Where are the art lovers?

While I’ve no data to prove my opinion, I’ve always believed that only a tiny percentage of people include art among their interests and even fewer are motivated to actually consider buying a work of art. That is not to say there is no appreciation of art by those persons, but any interest is superficial and unlikely to lead a person to consider an art purchase. Another level of appreciation can be acquired by investing the time to discriminate between the original and a reproduction! Art is truly an acquired taste – no different than the experience of discovering a new food or drink. While I had been introduced to good art via reproductions as early as elementary school and had included an art appreciation course while at college, my own appreciation of original art evolved over a long period of time. In fact, most of my first purchases were serendipitous!

Those early art purchases were made while living in Britain and during the early years of my marriage before returning to Scotland with our young family. At the time, most British families chose wallpaper rather than paint for home wall decoration. I’m unsure how this traditional element of home decoration came about, but wallpaper was considered an art form in the 18th and 19th centuries. Quality wallpaper was rather expensive, however, with the additional cost of time and labor to hang – so my wife and I, while choosing some furniture items decided to leave the builder’s neutral wall color and hang pictures instead. Our first purchases were prints – we thought. When we got home and examined them more carefully, including the labels on the backs, we realized our prints were original paintings. Well, watercolors, to be more accurate.

While Americans have probably never decorated with wallpaper to the extent of the British, paintings (or even prints) seldom represent a focal point in American homes. As my interest in art, particularly watercolor, grew so did our wall “exhibition”. Soon, every room was hung with a variety of art work, with a few antique items for balance. Today, there are thirteen watercolors and oils hanging in a small living room and many more in every room of the house (except the kitchen).

As I’ve communicated in previous posts, my desire while divesting myself of a large collection of art was to find a way of attracting people who would appreciate the paintings, watercolor, and prints that I’ve acquired. This website is my primary means of reaching out to people and providing them with an opportunity to own a quality, original piece of art at an affordable price. I’ve good examples in every price category – except what I call the “upper tier” of the art market which was never within my budget.

Despite my efforts to build a website that is attractive and simple to navigate, my objective has fallen short. This is partially because I’ve not been successful in acquiring adequate search results, and I’ve done a very limited amount of advertising. I’ve discovered that if one of my listed artists is searched in Bing there has been a high level of success with links on one of the first three pages of results. Google, on the other hand, almost never includes a link to my site with the same search perimeters. Only collectors or dealers are likely to search by artist’s name – so other prospective buyers will need to include search elements that match my listings, and that doesn’t often happen. My advertising has been exclusively on Facebook, where I have had some success, but most clicks do not go beyond the Facebook link for details and/or other listings.

There are other reasons for my lack of success, however. Perhaps the first that should be mentioned is my targeted market. Most of my collection consists of art by British or European artists and there is limited interest by American collectors for international art. Additionally, every online buyer of art will be aware that international shipping charges make purchases almost prohibitive. While I’ve taken that into account when quoting estimates, many prospective buyers may not understand how to factor in what is obviously a considerable part of the cost of the art. The need to secure a revised estimate for international shipping creates another obstacle for the buyer.

The most obvious reason for my lack of success finding buyers on this website is revealed in the first sentence of this blog – I’m appealing to a very small market composed of far more dealers (or dealer/collectors) than individuals looking for a singular artwork. I welcome dealers, but they can only buy when there is a reasonable expectation for a markup of at least 100%. Among the few individuals looking for a one-time purchase, few have ever bought art online before and are justifiably sceptical of an online seller without a physical place of business. And, there must be some cynicism about a seller asking for offers rather than listing a price!

I can only hope that eventually the search engines will direct more people to my site! I have a wealth of information about every artist and, in many cases, the history of the art with respect to the previous owner – and sometimes more. With respect to the natural concerns about buying art online, I can only say that I’ve bought art from every conceivable source and my purchases online have, with a single exception, always been equally successful. I’ve accepted returns a few times (in one case the painting returned was sold a second time at more than double the original price), and never had to refund a buyer due to damage in shipment.

Finally, all of the art remaining when this site is closed will be gifted to family and friends or offered to public galleries and museums. So long as this Internet Gallery is open, serious offers – whether high or low – will be given serious consideration. My desire is that every item is acquired for the love of art and will be enjoyed by the new owner as much as I’ve enjoyed it. This site has extended my pleasure for a while longer, and if I’m finally able to attract the attention of a few more art lovers, that will be be an added bonus.

By Lowe

Retired director of Thistle Fine Art.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *