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This week my writing career is in the toilet. Literally. I was standing in my hotel room lavatory recently, evacuating a few gin martinis, when I happened to glance at a fabulous picture hanging on the wall. This wasn’t some trashy iStock photo, this was a gorgeous image. (I love boutique hotels — they take the time and money to get the good stuff.)
I had a look around the rest of my room and realized that all the art was of equally high quality. Of course my next thought was, “Is there a money to be made in photography sales to hotels?” So I thought I’d find out.
I started with a call to Jill Crawford, a world famous interior decorator who you would recognize from TV’s Guess Who’s Coming To Decorate. She told me that she sources photography for her interior designs in two different ways: directly from the photographer or from an art consultant like Fresh Paint Art Advisors in Los Angeles.
Ms Crawford advises photographers to pursue both strategies — direct to the designer and via art consultants — if they want to get into this market. Also keep in mind that the people you connect with for hotel projects will also be your conduit to corporations, restaurants, bars, and large mansions with empty walls.
Speaking with Helene Brown, of Fresh Paint, one immediately gets the sense that she has a singular passion for art and photography, as well as a veteran sensibility for brokering it. Ms Brown explained that the usage rights for the photography she negotiates is based on 1) the quantity of the prints, and 2) the quality of the medium that the image is printed on.
Higher quality print processes will fetch a higher premium. But on the other side of the coin, a large run of offset lithographic reproductions can also get a good return. The rights granted are one time to print, with varying levels of exclusivity based on the negotiated deal.
If this all sounds like a good idea to you, you’ll want to do a little research before launching the hotel art section of your website. My suggestion is to do a cocktail crawl through a few five-star hotels and have a look at what is hanging on their walls. You’re not looking to emulate the work so much as you’re trying to understand the artwork’s tone and how it fits into the interior decorating palette.
Finally, remember that the designers and consultants you’ll be contacting are savvy people, so don’t try to pitch them crap. And if on your cocktail crawl you encounter a writer holding a martini glass in the washroom, that’ll be me looking for an idea for next week’s column.