Artists are always looking for new places to sell art. If you’re tired of the same old galleries and the online merry-go-round, then take a look at these 3 unconventional places to sell your art.
Hospitals, hotels, and gift shops
Hospitals have a captive audience in need of something nice to look at while they’re waiting around for hours (or days!). Hotels have empty walls that need filling and some life breathed into them. And gift shops, the alternative to galleries but where shoppers visit with the intention of spending their money.
Let’s tick them off one by one and you can decide if any of these sound right for you.
#1 Place to Sell Art: Hospitals and Healthcare
Hospitals have realized that art can help create an atmosphere of peace in which healing may occur. They want art on walls, in waiting rooms, and even in the gift shop!
And healthcare is a rapidly expanding market. Artists are being employed in the healthcare industry to decorate hospital walls, paint murals, and design waiting rooms.
Corporations are hiring design specialists and corporate art consultants to find artwork in the healthcare field, commissioning artists to create art, and training artists to teach patients.
GPs in the UK are even prescribing art and culture as an alternative to medication as a therapeutic aid to recovery and mental well-being.
This new wave of thinking offers artists some alternative places to sell art.
So how do you sell your art to hospitals?
Why Do Hospitals Buy Artwork?
Many hospitals take art and interior design seriously as part of the healing process. Indeed the majority have some kind of budget to buy art.
Hospitals will often request proposals for artwork when they are either building a new hospital or remodeling an existing one. They indicate the suitable theme and appearance required and set a budget for purchasing the art.
They recognize the therapeutic value of art in the healing process, and they know that the right artwork can create an atmosphere of peace in which a patient may heal.
Hospitals also realize the importance of high-quality art for their lobby areas, corridors, and waiting rooms so that visitors will feel welcome. And it’s not confined to major hospitals, clinics, GP Surgeries, and hospices all require art for their rooms and waiting areas too.
These are perfect places to sell art.
What Are The Benefits of Selling Art in a Hospital?
The benefits of showcasing your art in a hospital environment are huge, the exposure to hospital visitors is incredible.
There’s a lot to be said for a captive audience and combine that with the enormous turnover of new faces introduced to your art for the first time every single day, make these prime places to sell art.
Hundreds of new people will pass by and see your art for the first time and that means that you have the potential to reach a whole new audience.
And let’s not forget the resident staff who’ll get to know and see your art every day. Don’t underestimate the power of familiarity. If you have prints available to order you can expect some interest. I’ve sold prints just by carrying my portfolio around and chatting.
Some hospitals also have permanent collections of artwork on display, and sometimes they will list the artist on their website to help promote it as well, which is a great way to get exposure for your work because many people visit these sites.
Hospitals may be looking for artists who are currently working in a certain style, but they will usually be open to other proposals.
Some hospitals may have limited budgets for art purchases so don’t expect them to buy your artwork outright; instead, you can offer the hospital an opportunity to work with you on collaborative projects.
It’s a win-win situation for both the artist and the hospital with the added benefit of free advertising in an environment where people will be receptive to your work.
What Kind of Art Do Hospitals Want?
Your art must be life-affirming, forget existential angst! Your art must delight the eye and soul.
Hospitals want to be uplifted, they are looking for something that provokes a strong feeling of beauty or joy. They do not want anything morbid or depressing in their public spaces.
It is important to remember that your art must also be appropriate – avoid topics such as religion, politics, or any other controversial subjects.
Hospitals are looking for art that is inoffensive and appropriate to the environment.
If you have never exhibited in a hospital before, here is what to consider:
- Hospitals generally prefer realism.
- Impressionism is great too if the subjects are clearly recognizable.
- Abtract art is not out of the question if your colors are calming. Think about color schemes inspired by nature.
- Landscapes and nature featuring sublime and peaceful scenes are also popular.
- Garden and floral paintings will be very popular.
- People in a scene have to be relaxed and friendly.
So if hospitals and clinics are great places to sell art how ddo you do it?
Who Do You Contact to Sell Art in a Hospital?
Many hospital art collections operate like galleries in that they either have a staff or hire art advisors to acquire artworks.
Many hospitals hire art advisors or consultants to curate their collections and purchase new artworks.
Some hospitals take a more passive approach and have in-house staff responsible for acquiring and displaying artworks and prioritize local artists whose work and subjects reflect the local community.
Many Art advisors and curators try to find new artists by attending art fairs and gallery openings and some hospitals also purchase from the temporary exhibits they host.
To get your art exhibited (and sold) your best bet is to try to find the local art consultants who get the contract and advertise your work to them.
Easier said than done but start by approaching the hospital directly and asking who in the hospital management is responsible for buying or outsourcing their art purchases and follow each lead. Eventually, you will find the right contact.
You can also search for consultants online. Joining art-related groups on Linkedin is one way. I found this resource too which might help artists in the US to find leads.
Find Out if Your Local Hospitals Have Art Exhibitions
Some hospitals have dedicated spaces for public exhibitions and it’s worth asking around to see if your local hospitals have temporary or rotating shows.
These types of exhibitions give artists the chance to show their work to people who would never normally visit a gallery in other circumstances, it’s a whole new demographic ready to be tapped.
An exhibition will give you the chance to sell your work and many hospitals will not only help you find a gallery space but will also provide insurance for your artwork.
Does Your Hospital Have a Retail Outlet That Sells Art?
Another way of getting your art into hospitals is to approach the retail stores attached to them. It opens up potential places to sell art prints and merchandise.
It’s another opportunity to increase your exposure and sell multiple affordable prints of your artwork.
A friend of mine managed to set up his own weekend booth in his local hospital and did very well. He got to know the staff and there was a constant stream of visitors in need of presents for their loved ones.
It was a brilliant place to sell art.
Approaching Hospital Alternatives as Places to Sell Art
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. You are not confined to selling your art in hospitals, the health care industry is far bigger than that.
Try approaching other outlets such as GP surgeries, clinics, and dentists. They all have waiting rooms with plenty of wall space that can be used. They may not buy your work outright but they may well agree to hang your artwork and showcase your work.
Think of all those bored and anxious eyes looking at your work and searching your web address.
Many surgeries have a play area for kids and that provides another opportunity to pitch for mural commissions. How about asking the staff if you can leave a portfolio of prints on the magazine table with your contact details and web address?
Think outside the box when it comes to places to sell art.
I did a similar thing in schools. I left a portfolio of art prints in the staff rooms and returned a week later to fulfill the orders. It works.
#2 Place to Sell Art: Hotels
The hotel industry is a multi-billion dollar business. It’s always been an exciting and profitable avenue for artists to explore, but it wasn’t until recently that hotels began soliciting art galleries with any regularity.
Nowadays, many prestigious hotels have an art gallery on the premises or even as part of their brand identity. With this increased interest in art has come more opportunities for artists to sell their work directly to these establishments.
If you think about it, what’s not to like? Hotels have space, and many people who stay there are looking for unique decor. It’s another fantastic place to sell art to a captive market. So if you’re an artist without much experience in selling your work, this section will give you some ideas on how to get started.
How to Approach the Big Hotel Chains With Your Art
Your first step is to find out who the hotel’s art buyer is. You might be surprised how many hotels have an in-house art buyer who handles the acquisition of artwork and other decorative elements. It’s worth asking and enquiring if they are accepting submissions.
The best way to do this is by looking at their website for a “contact us” page, or email address, that specifically asks for artists’ inquiries. If you don’t see anything then send them an email asking about the process for submitting art.
If they are not accepting submissions, but you think your work would be of interest, then send them an email introducing yourself and showing a portfolio of your artwork anyway.
If the curator agrees that it would be worthwhile to meet you, they will usually set up an appointment at their office so that you can bring in your artwork.
Most chains will, however, purchase their collections through interior designers and/or art consultants. In that case, you must approach them and let them know that you have work they might be interested in.
It’s good to have a presence online on sites such as Linkedin, Instagram, and Pinterest, and target interior designers and consultants that way.
Hotels tend to theme their interiors and art that reflects the local area is especially valuable. If you can supply a series of artworks that will create a cohesive look for the hotel, then you have an excellent opportunity.
Sell Your Art to Inns, Guest Houses, and B&B’s
Don’t confine yourself to hotel chains. You may well find that smaller independent hotels will be more willing to take on your work. Small guesthouse owners and boutique hotel owners are often eager to bring in local flavor.
Smaller establishments will want to theme their interiors and show art that reflects the local area. If you can supply a series of artworks that will create a cohesive look then you have an excellent opportunity to sell your work.
Don’t forget that the owners of smaller inns and B&B’s are immensely proud of their businesses and are part of the local community. Showing your work to them is likely to be a rewarding experience for both you and the owner.
I’ve had guest house owners buy my entire portfolio of wildlife prints to theme their guest rooms. I sold them the prints and they did the framing themselves.
I’ve also had owners commission me to draw their guest house. This is another potentially lucrative avenue. Not only can you supply the original artwork, but you can also supply the products featuring your artwork too, things such as mugs, placemats, T-shirts, and so on.
When you sell an original piece of art you do not lose the copyright. That’s a separate thing. You retain the ownership unless you agree to sell it. Only you have the right to merchandise your image.
Another idea worth exploring is to offer some of your framed art prints for display in the guesthouse along with a rack of prints for sale. This would work very well with local scenes and again with pictures of the guesthouse itself.
Guesthouse owners will be happy with a minority share in the profits, few will know that art galleries typically take 50%. Even if they do, you still have wiggle room to negotiate the lion’s share.
Gently point out that there is no cost upfront to the owner and no risk whatsoever, they can only gain. That should be enough. Try offering 25% and negotiate up to a third.
Artist in Residence
An old friend of mine became an artist in residence in one of our local hotels. They gave him a dedicated space where could display his watercolors and work. It was perfect. He had a studio and retail outlet in one.
These opportunities are usually temporary, ranging from a few weeks to maybe 6 months and it’s worth asking around if this idea appeals to you. It would certainly offer you the opportunity to establish a relationship with an art-friendly hotel and make new contacts.
You might go one step further and inquire about a permanent studio. That would be a longer-term commitment, of course, and involve paying rent, but in the right hotel with the right clientele, it could be worth your while.
#3 Place to Sell Art: Gift Shops
Let’s be honest galleries are only fancy shops selling artwork. They are retail outlets dressed up to appeal to an exclusive audience. But have you ever seen a busy gallery that wasn’t offering free drinks? No.
For many artists, galleries aren’t the best places to sell art.
Most people don’t buy art, they buy pictures, they aren’t interested in meaning or statements, they want something that looks nice and appeals emotionally. That’s where gift shops come in.
What Kind of Art Sells in Gift Shops?
If you want to sell your art in gift shops it has to be something that appeals to the typical customer. Small prints, postcards or even t-shirts are good sellers for this type of retail outlet.
So in order to succeed at selling your artwork through gift shops you need to consider the type of customer they cater too and think about what would appeal to them most.
Think about the subject matter. Local views, landmarks and landscapes are always going to be in demand, so too are images of animals and children.
It’s also worth considering the size too – would people want a smaller painting or something much larger? Smaller art is easier to sell because the customer has to carry it home and, if they are traveling, that’s a big issue.
Further Reading: What Size of Art Sells Best?
And what about the style and color palette? Most shops and their customers are going to want representational and realistic art with calming subdued colors.
Gift shops are going to favor mementos and souvenirs and if your art fits into that category you are already halfway there. That doesn’t mean you have to sell out, far from it, but why reinvent the wheel? If you see what sells, improve upon it. You should present popular subjects in your own unique way.
If a local landmark is on every picture you see, it says one thing, it’s what people buy. If you copy what everyone else is doing, you will sell a few, but you’re just one amongst many, but if you do your own thing and find a new perspective, your art will stand out from the crowd.
Should You Sell Your Art Wholesale or On Consignment? (Sale or Return)
Let me be blunt when it comes to gift shops – consignment sucks. Why? Because you will be at the bottom of the pile and definitely the last to get paid.
Gift shops have a huge range of goods and very few are indispensable. If one line runs down, another takes its place and their books remain healthy. You would think that all those entrepreneurs would keep proper inventories and demand more stock before it runs out but that’s not the way it is.
Free goods are not appreciated.
Usually, the gift shop agrees to sell your products and in return, you supply not only the goods but the display as well. It’s harder to interest a shop owner if they have to move other items out of the way to accommodate your items.
Further Reading: What Kind of Art Sells Best? The Secrets
Your art must be in a prominent position and the only way to guarantee that is to provide an attractive and free display the owner hasn’t got to think about. They may be retailers but they are as risk-averse as anyone. They want an easy life with no risk.
Good for them but not so great for you. They’ll take half the retail value and you take the risk. Not only that, but you must chase up late payers, keep the inventory and resupply your stand. It’s a lot of work.
Selling wholesale has far more appeal because it guarantees payment but, unfortunately, you’ll have to accept that it comes at a cost. You’ll probably make less profit and you can’t control the retail price.
The owner is going to want to sell your art at a healthy profit or they’re not going to part with their cash. They might discover that they can resell your work for much more than you expected and they are not going to be happy if you subsequently raise your prices.
You will have to accept that the retailer can charge what they like.
In the end, you might have to meet somewhere in the middle and start with a consignment deal and progress on to wholesale when they know that your art sells.
The other wholesale catch, that you will encounter, is replacing deadstock with bestsellers free of charge. This is common practice.
How Do You Approach a Retailer to Sell Your Art?
Conventionally you would call the shop in advance and ask to speak with the owner. In an ideal world, they will be in their store, but there are other ways of getting hold of them as well.
If you can’t get through on the phone then follow up by emailing them. Arrange a convenient time to call by and be punctual, first impressions count.
The alternative is to turn up and cold call, it works, there is nothing like a foot in the door. I used to sell my artwork to galleries just by turning up unannounced. I was rarely turned away even if it was frowned upon. I did it anyway, call it the arrogance of youth.
If you’ve ever worked in retail you will be aware that many reps show up uninvited. It’s harder to say no face-to-face.
If you do decide to cold call just make sure you don’t turn up on a busy day. Forget Saturdays, choose a weekday when they will have more time for you.
Take some samples with you and have plenty of stock in the car in case they want to buy on the spot. Have everything ready to go.
Make a catalog with your range and wholesale prices and contact details. You don’t have to go over the top. Use Canva to design a few pages, it’s free with a short learning curve, print them out, and pop them into a ring binder or small display folder.
Have one sheet you can leave as a flyer and make sure you’ve got some business cards with your contact details on them. Even in this digital age, have a pen handy to write down any leads or numbers they may give you.
Don’t rely on the shopowner to look you up online later, always leave a physical reminder before you go.
If you strike a deal be sure to tie up any loose ends. Your agreement should include how and when any payments will be made, and who is responsible for record-keeping.
To succeed as an artist you have to be willing to put in the work, be flexible, and be open to new ways of selling your art. The online world is not the answer to everything, it’s just another revenue stream, not an end in itself.
You can’t afford to ignore the real world, especially where art is concerned. People are not just buying a product, they are buying your story. You are central to the brand and if they can’t meet you in real life, at least they can see and hold your product in real life, and know what they are getting. You can’t say that with online sales.
Hopefully, these 3 alternatives places to sell art will give you some food for thought and help you to see the opportunities that exist everywhere.
There are plenty more posts like this, have a look at these:
- How Do You Price Your Art? (And Increase Your Profits)
- How to Make Prints of Your Art if You Don’t Know How
- How to Sell Landscape Paintings: 13 Ways to Make More Money
- How to Sell Your Drawings (All You Need to Know)
- 12 Wildlife Art Bestsellers (Use These Subjects to Make Money)