The visual art world is intimidating to many people. Traditionally, a piece of art was purchased by a reputable gallery, where experienced staff would help you determine quality art and direct you toward what you should buy. Unfortunately, only a small segment of our society has been willing or able to approach galleries in this way. There is a distance between consumers and the artist who wants to sell their artwork. The result is that most people feel they don’t know where to begin to find out about art, and they think that it is too much work or to costly to consider purchasing original artwork.
I like to make a comparison between art with music when I approach this problem. Music is everywhere in our culture and people don’t have any difficulty deciding what they like and what they don’t like. When someone listens to the radio and a song comes on they immediately turn it up or turn it off. They know right away how they feel about it. When someone finds a song, or a musical artist they like they pass it on to their friends with a stamp of approval. Hearing short excerpts of songs on line or in a store give people enough to make a decision to buy a CD or buy a song. There is no distance between the music and the consumer. They interact freely and directly.
This is not happening for visual art. The gallery system is struggling; there is only a smattering of picture framing shops in Grand Rapids that also operate as galleries. Most serious artists trying to sell their work are scrabbling to fill the void and find a way to make themselves available to the marketplace. You go to a museum or to a corporate building and you see art. You go downtown and you see public works. Art is around to be seen but where is the outlet to buy it, at a reasonable price, from local artists? It is not an easy journey for someone seeking to acquaint themselves with living artists or to buy their work. The impetuous is on the consumer interested in art to go out and find an artist they like at an art fair, artists market, open studio event, or on-line. I have been lucky to find a couple of art consultants http://www.360seegallery.com http://www.progressiveart.net who place my work in corporate and public buildings, and work with designers who are looking for wall décor.
Change needs to occur for visual art to flourish like music. And there is some transformation going on with the growth of on-line trade and social media. The visual art world is slowly adjusting and hopefully there will be more and more avenues readily available for art enthusiasts to explore the world of living artists and buy their work.