Success Story: How Alan Cristea Gallery Reimagined Their Digital Sales Strategy
In 2015, Alan Cristea Gallery sold a total of two works through Artsy. In 2016, they sold over 50.
I’ve followed the success of galleries on Artsy since we launched in 2012. In the last four years, I’ve witnessed incredible growth in inquiries and sales for our partners on the platform as Artsy has scaled up and the online art industry has expanded. Amongst the stories that stand out, Alan Cristea Gallery’s recent success clearly demonstrates the potential of online services like Artsy.
We collaborated with Alan Cristea Gallery to share their insights and answer the key question: What drove their incredible success?
About Alan Cristea Gallery
Strolling the aisles of major fairs like Art Basel in Basel, Frieze Masters in London, and The Armory Show in New York, you will easily spot the Alan Cristea booth. Their roster includes household names like Josef Albers, Antony Gormley, and Cornelia Parker.
Meeting room and library at the new gallery on Pall Mall. Photo: Joseph Asghar.
Founded in 1994 by Alan Cristea, who previously worked with Leslie Waddington, the gallery was established on the base of the publishing arm of Waddington Graphics. The core business was originally focused on prints by leading contemporary artists, and over time, the gallery has expanded to represent artists working in a broader scope of mediums, as well as artists’ estates. After two decades on the renowned Cork Street, the gallery relocated to London’s Pall Mall this October, seeking a larger space to suit their expanding program.
In 2015, Alan Cristea Gallery had been an Artsy partner for over two years. They offered a broad inventory of well-known artists at accessible price points, and they were receiving plenty of inquiries—but those inquiries were rarely converting to sales.
“There were many new online platforms competing for followers and a presence” recalled Alan, and he admitted that they “tried [Artsy] out like we tried many others out.” Gallery staff spent hours responding to inquiries and saw few results. Even though Artsy was growing and the Alan Cristea team was fielding more and more emails, sales remained sporadic.
Despite this, the gallery recognized that online sales were bound to change the nature of the art industry. They made it a top priority to keep up to date with changing technology and to identify new tools that could aid them in achieving their goals. Cristea told us that he knew selling art online would be a “gradual process of trial and error,” but the lack of sales persisted.
Howard Hodgkin: After All installation shot, Oct - Nov 2016. Photo: FXP Photography, 2016.
Steps for Success
Instead of backing away, the Alan Cristea team doubled down on the online art market. The gallery placed more focus on online sales and incorporated Artsy into their structure and workflow, and after time, they saw tremendous results. To help others understand the tactics that led to such a staggering improvement in sales, the gallery kindly shared the keys to their online success, citing four main factors:
1. Focus on One Platform
As part of their online strategy, they chose to focus on selling from one platform—Artsy—instead of multiple platforms. “This increased, dedicated focus has allowed us to make best use of the platform and develop integrated strategies...We now have over 1,200 works listed on Artsy.”
“This increased, dedicated focus has allowed us to make best use of the platform and develop integrated strategies...We now have over 1,200 works listed on Artsy.”
2. Dedicate Staff and Lower Response Time
Several staff members were managing Alan Cristea Gallery's Artsy account, which meant things could have been mistakenly overlooked. Realizing investment was necessary to see growth in revenue, the gallery made the decision to have one dedicated salesperson who would respond to inquires and update content on their Artsy profile. This was a perceptive management decision, since assigning ownership to one person created the right incentive structure and allowed online sales to be a focus, not an afterthought, for the staff.
“All inquiries are responded to within 24 hours” became the standard of the gallery. They noticed that the sooner an inquiring collector got a response, the likelier they were to continue the conversation. We’ve studied this trend on Artsy, and collector engagement is directly linked to how quickly they hear back from the gallery. Some top tier galleries will even make it a point to write back within the hour during peak moments like art fairs (utilizing the staff at the gallery) and have seen enormous success in response rates from serious collectors.
The private viewing for Howard Hodgkin: After All, Oct 2016. Photo: Polly Hancock
3. List Prices
The gallery identified that refraining from making exact prices or price ranges public on Artsy may have been holding back inquiries. Concurrent to the dedicated employee strategy, they decided to add price ranges for all their 1,200+ works. While the number of inquiries dropped slightly, the quality of the messages greatly improved and qualified collector interest rose.
While some traditional gallerists are reticent to expose sensitive information around their artists’ market values online, more transparent pricing information is the most common request Artsy receives from collectors.
Sharing prices up front can also be key in attracting new collectors. The director of the gallery noted that typical sales have been in the £3,000–5,000 ($3,800–$6,300 at the time of publication) range, though there have also been instances of much more significant transactions.
4. Integrate Online into Sales Strategy
Alan Cristea Gallery began to build a unique sales strategy using their presence on Artsy. They managed inventory uploading more thoughtfully, adding complete exhibition inventory and artist metadata to improve discoverability on Artsy and in Google searches.
Beyond just amplifying their program, the gallery also began creating online-focused content like early exhibition previews on Artsy and a limited-edition print sold exclusively on the site, pictured below.
Michael Craig-Martin; Bulb From: Fundamentals, 2016. Screenprint, paper and image 106.0 x 53.0 cm, edition of 30. Courtesy artist and Alan Cristea Gallery, London.
Lastly, they worked closely with their Artsy liaison to understand ways to optimize their presence. “Our experience with our Artsy liaison [has been] very positive, particularly so at the beginning of the process,” they said, adding that their liaison, Legacy Russell, shares many “helpful hints and tips” and “is always on hand to offer guidance.”
While their new flagship location on Pall Mall in London serves as home base for Alan Cristea’s dynamic program, the gallery’s online presence enables them to reach collectors from dozens of countries instantly. The gallery’s holistic understanding of their collector base and the art market in general has allowed them to grow and evolve their online presence parallel to the expanding gallery footprint. In working with Alan Cristea and all of our gallery partners, Artsy continues to strive to seamlessly connect the online and offline art worlds.
To find out about joining Artsy’s gallery network, visit our Gallery Partnerships page.