The process of ‘pre-selling is where the seller offers a product that doesn’t actually exist, yet. That means finding a buyer who agrees to buy without actually seeing exactly what they are buying.
A common example of the term ‘pre-selling’ is applicable after a builder gets planning permission to construct a new house. The plans would have been submitted to the authority and they would have been approved. The builder would have gained access to the building site. They would have the expertise to produce the final product. Now with the go-ahead they can ‘pre-sell’.
The builder probably needs to find a customer for the new house for a couple of reasons. Firstly, to adapt the smaller details of the build to suit the new buyer. And secondly, to get some money in the form of a deposit and avoiding some of the financial risk.
How does this example apply to our art world?
A poor lonely artist working away in a cold damp studio would really appreciate it if a friendly warm-hearted patron would agree to buy an artwork before it was actually created.
Oh OK. I admit that I might have over-stressed the ‘poor lonely artist in a cold damp studio’ bit. But it really is possible that an artist might have a ‘friendly warm-hearted patron’ collector who wants to have a specific influence on the artist’s future art-work.
The usual example is a ‘commission’. In some sectors of the art world, such as portraiture, this is necessary. In others an artist might be commissioned to develop a certain subject along the lines of previous paintings. Sometimes I get these when a collector asks me to paint a new cityscape based on a place that I haven’t done before.
So ‘pre-selling’ is where I invite potential buyers to agree their commitment to a ‘commission’ before they see the final art-work.
It doesn’t happen often, but it is nice when it does.
However there are snags.
Suppose the buyer doesn’t like the final painting? Suppose the artist realizes that he/she doesn’t like the subject, or size constraints, or something else, after getting going?
Well, neither of them should have committed to the commission, because they have committed, and you can’t un-commit.
So I have found that a better approach is, for me as the artist, to accept the suggested request from a potential buyer, but don’t agree that I am committed to produce exactly what the buyer expects. That keeps me on my toes. And usually the potential buyer is happy with that because they have influenced the size, subject, and style.
It hasn’t gone wrong very often over the last fifty years. Fingers crossed.
But of course I make sure that the buyer has seen other examples of my work. And that I have asked them what they like or dislike about it. And most of all that I want to do this kind of art so much that I would be just as happy to keep it myself if they don’t want it after all.
Artists enjoy the process of making art just as much as they enjoy making other people happy. Aren’t we lucky.