Identifying Venues for Fine Artists

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A lot of artists when they first begin to make art start thinking about where to sell it. I know my first fantasy was that I was going to be able to show it art museums and become a famous artist who showed in New York galleries. This may come true for some people but for the majority of us it doesn’t. Partly because were not hooked up with the right social set and also because we don’t know what were doing. The first part of understanding how to become an artist’s understanding exhibition venues.

It’s important to understand these two questions.

What do museums and galleries do?  
What is their role or mission?

Museums and Galleries

Museums and galleries have different missions. In short, museums are exhibition spaces that are designed to educate, however, art galleries do sometimes do that but the bottom line is of course the bottom line, selling the art they are exhibiting in order to make a profit.

There are exceptions to this. For example, I worked with the gallery called Arthaus and the gallery manager James Baci explained to me that even though a show I had, which was very popular and had hundreds of visitors, didn’t make much money it was okay with him because he sold a lot of art as a consultant. In effect he looked at it as long-term advertising and educating people about my art. Most galleries won’t take a risk like that on you unless they think that they can sell all your work. Annette Schutz and James Baci at the Arthaus Gallery are exceptional Galleries’s who were very kind and care about their artists.

The Art Museum

Art museums have two different kinds of exhibitions. They often showcase a permanent collection and they also have traveling or visiting shows. The visiting shows are often designed as a type of “blockbuster exhibition” which has to bring an audience in because a static permanent collection often doesn’t bring in a lot of people. A blockbuster show needs to have an artist and it or a group of artists who have immediate name recognition and are notorious. Meaning that they have a lot of notoriety. They have a proven track record of having reviews written about them and they also have a big sales record and a lot of collectors. If you’re reading this that’s probably not you.  Here’s an outline of some of the artists with links to the shows that I discussed in the video.
Blockbuster: Historical, Tut, Impressionism, Picasso and Matisse

Art Galleries

Of course there is a range of different kinds of art galleries and museums and they range from really well attended and well-funded and popular to the absolute duds like the PEZ Museum in Redwood City.

One venue that a lot of artists like to show in when they are first beginning are community art centers and art leagues. These places are fine however there’s a lot of politics involved for very little sales and even though they’ll hook you up with the community it might not be a community that’s very nurturing. I know this is contrary to popular belief but you should really think about this. My experience with community art centers and art leagues is that there are a bunch of people vying for attention and competing with each other and it leads to really bad politics.

Here are some examples,
Community Centers,
Livermore Art Association,
Pacific Art League
Art Clubs

Probably the best venues for you to sell your work are commercial art galleries and these come in a variety of missions and levels.  The nice thing about commercial art galleries is that they want to sell your work as much as you want to sell your work. However, often if they are not of the highest variety they really don’t know much about marketing and don’t have the social positioning or authority to make an artist career unless there are really high and art gallery. Even today, my suspicion is that art galleries may be not as efficient at selling your work as they were in the last 50 years. Something I’ll get back to later in this series is that I believe that if you’re a mid-level artist it’s probably better to sell your own work out of your studio and on the Internet.

Here are some examples of high and art galleries.

Middle Level Art Galleries

Middle level art galleries are a better bet for an artist who is making high quality artwork and beginning to get some recognition. They are often just as hard to get into as high level art galleries. In order to do this you’ll need to put together a package that includes a resume, press releases, images of your work and probably some throwaways like exhibition cards and postcards. I’ll return to this later on in this series. I also addressed this in my class online.


Vanity Galleries are galleries that you don’t want to get involved with. The way that you can tell a gallery is a so-called is a so-called “vanity gallery” is that they charge you to exhibit your work there. Basically they’re not taking a risk on you and so they’re not gonna work very hard to sell your work. Of course there’s always exceptions to this rule but I would stay away from vanity galleries.

Online Galleries

In my experience I really feel that online galleries are the way to go. Especially for an artist is just starting out and for mid-level artists who have a body of work and are having a hard time moving the work. Here are some examples of online galleries and spaces that are alternate places to show your work and sell them.

  1. ArtPal – Fast-growing FREE gallery to sell art and buy art. No membership fees. You receive 95%-100% when they sell your art. ArtPal earns money only when they sell your art. Sell any type of art. ArtPal also has a free Print-on-Demand service.*
  2. Etsy – a community of artists who make hand crafted pieces.  See our post on How to Sell Your Art on Etsy.
  3. – a massive, venture-funded online gallery that sells art from thousands of artists from all over the world. “Artsy’s mission is to make all the world’s art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. We are a resource for art collecting and education.”
  4. Ebay – the world’s largest auction site.  Follow @ebayart on Twitter to get an idea of what kind of art does well on ebay.
  5. Amazon – the single largest directory of online stores, Amazon turned itself into one of the world’s largest retailers by creating a platform for anyone to sell anything.  There are literally thousands of stores that use Amazon as their main source of sales.  If you make handmade jewelry, Amazon has a section just for you on their front page.
  6. – high quality printing & framing, community, and marketing tips. See Imagekind Power Selling Tips.
  7. – for designing shirts, other screen printed things
  8. Craigslist – in certain cities, people use Craigslist for everything.  In Portland, I have seen everything from couches, to cars, to beautiful pieces of art for sale.  Think of it as the world’s largest classified ad.
  9. – a little bit like Etsy, but with a different focus. ArtFire’s Community Directed Development asks their artists to tell them what kind of features and products to build.
  10. – feature one piece of art each day on the site.
  11. – the most comprehensive guide to selling paintings on the internet.
  12. – One of the largest sites for selling art online.
  13. – sell prints at any price you want to set
  14. – ready made art websites w/Paypal shopping cart built in
  15. – One of the oldest, most popular sites for selling art online.
  16. (BONUS) One on One Business Coaching for Artists – if you are very serious about your work and have the money to hire a professional.
  17. (BONUS) – alternative clothing marketplace
A list of 250 places to sell your work is here:

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