Alternative spaces, a new way to sell art!

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We will discuss where to sell art, other than the regular gallery or art fair, in this article.

Alternative spaces emerged around the mid-70's and was closely tied to the flower child, "woodstock" generation.  The anti-establishment movement was really in full swing and artists brainstormed some great ideas in getting their work to the public.  They wanted to bring into the forefront the notion that valuation and certification of art works should not be determined by a select few commercial gallery directors and elite museum curators. 

The first were thought to start in abandoned factories.  This moved to indoor and outdoor public spaces that normally aren't seen as art venues. 

Some are dedicated to showing mixed media, photography, or sculpture.  The goal is usually to provide a focus for the communities to see local art.  To give control of culture back to the local community rather than the elitist's. 

The fact is, most people know what they like in art.  They may not know exactly why they are attracted to a certain piece, but they simply know what they like.  And most resent having being told that what they like is rubbish!

So alternative spaces grew!  Artist listened to the public and produced works and would sell art that attracted folks.  Even today, art dealers troll (a fishing term) for new and upcoming talent within these places. 

The main difference between a commercial gallery and alternative spaces is they are usually non-profit entity.  Their income is coming from grants (yes, the National Endowment of the Arts uses tax funded dollars to support some of these), and contributions rather than the sell of the artwork.

You will usually find experimental work here. or work from an established artist that is going in a whole different direction of what they sell in the commercial gallery.  Most alternative spaces only ask a donation should the artist sell a work.

Here is a reference that will list where these alternative spaces are located, (and up to date)

"Art in America, Annual Guide to galleries, museums"  August issue every year. 

Go to their website to order the back issue or your local bookstore.

A simple Google search for "alternative art galleries (your town)" will also yield a boat load of places to check into.

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Co-ops, another great venue to sell art.

The next place to look into are your Co-op Galleries.  These are based on the artist's participation to sell art.  Yes, you man the 'till sort of speaking, and promote your work as well as others in the space. 

Before signing up, talk to the other artists to see how happy they are with the arrangement.  Making sure there isn't a great amount of favoritism for the best spots, times, etc.

Most require that you, as an artist, to spend time in helping run the gallery.  This could mean watching the cash box, hanging for shows, and certainly being part of the decision making process that governs the facility. 

If commissions are charged, they usually go right back into overhead. 

Vanity Galleries

These are purely a for-profit operation that charges up front fees for exhibition on top of taking a commission.  They also usually up-charge the daylights out of you with special fees.  There are those that are willing, and even desperate enough, to pay for a show in say "New York" just to get the validation.  Steer clear of them, as art critics can sniff this kind of thing out quite quickly from your resume, and you've just thrown your pearls to swine!

Juried Exhibitions and Contests

Ask yourself this one simple question.  When you were about to purchase that gorgeous piece of art work in that art fair or gallery, did you specifically ask the salesperson, "Can I see your blue ribbons?"

Not likely.  Besides being a nice feather in your cap, being a winner of most exhibitions, that you paid dearly for to enter and received a nice ribbon, well, that and a buck twenty five will get you a cup of coffee. 

Not saying all shows are a waste, but unless the show is going to bring you national or international exposure by winning it, well, what have you gained other than your out of pocket expenses to enter (usually $30 to $40 per image), your time, and your bruised ego.  Quite frankly, keep your $100 in your pocket, and invest in a good brochure of your work to send to a rep or gallery.  Well, that's just my opinion anyway.

So,  have you got any ideas?

Have you got a great way to sell art that hasn't been mentioned in the series?

Let me know, and I'll post it!

So, How do you sell art?

Help your fellow artists in sharing with how you sell art! All ideas excepted, the crazier, the more successful it may become. Stick to things you are actually doing right now, and not what you'd like to try.

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