As most FOPs know, I collect contemporary art. I love being around it, and buy way too much of it.
But even though I enjoy spending an inordinate amount of time in galleries, something has always bugged me about the way art is sold. No matter how nicely you're treated, an intimidation factor always seems to creep into the process. You're not just buying a painting or sculpture...you are (now say this with me out loud) "purr-chass-ink a whork of ahhht." Phew...that's a mouthful.
Maybe Deborah Linke has the answer. Her full-time gig is selling and marketing her husband Harold's bronze sculptures, and her theory, while developed for her better half, actually works Surprisingly well as a saving grace for the entire art world. She says:
"People fall in love with these pieces.
It's more like an adoption than a sale."
A Pow! moment to hang on your wall.
While I've heard of people coming into galleries with a few million bucks and filling a home's empty spaces as if they were making a grocery order, most people do indeed "fall in love" with the pieces they buy. It's like picking out a puppy at the SPCA; something special catches your eye, touches your heart, and becomes a part of your home and your life.
That said, the art world needs to jump on this and make the purchase process more like adding a member to your family than like buying a mutual fund, people would be more comfortable with it and thus...
Lemme take this one step further. I like to meet the artists I buy from (check out this earlier post about Patrick Hughes, or the picture below of my family and I with Steve Kaufman at the Masters Gallery in Vail after we bought his portrait of Andy Warhol). To me, it adds value to the art and more importantly, provides great stories that will bring the piece alive for years to come.
While, for geographic reasons, a face-to-face visit isn't always possible, why not a quick phone call? A hand-written note? Really now, on any given day, how many pieces does even today's most popular artist sell? Imagine the value-add (and the additional sales) that would come with a personal thank you from the creator him-or-herself? And if people are laying down $25,000 or more for a print from Sol LeWit or Damien Hirst or Chuck Close, I think they deserve a little personal touch point.
Lemme take this one step further. I never met an art collector who doesn't want to meet other collectors, show off their stuff, learn about new artists, etc. Yet the aspects of "community," the driving force behind Web 2.0 (and its multi-billion-dollar babies like Google, YouTube, MySpace and the like), are sadly missing from the gaggle of galleries. Over and above the "adoption" process, give the "new families" a place to congregate and compare, be it virtual or physical. Kinda like a dog run or a play group...but with better coffee.
And the more I think of it, perhaps Deborah's "Adoption" doctrine can be layered upon just about any relatively upscale retail sector.
Touch the heart, feed the head...and you'll make it easier to open the wallet.