“If you have to sell the art, it can’t be that good! Art, if it’s good, will sell itself.” Yes, I believe there is some truth to that. I have had clients come and see a sculpture of mine and fall in love with it and buy it.
Fifteen years later, I’ll see them around town and they can’t stop talking about how much they enjoy it daily. That’s a great feeling! But the more I do shows, the more I see that people sometimes need a good prompting to encourage them to spend money on art. I’m getting braver about this, too, because I realize I don’t have much to lose. As I talk to people, I’ve discovered that far more people suffer from ‘not buying regret’ rather than ‘buyer’s regret.’
I’ve had people almost in tears pleading with me to squeeze one more out of an edition after they have found out that it has sold out and the sculpture is no longer available. I, too, suffer from this same scenario. It was while I was on my honeymoon with my young bride on one of the Gulf Islands. On one of our day trips, we visited a local gallery in Ganges. I fell completely in love with this stone sculpture of two stylized tumbling ravens. It was great-it had so many under cuts and cut throughs and perspectively it was perfect from every side. I was overwhelmed with the artist’s technical ability and the captured sense of motion and beauty. The only thing that kept me back was the price. At that time of my young career as an artist, $5800 was a lot of money! I didn’t think it was quite the right moment to put that hefty expenditure on my bride! Now, looking back, I sure wish I had. I should have asked about a lay away plan or scraped up every dollar I could have found. I still to this day think back on that piece and know if I had bought it, I would not have regretted it an ounce. Sure there would have been sacrifice, but it was well worth it. So I sit here with regret.
Note from ‘the young bride’: As I sit here typing this up for my husband, trying to make sense of his scrawled words and correct his grammar, I have to add my two bits to clarify! It was the dream honeymoon on a ‘small island in the Pacific.’ Well that small island was SALTSPRING which happens to be just a ferry ride away! It was all we could afford! I didn’t resent getting engaged before he could afford a ring, sewing my own wedding dress for a total of $100, going for the American-style luncheon instead of formal dinner, or even the week on Saltspring instead of some exotic location because true love is worth all that and more. There are sacrifices involved with marrying an artist who has a grand total of three sculptures in his collection! $5800 was pretty well his entire year’s income back then! Buyer’s regret or no, had he shelled it out, there would have been more than ‘buyer’s regret!’
If, however, he had been able to work out a deal where he could have traded sculpture, we would have both been happy. My advice: a little balance is a good thing! Yes, art is important-it brings beauty and pleasure to us every
day, and if you find a piece you love and buying it doesn’t mean deciding between the piece of art or eating and paying your mortgage, by all means, go ahead. If you can cut in another area of pleasure to afford it, I say, ‘what’s taking you so long?’ If you really can’t afford it but you love it, my advice is to talk to the artist. What is your business? What can you offer? Find out if the artist is willing to trade. Artists love art. They also don’t tend to have a lot of cash for extra perks. Be creative. If a house painter offered to paint my house on the weekends in trade, or a dentist offered dental work,
or someone had nice furniture they were about to upgrade, or a person had air miles and a week’s timeshare-I’d sure consider these! All I’m saying is ‘be creative.’ Artists are creative by nature! Just don’t be offensive. We work so hard and sacrifice so much in order to produce art. Nathan has traded art for a week’s vacation with our family complete with tours in the client’s private airplane, several paintings and other sculptures, a new septic field, and most recently, a hand-made electric guitar that he tells me is a work of art in itself even if he can’t play a lick! A fair trade makes everyone happy.
Back to Nathan:
Now back to my shows. I see several people a year who see a piece of mine and are moved by it but walk away because of the price-or they think they’ll wait until next year. I’ve started to wise up and realize that it’s not that people can’t afford it-they just have never spent this kind of money on art before. They’d easily spend the same money on a vacation or on a home renovation, but they aren’t used to giving themselves the same pleasure through art. I must point out however, that long after your vacation memories fade and your home renovation becomes obsolete, a good quality bronze sculpture continues to bring pleasure to you every time you look at it. After all, it does come with a 10,000 year warranty! It becomes an heirloom in your family for generations.
It also helps people to realize why a sculpture is so expensive. Buying a hand-crafted bronze sculpture is an extensive process and the material costs are a large part of it. I can’t tell you how many people have taken a tour through my foundry and seen the process we go through to create a sculpture, that come out saying, “I had no idea there was so much involved to creating a sculpture!”
So when a perspective client is waffling, such as the two I had at a show last year, I ask them if they would regret it later if they walked away. They both agreed that they would and took the risky step of buying a quality piece of art for the first time in their lives. Each walked away exceedingly pleased with their purchase. They will enjoy it every time they see it. If you love a piece of art, you will never regret the pleasure that it brings you. In my experience, the more I wrestled with it and sacrificed to have it because I just loved it, the more I enjoy it.