Spotlight on Michael Godard Fine Art. (News)

Article excerpt

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- In May 2001, David Smith launched Michael Godard Fine Art with an unconventional business method--the galleries he supplies do not pay for the work until it sells. He has since placed artist Michael Godard's art, which depicts playful images of martinis, champagne, cigars and gambling, in 102 galleries that routinely sell out giclees of highly coveted originals. Smith said he instantly felt an attraction to Godard's work after seeing it at a show, "It was completely off from what had been done before, which was what I was looking for. I wanted a company that does things that nobody has ever done before."

Prior to founding Michael Godard Fine Art, Smith owned several S.C.U.B.A. diving companies in Hawaii. He was recruited by Lassen International to be vice president of the company in the mid-1990s. Having no previous affiliation with the art world, Smith gained the knowledge and experience needed to form Michael Godard Fine Art at Lassen.

His idea was to design a company backwards, by starting on the consumer end, so he started by working as a consultant at a gallery to learn what consumers want. He said galleries should not attempt to predict what is going to sell. "My philosophy is to let consumers tell you what's good and what's not" he said. Smith's next step was to give consultants what they need. He inundates consultants with sales tools, training and the lowest prices possible to ensure they can make sales. Smith also includes many incentives, such as contests and free prints. He also carefully evaluates other gallery needs, such as margins for operations, discount capabilities, speed-on-delivery and display tools. Smith helps galleries design shows and takes an active role in selling on the sales floor.

The most important aspect of this strategy is placing artwork in galleries at no risk. If the piece sells, the gallery pays for it and a replacement is shipped the following day. "I don't believe you should force a gallery to buy. Give it to them, let them show it, and let the consumer tell you if it is a good product. If it's not good and it doesn't sell, I don't want it on their wall, because I want something better there. A lot of publishers make the galleries buy pieces, and if it doesn't sell, they're stuck with it. It's taking up wall space where you can have something that sells faster" Smith said.

Smith values the mutual input he has with artists. "I pay double what publishers pay because they get an active role in the company," he said. …