who are these customers who have between 5K and 100K spare to invest in art, antiques and collectibles carrying commissions of up to 50%? In other words, these are not “investments” that will ever recover in the average owner’s lifetimes; even to resale values that surpass the high commissions of the original spend. Sellers and buyers will always be losers in this model, except for the possible intrinsic enjoyment value that may pass to the buyer with the sold lot. (Oh, and don’t forget the rush after “winning” the auction.)

Information by Sotheby’s/eBay prior to their planned launch is hyped and undoubtedly written to attract further investors or reassure shareholders, and has nothing to do with the mugs who are going to throw their hard-earned cash at these corporate giants come auction day. If there are people lining up to bid at a Sotheby’s/eBay auction in the high-end luxury goods market, they really haven’t thought things through.

Have you thought about?

First, what about the commissions? Are Sotheby’s and eBay going to give up portions of their own commissions (in a sharing agreement), or restyle their existing commissioning structures, or lower their commissions? For example, Sotheby’s always charges buyer’s commission, which doesn’t exist on eBay.

Second, what about eBay’s 14–30 day returns policy, which does not exist at Sotheby’s, unless it is really catastrophic failure on their part or dire? Bogus buyers trawl eBay, or so it is reported (see link below).

There are many looking to find ways to scam sellers. In the Sotheby’s/eBay model it is not explained who is going to protect the seller? And talking about scamming sellers, what about putting pressure on buyers, who in the old-fashioned eBay model had time to think about their next bid, days if they needed it? Now everything is going to go down in seconds, and “successful” bidders could be facing the bailiffs if they cannot cough to the final amount. Plenty of time to sweat afterwards though.

Third, what about authenticity? eBay historically relies on the seller, while Sotheby’s uses their own in-house expertise, In other words, who will guarantee the buyer’s purchase: Sotheby’s, eBay or the seller?

Fourth, what about logistics and the pre-consignment of goods? It hasn’t been factored into auction houses typical working practices crossing over with eBay, that most sellers on eBay used not to spend money to consign goods, especially valuable and delicate antiques, for example, before putting them on to auction. These costs must surely be recovered by someone?

Are auction houses going to circumvent their own working practice in the future, and become more like eBay, in that they will remotely control products on their auctions. If they then never have physical contact with the goods they are auctioning, how will these goods be pre-authenticated, or how will they ensure that they are even attracting the best goods? Where then will their guarantees of quality and authenticity come from, in other words, that could not have been achieved before by ordinary eBay’s sellers? Will auction houses, this future model, never have physically touched or laid eyes on the objects they are auctioning? If live eBay auctions have to continue with the established auction house model, that is, the obligatory physical consignment of goods, how does this help the seller to go through Sotheby’s, for example, to get onto eBay?

Fifth, what about existing sellers on eBay? Sotheby’s report joyfully about their acquired access to the 128,000,000 “audience” on eBay. Yet aren’t many of those also traditionally sellers? eBay has built up a huge data base of registered “users” (previously read registered “sellers”) these sitting ducks are now being turned into registered “buyers”, sold off to the highest bidder, in return for huge “joint venture” agreements. Indeed, registered users are eBay’s most valuable asset. Oh, actually, they are eBay’s only asset.

When a customer, buyer or seller, register on eBay, they give vital and important private information, and in return are given one platform, from which to both buy and/or sell. Did any of those registering realize this information was going to then be misappropriated, in other words, handled in such a way that a competitor can aggressively sell to them? What is absolutely for certain, although a “registered seller on eBay” Sotheby’s will never also be a “registered buyer.” The ethos of eBay’s buy and sell fluidity is therein totally compromised in this model, cynically constructed to take advantage of a community of registered users, now just seen as buyers.

Registered scope of business

I am sure nothing in their registered scope of business prevents eBay from registering auction houses like Sotheby’s as eBay “sellers”, but why the special privileges? Indeed these auction houses are now also not only accessing those 128,000,000 happy shoppers, but also competing with potentially 128,000,000 unhappy sellers. One can perhaps understand eBay allowing manufacturers, or distributors, to sign up as business partners, but Sotheby’s is actually their competition. Least any of us forget, Sotheby’s and eBay are marketplaces. They do not manufacture. They do not speculate by buying stock. They do not hold goods for sale. They simply put buyers in touch with sellers, and help sellers to find buyers. They are agents. Nothing more. The only fundamental difference between them is Sotheby’s handles actual physical objects for buyers and sellers, and invests in swanky surroundings, which model surely must be phased out if they are going to succeed in this new joint venture with eBay. It is clear how Sotheby’s will profit. It is clear how eBay will profit. What is not clear is the benefits to buyers and sellers, either the 128,000,000 registered users on eBay, or the reportedly more elite 100,000 who regularly tread Sotheby’s hushed halls. It is clear, however, who is going to pay for this new “venture”, and it isn’t Sotheby’s and eBay. The way I see it, if it all goes sour, the only registered “users” on eBay who will be stuck with them are sellers, business and individuals who have invested in the old model of eBay. The rest of us can just click away from their tawdry site.

Really? How much?

On a final note, despite both Sotheby’s and eBay claiming that this will somehow bring “new opportunities” for people to spend money in the 5K to 100K range of art, collectibles and antiques, I sincerely doubt that this initiative will be driven by sales over 10K (in any currency). This is already one of the most profitable areas for Sotheby’s-style of modern antiques-auctions (with the highest commissions), and also the area where the most unsophisticated and gullible consumers can be fished. The products over 10K at these auctions will be mostly so-called “loss leaders,” deals struck with savvy owners who will have negotiated very low commissions in return for having their highly valued and sought after goods on “auction.” These razzle dazzle lots will be strategically placed and in a bid to excite customers lower down the disposable income bracket.

Do Your Collectors Need Help?


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You may not yet be in this class. But it is good to know what is going on in this rarefied atmosphere. Maybe you can use some of these thoughts to guide your collectors?

Peter Worsley

When Art Buyers Need Help

High-End Purchasers May Have More Money Than Knowledge


It’s one thing to have the money and desire to collect art. It’s another thing to know what to buy.

Enter art advisers, a fast-growing profession that promises to bridge the often sizable gap between buyers and sellers of expensive art. Many advisers are hired by businesses that want art to inspire their employees and impress customers. Others are finding a lucrative practice among the newly minted superrich from the developed and developing world, many of whom wish to decorate opulent homes in lavish style, while others wish to build art collections, either for personal enjoyment, a public legacy, or perhaps both.

Wendy Cromwell, principal at the art advisory service Cromwell Art LLC in New York City, says her clients expect to spend at least six or seven figures on their art purchases. Ms. Cromwell, who is also president of the board of the Association of Professional Art Advisors, says that in most cases it isn’t worth the adviser’s time, or the client’s money, if the budget is less than roughly $30,000.

How They’re Paid

The size of the client’s budget and the kind of project they have in mind (decorating one or more houses, or building a large collection, for instance) tend to determine how the adviser gets paid. Variations include hourly fees, monthly retainers, payments on a quarterly, annual or biannual basis, or a flat percentage of the cost of the artworks purchased. Excluding hourly rates, fees average about 17% of the value of the art purchased, according to the Association of Professional Art Advisors.

An Education

For many clients, the adviser’s service begins with an education in art appreciation. Many buyers don’t know their own tastes and preferences, so the initial meetings with an art adviser may involve a wide-ranging look at Western and non-Western art in different media and styles over a span of centuries.

Todd Levin, an art adviser in New York City, says, “The majority of the time I spend with my clients is educating them about artists, art history and the inner mechanics of the art.” That time may be spent visiting gallery or museum exhibitions, as well as at Mr. Levin’s office where he makes visual presentations. “The more knowledgeable they are, the more confident they are and the more apt to buy,” Mr. Levin adds.

Connections and Advantages

Some advisers say their relationships with certain gallery owners and dealers can give their clients advantages over most buyers of art, such as access to high-quality pieces that typically aren’t available to the public.

“Most gallery owners don’t put out their best work,” says Ms. Selkowitz. “I can get my clients into the galleries’ backrooms. I can get them to see pieces that the dealers haven’t even brought into the gallery yet. I can provide entrance to dealers who would never speak to these people.”

Some advisers also say they have connections that they say help them to negotiate lower purchase prices, or higher sale prices if a client wishes to sell a piece.

“We can shave the commission rate down from 25%, sometimes down to zero at auctions, because we do an enormous amount of business with auction houses,” says Jessica Ransom, an adviser with the Palm Beach, Fla., office of New York-based Winston Art Group Inc.

Choosing the Right Adviser

Things go more smoothly when clients and advisers have similar tastes, something the buyer should try to determine early in the process.

In initial meetings, or interviews, Mr. Levin suggests that buyers judge whether the potential adviser listens and communicates carefully. Advisers also should provide references, Mr. Levin says; perhaps a client or two, or gallery owners who have worked with the adviser.

Word-of-mouth recommendations (from dealers and collectors, usually) are the principal means by which someone learns of an adviser.

Some dealers and gallery owners moonlight as art advisers themselves, says Linda Blumberg, executive director of the Art Dealers Association of America. Because of fears of conflicts of interest, however, they aren’t permitted membership in the advisers association, says Ms. Cromwell, the group’s board president. The concern is that, as vendors, they would have a tendency to sell from their inventories instead of putting their clients’ interests first. Similarly, Ms. Cromwell says, her association cautions its members against accepting payments from dealers when purchasing works for their clients.

Paul Gray, director of the Chicago-based Richard Gray Gallery, sometimes acts as an adviser and says he sees no conflict of interest. “Dealers often advise clients and do it with the depth of experience and the degree of connoisseurship that comes from years of intense looking and activity in the market,” he says.

“A potential for conflict of interest exists in nearly all relationships,” Mr. Gray elaborates in an email. “It is the integrity of the individuals that distinguishes and circumspection should always be a consideration in sound decision making.”

Mr. Grant is a writer in Amherst, Mass. He can be reached at