Many passionate artists prefer to spend more time creating art than on the logistics of selling it. In such cases, they partner up with art sales professionals to take care of all sales and marketing aspects of their crafts. Several types of partnerships exist in the contract art sales business. Some relate to individual pieces while others include full representation of the artist and his entire collection of works.
Consignment art sales are basically an agreement between an artist and dealer in which the dealer sells pieces on the artist's behalf. Both parties enter into a contract that states the terms and conditions of sales, marketing and associated seller's fees related to the art. Generally, both parties agree on a minimum selling price, and the seller retains a percentage of the profit once the piece is sold. The seller handles all aspects of displaying, marketing and selling the artwork. This type of sales contract can apply to art pieces shown in art shows and events as well as in both brick-and-mortar and online art galleries.
Another type of art sales contract is an auction partnership. In such cases, the artist's works are professionally appraised by fine art auctioneers, who then make an offer to buy the art based on an estimated minimum value. The artist and auctioneer enter into an agreement that provides the artist with a percentage of the profit earned -- above what was already paid to her -- when the piece sells. In some cases, a seller's fee may apply. A seller's fee is a percentage of the final selling price of the artwork that the auctioneer must pay to the auction house in which the piece is sold. This fee is usually shared by the artist and her auction partner.
As an alternative to contract art sales and business partnerships, some artists market and sell art through online portfolio hosting websites. Foliotwist provides artists with online art galleries and shopping cart services in which they can promote their paintings and manage sales free of charge. Membership also includes features such as a free domain name, Web hosting, email addresses and merchant service integration. As of 2011, Foliotwist offers two types of memberships priced at $24.95 and $39.95. Similar online portfolios such as Artbreak and ISpyArt are completely free to join and none require a sales commission (see Resources). Artists also use these sites in addition to consignment deals and auction partners to enhance marketability and increase art sales.
One form of partnership in the art sales business is the artist-agent relationship. Hiring an art sales agent is an ideal way for artists to focus primarily on painting instead of sales and marketing. Agents usually use combinations of sales techniques -- including online galleries, auction partnering and consignment deals -- to sell and market your art and professional reputation. Representative agents are typically paid based on commission as an incentive for them sell paintings at the maximum price. The percentage of commission paid per painting to a representative agent may vary between 20 and 50 percent, according to the Professional Artist website.