Lenny

The Dynamics of Buying a Work of Art

After setting up hundreds of art shows in galleries over the years, and dealing with both novice and experienced collectors, I am sometimes still amused by the dynamics that go into the decision to buy (or more often than not pass) a piece of art.

And I have detected a pattern most easily seen at an art fair.

Put together a few thousand people, paying an entry fee to enter the fair, an assortment of dealers, and a huge diverse variety of offerings and it’s an education in people watching.

The married couple:
“Do you like it?”
“Yeah, I like it- it’s just what we’ve been looking for.”
“Where would we put it?”
“We have a couple of spots that it’d fit.”
“Do you really like it.”
“Yeah, how about you?”
“Yeah, I kinda of like it.”
“Should we get it?”
“If you want it.”

(five minutes later)
“Let’s think about it.”
“OK”
[To me] “Do you have a business card?”

The couple (not married):
Her: “Do you like it?”
Him: “Sssoright”
Her: “Where would we put it?”
Him: “Dunno.”
Her: “Do you really like it.”
Him: “So’OK.. Yeah, how about you?”
Her: “Yeah, I kinda, sorta, really like it.”
Him: “Dunno though”
Her: “What? You don’t like it?”
Him: “If you want it.”
(five minutes later)
Him: “Let’s think about it.”
Her or Him: “OK” [To me] “Do you have a business card?”

The Single Woman (SW) with a Woman Friend:
SW: “WOW! Now, I really like this!”
Friend: “Yeah… it’s nice”
SW: “It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for!”
Friend: “I have a friend who does work just like this…”
SW: “I am really drawn to it!”
Friend: “Are you really sure you like it?”
SW: “Uh - yeah!… why? Don’t you like it?”
Friend: “Yeah… it’s OK”
SW: “I think it’s really good… I think it’s the first piece in this whole show that I really like.”
Friend: “There’s a few more booths we haven’t seen.”
SW: “I think I’m going to buy this.”
Friend: “Are you sure?”
SW: “Uh - yeah!… It’s a good price too…. why? Don’t you like it?”
(five minutes later)
SW: “Do you have a business card?”

The Single Woman (SW) with a Man Friend:
SW: “WOW! Now, I really like this!”
Friend: “Yeah… Cool”
SW: “It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for!”
Friend: “I think it’s a lithograph” [it's actually a charcoal]
SW: “I am really drawn to it!”
Friend: “Are you really sure you like it?”
SW: “Uh - yeah!… why? Don’t you like it?”
Friend: “I have something like it… I got it cheaper though…”
SW: “I think it’s really good… I think it’s the first piece in this whole show that I really like.”
Friend: “You like lithographs?”
SW: “I think I’m going to buy this.”
Friend: “Are you sure?”
SW: “Uh - yeah!… It’s a good price too…. why? Don’t you like it?”
(five minutes later)
SW: “Do you have a business card?”

The Single Focus Dream Buyer:
[Walks straight up to one piece, never looks at the rest of the work in your booth]
“I’ll take this”
[Me] “Thank you… it’s a very striking charcoal drawing - will be that be a check or charge?”
“Charge
[Me] “I can send you more information on this artist…”
“That will be great - I love this work - it’s exactly what I’m interested in!”
[Me] “I have a few more pieces here, would you like to see them?”
“No, thanks…”

The “I’m glad you’re here guy (IGYHG)”:
IGYHG: “Hey! I’ve been looking for you!”
[Me]: “Hi, how are you?”
IGYHG: “… been walking this whole fair looking for you!”
[Me]: “Yeah… lots of dealers this year… glad you found us!”
IGYHG: “Howsa been goin’?”
[Me]: “Yes… quite good actually…”
IGYHG: “Well, let me look at what you’ve got!”
[three minutes later]
IGYHG: “Well… I’m glad you’re here… see ya next year!”

The “I Shudda Bought It Last Year Guy (Shudda)”:
Shudda: “Hey! You’re here again!”
[Me]: “Hi, how are you? Yeah… It’s our 7th year here…”
Shudda: “… been walking this whole fair looking for you!”
[Me]: “Yeah… lots of dealers this year… glad you found us!”
Shudda: “Howsa been goin’?”
[Me]: “Yes… quite good actually…”
Shudda: “Well, let me look at what you’ve got!”
[three minutes later]
Shudda: “Where’s that really good watercolor of the fill-in-the-blank?”
[Me]: “Uh… I sold it last year - but I have a few more pieces by that artist.”
Shudda: “Ah! - I really wanted that one! Do you have another one?”
[Me]: “Well, no… it was an original watercolor, and I sold it; but I have —”
Shudda: “I really wanted that piece; and it was a good price too…”
[Me]: “Maybe you’d like some of his new work…”
Shudda: “I shudda bought it last year”
[Walks away]
Shudda: “You gonna be here next year?”

The “Where’s That Piece Guy (WTP)”:
WTP: “Hey! You’re here again!”
[Me]: “Hi, how are you? Yeah… It’s our 7th year here…”
WTP: “… been walking this whole fair specifically looking for you!”
[Me]: “Yeah… lots of dealers this year… glad you found us!”
WTP: “Howsa been goin’?”
[Me]: “Yes… quite good actually…”
WTP: “OK… last year I saw this piece… it was a fill-in-the-bank and I should have bought it then! “
[Me]: “Yeah… that is a nice piece.”
WTP: “I’ve been thinking about it for a whole year”
[Looks around the booth and doesn't see it]
WTP: “Do you still have it?”
[From here there are two paths...]
Path One -
[Me]: “Uh… I sold it last year - but I have a few more pieces by that artist.”
WTP: “Ah! - I really wanted that one! Do you have another one?”
[Me]: “Well, no… it was an original watercolor, and I sold it; but I have —”
WTP: “I really wanted that piece; and it was a good price too…”
[Me]: “Maybe you’d like some of his new work…”
WTP: “I shudda bought it last year”
[Walks away]
WTP: “You gonna be here next year?”
Path Two
[Me]: “Let me get it for you… I have it in the back!”
WTP: “Great”
[I bring it out and give to WTP]
WTP: “Yeah this is it! It’s great!”
[Me]: “This artist has done really well this last year and —”
WTP: [Handing it back] “Excellent! I’m glad you still have it… until what time are you going to be here?”

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3 Comments »

  1. September 17, 2008 @ 3:27 pm

    Cindy Said,

    and one more/2 parts…Usually an older woman to me…Wow your work is beautiful! Could you….

    1.) teach me what you do/know in a weekend?

    or 2

    2.) that looks so simple that a child could do it….

  2. September 18, 2008 @ 11:38 am

    James Said,

    Hi, I found your blog on this new directory of WordPress Blogs at blackhatbootcamp.com/listofwordpressblogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, i duno. Anyways, I just clicked it and here I am. Your blog looks good. Have a nice day. James.

  3. October 8, 2008 @ 11:12 am

    Felice Said,

    Enjoyed your funny (& sad) art-fair conversations, thanks! I definitely saw myself in the single focus interaction — note to self: next time my art radar hones in on something at an art fair, at least pretend to skim other work for the artist’s sake!

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