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ArtSeen, Inc.—An Art Consulting Business

By June Linowitz

InPrint—Maryland Printmakers Newsletter

July 7, 2000

When I started ArtSeen Inc. almost 4 years ago I knew that I wanted to make original fine art easily available to people. I had come to the realization that galleries are not considered an option for finding art by a majority of the people. Galleries are seen as elitist and aloof and people would rather buy a reproduction of a work they know than risk appearing stupid and uneducated in a gallery. It isn’t that people don’t want art. They do. It’s simply that people aren’t being educated about or exposed to art anymore. When I started ArtSeen I had seen data showing that people spend 70% of their waking hours in their place of business. I therefore decided that by selling and leasing original fine art to businesses and corporations I would be exposing people to fine art in an efficient way. It was my supposition that if people were exposed to original fine art they would learn to appreciate art, and eventually want to buy it.

One thing that makes ArtSeen different from other art consulting businesses is that we lease as well as sell art. I decided to lease art for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to make original fine art easily available. People are intrigued with the idea of leasing art. They like the idea of being able to try it out. They also like the idea of being able to pay for it over a period of time and leasing makes that possible. It is interesting to note that around 90% of the time, the clients simply purchase the art. But leasing gets me in the door and once I am in the door I almost always end up doing business.

The other reason I want to lease original art is that I believe artists should stop hanging their art for free. Too many artists are willing to hang their work any place that offers the opportunity. I believe that unless the work is hanging in an exhibition space that provides a reception, promotion for the artist, and a staff to sell the art, the artist should be paid for the privilege of viewing the artist’s work. I have received calls from businesses stating “We just spent 5 million dollars on a build out. We’ve got new furniture and new carpeting and we have a terrific opportunity for you. You can come and hang your art and if something sells we won’t even charge you a commission!” I respond with “You just bought the carpet and the furniture and you want the art for free? Did you offer the furniture dealer the opportunity to display his furniture for free?” But even as I say this I know they’re going to find someone else who will see it as an “opportunity”. An important thing that I’ve learned since I’ve started leasing art is that businesses understand business. They’re used to leasing their furniture, their copy machines, their telephone systems, and their cars. Leasing art is not a big stretch for them and they respect it as a business option. If artists stopped hanging their art for free, businesses would start including art in their budgets. I truly believe that if artists want to be in the position of living from their art, they have to start charging, even a nominal fee, for decorating people’s offices. They have to believe that their work is of value and that people should pay for the privilege of hanging it in the offices. We live in a country where people seem to only value what they pay for. As long as art is free it won’t truly be valued. If every artist agreed not to hang art in business places unless some fee was paid to the artist, people would begin to see art and artists differently.

Artists would begin to see themselves differently too. They would begin to view and conduct themselves as the small business people that they are. Artists shouldn’t believe that because they take the business side of their profession seriously, their muses won’t visit them anymore. It is my experience that the more exhibited and collected an artist is, the more professionally s/he conducts his/her business.

An artist who conducts him/herself professionally is a pleasure to represent. There are a lot of artists in this area and I’ve discovered that over time I am more likely to sell the work of an artists who makes our professional association easy. By “making our association easy” I mean that they’re willing and available to bring me artwork when I need it. They present their work well. They send me quality slides of their current work and keep me informed of their exhibitions. Being informed is important because it helps me to market the artist. Clients want to know about the artists they’re collecting and the more information I have, the easier my job becomes. The artist who is a pleasure to represent also knows how to price his/her work. I always know I’m dealing with an amateur if the prices are way out of line with the exhibition history. Artists just starting out usually price their work by visiting galleries and seeing what the art costs. That’s a good strategy but it fails to take into account the exhibition history. In the art market, price is largely determined by the resume of the artist. Experienced artists know this. Many of my clients know this too. When I quote the price of a work I might be asked to support the price with a resume. If the work is out of line with the resume I can’t support it and I can’t represent it.

I have been successful in selling and leasing fine art prints to a wide variety of businesses. Many times I’ve had to educate my clients. There is a wide understanding that paintings and sculptures are original works of art but prints aren’t necessarily seen that way. People often don’t know what an original fine art print is and who can blame them? Galleries are producing signed and limited edition Giclée prints and marketing them as original fine art prints. Some artists make offset lithographs of their work, sign and number them, and then sell them as fine art prints. I find I often have to educate clients about the artist pulled print. But once I do, I can often develop clients who are devoted collectors of the artist pulled fine art print. I’ve made, and occasionally continue to make, prints. It is a medium and technique that I love. I am enthusiastic about the print and it is my hope that I pass this enthusiasm and my love of the print on to the client.

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