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Could This be Why Artists Have a Hard Time Finding Local Representation?

by Jason Horejs on 02/26/2014 · 61 comments

I heard a story on NPR this morning about why managers have a hard time accepting creative ideas from their subordinates.  Recent research suggests it’s not that managers inherently dislike ideas from people working below them, but rather that it is the proximity of those workers that causes the problem. Researches from the University of San Diego found that people tend to look on ideas that originate close to them with more scrutiny. They tend to think that ideas that originate close to them are less viable than those that originate at a distance.

The explanation the researches developed is fascinating. They believe that our mind is more critical of things that originate near us because of our spatial perception. We see more detail in things that are near, and the more detail we see, the more likely we are to perceive problems. Conversely, things that are far away are less detailed and more abstract, and our mind tends to be less critical.

Even as I was listening to the story I was saying “Aha!!!” I am constantly hearing from artists that they have a very hard time finding local representation in galleries. You would think that being local would be an advantage, but galleries don’t seem to behave as if it is. Could this research help explain this phenomenon?

Listen to the Story

(click here if the plug-in won’t load: http://www.npr.org/2014/02/26/282836487/why-we-miss-creative-ideas-that-are-right-under-our-noses

What do you Think?

Have you had a hard time finding local representation? Does the theory from NPR make sense? Am I crazy? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

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{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Alisa Nielsen February 26, 2014 at 5:22 pm

I have had some “local” gift gallery exposure but trying to get a show has been exhausting. Some of this theory may apply to my work and some may not. I’m an aboriginal glass artist – so by nature of the ‘aboriginal’ part of my work, the theme is always that – West Coast Native. I’ve found that while many here have money and many here say they love my work, my work is somehow expected to be discounted dramatically in order to sell here – in gift galleries, that is. I further find that getting a show here is difficult – partly because there are a number of artists in the area and there’s a limited amount of show time – and I think, in my case, more so because they don’t feel comfortable setting up a show for sculptural glass, never mind aboriginal artwork. Locally, I have had better luck with commissions and so I simply don’t pursue local engagements (other than the annual donated work I do as an award for the South Okanagan Women in Need Gala). Oddly though, I have over an 85% success rate with galleries outside my local area – across North America, in fact :)

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Barbara Carter February 26, 2014 at 6:32 pm

I’ve heard this called the “expert from out of town” theory, applied particularly to artists. You may be on to something, Jason. Now, how do we best exploit this phenomenon?

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Carole Belliveau February 26, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Galleries seem full up out here in California where there are just so many artists per square inch. I think that is more problematic.

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Christopher Marion Thomas February 26, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Christ suffered from this problem. To quote from the Bible, ‘Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honour in his own country’ (John 4:44).

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Dell Eddins February 27, 2014 at 6:46 am

I was just thinking the same thing about Jesus. So far my commissions are coming from friends, family, then through Facebook exposure, and work connections. Showing locally in a couple of small retail spaces, but no galleries yet.

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Jana Botkin March 6, 2014 at 8:56 pm

If your friends and family won’t do business with you, who will??

Jesus’s homies also said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” So, the contempt or lack of respect for locals goes back quite a few years.

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Donna Ham February 27, 2014 at 10:34 am

I immediately thought of this scripture, too!

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Catie Barron February 26, 2014 at 8:01 pm

This is so interesting to me. With regards to my personal experience, the subject matter seems to play more prominently. I live in a highly conceptual and abstract market where my botanical imagery does not necessarily fit. I would rather not have my artwork sitting in a garden center gallery, so I focus on commission work and am starting to look at other areas of the country that embrace colors and subject matter that I am passionate about.

Thanks for sharing this important finding Jason!

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Malcolm Barker February 27, 2014 at 9:34 am

A very interesting comment I can relate too!

However, I have the opposite problem I am a contemporary abstract artist that lives in an area where the galleries (catering to the tourists) are full of west coast landscapes, botanicals and animals. Leaving no space to, through my work into the mix. Even though when I am able to get space to do a solo show it is well received. But, securing ongoing representation is a continual battle.

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Karin Richter February 26, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Hi there, I don’t think the above clip applies to the inability of artists finding local representation. There is nothing new about the notion that everything always seems more exotic when it comes from somewhere else (like shoes, they seem so much more sexy when they are from Italy…!). When I applied at a local gallery some time ago I was told that it had been a long time since they took on somebody local. When I asked why, they explained that it had everything to do with artists underselling their galleries. Unfortunately, I had to admit that I know this to be true but find it unfortunate as artists do significant harm to their reputation and spoil it for the rest of us who are eager to work together with local galleries.

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Helen K. Beacham Fine Art February 26, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Maybe they think they can always get you next month… Or in the next 6 months. But, I also think it’s partly because artists are more afraid to approach their local galleries. They think “if they want me, they know where to find me”.

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Dineen Serpa February 26, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Actually, the theory makes a lot of sense. Prophets and messiahs are never followed in their home towns. Elvis was seen as a pip squeak by his local high school mates, even after he moved to the big city of Memphis and had a few hit songs. There is a “familiarity breeds contempt” perception too. Maybe they feel like they have “enough” local artists and we aren’t exotic enough.

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Alyson Stanfield February 26, 2014 at 9:26 pm

So glad you shared this, Jason, because it must not have been during my NPR hour this morning. I will listen to the whole story now.

The question from here is: So what do we do about it?

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Jason Horejs February 27, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Alyson – I’ve long advocated artists expanding their reach outside their local area, and I think this story (to the degree that it’s true, that is) reinforces that idea. While local representation should be a goal, it may not be the first priority for an artist trying to get gallery representation. If an artist can get representation outside their local market it my lend credibility when they come back to the local galleries and are able to say “my work has done really well on the Oregon Coast.”

Persistence would be the other key.

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Jana Botkin March 6, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Alyson, the photographer Cay Lang tells of not being able to get local representation so she went to Paris. They said, “Wow, you are from California!” Then she went to New York where they said, “Wow, you worked in Paris”. After that, she returned to California where they said, “Wow, you worked in New York”. (She is the author of “Taking the Leap”.)

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Joyce Wynes February 26, 2014 at 9:34 pm

I think this theory is right on target. And to take it further, I think the more creative you are, the harder it is to get recognized locally. I believe that part of this is because locals, including your local galleries, are more comfortable sticking with what they think is working (same old, same old) especially in certain cities and whole states. They are very slow to grow and thus educate their public’s growth. Many of the art reference books that I have read have stressed the fact that artists are more appreciated in other areas rather than locally and with my own experience I believe that to be true. I have seen artists locally in my area just continue to wait for representation or someone to walk into a guild and buy their work and feel that they must prove themselves there first before ever moving on. They don’t realize it may never happen so they end up wasting their whole career waiting for their moment.

After years of being accepted in other states more so than locally I would advise artists to dismiss trying to garner local favor for a long period of time, especially if they are very creative, and go to other areas (cities, states) to get recognized. After a period non-acceptance it can really wreck havoc with your confidence in your creative abilities because we all need some positive affirmation to continue to grow. I find the more recognized I get nationally, the more the locals want to recognize me but still at a much slower pace so go figure. But listening to this broadcast makes me feel much better and less concerned about local recognition and my decision years ago to move on to other states.

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Dianne Lynn Gardner February 26, 2014 at 9:52 pm

I have been saying this for years! Maybe you can get in a local gallery, but try getting a local newspaper to feature your show! Nada, but if the city brings an artist or author from out of state (I both write and paint) they’re all over the celebrity! I am not in a gallery at all. My work is too representational for tastes around here. I do much better selling online to people far away! Go figure!

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Dorothy Woolbright February 27, 2014 at 12:12 am

Jason,
In my other (and previous) professional career as an educational consultant, it was common to hear, “You have to be 50 miles out of town before you are considered an expert!” In my experience, the farther you traveled to deliver your message, the more “expert” you became!

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Marshall February 27, 2014 at 1:26 am

Hi Jason,
I think there are two factors at work. The first is what they call “Public Poof”. It means that people from out of town
must be valuable or credible because they seem like they must in demand every where. ” How lucky we are that they choose us”. That brings up the second idea of scarcity. ” If I don’t show them now I might not get another chance”.
Just some thoughts.
Marshall

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Ted Hayward February 27, 2014 at 2:32 am

I think this article is very insightful and rings true! Although I have exhibited in some major New York and London galleries…it hasn’t actually helped when trying to find representation in my small hometown. I now leave some things OFF of my resume – makes no sense, but it’s true.

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John Russell February 27, 2014 at 3:11 am

Not only is this research accurate it applies across the board: I was once represented by a beautiful brick and mortar gallery (owners now deceased and gallery is closed) in a West Texas town. Visitors would literally do double takes when seeing the gallery for the first time; when asked why the typical response was, “I’m from Manhattan and the quality of the art here literally turned my head and made me think I was in SoHo or something!” We had many fairly well-known artists including a winner of a prestigious national competition, yet sales were poor. People loved to travel to Dallas or Houston or Fort Worth and pay ten times as much for something and brag about how much it had cost them and that they had purchased it at so-and-so gallery or some trendy store. Our local artists used to paint under pseudonyms and get their work into those trendy stores and galleries elsewhere and our local folks would travel there and buy their work…the exact same work they were showing back home, just with a different signature. And pay a lot more most times. Go figure.

I guess some of the thinking also goes that: “Well, if you’re any good then why aren’t you living and showing in New York?” People don’t seem to realize that an artist could be living in a small town somewhere and be fantastically talented and produce terrific work; they just might not want to move to NY.

I think there are many misconceptions throughout the art world that should be rectified, but it seems to be a slow go in educating people.

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Mark Chapman February 27, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Having been a fly on the wall in both Texas and NY, NY- all I have seen was Texans and New Yorkers supporting the locals. What Texas and NY have in common is they assume that the home grown art must be the best available. Even when it is obviously not true, they still feel like its a civic duty to support their friends, neighbors, like its them against the world.

I never lived either place, thats just what I saw when visiting.

Every place else works the way Jason described. Where I live now is even worse. A hundred years ago, the most reliable way to judge if ANYTHING not just art was lousy was to ask if it was locally produced.

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rani garner February 27, 2014 at 4:19 am

I have good local gallery representation, but in a related phenomenon, local gallery owners have often told me about customers coming in expressing surprise because they’ve bought my art at out of town galleries. A dealer in another state tells me of all her buying customers who are from my local area. Part of this is just because they are vacationing, but I believe there is also a bit of negative association with the phrase “local artist.” A side note: my city just imported a muralist from Atlanta rather than using the skills of one of our area’s many talented artists!

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Elizabeth Bradford February 27, 2014 at 4:36 am

spatial, not spacial. Interesting ideas.

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Ken Van Dyne February 27, 2014 at 5:58 am

Does the theory/survey that roughly 80% of art sales are to travelers enter into this conversation? If so doesn’t it follow that local artist should sell best? Or does this idea only apply to areas strong in tourism?

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Angeline-Marie February 27, 2014 at 6:00 am

Did this post have anything to do with the recent events at the Perez Art Museum, WeiWei’s art, and a local Miami, Florida artist? I read that you were prompted by an NPR article…

In Miami, Florida, we just had a “protest” occur about what you are writing. The artist dropped a valuable piece of installation art in a local museum to protest the lack of local artists being represented by local museums and galleries.

Do I believe it is difficult to enter a local gallery or museum with my art? Oh, YEAH. Do I believe there is discrimination of all sorts in the processes here locally to get my art into these venues? Oh, YEAH. Do I believe that I could do better, do more, make more efforts to get my art into these venues? Oh, of course, but it is my choice and my reasons that I am not at the moment.

Most local venues never even do a simple Google search to find local artists to represent…but when they do most want to charge exorbitant fees for just the wall space during certain calendar dates.

If you are interested in the news story, I linked to the stories in my blog post that you can find here: http://angeline-marie.blogspot.com/2014/02/protest-in-museum-by-breaking-vase.html

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Toelle Hovan February 27, 2014 at 6:09 am

As I read the above comments – I was shaking my head in agreement to all the problems with local galleries. My work is still-life and kind of expressionist – I work in Oil and Acrylics – the area here is overrun with artist and wannabes – they are all non-reprobative artist – most are affluent in the area and sell to their friends – so local sales is difficult for me – I tried a surreal approach but hated painting them – I like to paint pretty – and around her ugly seems to make sales -
* My #1 problem is a husband who has no interest in me doing well as an artist. That family has no respect, comes home here!

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Faith Bradburn Keller February 27, 2014 at 6:43 am

I have to agree. I’ve seen it many times in my area with the local galleries not representing hometown artists. The issue goes further though, it is more than the galleries. We have a wonderful artist retreat nearby. Very few residencies are given to local, talented artists.

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Matt Durant February 27, 2014 at 6:56 am

It’s impossible to generalize an answer to this question; if you live and work in a major city, then yes there is a lot of local competition and it is difficult to stand out to the galleries but there are also a lot of galleries who are in competition with each other. In the contemporary sector they are all looking for the next big thing to bring to the world. It would make sense for them to look locally so they can actively keep tabs on the artist, help to keep them producing and check on what they are currently working on.

I imagine in a smaller town it would be very hard to get interest from a local gallery when there are only a few.

I live and work out of Toronto and it isn’t terribly difficult to get involved with group shows as a start, so long as your work is good enough. That is usually the best way to get to know the local scene and it’s players.

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Claudia Stewart February 27, 2014 at 7:05 am

This makes total sense to me. When I was in community theatre, I could talk to the membership about ideas I had heard at outside workshops an was not listened to . Glazed eyes. And I consider myself an engaging speaker. Have that outside “expert” come in and tell them the same ideas, and everyone was riveted. Here is not just Claudia who you just had a coffee with, but THE EXPERT! Frustrating and laughable.
My artwork is a bit outside the norm, but the Art Centre here and a few other local places do show my work.

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Jane Wilcoxson February 27, 2014 at 8:01 am

I’m from England and have the British accent that you Americans enjoy so much, so even though I may be local I’m not perceived as such, I feel as if I have the advantage of the exotic. Perception is everything.

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Diane Aspinwall February 27, 2014 at 8:24 am

So very interesting! Does this mean that I am wasting my treasured dollars by belonging to a local co-op in an art district that fosters local artists? I am going to give this much thought!

Thank you for all you share with us, Jason!

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Mary Manning February 27, 2014 at 8:25 am

My advice: Get out of town!

A year ago, my husband and I went to New Mexico because he had a business meeting. Without iPhone, iPad, laptop (they were all in the room on power cords), I handed my business card to an art collector we met in the resort’s bar. Sold the painting on the card in 15 minutes. From this, I’ve learned a valuable lesson: hanging out in bars is good for business.

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Jan Fontecchio February 27, 2014 at 8:25 am

We have only one gallery in our town, a gorgeous two-story gallery that exhibits about 10 shows a year. Their mission is to “be a leader in the presentation of contemporary visual arts within the Northwest. The gallery programs will seek to encourage experimentation through the support presentation of new works by emerging and established artists. Through exhibitions, outreach, and related educational programming the gallery is dedicated to the cultural enrichment of the university community, the Palouse, and the Northwest region.” But no local artists, please.

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Julie Bernstein Engelmann February 27, 2014 at 8:29 am

This is a fascinating theory, and I think it definitely applies. But I also think we tend to project our own self-doubt and self-criticism onto the people closest to us because we identify with them.

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Michael James Slattery February 27, 2014 at 9:18 am

the lines being drawn in the article are quite a stretch if you ask me. the reason local galleries don’t like local artists has more to do with accountability and the inability for rockstars to be rock stars in their own backyard. the author should speak from experience considering and asking a question so relevant with such distance seems questionable.

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Tina February 27, 2014 at 10:04 am

I have had receptive local representation. However, in any industry, there is a stigma that leads people to believe that “experts” are brought in from out of town. People want what is exotic and less accessible. To own an “exotic” piece leads them to believe that they own something unique and that their tastes are sophisticated. It feeds their ego. I believe this to be true of patrons as well as gallery owners. “It must be fantastic if it comes from Italy,” they say. They poo poo the obscure artist up the street who doesn’t brag about their genius IQ. I believe this problem is an issue of human ego and the researchers are just mincing words in order to be…exotic.

To me, good leadership assesses the resources around them weighing out strengths and weaknesses, and we all have them. I don’t understand why a gallery owner wouldn’t say that they’ve surrounded themselves with the best of the best, and “shhhhhh, don’t tell anybody, but we have a Da Vinci living right around the corner. Don’t disturb her, she’s working”.

I have a very successful friend and part of his advice is to be a little arrogant about your work. I think artists often try to be too humble and they grovel looking for sales. This is not attractive. What other qualities does that artist have that makes them unique and marketable? Are they accomplished at the piano, organic cooking, breeding ragdoll cats? Never make yourself look desperate. Look diverse, talented, and confident.

The American West is exotic to Europeans. Can you live in New Mexico and feel like you live in an exotic destination? The artists in Italy put their pants on one leg at a time, too. Da Vinci invented an indoor sprinkler system to address kitchen fires. The first time it got set off, which was during a banquet, it flooded the entire kitchen and destroyed the food. He still remained a local genius.

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Patrice A Federspiel February 27, 2014 at 10:33 am

The adage I have heard (and have repeated) is “you can’t be a profit in your own home town”. I moved FAR from home to become a painter in the islands. I have a fairly good following here and with visitors to the islands. Because I’m so far from the mainland, I haven’t pursued galleries from afar. I’m ready to do so now though. Thank you for the encouragement!

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Rich Ariola February 27, 2014 at 10:48 am

I bet I would have more success in Vegas if I told them my studio was in Vienna

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Tim Longwell February 27, 2014 at 11:23 am

Sounds like we are inherently wired to miss the forest for the trees. This might even explain why as artists we tend to be over critical of our work, ever seeing it as inferior to someone’s art we see and judge as so much better than ours.

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Sue Favinger Smith February 27, 2014 at 11:40 am

Human nature being what it is, is there anything constructive that can be done – from both an artist perspective and from a gallery perspective?

When I worked in a local tourist gallery located in a neighboring city, there was a mixed reaction to the value is the term “local artist.” One side viewed it as meaning quaint, but substandard work, the other side viewed it as local color and low cost memory of place. Not sure if either of those views really made the artists happy.

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Stephen Hall February 27, 2014 at 11:59 am

I learned at any early stage of my career as a commercial artist (graphic design and illustration) that it’s good to be the “out of town expert.” It increased my profile locally which resulted in newspaper press, interviews on TV and radio, and speaking engagements. This, in turn, resulted in more local business. I had been losing projects in my hometown to designers in New York, Chicago and other East Coast cities. I decided to follow their business model and target out of state clients. Based in Louisville, Kentucky it took some bravado for me to approach companies in New York, but it worked.

I’ve been working on my five-year business plan to transition from commercial art to fine art for ten years now. I think I’m about ready to make the big jump this year. When I do, I won’t approach galleries in nearby Baltimore or Washington, DC. Instead, I will target out of state galleries where I think my art would be a good fit. With success there, I may approach the local galleries. However, given the internet, is anything really local anymore?

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Joyce Wynes February 27, 2014 at 12:11 pm

The problem I have seen in my local area is that there are so many artists and so few galleries. And because of this and the local stigma with the galleries about representation we have, the competition for artists to sell their work is so desperate that many artists sell their art for ridiculously low prices that I wouldn’t even want to compete in the local market. I refuse to see my work for “starving artist prices” where you don’t even break even or in most cases you are giving away the art and your talent. The artists get beaten down and feels worthless and I refuse to feed into that type of vision for myself and my art. Do you see this in your area?

Local areas refuse to recognize the talent in their area but it is their lose. That is why you have to move on early before it plays with your self confidence and your worth as an artist.

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Maggie Smith March 10, 2014 at 8:41 am

This is very true in my city. Artists are forced to move constantly from their studios, while yet another upscale restaurant takes over the space the artist improved. There is much lip service given to art here, and very little in sales that I can see. The most art sold in any show is usually two or three pieces and often that is bought by a friend of the artist. The majority of work sold is for a very low price – I’d almost rather give it away, which I often do. Do I travel in the realms of the elite? LOL!

I would love to have my art shown elsewhere, but I am trying to deal with shipping and what it would entail. When I entered juried exhibits, I was accepted all over the country, but the shipping costs almost did me in.
Oh yah, never sold a single piece even though I was often accepted when there were 60 slots to fill and 700 artists had entered. Juried shows at $30 a pop for entering artists seem to be a good way for galleries to make money – now if they could just come up with buyers…..

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Carl Dalio February 27, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Jason. My career spans the left and right brain side of the creative spectrum. On the more left brain side, working as an architectural illustrator for years, I heard and experienced client/architect stories about illustrators on the ‘East Coast’ or the ‘West Coast’. It appeared that the ‘out-of-town consultant’ as expert, was/is an entrenched belief system. In my fine art, art workshops and writing career, I find this belief system pretty much entrenched, as well, in the gallery system. There are always exceptions, of course.

With life experiences and observations, it would seem that this is just the workings of human nature. The out-of-town artist/consultant/expert, as seen through the eyes of local people/galleries/clients, ‘may be more famous’, brings the possibilities of something ‘more interesting’, hold some ‘new and fresh viewpoint’, or some ‘new knowledge’. NPR’s presentation makes a lot of sense.

I have always felt that artists must be relentless in pursuing their creative passion. That pursuit includes an open mind to innovation, playfulness, education, personal growth as well as creating and producing with a goal of personal excellence. This is a big challenge at times, but I think it can trump the hurdles of the ‘out of town is better’ syndrome. Marketing and approaching clients/galleries with ‘professional’ actions and an ‘expert’ mindset, artists have the best chance to get results. If this approach still yields little results locally, yes, then it’s time to go into guerrilla mode… thinking/acting/marketing outside the box… thinking/acting/marketing ‘out of town’ and ‘globally’.

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Marcia Wilson February 27, 2014 at 12:42 pm

All that angst I’ve been through for the past five years about my work not selling for locating it in a “gallery” in my living room was for naught? O the Joy! Living and staying financially afloat in a small rural dairy town which eats wee tourist-targeted businesses for breakfast, [except for the local art association gallery which finally croaked too] has been fraught with problems. We fortunately have a beautiful taxpayer-supported local library that loves it if they can find local artists to exhibit there. Other than that, the closest gallery is right across the street from me, eight and a half miles out of town. I’ve been invited to exhibit there a couple of times, and did so, but never sold a piece. Local artists don’t get much respect here either. I need a bigger living room!!!

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Jillian C February 27, 2014 at 2:17 pm

I have to admit, if I see an artist displayed who is not local, my first thought is that they must be really good or big or something along those lines.

I think it can play a role, but I think there are other factors as well. I was recently in a gallery show that mainly consisted of local artists. The artist (her medium was oils) that sold the most was the one who lived the farthest away… by several states. That artist was also featured under prime lighting and position as well.

But on the other hand, this same gallery told me that people in my area only seem to want to purchase oils. The other mediums just don’t sell anywhere close to the pace of the oils. (I have heard the same from other galleries as well… which is why they show a bias towards artists who paint oils.)

I did sell 3 (out of 5) 16×20 framed photographs at this same show. So I am glad that I didn’t feel impacted by either bias at that particular show.

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Saren Dobkins February 27, 2014 at 3:24 pm

I live in Melbourne, Australia and have been a practicing artist for 30 years mostly relying on my own sheer determination to make sales, due to the difficulty of getting accepted into local galleries. Reading this article and the comments however, has given me a real insight into the fact this may be an ‘issue’ separate to myself, which is both a relief and an incentive to try and make connections further afield.

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Josef-Peter Roemer February 27, 2014 at 3:39 pm

I think the opinion of Galleries is that local artists are just that local amatures, local yocals painting unprofessional cute pictures. In most cases this is true, just go into a local Co-op Gallery and see what is hanging. Now I’m talking about smaller towns not big cities. My two cents.

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Lynn Bridge February 27, 2014 at 5:55 pm

I have had zero interest from any kind of local gallery, even though my work has caught the attention of national judges, and people are often quite taken with it. We even have a local art museum here that would never consider showing any local artist. Oh, well, a prophet is never taken seriously in his own land, right?

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Brian Billings February 28, 2014 at 9:10 am

Interesting…I’m in AZ and it seems galleries here have lots of local artists or nearby, as long as you paint local genre. Landscapes, SW, Indians, western, etc., either in traditional or abstract, sells well. Anything outside of that, such as surrealism or outsider art, seems to be a hard sell.

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Maggie Smith March 10, 2014 at 8:49 am

No kidding Brian. I also live in Arizona, and it makes me a little ill to go into so many homes decorated with the good old southwest style. It’s lovely and I admire it, but really????? I am constantly educating the non-artist public about what it means to be an artist – the hours, the struggle, the desire to paint that which moves the heart. People are shocked when they learn that galleries take at least (usually) 50% commission. I only sell to people who know me. They want a little piece of me as well as the art, and a story that goes with it. This all for about $200 for a really nicely framed 24″x16″ oil. It almost kills them to pay that much until I remind them that if they purchased this from a gallery they would pay $400 and I would still get just the $200. Dare I tell them that the frame cost $100? When I lived in Oregon, the homes I visited mostly had northwest themes of wolves and elk and such – oh yah, spend $1,000 for a couch and put a print above it – that’s my favorite.

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Rodney Paul February 28, 2014 at 2:03 pm

I work in a gallery and I’m also a working artist! I never understood why galleries never wanted local artist’s works. Now I know why! Several reasons! It IS true that ideas originating farther away have more value. That being said, there are many problems in carrying local art. Local artists want to do local sales, so many (not all) sell behind the gallery’s back at MUCH lower prices! Even with gallery contracts! Many of these same artists are also the least talented and unprofessional in their skill levels and they are constantly in the gallery asking why their work is not selling, or not on the walls. In our city, every bored wealthy housewife decides to become an artist (talented or not) and they end up selling to all their wealthy friends. Then they want to be in our gallery so they can “feel” like they are a “real” artist. They also think our gallery website is their “free” website and are abusive to our website technician about every little detail on their individual gallery page. Dealing with artists farther away is MUCH easier over all.

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John Davis February 28, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Managers who have the described attitude miss the boat and are insesure. The idea of hiring people in the first place is to hire people who add to the company and complement management. They are not hired as competrors.

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Barney Davey March 1, 2014 at 6:30 pm

I have noticed this phenomenon both when working in a corporate job and then watching artists struggle while living in Sedona. I just thought my boss was a blockhead… still do for that matter. ;-) I believe artists are better served to market themselves direct to buyers in their local market. The stigma does not cut that way in those relationships. Plus, it is easier to sell to people who know you than to strangers. You have more prospects, better prospects, more likelihood of gaining referrals and important introductions. Becoming slightly famous is easiest close to home. Then your homers want to buy from you because you are famous. A virtuous circle if there ever was one. Do this right and the local galleries will come to you.

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Missy Friedl-Shipley March 1, 2014 at 8:56 pm

I’ve actually considered making up a whole new persona for my artist self. That way I can be more mysterious and exotic, therefore a “real artist”. I receive such positive reactions and even place in some of the regional show I’ve been excepted into, but still have trouble getting actual representation.

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Theresa Bayer March 6, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Just think, the masters of the Renaissance were all at one time “local artists.”

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dema clark March 7, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Yes, the NPR theory does make sense. No, you aren’t crazy. As for finding local representation, well there are only three galleries here, I know the owners and directors of all the galleries. One is folk art which is hardly ever open; the second is for established high dollar artists only. The third gallery is the new one in town. It has been open less than a year and already changed name and location. It does seem to have a promising future though and I have been invited me to submit samples of my work. I don’t know if I really want them to represent me, so am holding off on submitting my portfolio.

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Jonah Gibson March 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm

I don’t know if this actually applies to artists finding local representation, but I can guarantee you that it works in most business environments. I spent 35 years as a CPA and management accountant, and I can’t count the number of times I have seen management pay substantial amounts to outside consultants to tell them what their employees already knew. The even greater irony is that when the consultants come to do their studies, they get their information and most of their solutions from those same employees.

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Stephen Estrada March 15, 2014 at 6:04 am

I listened to this fascinating story when it came out on NPR and so glad you brought it into the context of the art market. Great theory that boils down to basic survival of our earliest ancestors: Think big picture at a distance, “what direction do I need to move for the next two days to intercept that herd moving across the valley?” vs look critically close up, “which plants at my feet will poison me and which ones can I eat?”

The art market is no different. I find that successful galleries in my area have a healthy mixture of local and out of town artists. Add local competition to out of town competition, finite number of galleries that show your type of work, regional style preferences and you realize that limited wall space for local artists is just a fact of life. A gallery that shows only local artists on a street that has a good variety is probably going to be at a competitive disadvantage just as an artist who only wants to show locally will be at a similar disadvantage. Think back on the ancestors; “Hey Martha, I think we’ll just sit here and wait for the next heard to come by.” Martha, ” You better get off your keister Ughman or we’re gonna starve!”

I lamented same complaint for many years and then set a goal to start sending proposals out on a much wider scale. When I travel I research possible gallery fits in other areas and request meetings when I know I’ll be in town. I continue to keep local galleries that I’m interested in updated on my career. And I’ve met some great artists in other places that I’d have never known before. It’s increased shows and sales and “Martha” is much happier!

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Kathy Rigdon August 30, 2014 at 3:53 pm

I agree, sounds kind of dumb when I say it because I haven’t tried very hard to market my work outside of my state. In many of the high end galleries in our area, you don’t see local artwork. They represent artists from out of state. The only time I see local art is in co-op galleries, and not everyone views them the same. I have entered a few juried shows out of state, and my work was accepted, but it has n’ t been many. Not sure why, something to ponder.

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