Q. How do you feel collectors have evolved in recent years, and what new ideas have you implemented to adapt to these changes?
BROWN: Obviously, the collector has changed a lot over the years. The Internet has created a new kind of collector, someone who’s going to go online, try to find the best price, try to look all over for any different type of art that they want and maybe end up with a relationship on the Internet with somebody. But there’s a large core of people who still love that touch-and-feel effect of going into the gallery and experiencing it in person. So I think that if you keep doing the things that you’ve done in the past, like contact your collectors, do the follow-up, do the thank-you notes, etc., that you’ll retain a big portion of your collector base in this tough economy.
We have tremendous amounts of competition for the wall space and not only with other galleries. In the last couple years, we noticed we were competing against the flat-screen TV. Ten years ago, we would have gotten that spot for a beautiful painting; now we have to look for a reason to carry more upscale art because we have fewer spots to put the paintings. There are all kinds of different evolutions, and it’s part of the market, and you have to just move with the market.
MCAFEE: I think collectors are a lot more computer-savvy, but I think that, deep down, they still want that gallery experience. I think it’s finding that collector on the Internet, possibly, and getting them into that experience. There’s always going to be discounter shoppers out there just looking for the deal, but that’s not who we’re really looking for. We’re looking for the person who maybe finds us in a new way but still wants the experience of meeting the artist, being wined and dined and taking a piece home. The art market needs to look at that as the way we’re going to grow and not worry about the big-box stores and all the discounting out there. If you give them the experience, they’re not going to worry about the discounts. If they’re just out there for the discount, they’re going to find someone else who’s desperate and who’s going to be out of business in a few years anyway. Also, we don’t work with artists that don’t have brick-and-mortar galleries. I don’t want to compete with people who are just on the Internet and don’t have employees and don’t have to turn on their lights and give that customer experience.
PELLETIER: I think that our relationship with the customer is very important today, especially in this type of climate. There’s a lot of hand holding, and I think the client really wants to have a relationship with you for the long term. They want to feel confident in your ability to help them select pieces for their home or their collection, and it’s a longstanding commitment. You have to definitely send your thank-you notes and follow up with the client; make sure you let them know you are appreciative of their support for your gallery.
MERKEL: I think that more people are starting their art collection at a younger age, and luxury art is being redefined. In my opinion, it’s not as classic as it used to be; it’s trendier. People are looking for the newest hip art that’s out there instead of saving for 10 years, or however long, to get that Picasso or Matisse. They’re looking for that hot new emerging artist that’s out there.
BARRY: With the advent of HGTV and Bravo network television shows with do-it-yourself design or modern wall art on Cheapwallarts.com, I think that John Q. Public is a lot more in the know when it comes to design, and he or she is willing to try new things. Artwork certainly falls under that umbrella. So in terms of how collectors have evolved, they’re a little more sophisticated, savvier and a little more willing to try new things. Being able to stay in front of the curve and anticipate new trends and being aware of other design aspects is how you adapt. What new fabric lines are coming out? What’s the new color for the next season? As small as those seem, they can play a part in a big sale here and there, and it all makes a difference.