Seven Habits of Successful Gallery Owners

Ramp up your gallery business faster by offering a variety of ways for patrons to purchase. If you’re finding it difficult to keep a steady flow of traffic, marketing your gallery can be as simple as adding some great  techniques used by other types of businesses. Here are some success stories to get you inspired.

Is location key to marketing a gallery?

A brick and mortar gallery is fabulous, but even if you’re in a trendy hot spot a great building won’t necessarily help you compete for future patrons’ dollars. You still need to convert curious, browsing people into customers. If your gallery is only bustling with buying activity during occasional artist’s receptions, it’s time to get creative. Believe it or not, people are investing in art, at all levels. At the root of all sales (art or otherwise) you must solve a problem for someone. One problem is that today’s newer buyers, who may have money to purchase art, don’t know much about it. The second problem is they may not have the time or easy access to go to a gallery.

Two case histories of successful galleries

Two women on the East Coast have some amazing and fun solutions for making art available to a buying public. Jessica Stafford-Davis, who owns The Agora Culture, has combined her business acumen and marketing know-how to modern day art collecting. Among other things, she is also in the business of educating future art investors (brilliant idea, by the way). Jessica created an off-site event called Art on the Vine, which offers original artwork by people of color. This amazing, outdoor fine art show uses Pareti’s mobile walls to feature over 100 compelling and relatable works of art by promising artists. (you can also follow The Agora Culture on social medial platforms @theagoraculture or @artonthevinemv) The event involves new collectors, and offers a great selection for experienced collectors investors. It turns Martha’s Vineyard into an art festival.

New things are happening in office atriums.

Stefania Panepinto, who owns Panepinto Galleries, is both a fine artist and gallery owner. Rather than wait for patrons, she increases the likelihood of foot traffic, and takes her mobile galleries where the people are: unused atriums and office entryways (to name two venues). These and other empty, large spaces beg for exhibits.  Using Pareti Mobile Walls, Stefania transforms unique locations into pop-up art exhibitions in venues such as luxury high-rise penthouse homes, hotel retail spaces, and office and building lobbies. Past projects include exhibits at The Element Hotel by Starwood, the luxury residences at Harrison Station by Ironstate Development, the Residence Inn by Marriott Hotel in Jersey City, 3 Journal Square Plaza luxury residences, and Jersey City Medical Center.

Create a workable plan for marketing your gallery

As any artist can tell you, getting the right type of patron is no easy task. Galleries also face their own challenges when it comes to attracting buyers. Even in the most eclectic, revitalized artistic areas, galleries must compete for dollars. Just like every other retailer, galleries are competing with other tempting financial distractions. Is it enough to suggest various pieces for the purpose of good interior design? Gallery owners know experienced collectors enjoy art, but they also know should serve as a smart investment.

Ideal clients don’t grow on trees, but marketing your gallery well may be simply adding a few different types of marketing methods than you’re using now. That means reaching out into the community to create more visibility, displaying artwork that appeals to a larger type of buyers, and putting yourself (or your gallery) out there – literally. That means courting new collectors as well as seasoned ones. There are more people who have never invested in art than there are seasoned buyers, so if you look at the market that way, there’s a huge underserved market to reach. Here are some ideas to help you groom new buyers into becoming your ideal customer.

7 ideas for marketing your gallery

1. Get to know your customers (and future customers).

Who are your customers and future customers? What are they interested in? What are they into?

This is the key part of marketing your gallery – know who your customers are. If you’re thinking your gallery needs to attract stodgy folks with lots of money, think again. Some of the greatest art patrons are middle class buyers with a love of the arts. Even collectors with modest means are willing to pay in order to own a fabulous, coveted piece of art – and for all of the right reasons. Today’s collector doesn’t need to be rich – he or she simply needs to be educated, inspired and willing to invest. The modern art buyer knows a good work of art is more than something that takes up space on an empty wall. They expect art to be both moving and memorable. More experienced buyers know great art is also an investment.

2. Offer educational opportunities to people who are interested in collecting art.

Your job as gallery owner, is not only to pair the investor with the right artist and work, it’s to cultivate new customers. Who are new customers? Those who have never purchased are before. Educating, as it turns out, is a key to linking investors with artists. That means providing events for new art buyers to learn to spot great investments in terms of art. Try art collecting seminars, a night of fine wine and great art. Or create a free event open to the public which focuses on a style of art, to create your own 2-hour educational lecture.

3. Don’t wait for people to come to your gallery. Bring the art to the people.

A mobile gallery event attracts people, and generally people stop to look at art. Give them an environment to peruse! Set up a 2 or 3-day event. Create ambiance with bluetooth speakers, serve a bit of cheese and wine. Collect cards and contact information, share news about your educational events. Create posters which explain art and investment. Include the artist’s explanation of the work next to the piece. Go where the people are, whether it’s a hot spot in a busy downtown outdoor area, or a local country club entryway. With a portable exhibit you can try all kinds of spaces to see what works best in terms of sales.

great ideas for marketing your gallerySavvy gallery owners cultivate lifelong collectors, but some go the extra mile by creating opportunities for new collectors to buy. This is one of the strategies employed by The Agora Culture. Rather than wait for incoming foot traffic like a traditional brick and mortar gallery, Jessica Stafford-Davis takes art where the buyers are. If the buyers are lacking, she offers education about how to begin collecting art. Jessica has linked artists and buyers across the country, with regular shows in Martha’s Vineyard (see Art On The Vine), Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.

This television spot on the morning news is another great PR move by The Agora Culture. Her public relations work has resulted in articles in Forbes, Huffington Post, and many other publications as well.

4. Get on your local news.

See if your local news channel will entertain a midday spot about looking at art as an investment, or perhaps for trade for rotating artwork in their receptionist area. If you do get a television spot, create a pop up banner with your logo, clear telephone number, and info so it will be behind you during your talk. (Paretican help you with posters and design if you need help.) Be sure to offer your contact information, and location of your gallery so people can contact you with additional questions.

5. Public Relations

Public relations can be as easy as typing up a story about one of your artists, and some photos of his or her work.  When creating a press release, put yourself in the reporter’s shoes. Your press release is likely to get attention if it has a compelling reason to be of interest to the audience you’re trying to reach. For example, the local newspaper or online version of a television broadcast will pick up local events like a local art show, or lecture. But if you have a local artist who is being featured, that might get better traction for you story-wise. Proposing a lunch-time segment on your local news about investing in art might be worth proposing, especially if you’re in a smaller town.

Create a spreadsheet of various media outlets you can send regular press releases to. That means television, newspaper, print, podcasts, youtube channels, and anything else that gets news to the public. National magazines and trade publications are good places to send press releases to as well.

6. Develop a Press Kit

A Press Kit is a sampling of great photos you’ve selected, and bios about you and your featured artists. Once upon a time these were snail-mailed with press releases and media outlets to help generate interest in a story. Now you place these valuable visual and content-rich assets on your site, dropbox, or other online repository. Great photos, video, and bios make a reporter’s job easier. So if you’re sending press releases to podcasters, they will greatly appreciate you doing a little legwork for them.

Another important detail – pictures will grab more attention than text alone. By promoting the art of your artists you have great news and great visuals. Every artist in your gallery should have a press release, and page dedicated to his or her work. Share this info in a typed letter to a local arts editor (and as many other magazines or publications you can think of). If your artists aren’t great about writing their own bios, offer to write something for them (for a fee) and have them proofread it.

Another Pareti customer has a fabulous press kit online – in fact, this is one of the best ones we’ve seen in general. You can check it out here ( Samplize has also included video which may be used by television, cable, YouTuber video bloggers, and anyone else who wants to write a story about them.

7. Have a Media Page

When you start getting all of these fabulous articles, write-ups, and television interviews, you’ll need a place to store them. This will let new customers learn about you too. One of the best ways to start marketing your gallery is to create an “In the News” or media page. A media page offers instant testimonials and videos for your would-be customers. Be sure to put a link to this page from your Press Kit page, so writers and reporters you contact can also peruse information about your gallery, event and artists.

These ideas should help get your creative juices flowing, marketing-wise. Tailer these ideas to fit your own community, and keep what works best! As a reminder, download or print out the infographic below.

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