Advice to Artists - Why Don't Some Works Sell?
I’m a local artist and I exhibited recently at a few local art fairs. I've been surprised that my two favorite paintings didn’t sell when other paintings of mine sold so easily. Why don’t the ones I think are my best sell?
You aren't alone in experiencing a favorite work of yours not selling and there are many possible explanations for why it is happening. Art is very personal and like beauty, belongs in the eye of the beholder. However, just because a work doesn't sell right away, does not mean that it is weak or that it will never sell. This is how artist's estates exist. It isn't possible for an artist to sell all of their work in their lifetime. However, it can be perplexing when it is a work that the artist thinks is her best.
One possible explanation and one that may be hard to accept, is that it could be you have overworked your painting because it is your favorite. It is a challenge to self-edit, especially on a work you love and keep going back to. Remember less can be more and sometimes you must force yourself to put the brush down and step away.
Another possibility is that since you are selling your own work, it could be that you are unconsciously making your work unsaleable. Perhaps you love the work so much that unconsciously you are so attached to it that you aren’t ready to let go of it!
It could also be that you shared too much personal information about the work. Patrons want to know some of your thoughts in creating a work, but if it becomes too personal, it may prevent the sale. For example, one artist we represented in the past painted nudes in an abstract manner. All the nudes were actually his wife who served as his only model throughout his career. Sharing this detail with patrons would have been uncomfortable, especially for those who knew his wife!
Have patience though, in time your two favorite works may sell. For example, "A Girl in the Field" by Darrel Austin (1907-1994) done in 1937 was included in Austin's first exhibition with Putzell Gallery in Los Angeles. The art critic for Los Angeles Times selected this work as the most important work of the exhibition and an image of it was reproduced in the review. The exhibition was successful with several sales, except for this work. The artist loved this work though, so it remained with him until 1982 when he included it in a retrospective exhibition with our gallery. The work sold from that exhibition and then sold again years later to another patron and remains in private collection today.
Don’t lose hope and always remember art is long!