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Published in "Legacy Online" May, 2003

What Sells?

I've mentioned before that hardly a day goes by without someone asking about showing their work at Legacy.  While everyone gets the same answer (see submission guidelines at http://www.legacyart.com/protocol.shtml), some folks will get more of my time and attention than others, depending on how they present themselves when they inquire about showing with us.  Occasionally, the conversation will be prefaced with a question put to me:  "What Sells?"

Now, if someone is just visiting Columbia, and is curious about the market here, I'm happy to enlighten them about what our experience has been in terms of sales.  However, when this question comes from someone who is looking to show with us, it sends up an immediate red flag.

Why?  Sales are critically important to both the artist and the gallery, right?

Well, yes.  As I've said before, without sales we can't survive.  But I want artists who have a passion for what they're doing, not ones who are just looking to make a buck.  Without that passion, chances are that we won't sell the work anyway.  I think this goes to the very heart of what Legacy is all about:  promoting real art by real people.  If we handled just decorative works without passion, then we might as well sell mass-produced prints by old dead guys, or over-hyped work by people who have figured out the lowest common denominator to appeal to the public.  That wouldn't do anything to help support the local arts community, and we'd lose our reason for existence.

So, I look for works by artists who have a passion for what they produce.  This means that we might not be the right venue for some artists, and they should seek gallery representation in other cities.  That's OK.  But to betray their artistic impulse just in an effort to make sales is a sure path to artistic stagnation and frustration, and is a benefit to no one.  Any artist who presents themself as willing to do whatever style or theme work that is likely to sell is not an artist I want to show.  I owe you, and our artists, no less.  That's my passion.

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all work © James T. Downey, 1993-present
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