The Ideal Fine Art Transaction

The interaction between artist and buyer is a funny space. With money for art, clients are indeed investing in art, they’re investing in the artist with a belief that they will continue to make good art in the future. At least, this is what the savvy art buyers do. Naturally, there is also a plethora of people who buy a Banksy poster from the dollar store who don’t fall into this dynamic…

Supporting art and artists, in my mind, is necessary for our world. Art, all art, fuels society. It helps generate creativity in everybody, it helps raise questions, it encourages thought, it transforms reality, it awakens a voice inside the soul that speaks and gives opportunity to listen.

Without art, I fear monotony. Without supporting artists, we have no art.

In my quest as an artist, I’ve had multiple interactions with art buyers, creative connoisseurs, or brave patrons who have been interested in, and some who have bought, my art. Sometimes the interaction goes great. The buyer is excited, is patient, and proud to own a piece of my work.. Other times, something gets lost.

The ideal fine art transaction goes as follows:

Buyer contacts artist

First and foremost, the buyer must contact the artist, or the seller, and tell them he is interested in the work.

Discussion about what buyer wants

Either the buyer wants an already existing piece, or wants to commission a piece of art.

If the request is a commission, there should always be discussion here about what is desired by the patron. Without this, buyer and seller are not on the same page.

If it’s not a commission, then the buyer most likely has a piece in mind they love and want to buy. Sometimes the artist will have the piece in a store, sometimes it will just be off of the artists blog, sometimes it may be at a show or on the wall of a café.

In this step, and all steps of the transaction, I want to point out that it’s ok for the buyer to show a lot of interest. Showing your interest and support for an artist’s work will encourage them to give you a better deal on that piece or future pieces, to keep you in the loop of future projects and work, and will create a great bond between you and the artist.

One should also discuss the delivery of the art. Sometimes shipping will be a very big fee.

Depending on the price of the piece, and the materials needed for the commission, sometimes it’s necessary to discuss a down payment on the art. A payment that will at least cover all the cost of the materials, should the buyer decide to back out of the deal. This offers some kind of security. Not only does the artist put time (sometimes days or weeks) into their art, materials cost a lot. So, being the artist stuck with a completed commissioned work, and no money to pay for it, is a real drag.

There should also be a dialog about the total payment for the piece, if it’s expensive enough, it might take a few payments.

Producing the piece

The artist must then perform the expected duties discussed in the previous step to produce the art! This is usually the fun part because it offers a space for creativity and trust.

When a patron comes to an artist, they are doing so based on previous work they’ve seen of the artist and wants to show the artist that they believe in them, that they believe the artist will be able to create more like it in the future, and that they will continue to build upon their already existing library of art. This is defined by one word: respect. The patron respects the artists, the artist respects the patrons commitment. I suppose the buyer may just like a piece and want to have it in their house…

Often times, this stage is met with confusion. In many commercial or popular productions of art, the artist looses artistic freedom, and melds their own vision to that of the buyer or employer. This confuses both the artist trying to listen to their mind and soul to express their art, and it confuses the patron because they believe this is how fine art works. It’s a weird state where the patron is trying to create through the artist. Sometimes it may work, other times it may not. Inspiration is a funny thing and the dynamic is truly marvelous.

Ideally, the buyer is vague, and the artist delivers their vision.

Delivering the goods and payment

If not in the last stage, this stage there should always be lots of photographs. As an artist, we must document our journey. It is so easy with a camera/video/voice that we should have no problem doing this. The buyer should have no misleadings about what they’re buying, and having photographs to see the materialization of the piece is priceless.

Payment should be made before any shipping is done. Always receive payment, or have the payment plan discussed prior to shipping.

Shipping art can be very tedious business. Professional packers work really well, and shippers are needed for international sales. The last thing we want as an artist is for our art to reach its destination and be broken, ripped, or punctured.

Further, the buyer wants to see their artwork has been handled with care, that the artist also respected their art before they sent it away. Packaging can even be made part of the art. Clever boxes, custom stamps, stickers, or even a certificate of authenticity can go a long way to make the buyer more excited with their purchase.

Follow up

Keeping contact with a buyer is important.

First, it allows the buyer to feel happy about their purchase, and enables them to monitor the growth of the artist.

For the artist, it’s also a great way to keep a connection with a possible future supporter.

But, most importantly, it allows for there to be a dialog between the artist and the buyer as to the satisfaction of the deal. Sometimes if the relationship is built properly, the artist can ask the buyer for feedback on the process, and if the buyer would like anything else in the deal to make it more enjoyable.

This is the story of an ideal fine art transaction.

Have any discrepancies?



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