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Art Market Overview: State of the Arts: San Diego, 2005
by Patricia Frischer

Salk Institute Art and Science Forum, Jan 6, 2005

Interview by Alexandra Rosa and Phillip Swenson on ArtRocks! Hear it by clicking here

This article will take you though the general outline of marketing of art on an international level. It will then explain how San Diego, although not perceived as successful cultural visual arts center, has an opportunity to make a mark on the visual arts world. There are then suggestions of how to change this perception and create a vital and supportive arts community.

TYPICAL ROUTE OF ARTIST Many, although not all, artists start after their art education hopefully on the route to success. There first showing experience will probably be their graduate show at a university/college. For further exposure they enter competitions - local, national, international . When they have a body of work they open their studio and invite everyone they know to support them and spread the word. At this point, they may consider joining and showing with an art associations. Most artist want a permanent place in an art gallery and will be lucky to be included in a group shows and then work toward the enviable one person exhibition. Finally, the crown on the art career is the cherished museum show/retrospective.

THE MARKET - How the Art Market functions

Because there are a limited number of big spenders in the art world, it is vital for the high end market “powers that be” to control the market as much as possible. Limiting numbers of artist who can command high figures for their works s essential to keeping prices high. This is controlled by 1. art dealers 2. major collectors directors. This trio has vested interested and consult and help each other. Art dealerssell to collectors and museums. works gain status by being displayed in museum and galleries there by going up in value. Collectors and art galleries help fund raising for museums. Collectorsgive their collection to museums (and get tax advantages). Until recently, often gallery dealers gave a percentage of works sold during a museum show to the museum. Conflict of interest stopped this process. This process is aided by art critics/magazines , universities exhibitions, and auctions all of which help to build the reputations of certain artists.


This is new money made from tech stocks and biochemical. It is young money. It is an audience ready to use the internet to make purchases. We are experiencing a change from an agricultural society to an information society. We used to be tribal and we are now individually oriented. Those aged over 40 are generally linear thinkers but those under 20 are visual and associative thinkers. They congregate on the web world wide and not just at the local level. But socializing is still important. Meeting places such as art openings are still a important part of their lives.

Although San Diego has an inferiority complex when it comes to Fine Art and we are not known as a cultural Mecca :

SAN DIEGO HAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO IT DIFFERENTLY – Richard Florida says we are one of the top three most creative cities in the USA because of the 3 T’s – technology, talent, tolerance. What sets San Diego apart:

  • The high end traditional market does not have a strangle hold so our the biggest disadvantage could be our biggest advantage. Instead of top down marketing system, we can be bottom (grass roots) up.
  • San Diego has a vast wealth of art talent that compares well on quality levels with the best in the world.
  • We have tech company and biochemical companies
  • We attract young money because our environment is so attractive.
  • We have more and more support from the County to push the arts as a valuable way to promote San Diego. The push is to show how art is valuable not just aesthetically but as an attractor of people and an income producer.
  • Although we do not have a large number of successful galleries, we do have many museums and community and educational galleries, over 60 art associations and SDVAN which is a free listing directory and calendar. This site is one of the best of it’s kind in the world. Also many new projects including Envision, which is trying to get the arts projects to cluster for promotional and mutual support. Envision is important because it is media based as opposed to non-profit, for profit or government supported. We also have dynamic cheerleaders for the Arts like Art Girls (art consultants who help to make the arts accessible, fun and financially viable.


  1. Stay a living room community. Intimate groups of real people with real ideas and goals. Think about small, manageable, do-able projects. Helps each other by cooperating. Let these real goals lead to larger projects and changes. Be patience. CHANGE TAKES TIME for example 4 years to establish new organizations and 7 years to establish a viable sales gallery.
  2. Create a synergy between all the arts organizations including especially sales galleries - meet with an attitude of co-operation not competition . Be transparent in all dealings and not secretive. Share all sources and contacts.
  3. Embrace all high tech opportunities - web sites, web marketing, web linking, computer administration, digital documentation etc.
  4. Award the Artists and art supporters of excellence in all areas and create ART STARS.
  5. Develop a strong arts media with documentation of all activities, support of critics, archiving of interviews. Encourage art writers for TV, radio, internet (ART ROCKS!), and all newspapers, magazines.
  6. Take art to the people and respect our large geographical area. For example take art: to the beaches (painted art canvas for deck chairs – matching picnic cups and napkin), to the sport arena (art on the digital screen), to the corporations (art in the parking lots from a mobile van). Let’s have art classes with a wine bar and Affordable Art Fairs in the park. Brochure about all the galleries in our Art Colleges (where to park, opening hours) Be flexible and open to all creative ideas.
  7. Create a facility for the artists with a wealth of amenities such as a restaurant/club with a bar with installation videos (loud and noisy) , a lecture room/library for tea (quiet conversation and small events) and  a dining room which is also a gallery space. Art people need a meeting room available for cross pollination of the arts.

Find the new market -

  1. Individual Benefactors, buyers, collectors – this means one hand shake at a time!
  2. Corporations – not just giving money to the arts but bring art to the office space. Use art as reward for job well done. Encourage art to be seen as a status acquisition.
  3. Future art supporters – introducing children to art by inventing new projects like Art back packs to be portable for supplies for the classrooms or everywhere art can happen. Take children to all events. Recognize teachers of excellence and give teachers free admission to exhibitions
  4. Encourage and Use Artist Agents. The missing link and one of the grass root solutions

ARTIST AGENTS - what can they do for our market

  • Contact this new market PBB, go to them at work and through their hobbies and reading material
  • Educate the new market - send them to museums, suggest books, use collector articles and website tools
  • Get exposure to artist to this new market - works have to be seen a number of times and work brought to the collectors not the collectors to the work
  • Sell work to the new market.
  • Help the new market to embark on collecting - send them to galleries which will expand and make a healthier environment for all.
  • Connect artist to existing galleries and the internet.

Patricia Frischer has been an art professor at California State College in Humboldt, head of the Art Department at an international school in Nottinghill Gate, London, Director of a sales gallery in London, England and for three exhibition spaces at Cal State Humboldt. She has written the book, "The Artist and the Art of Marketing" and has lectured extensively on marketing for artists. As a dynamic part of the arts community in San Diego, Frischer was board member for the (COVA) and Coordinator for the COVA Art Collectors Round Tables. Patricia is currently Coordinator of the San Diego Visual Arts Network. She holds a master degree from California College of Arts and has exhibited her own paintings internationally.

Artist Agent Training Course are starting by arrangement. Four 2-hours sessions which helps a agent to form a agency or helps a gallery to network locally for improved marketing and make a business plan for success. Full details are found at by looking at Education/Artist Agent/ Short Course.

Lectures are also given on many topics for Artists, Galleriest and Collectors. Look at the full list at

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