Clients, Rich and Otherwise


Whether you’re representing yourself, or whether a gallery represents you, you will in time be dealing with a variety of clients assuming that you want to sell your work. As you deal with them, remember this: the wealthy collector, the moderately wealthy collector, and even the not-so-wealthy collector all have one thing in common: they want to connect with your work. The somnolently wealthy you can forget about, since they likely won’t come around in this lifetime, nor possibly even the next.

But for the ones who are awake, to connect with your art makes them feel more alive, even rebellious, especially after all the years of dull, repetitious, mind-numbing work many of them have had to do in acquiring their wealth. Unfortunately that kind of money-chasing often compromises growth, and can create an imbalance that is reflected by harsh acquisitiveness, appalling selfishness, and virtually no awareness.

When you meet certain of these people, you may see how their dignity suffered as a result of that chase, how all too often their goals were misplaced, weren�t sufficiently rewarding, or were assigned undue priority. This may make them depressed, half-alive, or primitive in outlook, consumed by the misery of their greed. All too often this is the case. Their fixation with money likely screwed up their marriage, their kids, their own lives, leaving them drained of humanity, outside the feast of life, with them now trying, through art, to reach for greater meaning.

Or perhaps they care nothing about a life of meaning, and are simply insatiable consumers who can never have enough stuff paintings and sculpture included.

Or perhaps they’re just sophisticated lovers of art, leading lives of consideration and generosity, reaping the rewards of their hard work, and enjoying the life of plenty that can sometimes be achieved in this curious, wonderful, overwrought land.

Whatever their individual natures, the rich do have a place in our system, and while it might not ultimately be as important as many of them think it is, it is still significant. Their businesses help create jobs, many of them passionately support the arts, and, when of the visionary sort, they do things for the underprivileged that you and I can only dream of.� Regardless of who they are, and how benevolent they may or may not be, you must not judge them, you should never envy them, and you certainly should never allow yourself to be intimidated by them.

Be cool when dealing with the rich, be confident, but be humble. Like anyone, they are only looking for acceptance. Accept them if they behave themselves. If they do not, if they offer you absurdly low prices for work that you know is fairly priced, quietly decline. They�ll respect that, and will probably come back later. But if they become insolent and disrespectful, show them the freaking door. On occasion it feels good to do this to those who so rarely have it done to them. It will be good for you, and possibly later even good for them.

Then there are other clients: teachers, physicians, small businessmen and women, architects, housewives, househusbands, lawyers, bankers, stock brokers, priests, rabbis, and a whole range of other people who are potentially interested in what you do.

Some of these people may know nothing about art. Good, don’t play the snob game with them (not everyone needs to be versed in the arts); instead, kindly teach them. As I’ve already mentioned, anyone can respond to art. It is your job, and your dealers, to help the less educated of your clients do so. The art world should not be a coded society where only those with the proper enunciation, attire, and hip phrases of the moment are allowed entry. That sort of exclusion only perpetuates the ignorance, when the point should be to eradicate it.

It may be that several of your potential collectors can barely afford art. Fine, allow them to make payments. For some of these people it might be their first acquisition, and the first in a series of steps where they open that window to the soul�the creative one I mean. Art can help them do this, whether they’re acquiring or creating it. Congratulate them on having vision.

Still other clients may live lives that are already full and flowing, where their lifestyle is virtually a work of art itself. Maybe they’re more alive than even you or I. Wonderful, then buying your work will only complement what is already impassioned.

Treat all of these clients well, regardless of their monetary status. They’ll appreciate that, and will express the appreciation by buying more work, and by sending friends and relatives who will do the same. The best of them will share their wealth rather than horde it, and the circle of prosperity that they help perpetuate is one you may well be grateful to be a part of. Some of these people, the rich included, can be incredibly open and generous; allow them to be, allow them to help you, since you’l never achieve all of your goals on your own.

Finally, when a client buys a piece, it is cause for rejoicing and I mean for everyone involved. A sale should never be seen as a one-sided victory for the artist or gallery, where perhaps a client was fleeced, paying excessively for a work that will never maintain its assigned value. Unfortunately, I’ve been in many galleries who deal in just this way. People who view each success in one-sided terms tend to lead unbalanced, one-sided lives. I advise you to avoid this, and avoid galleries that function under this narrow view. You�ll only find misery with that attitude, never contentment. After all, how do you think so many of the rich wound up being so miserable?

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