Artists, connect with collectors with these thoughtful tips

The Detroit Collects exhibit at the DIA features work by many African American artists, including the colorful suit by Nick Cave. (Photo: DIA)

The Detroit Collects exhibit at the DIA features work by many African American artists, including the colorful suit by Nick Cave. (Photo: DIA)
The Detroit Collects exhibit at the DIA features work by many African American artists, including the colorful suit by Nick Cave. (Photo: DIA)

Artists need collectors, and collectors want to know artists.

So how do artists create warm relationships with their collectors?

This question seems especially relevant now as the Detroit Institute of Arts has debuted its Detroit Collects show, featuring more than 18 collectors of African American art, including a few who support Mint Artists Guild.

Start with basics, such as recalling the collectors’ names and the art they purchased. It really pays off to create a log, file or data set of all your buyers and include details like birthdays and favorite colors if you learn that. Start now if you haven’t already.

Send your best collectors a holiday card – at Thanksgiving or in December.  Better yet, send them a card showing one of your favorite images. Birthday or anniversary cards are smart too, as your relationship grows. (Please, send them Mint greeting cards if you want to show you care about the future artists.)

Here’s other tips on developing your relationship with collectors:

  • Graciously answer all their questions, no matter how silly or simple they seem to you.
  • Arrange for studio visits, an afternoon for collectors to see your work, suggests Brainard Carey, author of several books for artists, who with his wife runs a business to help artists learn and develop. Then sign them up for your e-newsletters.
  • Give new collectors something extra, a small gift or carefully edited instructions on caring for the work purchased. Artist Krystii Melanie suggests offering 10 greeting cards with the artists’ own images on them as a thank you for a big purchase. Her advice is part of an excellent blog post from the Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists on connecting with collectors.
  • Offer advice on building a collection in your blog or e-newsletter, Carey recommends.
  • The best venue to build relationships are art fairs; show up ready to talk about your inspiration, new work and more, suggests artist Jane Robinson.
  • When a collector invites you to an event or show, show up – and be ready to support their cause or to honor the other artist’s work. This could mean sharing photos on social media, a small donation or something else.
  • Offer your collectors a payment plan. This suggestion comes from Carey’s webinar Sell Online Like a Genius. Allow them to buy a $3,000 painting by paying $300 a month for 10 months and they may take it home after they have paid half the price.
  • Offer to go to the collector’s home to show how your work will look.  Bring a few extra pieces that seem in keeping with the collector’s tastes. Fingers crossed for a double sale.

Collectors likely have bigger homes and budgets than artists, and yet, both appreciate creative work and the beauty of a fine painting or photograph. So if you see a superb show, share details with your collectors, or better yet, invite them along on a Saturday of gallery hopping.  And if you are holding a yearend sale or celebrating your success, make sure your collectors are invited.

Read more about the Detroit Collects show in this Bloomberg News piece . Among the collectors who loaned work to the DIA are Linda Whitaker, whoserves on Mint Artists Guild’s board of directors, and our Mint Masterpieces hosts Judge Deborah Geraldine Bledsoe Ford and Jerome Watson. The Ford-Watsons contributed the Hughie Lee-Smith painting shown, which appeared on the cover of the DIA calendar, and three other pieces. Or visit it at the Detroit Institute of Arts through March 1, and please stop in at the DIA Museum Store afterward to buy Mint greeting cards.

This painting by Hughie Lee Smith is part of the eclectic, international collection of attorney Jerome Watson and Judge Deborah Geraldine Bledsoe Ford.
This Hughie Lee-Smith painting comes from the international collection of Judge Deborah Geraldine Bledsoe Ford and attorney Jerome Watson.