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Friday, July 30, 2010

Sculpture and Business (Ethics)

                          The sculpture Still Thoughts in my garden.


This morning's lesson in business. After an initial correspondance, the woman interested in buying the sculpture, Still Thoughts, currently in the WaterLily Festival show at Hughes Water Gardens sent me the following email:

Patrick,
As an artist myself, I am aware of the commission mark up when one sells their wares to a Gallery, etc.  Therefore, I am bit troubled that I am not being offered a discount buying this piece directly from you.  Please let me know if we can work out a better sales price.
Thanks so much,
her name here.

My response:

Hello her name here,

The price remains the same.
The reason you are interested in Still Thoughts
is because you saw my sculpture in the gallery at Hughes Water Garden.

Any sales of my work that occur through showing at Hughes,
I honor by paying Hughes their commission for showing and promoting the work.

I've found that an artist who undercuts his/her gallery prices soon finds himself with no gallery representation and a damaged professional reputation.

If you are still interested in the sculpture,
let me know.

Sincerely,

Patrick Gracewood
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With the internet, it's so easy to shop around for cheaper prices.
We all do comparison shopping, but trying to buy directly from the artist by cutting out the gallery middle man, hurts both artist and gallery. If the artist has no gallery representation, go ahead and ask directly. But getting the artist's name from the gallery, or from an online search to try to leverage a "deal price" lower than the gallery's is tacky.

As artists, what do you folks think? How would you have responded?

4 comments:

Theresa Cheek said...

Oh,,,, tell me she did NOT go there!!!! Your answer was certainly taking the high ground....she wanted "a deal". tell her to go to ebay! This is art we are talking about, not mass produced resin!!! (ok, I am off of my soapbox now.....check out my blog, you are the star!!!)

Anonymous said...

The first thing to remember is the customer was not seeking to offend you. Then again they were acting primarily in their own best interest so you response is understandable.

However that said there is no need to make an issue of human nature such as the cultural differences in bargaining prices while buying and selling and also various personality types. One will always come across a wide variety of personal styles in the approach from customers. Artist vary in personality and business styles as do gallery owners. Perhaps one is lucky that any commerce ever reaches a successful conclusion?

A professional artist must always be prepared for such situations. There are many variations of simple statements which will allow the artist and the customer to both "save face".

Take the time to write a number of anticipated responses to questions in a notebook to remind you of what to say so you won't be caught with your mouth open and no appropriate response to fill it. Also it will reduce your stress levels and convince you not to react with anger and offense if you are prepared to be a gentleman/woman to all personality types.

The statements in your practice notebook can be along the lines of the following two examples.

"I wish I could help you but I am not permitted to negotiate the price once it has been established. Perhaps the gallery can help you with your request as they are my business representatives."

"I truly appreciate the honor of having you want to purchase my piece. While I can't adjust the price of the piece you are inquiring about perhaps you would care to commission something in your price range?"

Mark Downing said...

I'll second Theresa Cheek's sentiment.

I find the customer's position upsetting, probably because I have come across similar bargaining for my work.

Its hard for me to be articulate on the spot. Your response was spot on. Well done

Patrick Gracewood said...

Anonymous, thank you for your response."Don't take it personally" is harder in practice than in theory. In writing my response, I tried my best to be clear and calm, (after two phone calls to friends!)

I do like the idea of written prepared responses to have at hand because often my mind goes blank under stress.

What I found unsettling was the woman said she was ready to buy it from the gallery, (full price), and made no mention of wanting a discount in earlier emails. If cost was an issue, payment plans (that's how I buy art)could be discussed.

But to imply that she knows how much the gallery mark up is and say that she's disappointed because I didn't immediately offer her wholesale....grrrrr to entitlement issues.