artists' open houses

Advice for House Openers: How to sell like a pro

Selling your artwork is not always easy. We’ve asked a couple of Open Houses, who successfully sell a lot of work each year, for some advice on sales techniques.

9A Hove Place is home to husband and wife - Mike Daniels and Tamar Karpas.

In the 12 years that the couple have lived in Brighton they’ve always visited Artists Open Houses. They are not artists themselves, but have a real passion for art and enjoy curating and hosting their exhibition each year; which they’ve been doing since 2011.

Artists Open Houses

Collectors Selection is another Open House that consistently sells a lot of artwork during the festival.

Karin Janzon and Helmut Lusser, whose house it is, started collecting art through going to Open Houses and soon their house was full of paintings and sculpture. They then decided that they’d like to show new work by the artists they liked and share their discoveries. Karin explains ‘We wanted to see if what we liked chimed with other people’s interests and we found a very positive response from visitors’. This will be their 7th year of AOH.

Artists Open Houses

Through speaking to these two experienced Open Houses, we have found these top tips for making successful sales:

1. Prepare well

Tamar says ‘Almost as soon as one festival finishes we start planning the next one. We decide which artists we’d like to have for the following year and confirm with everyone by the end of December for the next May’s festival. We do a little bit of decorating each year. If something needs a lick of paint, get it done before the festival.’

Karin adds ‘Develop good relationships with your guest artists at an early stage, keep regular contact and agree a timetable for sending information and images. Pay attention to presentation and, as a general rule don’t squeeze too much into a space. The old ‘less is more’ rule is good to bear in mind. We try to show paintings and sculptures as if they are part of the house so that people get a feel for how art can make everyday life more interesting.’

Artists Open Houses

2. Do some marketing

Tamar recognises the role of good marketing, but says ‘You don’t need to spend lots of money on marketing. These days you can do so much with social media platforms.’

Karin adds ‘Encourage people to sign a visitor’s book. It’s great to have feedback and it allows you to build up a mailing list for the next year.’  [image]

Artists Open Houses

3. Have a good range of quality art products

‘Quality is paramount’ says Tamar. ‘It’s good to have variety as well; and works that cover all price- ranges.’

Following their successes, both houses now have lots of artists asking to take part in their open houses, meaning they get to choose from some top-quality work.

 ‘Over the years we have built a reputation for showing quality painting and sculpture’ Karin explains. ‘This year we’ll be exhibiting the work of 18 excellent artists.’

Artists Open Houses

4. Know your product

Tamar says ‘Have some information around, about the artists. We print biographies on each of the artists we feature. It’s a good idea that whoever’s invigilating knows about the art and artists.’

5. Be enthusiastic

Karin’s advice is clear. ‘Show works that you are passionate about; stuff you can talk to visitors about with genuine enthusiasm.’

Artists Open Houses

6. Take good care of your customers

Karin says ‘Be welcoming to visitors. Some people may be shy and uncertain about entering a private home they don’t know, so it’s important to put people at ease by saying hello and showing them where to go. Be available to answer questions and have information about artists at hand if people want it. But don’t hover over visitors - let them browse in their own good time.’

Tamar adds ‘Think about how you’ll cope with the public coming into your house. If you’re not a people person you could find it difficult. Our artists take turns in helping us with the meeting, greeting and general hosting.’

7. Display prices clearly

Tamar says ‘It’s important to have clear pricing. Also, think about how you’re going to take payments, handle deposits and record transactions.  When key pieces are sold we often ask if it’s OK for them to remain on exhibition until the end of the show. Think about what you’ll do if people wish to reserve something. Have a cash float and consider how you’ll keep cash and cheques securely.  

Artists Open Houses

Tamar adds ‘Of course, lots of people won’t be buying, but will be enjoying looking at the art. Many like to sit and enjoy the space, which all helps to create a nice atmosphere in the house.’

The last words go to Karin, who says ‘running an open house is exhausting so don’t have too many other commitments in May and always treat yourself to a nice drink as the door closes for the day – you’ll deserve one!’

Guy Maberly