7. Articulate Your Stand, Share Your Opinions, Show off Your Knowledge
This is a very, very important point. Many visual artists feel that they needn’t or mustn’t “talk” about their artistic vision because, well, isn’t the art itself supposed to do exactly that? Painters and sculptors and photographers aren’t novelists and poets, after all. Yes, of course—but wait! Consider two things: One, we live in a very fast-paced world where most people simply do not have the time to pause and reflect on the meaning of art. Second, a lot of individuals actually do not know what or how to think about art when face to face with it as they are not familiar with art history or art theory. Perhaps if you explained why and how and when you made a piece and what you intend to explore or communicate through it, they might just begin to regard it with a deeper lens. Your elucidation of your own work might elevate their assessment of it and incite them to make a purchase.
Being able to articulate your stand coherently and concisely—especially if you can connect it to contemporary political, economic, philosophical, social, cultural, spiritual, religious issues—might also open up speaking and lecturing opportunities for you. So share your opinions and show off your knowledge regularly through posts and pictures on your website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram but be disciplined in the way you conduct yourself. Don’t be too talkative. That is a huge turn-off! Never send around unsolicited newsletters. Keep your messages clear, polite and brief before those who are curious about you. Practise restraint. Never be arrogant, remain open to being opposed, challenged and improved. But yes, always remain confident.
8. Strike a Balance between Art-Making and Art-Marketing
One of the greatest challenges that you will face as an artist is time management. It may be very tempting to think that perspiration in the studio will lead to prosperity. But that is only partly true. The mistake most creative people make is that they fail to understand that a masterpiece does not sell by itself. Excellent work by an artist who has no proper social life even in his own town can easily rust away in his storage whereas mediocre work by an artist who has made an effort to make himself internationally popular may command hundreds of thousands. If you have 500 highly original paintings in your home but a network of only 1000 people, chances are you will be worse off than the guy who has only 50 paintings but a network of 10,000.
So give as much priority to art-marketing (if not more) as you do to art-making. You needn’t conduct marketing research everyday as that might disrupt the concentration you might require to make your piece but do divide your week or month in a such a way that you are able to harmonise the two tasks. Keep some money aside from your earnings for activities small and big that can help make you a little famous. Fame has great commercial value (this should be obvious but we have noticed that actually not many people realise it). If, on a day, you feel you aren’t selling anything, just ask yourself this question: so how many people in the world, after all, know that you exist?
9. Connect with As Many People as Possible in Relevant Industries and Beyond, and Know Who Does What
You are ready to market yourself to the world. Where exactly do you start? Go by these three steps. Firstly and obviously, connect with dealers, galleries digital and physical, art advisors to private or corporate clients (see who is formally open to applications and submissions) and other artists already established. Secondly, reach out to professionals in industries that regularly require art—real estate, interior design, architecture, luxury and hospitality. Thirdly, make friends with contacts from other fields. On LinkedIn, it may be possible to find people from finance, law, technology and healthcare backgrounds in art collecting groups. You can easily step forward and introduce yourself to any art-lover but do not send price lists or lengthy catalogues right away. Have patience. Give them time to know you. If they like you and your work, they will get back. Also, note who does exactly what in the art world. A career advisor/consultant/coach for an artist is not necessarily a dealer.
10. Keep an Introductory Document Ready at All Times
You never know who will show interest in your work and when and where. That’s why it is always wise to have an updated PDF at hand that includes all your important information (biography, statement, CV) and images (at least multiple shots of major works with descriptions). You needn’t provide rates for each piece but can give an estimate of your range.
11. Get Your Primary Content Translated into Different Languages
The art market is no longer limited to or even concentrated in Europe and North America. In our globalised world, vast sums of money have already flown or are flowing just about everywhere. New cosmopolitan cultural hubs have cropped up in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. It’s wise to take advantage of this situation. Apart from English, you can have your primary content (that is, biography, statement and descriptions of projects and pieces) translated into at least the following languages: French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese and Japanese, and post the texts on your website. This could make you accessible to a much larger audience.
12. When Approached by Exhibition Venues and Platforms Asking for Your Money, Do Your Research
If you are an artist with a growing network, chances are you will be bombarded with email invitations to this show or that fair or this list or that directory. Many a times you will be told that you have to “pay” for exposure. What must you do? It will be useful if you keep in mind these five things:
(i). If the party is an individual broker, avoid them. A dealer’s job is to sell your work and earn a commission thereafter—that is their income. If you have already paid them, they will not be motivated to find you a buyer. It is totally reasonable to pay an art consultant or writer who is sharing their knowledge of the art world with you or creating content for you, respectively, but never to a broker just for the possibility of any kind of future sale. The business just doesn’t work that way.
(ii). If the party is a gallery, again, I wouldn’t encourage you to get associated with them. It may not be an outright fraud or scam but if they need your money just to hang your work on their walls, we can’t say if they will be motivated to sell your work. Try reading up on them, get in touch with artists they have represented in the past. If the gallery has had successes and if you have a budget, you may consider extending a small amount for promotional activities but certainly not thousands of dollars.
(iii). If the party is a show or fair, enquire about their reputation, see their media coverage. Nowadays both non-profit and for-profit art exhibition organisations (sponsored by other brands or not), request an application from the artist, after the approval of which, the artist will have to purchase a booth or stand or wall space in a major city like London or New York or Amsterdam or Vancouver or Sydney. In such a case, it is always safe to check on the number of visitors and the type of visitors (gallerists, collectors, journalists, curators, etc.) who will attend the event, and read reviews of or have a talk with any artists who have had positive experiences thereat.
(iv). If the party is an online gallery, remember that a flat-fee-based e-commerce site may be okay if it allows you to keep all your commission (example, Artplode) or if it gives at least some room and facility for display of art that is free (example, Artmajeur) before charging a fixed rate for a larger number of uploads.
(v). If the party is a magazine or list or directory (print or digital) that needs money from an artist just to feature their biography, statement and a few images of your artwork, it is not to be taken very seriously. A paid feature, particularly an in-depth advertorial, could be useful if the publication’s reach is very wide (subscribed to by galleries and collectors spread over the world) and/or if they are offering something long-lasting to you (an online page with a detailed conversation with you that won’t be pulled down any time soon). There should be considerable value in the transaction.