Success Story: How One Gallery Used Technology to Scale Their Business


OCT 17TH, 2017

Four years ago, Heather James Fine Art was managing an international presence in an analog way—with print ads, e-blasts, and face to face networking. Building on and adapting that strategy to grow with the times, today, it reaches buyers in Australia, Belgium, Hong Kong, Mexico, and beyond. How did the gallery scale its business in just a few years?

A forward-thinking and “relationship-driven business,” Heather James takes advantage of the leading technology to grow its exposure and audience. “We’ve always striven to be at the forefront of any new technology in our industry,” says Alyssa Friedman, who leads Learning and Development. We spoke with Alyssa and her colleague Sarah Fischel (Gallery Manager - Jackson Hole) to learn more about their growth, online strategy, and decision to join Artsy.

Success Story: How One Gallery Used Technology to Scale Their Business

About Heather James Fine Art

Originally based out of Palm Desert, California, Heather James got its start in 1996 as an Asian Antiquities Dealer. But after a client specially requested a Claude Monet (and the gallery successfully acquired it), Heather James shifted to adopt its current model: a secondary market gallery that deals in post-war, contemporary, impressionist, and modern art.

After opening a second office in Jackson Hole, Wyoming fourteen years later to better serve its Western and Midwestern audience, Heather James decided to bring its gallery online to pursue a digital and geographic expansion.

Interior of Heather James Fine Art, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Courtesy of Heather James Fine Art. 

The Challenge

Almost four years ago, Alyssa was tasked with developing a growth plan for the gallery’s next phase. In an age “where everyone wants everything at their fingertips,” she saw an opportunity to respond to increasing interest from collectors on a global scale. The challenge? How to satisfy this demand online from its offices in the American West.

Steps for Success

“It’s easy to think of Artsy as a sales assistant that brings potential collectors to your doorstep,” Sarah observes. “Artsy has its own marketing efforts, invests in search engine optimization (SEO), and does a number of different things to increase its own presence online—that means we win too.”

Since joining Artsy in 2014, Heather James has established itself as an engaged and open-minded partner that takes a proactive approach to incorporating Artsy into its day-to-day. With over 1,800 inquiries and high sales conversion, the proactive approach has paid off. Sharing unique insights, Heather James discusses its most valuable advice and strategies for managing a gallery presence online.

1. Be a Relationship-Driven Business

The perceived threat of impersonalization that comes with bringing a gallery or artwork online can often be a barrier to entry for collectors and gallerists. TEFAF Online Focus confirmed this fear in its most recent report where it noted, “Weak personal relationships hinder online sales.” Keeping this in mind, Heather James made a conscious and proactive effort to continue its client-oriented marketing and sales strategies when it joined an online platform.

For Heather James, aligning with Artsy and transitioning to online opened doors rather than closed them, creating the opportunity to “see every new inquiry as an opportunity to start a relationship.” Alyssa shares further that an online presence for Heather James “has meant interacting with collectors at all stages who may not have found us otherwise.” 

More importantly, despite the physical distance between buyer and seller, Alyssa notes, “[We’ve] been able to send more [artwork] options to our clients and thus learn more about what they want.” This opportunity has resulted in many strong and ongoing relationships with art advisors and collectors, allowing Heather James to successfully scale its business without forgoing quality of service.

Al Held. 65-A17, 1965. Artwork placed via Artsy in private collection. Courtesy of Heather James Fine Art. 

2. Understand the Value of Data

Always looking for empowering and impactful tools to grow the business, Heather James relies on data to engage new audiences and maintain data-informed relationships.

When it comes to harnessing data to guide sales strategy, Alyssa points out, “Artsy provides a number of analytics on a monthly basis that help us make data-driven decisions and inform how we respond to inquiries.” For example, monthly reports include information like a geographic breakdown of Artsy traffic, number of artwork views, and total Artsy followers.

At Artsy, data isn’t reserved solely for analytics reports—it’s built into the platform and the user experience, too. When new users join Artsy, they create a profile that allows them to select artists to follow, works they’re interested in, institutions they’re associated with, and more. Gallery partners will often review this information when a user submits an inquiry so they can better tailor their offerings to each individual collector.

Alyssa observes, “That sort of personalized user experience and data exchange allows us to get a solid sense of what the client is looking for, which allows us, in turn, to personalize our outreach for him or her in the future.”

3. Make It Easy for Collectors to Inquire on Works

How do you make remote communications as easy to access and direct as possible? Upload high-quality images and offer transparent pricing.

“Providing multiple, detailed, high-resolution images really improved our conversations with collectors,” Sarah shares. For clients who are buying digitally, a browsing experience that enables clients to feel like they’re in the room with the piece can often be the thing that sways them towards an inquiry or a purchase.

Alyssa elaborates, “When everyone wants everything at their fingertips, providing clients with as much information as possible also means publishing prices. We do a range of pricing so we have possibly fewer inquiries, but those who do inquire are ready to invest at the level we have listed, so it’s a time saver, and it’s really more information for us.”

Furthering this approach, Heather James offers to send collectors images of pieces photoshopped into their living spaces. Occasionally, the gallery will also produce a timelapse of the work’s installation to give collectors a sense of the piece’s size and movement. Lastly, the gallery will almost always include an image of the work with a person to provide scale in its uploads.

Roberto Matta. Let's Phosphoresce, 1950. Artwork placed via Artsy in private collection. Courtesy of Heather James Fine Art. 

4. Know What Your Collectors Want Before They Do

One of the more nuanced challenges of serving a global audience is being able to prove to collectors that you understand their needs and their taste—sometimes even before they do. At Heather James, Alyssa and Sarah have leveraged Artsy’s resources and their own knowledge to deliver a data-driven and personal service to their collectors that proves highly effective. 

“Through artist alerts, inventory filters, et cetera—Artsy users come to us after searching for exactly what they want,” Alyssa says. “We used to sit and say ‘this client, I know he collects X, Y, and Z but I can’t figure out what else to show him.’ That’s what’s so beautiful about The Art Genome Project—you look at deeper themes that could connect an impressionist painter to a renaissance painter to a post-war painter. It’s those connections from The Art Genome Project that help us curate and share a more diverse selection for our clients.”


Through partnering with Artsy and proactively using the platform's promotional and technological assets, Heather James has broadened its audience, delivering art from the gallery to people around the world. Building upon the success of its online expansion, in the next six months, Heather James Fine Art will be opening two new consultancies in New York and California.