Beach FloralLow-balling Art Is a Flop

I’ve been running a little marketing experiment lately.  I’ve been offering recent demo paintings for a much lower price than one might expect to pay at an art fair or even a framed print in a frame shop.  Very often, these demo paintings turn out better than my more fully rendered work.  And yet, many remain unsold.

My intention is to make quality original work available to those who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford it.  I have always believed in my egalitarian heart that there was a market for moderate to inexpensive originals.  It seems logical to assume there might be a demand from working class (“regular” folks) who might appreciate the opportunity to become collectors of originals.  I have also in the past referred to this as the emerging collector market.  My gallery in Grosse Pointe struggled for years, in an effort to prove the theory that there was such a market.

But, the reality is, the only paintings of mine that have sold well over the years, are commission portraits and those fine art works priced over $1,000.

There are only two possible explanations for this.  1) I am not effectively reaching this intended market of “regular folks.”  2) That market does not exist.

What do I mean “I am not effectively reaching this intended market?” I think the market (actual people in specific niches) can become confused when an artist’s prices are all over the map.  The danger I have found, is that any effort to reach “regular folk,” the emerging collector, seems to be perceived as lessening the value of the artist’s work, not only to high rolling collectors, but also to the “regular folk” themselves.

Why is this?  I think we live in a society stuck in what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. Albert Einstein (who would have celebrated his birthday on this day) described those “trained to worship acquisitive success” in his essay, “Why Socialism.”   Basically, our society believes if it doesn’t cost a lot, then it must not be worth a lot.

Perhaps its not fair to conclude which of the two explanations I mention above are most in play.  I imagine it is some combination.  Putting the work in the appropriate context is extremely important.  Getting the word out effectively is crucial.  But I do wonder whether “regular folk” who see my work on FB, my website, or other online forums, as well as alternative “brick and mortar” spaces like restaurants, theater lobbies, outdoor markets, etc, truly are interested in purchasing inexpensive originals.  So far, my data says “nope.”

Clearly, my egalitarian view of “the people,” is not serving me well in the selling of my art.  Perhaps, what they say is true: “perception is everything.”  The only solution is to warehouse my art, remove it from the “emerging collector” market, until it finds it’s proper, more upscale market.  Someday, soon, when you least expect it, I will finally learn this lesson.  So hurry before it is too late.

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