Episode 66 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / The Artist Stereotype

The Artist Stereotype

One of the most crushing ideas or mythologies for artists is that you are more “pure” if you don’t promote yourself. We have been raised on these stories, and it has seeped into the minds of many artists and has stopped them from achieving their potential. You know the phrases: “He died penniless, not knowing his contribution,” “She always struggled with money,” “He never sold a painting and died without friends.” We know the stories of Van Gogh and many others that fit those phrases. And we also know how it feels to tell your parents you want to be an artist and the instant financial concern they might have for you, not to mention your friends and other relatives! I just recently read about the story of Vivian Maier, a photographer who produced over one hundred thousand photographic images from the 1950s to the 1990s. Her images were found at a yard sale. When the buyer posted some of them on Flickr, the photo-sharing site, she became an instant celebrity because the images are beautiful. Now a book and a movie will be made about her. She died before she knew of any of this. She was also homeless for a while until two children that she was a nanny for helped her by paying for an apartment and her bills. It is an incredible story. A sad story and a poignant one. When the newspapers caught hold of this story, they ate it up. It fits the age-old myth of the artist. The newspapers commented that she was a pure artist because among other things, she seem to have no commercial interests at all when making art. How infuriating that was to read! Another nail in the coffin for artists everywhere trying to earn money! I think the way this is interpreted by many artists is to take it to heart and victimize themselves by thinking they must not earn money in order to be pure, whatever that means. (More about Maier in chapter 11.)

Please, if there is one thing you take from reading this book, it should be that those stories are not only dead, they are counterproductive and can only serve to bring you down emotionally and prevent you from moving forward. Embrace the new economy that is all around us. You are valuable, your work is valuable, and as a contributor to culture, you need to live and thrive off of your work. At the very least, you need the opportunity to thrive off of your work.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Episode 65 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Creative Ideas Are Needed

Making It in the Art World

Introduction

I am writing this book to change the world. Artists are at the forefront of creative tactics that can alter not only how we perceive our lives, but how we live them.

This book is for the professional artist or the artist who wants to learn to be a professional.

If you are an artist, you are a leader. If you are a leader, you must make a stand and tell everyone who you are and why they should listen to you. In this hypercompetitive world, you must be brave, and embrace your genius, or your voice will be silenced by those around you who are not afraid to speak up.

When I grew up in the ’70s, my parents were teachers, and like all the other parents I knew, they worked a lot, bought a house, and made a modest living. I was told to go to college, get a degree, and pursue my interests. But since my interests were art, when I graduated, there were no jobs in the arts except for teaching, and I didn’t want to teach. Also, I wanted more: I wanted to be an artist and live by my own rules.

The New Economy

Let’s look at the economy. In the last century, we have been taught to get a job, go to work, pay the bills, and everything will be all right. The capitalist system needs workers, and schools turned them out. People took jobs they didn’t like and dealt with it until they retired. For the majority of the working class, their life was devoid of realizable dreams, of plans, because no one encouraged it. After coming home from a soul-crushing job, there wasn’t time to pursue what it is you love or even to explore what it is you might love. What is the answer? Fantastic state-sponsored advertising told us the new answer for many was the lottery. Buy a ticket and you can quit your job, then the dream begins. Unfortunately, the lottery made things worse, because now all your dreams are in one basket, and the chance of them coming true is practically zero. It is no wonder we see a rise in antidepressants; life is laid out to be a mediocre exercise in making money, managing stress, and taking care of your family. Now the economy is even worse, and when you get out of college, even getting a mediocre job is very difficult. The competition is growing all the time. So now people go around grousing about how the rich get richer, and all that serves to do is keep them in their place of mediocrity, of not taking risks, and getting a prescription for antidepressants or worse. Don’t play that game; it’s just what the man wants, and it will keep you down and stop you from doing anything creative.

What this new economy needs is innovators. Don’t look for gallery approval, hoping to be taken care of like a pampered pup; those days are long gone. The artists who are really making money, like Damien Hirst, are finding ways to bypass the gallery system. Even graffiti artists like Banksy are finding ways to bring their work to market without a gallery, without a middleman.

Creative Ideas Are Needed

As an artist, you stand on the edge of a new frontier. The world is waiting for your ideas. Companies everywhere are looking for creative ideas, and people all over the globe want to be inspired by something new; they want an example that they can follow and do by themselves. As an artist, it is your job to generate new and creative ideas. Galleries can still be useful, but they are a small part of the game now.

In the middle of one of the worst economies in decades, a website came along called Kickstarter that was launched in April of 2009. The idea was to provide a platform for creative people to show off their ideas and raise money for it. By 2010, Kickstarter was the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world; millions of dollars go through it every month, right into the hands of artists. Where did all that money come from in this terrible economy? From people everywhere who want to see creative ideas and projects like making music, inventions, and artworks be part of this culture.

You are being called upon to lead the next generation! As an artist, you have a big advantage, because you already know how to think creatively, and if you look at the Kickstarter website, you can see that the world values creativity.

Now it is time to make it; now is the time to show the world that you are a leader and have something to offer. Your art, your creative ideas, your willingness to be able to take a risk for what you believe in are all part of the new economy that you must engage unless you want to keep looking for a job that is boring, dull, and will suck the creative life right out of you.

This book will give you tools to pursue your dreams, and the workbook that is included at the end of every chapter is a way for you to make a contract with yourself about realizing those dreams and making a plan for them to happen! You can download the workbook on the link below.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

Episode 64 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Motivation

Motivation

There is no greater stumbling block for an artist than rejection. Even after a great solo show is mounted, if there are little or no sales, it can send an artist into a downward spiral. How can anyone withstand these slings and arrows? As Robert Storr alluded to in the first interview, it is about what you do with failure. We will all fail at a variety of attempts and projects, but how will you retool that failure so you can even use it to move forward? That is a personal technique not taught by schools or mentors, but by the passion that exists with you, within any given individual. It has also been said that art should be something that you must be compelled to do by an inner desire, a force you can’t stop.

I think that is one way to battle failure, to never give up, but there are other ways as well.

Another way is to approach failure as a learning tool. If you were a scientist, failure would not be considered a mistake or setback, but needed information to make something better. In art it is similar, we could choose to look at mistakes, setbacks and rejections as tools to make a better presentation, a better series of works, etc.

Another way to endure and retool failure might be to grin and bear it so to speak. That is, to keep working, keep making art, even if you are feeling set back by failure or disappointment.

Have faith that the sheer continuance of working will generate a break through and you will work with a lighter burden.

Another way to deal with failure is to give up. Leave your studio. Go somewhere that is at least 3,000 miles away or the furthest you can go. Stay there for three days to a week, don’t make art. Just think. Then come back and begin again.

There are many ways you could deal with setbacks and challenges, but an awareness that you are in a battle might help, especially if you gather fellow friends, peers, who are all in this with you together.

John Currin talked about friends just getting together to help each other. You could call it a support group, but it comes in many forms, and could also be a salon, or a revolution or a reading group.

Finding a group of friends that is supportive is also I believe what might save our planet, our species! More and more articles are written about our relative isolation as a community in our jobs and homes as opposed to working together with friends all day and eating and dancing afterwards.

A community that eats, dances and works together is a happy one it seems. I hope that some of the suggestions in this book will bring you more relationships, more friends, maybe even more dancing, and more laughing.

After all, “it’s who you know”, as they say, so why not get busy having fun and meeting people!

It’s why we are here on the planet I believe – we are here to make more friends, to be generous and kind, to dance and sing.

Phrases like that may sound like the  stuff of cliché, but as artists, we are the ones to actually make that happen, we are the ones to gather friends, to invite others to dance, and ultimately to invite others to experience a universal form – your form – of beauty, which of course, is art.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 63 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Believing in Yourself

Self-worth, delusion, and other aspects of how an artist presents herself is essential to any artists’ career. Enthusiasm is a big part of the puzzle to learn how to make contacts and influence people.

The idea of “believing in yourself” has a different meaning for artists, because it is not initially about self-esteem or confidence, even with psychological issues aside, artists tend to have one thing in common. It is a belief in something they do, however small or large – and that is what makes an artist different from every other professional. For some it starts in childhood, but either way, the seed is always there. Then the belief has to be nurtured to some degree, by a parent, or a teacher, or a friend, and then you learn to nurture it yourself by making more art and exploring more ideas, in most cases. So this process of “believing in yourself” to me, means to keep working in the studio or wherever you work, because the art is the center of it all of course. If you do too much “business” or “networking” you will lose studio time and a balance is necessary. The center is always the studio.

The idea of the “artfully constructed personality” is not always as cold as it sounds. Andy Warhol might have been an example of a certain ‘atsy’ self-consciousness about how he appears and acts in public. Dali and others were performers in that sense as well, but Warhol seemed to play up his ability to bore rather than entertain. Another example of an artfully constructed personality is Lady Gaga the performer who once said that Stephanie Germonatta (her real name) could never be as bold and do the things Lady Gaga does.  

I mention these examples to say you can take “believing in yourself” to another level as well, and construct an artful approach to dress, manner of speech, and ambitions. It would be perfect for experimenting with while networking and meeting people, but of course you already have your own style, it’s just a matter of doing it more and trying new approaches.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 62 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Sue Stoffel cont’d / The Eternal Optimist

Sue Stoffel interview continued.

Carey: That’s the idea. I think Creative Capital was encouraging fiscal sponsorship, because in a way this is what a lot of non-profits know how to do, Creative Time as well.

What they know very well is those wonderful things that Ann told you even about raising money, what needs to be done which means that’s the level of expertise that were artists to be able to use that they’re really conversive. They’re pro’s in how to do that. I haven’t seen this happen a lot and I think it’s very difficult for artists to raise money. Right now the art world seems to be changing so much or perhaps that’s just the whole world is always changing so much.  

Stoffel: Well, one of the projects I’m working on going forward which has to remain nameless now is finding exhibition space, living space and production space for visual artists and performance artists.

I think that’s the most pressing need right now, and the fact is that every creative person in New York is being priced out real estate wise. We’ve watched that in Brooklyn, we’ve watched that on the Lower East Side, going to Hoboken and to Philadelphia is not the answer. So I’m working with a non-profit to market empty storefronts, empty buildings, empty spaces on a temporary basis to artists in need so that they can have a studio or even an exhibition.

So it’s working with the real estate industry to make them understand that that social responsibility will come back to them in a big way by working with the creative community here in New York.

So I think that’s a viable alternative to building new studios and new buildings to work with existing structures and to make them suitable for artists to use even at a time temporary basis. So that’s one of the project that I’m working on now.

Carey: You’re working with galleries at the Lower East Side and I assume that’s how you find artists and work with artists – what are you seeing happening in the art world now? Are you excited about what you see coming out? I’ve talked with so many different people, some people say things like, there’s great work coming out, other people complain of the lack of depth in work being produced too fast, artists are thinking too much of the market. What’s your perspective on the new art that exist?    

Stoffel: I’m the eternal optimist. I mean, there’s such a disconnect between the art market and the art world and emerging art world, artists are creating extraordinary work with very resourceful materials.

I don’t agree that they’re making work too fast for the market. I think smart dealers and good dealers and long terms dealers allow artists to work at their own pace. It gets a little stressful a couple of weeks before the opening of the show but I think that model still works. The pricing structure is still where it should be. You shouldn’t have to mortgage your children to pay for a work of art. It’s the last priority at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of life’s necessities and it is actually disposable income.

So I’m not discounting art as an asset class and all the art investment funds but it’s not something that I’m interested in professionally or personally. I’ve been buying art for 30 years and the value of the collection has grown astronomically but it’s not why I do what I do. It’s not about the value. It’s about the support and the encouragement and the commitment of believing in these artists who are coming out of art school and have this incredible need to do what they do.

In that interview Sue Stoffel explains how she became a collector and I think it sheds light on how direct and simple the process can be for collectors. It started with one work of art, and from there her interest continued to grow. Like many collectors, she looks for art in galleries and talks to gallery owners about work she likes. That is primarily where she finds artists and new work. To be on her radar, and the radar of most collectors, your work needs to be on exhibit in places where collectors go.

She is a New Yorker, and most collectors in New York are looking at galleries on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where new galleries open all the time. So getting into group shows in that part of Manhattan by going to those galleries and getting familiar with the scene would help you meet collectors like her. If you are not in New York, then go to whatever neighborhood is near you that has galleries that collectors go to.

If you are a seasoned artist or emerging, this is one way to get more exposure in a new scene – by going to those galleries and looking for ways to get into group shows that can lead to sales and opportunities for solo shows.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 61 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Sue Stoffel cont’d / Fundraising

Sue Stoffel interview continued.

Carey: And so the artists that they’re collecting, they’re not just necessarily known artists, they’re also emerging artists or unknown artists?

Stoffel: They’re all emerging artists. I worked with a lot of the galleries on the Lower East Side on Manhattan who were once the directors of the major Chelsea galleries now and who are going out on their own and starting their own stables and they bring extraordinary institutional memory with them. And have built up their own expertise and I work with them and it also depends on the taste of each client. I never show the same client the same work. I get to know how my clients live and how they live in their own residences. I do everything from delivery, installation, lighting, framing, insurance, tax planning, loans, everything.

Carey: Wow, that sounds like you’d need another degree to learn all of that. That was part of what you’ve learned in Arts Administration?

Stoffel: Yes, very much so, very much so. It’s a fantastic program.  It teaches you what everyone used to be doing by the seat of their palms. Curators used to become museum directors and now museum directors need an MBA.

Carey: And what school did you go to learn that?    

Stoffel: Columbia, here in New York.

Carey: I’d like to talk a little bit now about fundraising as well. I know you’ve worked with organizations to help with fundraising. I’m not sure if you’re doing that anymore, are you still helping with fundraising?

Stoffel: Yes, on a project basis. If I can buy into the project and it’s well conceived and they thought of a budget and they know how much it’s going to cost, I’m happy to make a few phone calls and say, “I think this is where you might have your commitment.”

But fundraising is – Anne Pastenak taught me that, fundraising is about fit. It’s about the project and about the funder, and you can only know that after having done it for a long time. So you have 3 sources of fundraising. You have corporate, you have government and you have private. And so you need to have a good healthy mix of all 3 of them in order to successfully fund any projects.

She also taught me that it takes dollar to raise a dollar. And so you need to have some kind of tools first before you go out to other sponsors and potential funders for grants and say, “Look I’ve got this. It’s going to cost me this, I need you to underwrite a third.” And sometimes they say, “I’ll write a third.” I’ll write a tenth,” but that’s how you get projects funded on a case by case basis.

Carey: Is it possible for artists to use this paradigm? I know places like Creative Capital and others are beginning to suggest to artists that they could run their studios almost like their own nonprofit and begin raising monies for their activity. Is that something you would encourage or do you think it’s possible this idea of artists’ fundraiser for their project?

Stoffel: I have never heard of that.

Carey: Organizations, like the LMCC (Lower Manhattan Cultural Council) and some other new organizations that are coming up are offering artists fiscal sponsorships where they will act as the non-profit to accept the funds on behalf of the artist. So if the artist raises money or gets a commitment from a corporation or an individual to donate money to that project, it will go first to let’s say, in a case of the LMCC, to them and then they take a small percentage and write a check to the artist. Myself, and my wife and I are collaborative, when we raised some money we used Performance Space122 as our fiscal sponsor. Artists are using other organization as fiscal sponsors to essentially create their own fundraising platform.

Stoffel: I have a question back at you then. Is that fiscal sponsor responsible for the end product?

Carey: No

Stoffel: Did they oversee the end product?

Carey: No, I mean, they obviously want something to happen. Let’s say in the case of me working with Performance Space 122,, I’m responsible for communicating with that funder about the progress of it and what ultimately happens with it. The funder is really using Performance Space 122 as a way to donate to a 501(c)3 (a registered non-profit) so they get the appropriate tax off.

Stoffel: Correct.

Carey: This is similar almost to Kickstarter which is like the 501(c)3. They’re not responsible for the end product and of course there is sometimes problems with project completion.

Stoffel: I did know that the LMCC place takes sponsorship but I thought there was only the quid pro quo or they would be given studio space or …

Carey: No. Now they’re just doing fiscal sponsorship because essentially it’s book work. It’s their bookkeeper, that is committing to accepting donations on the artists behalf and creating a separate section in their book to keep track of this project but artist that doing with local churches, it could be anyone with a 501(c)3 really     

Stoffel: I’d like to know more about that, that’s an interesting model.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 60 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Sue Stoffel cont’d / Building a Collection

Sue Stoffel interview continued.

Carey: So what happened after that?

Stoffel: I went back to school. That was an important catalyst. I went back to Columbia and got my masters in arts administration. I figured that I have been doing that for so long that it was time to put the diploma behind it. So my mentor at Columbia, Joan Jeffri was the founder of Arts Administration program there, put me under her wing and kind of professionalized all this intuitive knowledge and experience that I had and with that I was able to go to work and establish my professional credentials in New York. And that was a major moment as well.

Carey: So let’s talk a little bit about your professional credentials, before that you didn’t have any degrees in Arts Administration or the Arts?

Stoffel: Not in Art Administration. I have a couple of degrees in arts history. I do have huge arts historical background but not in Arts Administration which is different because you’re working with funders, with granters, with foundations, government, sponsorships, boards, budgets, very different than just having an art history background.

Carey: Right and since then what’s been happening?

Stoffel: 2005 I started a contemporary photography collection for a law firm in New York. I was given a grant for a mandate to work with 6 floors of their New York offices putting up contemporary photography which was very rewarding. I loved every minute of it, it was a great acquisition committee of lawyers who understood the value of putting art in their conference rooms and in their hallways and in their public spaces.

And then 2008 hit and I watched my 2009 budget disappear. The whole world changed when Lehman Brothers fell. I partnered with a woman to start a new business and it’s still going on. I do collections management for collectors who would like to acquire contemporary art and I take care of other people’s collection as well.        

Carey: And when you build collection, maybe we can talk a little bit how a collection is built.

Stoffel: The art market has changed so dramatically. I think you probably know that just from reading the papers this week. Auctions are selling…

Carey: Right, it hit the billion mark this week in just one art auction.

Stoffel: Yes, the billion mark is only one auction house alone. Collecting contemporary art is a very long process and I’ve worked with clients for maybe even a year before they even write their first check.

And so there’s a huge learning curve involved in understanding of what artists are doing, why they’re doing it and why contemporary art looks like it does today. And so it’s very hands-on and I love working with people who don’t know a lot about contemporary art because I watch their eyes brighten up and they kind of sort to get it after a while that it’s just not garbage or junk or mishmash or “my kids could do that.”  The understanding that there is a process and a talent. Something I call the mind, heart, hand continuum, where you need to see the hand of the artist, and the heart of the artist in the final product and understand what his mind is thinking while he’s creating. And that takes time and dialogue and conversation and looking at a lot of art and going to galleries and museum shows and reading and following what’s going on in the world. And of course working with artists as well. I go to studio visits, I start to figure out what they’re doing and it’s very much a labor of love because I put into practice what I do for myself therefore I can speak to it in a way that appeals to people who are trying to start a collection.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 59 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Sue Stoffel cont’d / Contemporary Art

Sue Stoffel interview continued.

Carey: That’s very interesting. What you’re doing for the museums or what you offer to the museums in New York was to help educate people about collecting. It was something they weren’t doing. Is that correct?

Stoffel: It was a long term plan to develop patronage because that doesn’t exist. Where you have Rockefellers, and Carnegies, Vanderbilts, and Whitneys and even the 3 women behind MoMa who were building museums on their own. The U.S. is famous for not conforming and starting out on their own and doing something different, particularly by women which is an interesting fact as well.    

Carey: So that began your career in both collecting and in arts administration and fundraising. It sounds like it was all wrapped up in that to some degree.

Stoffel: Absolutely. I came back to New York in ’98, joined the board of Creative Time in 1999 and the Brooklyn Museum right in the middle of the Sensation exhibition, which was an interesting time of course to be a new trustee of a museum.

Carey: Right, that was the museum was really under fire then.

Stoffel: Under fire, yes and former mayor Giuliani never even came to see the show. He didn’t know what he was talking about.

Carey: What always seems to be ironic about that, is that it also created worldwide attention for those “controversial” works that many people may not have known otherwise. I think censorship is awful, and that kind of thing is awful but what’s incredible is how those acts of censorship make this work almost iconic and part of the public consciousness in the way that nothing else really does.

Stoffel: Contemporary art it is a repository for the art of our time, it is the  history of our time, it is a truer documentary process than written history. Art that’s made in its time reflects the society in which the artist lived and that’s something that sometimes gets lost in translation.

If you think back to Manet and the Execution of Maximilian, and Marcel Duchamp during World War I, it was absolutely retaliatory against what was the norm. Even the impressionists, they decided they were not going to paint what other people saw but they were going to paint what they saw. And that was a major milestone in the realization that contemporary art is a very vital contribution to history and I think that sometimes gets lost.

Carey: Absolutely. So now you’re back in New York, these are, we’re moving into the early 2000’s, you’ve been on the board or still are at Creative Time and at that point and I know the history of Creative Time so much because that’s when Anne Pasternak was beginning .

Stoffel: Correct, and she’s a force, she’s a major force. It was an honor and a pleasure to work with her and the other board in developing Creative Time into what it is today. I think she came on in 1994. I joined in 1998 and stayed for 10 years.

Carey: So part of your role there was also to organize fundraising and also exhibits?

Stoffel: On both ends. I worked with artists, I worked with Vik Muniz on the skywriting project he did over the skies in New York in 2000.

Carey: That was a beautiful project. I’ll never forget that project.

Stoffel: Yes, it was gorgeous. Of course that could never happen now, after 9/11 but we were busy on the phones trying to find a sky writer who would work for nothing and get that project financed and off the ground. It was so much fun. That’s the best part of being able to contribute to the contemporary fabric is to help projects get realized like that.

Carey: There was a number of things that changed pre and post 9/11 like all the giant shows in the base of the Brooklyn Bridge which was called the anchorage, the  shows were absolutely wonderful but I guess that’s impossible now.

Stoffel: Right, that’s correct.

 

Episode 58 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Sue Stoffel Interview

Carey: Today on our show we’re talking with Sue Stoffel. She’s a collector and an art administrator with 25 years of professional art experience in numerous aspects in the art world. Sue, thanks so much for being with us today.

Stoffel: An honor to be here, thank you.

Carey: When you were growing up were you influenced a lot by the arts? Were your parents involved in the art? If we can go back that far, how did you get involved and influenced by the art world?

Stoffel: Very much influenced through my childhood. I grew up in New York City. I’m fourth generation Manhattanite and my mother is an artist, both my grandmothers were artists. One aunt runs the oldest non-profit cooperative gallery in New York. And my other aunt on my fathers side was one of the founders of the African Art museum in Soho in the ‘80’s. And so my mother was taking me through SoHo in the 60’s, a greasy haired teenager looking at the works of Jasper Johns and Rauschenberg and Warhol, and so it all went in through osmosis.

But it really didn’t come out until I moved to Switzerland in 1980 and started collecting. I was getting married and I went to visit a wonderful old dealer, named Anne Rossler and I asked her what I should buy my future husband as a wedding present and she said there’s only one thing and that’s art. And so I bought my first piece which was a Christo and from there it’s 30 years later, maybe even more, and 350 works later.

Carey: Wow, 350 works that’s how many art works are in your own collection?

Stoffel: Yes, correct. I am a collector. We call ourselves junkie collectors because it’s what we do. We don’t do anything else. My husband used to call it “Susan bags” because he would rather me spend $2000 on a Prada bag than a work of art-  and I disagreed, and so we were collecting Swiss art when we were living there. Then I started to go to Art Basel in 1985 and that changed my perspective globally in terms of what was happening in the contemporary world. And that’s when our art collection started to expand.

Carey: And what was the first Christo that you bought?

Stoffel: It was the Wrapped Leonardo in Milano. It was a work on paper that he had attached a wrapped sculpture on and then there was the matching photograph that went with it. So this was from 1982.

Carey: I didn’t know that. Could you just describe that a little bit more.

Stoffel: Sure, I’m going to walk over and looking at it. Yeah, I don’t know exactly which Piazza in Milano it is, maybe it says on here. Yes, here it is, wrapped monumental Leonardo project for Piazza della Scala in Milano, it’s signed and it is a piece of a cotton wrapped sculpture with his iconic string stapled onto a photograph that he has penciled around of the Piazza della Scala.

There are some really old 1950’s, 1960’s cars parked in the background. So it’s a cool piece and you’ll see it as you come into my apartment. It’s the first piece you see and kind of opens the dialogue to everything else that’s hanging in the apartment now.

Carey: Wow, that is a cool piece. That’s amazing, sounds gorgeous and also of course now very, very valuable piece. Those are quite amazing things to have. That’s essentially an early preparatory drawing of his, isn’t it?

Stoffel: It’s more than a preparatory drawing. There is a depth, there is third a dimension. It is actually a sculpture on the wall.

Carey: So then let’s move forward from there. That was your beginning of kind of your foray into your collecting. You’re in Switzerland, what happened next? And I assume at this point you’re not involved in art administration?

Stoffel: Not yet but that kind of change in 1994, 1995 when we were collecting quite intensely.

I came back to New York for a trip and went to visit the marketing directors of the Whitney and MoMa and put together some best practices of how museums were approaching their contemporary collectors. And I took that to the Kunsthalle in Zurich and I said, “Listen I’ve got this idea, there are a lot of contemporary collectors now out there who don’t feel connected to the museum. I’d like to develop a program,” and they actually bought it and asked me to direct it. So I did that for 5 years before coming back to New York.

I was working with other collectors around Switzerland and organizing lectures and tours and getting into private collections and taking them to art fairs, to the opening of the Gugenheim, I developed kind of a network of very interested contemporary art collectors around Europe and I brought that back to New York with me.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 57 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Finding Art Collectors

How do artists meet and work with collectors? Can artists sell work directly from their studios? This chapter will discuss how collectors operate, how to approach them, and how to make sales from the studio.

Where are all the collectors? They are on the board of all the non-profit organizations around you from universities to museums, theatres, and art centers. They are in attendance at museum openings that are open to the public. Their names are listed on the brochures of museums under “donors and patrons.”

Usually there is a big list of patrons to any major local cultural establishment, and those are all potential collectors. Of course some of those names will no longer be living, but many of them will be, and new names have to be added all the time.

It’s easy to find those names with the internet and a search engine like Google. Get a list together of local collectors using the method I am saying, to find lists of donors and patrons to museums and art centers. Then research each one and see if they have their own foundation (many do) and take notes on what a search comes up with so you can get to know this potential collector better.

So that would be assembling a list of 20 or less people who you would like to meet and having researched them all, you are now familiar with them and if they have foundations and where they like to give money, etc. If that sounds like a lot of work, think of what just one relationship with a collector could yield.

The next step is according to your own style, but you must find a way to meet those people and befriend them with a conversation. It is that hard and that easy. These people on your list will be available to talk to at openings and arts events you are following, so you must find a way to say hello that is not too uncomfortable and that works.

It is clearly possible to meet these people if you do your research, and find the collectors and patrons you want to target. But if a public meeting sounds too daring for you, then you can also email them and introduce yourself online.

However, meeting in person easily trumps the technique of writing an email, because when you meet in person, there is either a rapport, a chemistry, that makes you comfortable or there is not. So I favor in-person meetings because even if it is an awkward first meeting, the email follow-up will be much more meaningful once a face to face meeting has occurred.

It’s all personal. We tend to be comfortable with people we have been around and trust for some reason. Because of that, I suggest trying to meet people at openings, because even if they are not on your list, the more friends you have in the art world, the better.

If you are determined to reach out by email first, then this is how to craft your letters.

Your approach to your letter should be personal, not a template of a letter requesting a view of a website. Ideally you have at least researched the person you are writing to, so make the first letter a form of a fan letter, since you will flatter the recipient by having a knowledge of who you are writing to. Anyone who receives a letter with sincere compliments in it is engaged. If the compliments are not sincere it will not work, so writing a letter from the heart is something you will need to practice and be truthful about. It is an art in itself and has a history that is filled with artists writing letters to collectors, charming them, and often asking for money. There are no strict rules to those letters, but politeness and charm tend to go very, very far.

Begin crafting letters that are like works of art in themselves. Send them by email and / or postal mail. If you do this regularly about things you are passionate about, you will get answers with similar passion and build strong relationships while doing so. These letters can be written to collectors as we have outlined above, but also a great letter to a newspaper can get published and a great letter to an artist or intellectual hero of yours often gets an answer. Try it, with all that you’ve got. This next interview is with Sue Stoffel who is a collector and talks about her expierence in the art world.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.