I’m not a big fan of showing art in alternative spaces, such as restaurants or bars. The main reason is that there rarely is a staff focused/trained on/in selling art. It is usually an after thought. They are there to sell food and/or drinks. But sometimes, rarely, it might be a good idea, primarily for exposure and for a place to direct potential buyers. If an artist has such an opportunity it might be wise to consider it, under the right conditions.

king street rainbow
Looking Down King, painted Live outside Uncork Charleston. BUY THIS PAINTING!

Presentation is important. Installing/directing any track lights toward the paintings, with a fine spot bulb makes a big difference, but only when they are on.  I insist on curating myself, with not too many paintings crowding the walls. Signage is a must, along with labels with descriptions. Otherwise, we are just decorating their walls for free.

Hype it up. I try to have regular events, where I am painting live, demonstrating, presenting new work or opportunities to “meet the artist.”

Training bartenders, Sommeliers and/or wait staff to sell art is the biggest challenge. As I said, they’re there to sell food and drinks. So they need some incentive. I ask the proprietor to split a 20% commission with the staff/seller.

I currently have quite a bit of work exclusively on display at Uncork Charleston. Their manager asked for advice on selling the art on the wall. Here’s what I told her:

Selling art in ALT SPACES

Try to avoid discounts. If the customer explicitly says it’s about the money, then and only then would I consider offering a “customary” 10% discount. Often, it is something else. Ask, “what is it that is standing in the way of your taking this painting home tonight?”

Charleston marsh
Nina’s Greenway BUY THIS PAINTING!

I’d suggest instead giving them an incentive, other than a discount, such as a free bottle of wine, a gift card, VIP discount. Something else that doesn’t cost the sellers too much money out of pocket but satisfies the customer’s need for special consideration.  

If we have to offer the 10% discount, it needs to have a purpose: The reasons can be simple or even silly, but they have to be something.


The reasons for the discount could be anything from “shelf life expiring,” “Clearance sale,” or “artist has authorized me to give a 10% discount on this one painting.” “The proprietor really wants you to have this piece.” “That pretty girl at the next table wants you to have this piece.” “I am dedicated to helping you get what you want. You like it, I want you to buy it.”  

Don’t try to sell the customer anything unless they want it. Getting people to want anything is a definite art in itself. If you are passionate about the art on the wall, believe me, it will rub off.

Back to discounts. You may offer a “buy one, get the second one (least expensive of the two) at half price.”

Stipulate any discounts are only available for 3 days.

Ask if it will hang in a public collection (the exposure is worth the 10%). 

Perhaps offer free packaging and delivery instead of a discount. It costs me anywhere between $40-200 for this service, so never offer it free if they’re getting a discount. 

Or, instead of a discount, offer to have the artist install it personally. 

Or, set up time payments.

Or ask them to trade for something they have that is equal to the 10%. I just traded two paintings for a one week IOP vacation. 

equestrian head study
Equestrian Portraits are forever. BUY THIS PAINTING!

We can also offer to locals a trial period with the painting to make sure it fits where they want it.

Any discount more than 10% should trigger a call to the artist for authorization. 

If they can’t afford the original, let them know I can create a giclee any size for about 10-20% of the original’s cost. An AP (artist proof) is even less. 

If the prices are too high, let them know I have an “originals under $500” category on my online shop. 

Offer more value rather than less cost.

Offer the artist to inscribe the back of the painting, personalize it.

Direct them to the artist’s website, right there on their phone, to add credibility and value. They can search for the painting they’re interested in and have the image. Encourage them to reach out, follow, share.

window box

Talk about the artist’s longevity (40 years), works are part of over 1,200 international collections, has won lots of awards and grants; not a flash in a pan. 

Take a moment to review my artist statement and bio. Memorize one or two points that resonate with you. Always mention those points somewhere along the way as part of your full service to the customer.

Certificate of Authenticity

Let them know each painting comes with a “certificate of authenticity” and that either the selling price OR the current insurance value (double the selling price) can be included on this document. 

There are no refunds but if someone wants to trade up, we can offer half off on a painting that costs at least twice as much as the one they are trading. 

When someone is very interested in a painting, I suggest removing it from the wall and moving it into a better light. Or just put a phone light above the painting at 30 degrees. Let them touch/handle the painting, as an artifact, as an object, rather than just an image.

Charcuterie Uncorked BUY THIS PAINTING!

No photographs allowed. Instead, offer to have the artist email them the image. No obligation.

Ask them to tell you what they like most about the artwork and find a way to AGREE and AMPLIFY what they said back to them, affirming their discernment. Then tell them what you love about the painting, as it relates to what they have already said.

If you can raise the perceived value above the cost, you will have a sale. 

I’m very interested if you would like clarification or have any other ideas for incentivizing your customers.

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