How do artists meet and work with collectors? Can artists sell work directly from their studios? This chapter will discuss how collectors operate, how to approach them, and how to make sales from the studio.
Where are all the collectors? They are on the board of all the non-profit organizations around you from universities to museums, theatres, and art centers. They are in attendance at museum openings that are open to the public. Their names are listed on the brochures of museums under “donors and patrons.”
Usually there is a big list of patrons to any major local cultural establishment, and those are all potential collectors. Of course some of those names will no longer be living, but many of them will be, and new names have to be added all the time.
It’s easy to find those names with the internet and a search engine like Google. Get a list together of local collectors using the method I am saying, to find lists of donors and patrons to museums and art centers. Then research each one and see if they have their own foundation (many do) and take notes on what a search comes up with so you can get to know this potential collector better.
So that would be assembling a list of 20 or less people who you would like to meet and having researched them all, you are now familiar with them and if they have foundations and where they like to give money, etc. If that sounds like a lot of work, think of what just one relationship with a collector could yield.
The next step is according to your own style, but you must find a way to meet those people and befriend them with a conversation. It is that hard and that easy. These people on your list will be available to talk to at openings and arts events you are following, so you must find a way to say hello that is not too uncomfortable and that works.
It is clearly possible to meet these people if you do your research, and find the collectors and patrons you want to target. But if a public meeting sounds too daring for you, then you can also email them and introduce yourself online.
However, meeting in person easily trumps the technique of writing an email, because when you meet in person, there is either a rapport, a chemistry, that makes you comfortable or there is not. So I favor in-person meetings because even if it is an awkward first meeting, the email follow-up will be much more meaningful once a face to face meeting has occurred.
It’s all personal. We tend to be comfortable with people we have been around and trust for some reason. Because of that, I suggest trying to meet people at openings, because even if they are not on your list, the more friends you have in the art world, the better.
If you are determined to reach out by email first, then this is how to craft your letters.
Your approach to your letter should be personal, not a template of a letter requesting a view of a website. Ideally you have at least researched the person you are writing to, so make the first letter a form of a fan letter, since you will flatter the recipient by having a knowledge of who you are writing to. Anyone who receives a letter with sincere compliments in it is engaged. If the compliments are not sincere it will not work, so writing a letter from the heart is something you will need to practice and be truthful about. It is an art in itself and has a history that is filled with artists writing letters to collectors, charming them, and often asking for money. There are no strict rules to those letters, but politeness and charm tend to go very, very far.
Begin crafting letters that are like works of art in themselves. Send them by email and / or postal mail. If you do this regularly about things you are passionate about, you will get answers with similar passion and build strong relationships while doing so. These letters can be written to collectors as we have outlined above, but also a great letter to a newspaper can get published and a great letter to an artist or intellectual hero of yours often gets an answer. Try it, with all that you’ve got. This next interview is with Sue Stoffel who is a collector and talks about her expierence in the art world.