Episode 101 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Presentation and Lecture Tools (Not PowerPoint!)

Presentation and Lecture Tools (Not PowerPoint!)

When you begin to present yourself and your work for different audiences, you need a basic plan to begin with. Traditionally, PowerPoint has been the digital tool of choice that has replaced the slide projector.

But first let’s talk about the audience. Are you presenting your work for a grant or fellowship? Or presenting your work for a university audience? You might want to present your work and yourself to a potential funder. All of the above people require a similar approach with slight differences in tone or delivery, but how do you create a basic presentation? At this point in time, I would suggest Prezi, which is a fairly new but very sophisticated update of PowerPoint presentation.

You can still deliver a certain amount of information in a narrative order if you like, but there is something more interesting and dynamic about Prezi. To begin with, you first assemble in a folder on your computer some things related to your presentation. Then, instead of the typical slide show of PowerPoint, you are using a nonlinear approach. Prezi has a way of letting you put all your information down on a desktop, your pictures and blocks of text, and then you simply draw lines between them in the order you want it to be presented. It is very visual and easy to use, so I suggest going to their website to see it for yourself. The advantage to this is that you can present it directly from your computer, or it can remain on the Prezi website so you can present with any computer that is online. If you feel uncomfortable with it, PowerPoint is the next best option, but I strongly urge you to explore Prezi as it is much more exciting to look at.

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 100 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Social Networking

Social Networking

It used to be that everyone had to have a website to show their work in a digital format to the world, but now with platforms like Facebook, Flickr, and other sites, it is free and easy to put up images. And with Facebook, you can put up images as they are made and get comments right away. I think that a website, a fairly simple one, is necessary, but social networking will help drive traffic to your website. There is much more to Facebook in that you can actually meet people who can help you and who are real! For example, most of the people I friend on Facebook are involved in the arts. I look at other pages, in particular Jerry Saltz’s Facebook page, and comb through people who are interested in the arts: collectors, museum directors, artists, and more.

It is amazing how you can connect directly with people. If you search on Facebook for “art collectors” and then check “people” on the left, you will see amazing resources for meeting collectors. There are groups of collectors and all kinds of pages for them. This is a valuable resource. I have written directly to collectors introducing myself and asking them to lunch. I have met with museum directors this way as well, and I think it is one of the best networking tools for artists out there. The other photo-sharing sites are an easy way to upload a set of images and share them, but Facebook is good for actually meeting people and talking to them.

Friending on Facebook

There are many ways to promote and share your work on Facebook, but I will go over a few basic steps.

  1. Begin adding about five to ten friends a day at the most (or Facebook will stop you). Make these friends art-related, such as artists you admire or collectors, curators, gallery, and museum staff. When you add someone as a friend, send a personal note, even if it is the same one to everyone. Something simple like, “I would like to be your friend because I like the work you are doing with [the name of a museum or some- thing related to them], and I would like to keep in touch. Sincerely, [you].”

  2. As you build up friends, start writing to them all the time. Spend part of each day, maybe thirty minutes or so, sending notes or making comments on other people’s postings. Write thoughtful comments on images that people who you want to be friends with upload. If you have a Facebook page already, you know the value of this. If someone comments on a photo or comment of yours, you take an interest and often write back. The more sincere and interesting the comment is, the more response you will get.

  3. In your status updates, send out links to new work you are doing. Try to avoid talking about your pets, children, domestic minutiae, and other nonessentials. You want this to be productive time, so use it that way.

  4. Warning! Do not use the same password on your Facebook account as other accounts, like Gmail, because that makes you an easy target for hacking. That means someone else breaks into your Facebook account and sends commercial messages to all your friends. Beware.
  5. The last Facebook tip that I would suggest is to limit your time on it, for while it may be a helpful tool, in excess, it is a major time waster. As of this writing, in 2011, Facebook is the biggest platform, but there are many, many others, some of which are yet to emerge. I personally try to keep it to a minimum, so I don’t spend too much time in front of the computer, but keep your eye out for new forms of social networking that are sure to arise!

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 99 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / An Offer They Can’t Refuse

An Offer They Can’t Refuse

This leads us to the current trend in art marketing, which is making the dealer an offer they cannot refuse. That means making a proposal to a dealer that makes financial and aesthetic sense. This approach was created as much by the rising costs of running a gallery as the competition among artists to get into a gallery. This means that the traditional approach of dropping off a CD or sending one in is not the best way to make a deal with a gallerist. To begin with, go back to your list of galleries in your area, and you research them online and go to all of them. Try to attend at least one opening from each of the galleries you wrote down. Take a look around at the opening; do you like what you see? Ask questions about the work at the opening, and someone from the gallery will tell you more about it. Do you like the way they talk about art and sell it? If so, this is a reason to want to work with this gallery. If not, then move on or try another opening there to give the gallery another chance.

In the smallest galleries, your approach could be simple. Walk into the gallery and ask the person behind the desk if they look at the work of new artists. They will give you their answer, which if yes, usually means either giving them a CD with images or sending them by email. If the gallery is more established, then the example of making a deal they can’t refuse will have a chance of working. But how do you make such a deal? In this area, you can be as creative as you like, but it is a business proposal. Some form of “I have a great opportunity for you that is a win-win situation for both of us,” and then of course explain your idea, which involves sales, the press, and new collectors.

Is it easy to be an artist?

Here is an unusual example that worked well. An artist named Andrea Fraser does what she calls institutional critique, which means that much of her artwork, which is sculpture, prints, and performances, are critiquing the institutions of the art world, such as galleries and museums. Her proposal to a major gallery went something like this: She proposed a show in the summer (typically a downtime for galleries) for a month. The show was simple to put up; it was just a monitor in one corner, playing a video over and over. The video was of the artist having sex with a collector. It was shot from a security-type camera attached to the ceiling of a hotel bedroom. It took place in real time without any close-ups. The video will be in an edition of ten. However, the first collector who bought the video also gets to be in it. Thus, she is having sex with a collector. So for the show to work, one video has to be sold at $10,000 before the show opens. For the gallery, they have already broken even before the show opens! From the artist’s point of view, she is creating a situation that, to her, exposes elements of the art world, that is, artist as prostitute, gallerist as pimp, and collector as john. But for the rest of the world, the public gallery audience, and the press, it had a different effect. They were shocked, aghast, and fascinated. That is one model of making the dealer an offer he cannot refuse. That particular show did very well and got her tons of local and national press.

Now you might be thinking you do not want to do that! However, your approach can be more subtle. Imagine telling a dealer you will have a show of your paintings, and there will be a band there, a comedian, and a magician. The performances will be on one night, and there will be different parties on other nights for select groups of people from museums, such as the young collectors’ club or other associations that are interested in the arts. That is just a sketch of an idea, but you get the basic concept. Come up with a deal that is exciting and impossible to refuse. Even if your idea doesn’t work the first time, you will get a gallery owner’s attention with this kind of approach.

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 98 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Gallery Presentations

Gallery Presentations

Galleries are very different from museums in two ways. One, their motive is profit. If they don’t sell, they are out of business. Two, they are privately owned, so there are no strict rules or standards at all. You are approaching a business owner who has certain goals. One may be to show great art, but the most important thing to them is making money. For a short time I helped a friend who was a musician get booked at clubs in New York. I didn’t know anything about the music business, but I thought I could learn quickly, and this is what I learned. If you have a band and want to be booked at a club or bar or venue of some kind, you have to convince the owners of the venue that you can bring in a crowd; that is all, and you are booked. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is all about the money. When people come to see bands, they drink at the bar, and that is how money is made there. So if I can just guarantee one hundred people will come, I can have almost any night at any club. Amazing, isn’t it? It is all about the money and not necessarily the music at all! If you have a band, the key is obviously how to bring a crowd in. That comes from great self-promotion with stickers, Facebook, YouTube, giving away CDs on the street, and more. I know one band that packed the house by telling everyone of their friends they would supply free beer to everyone after the show!

I mention this because it is not dissimilar in the gallery world. You have gallery owners who want to turn a profit and are not afraid to talk about money. You may wonder, “Is the quality of your work important to them?” Yes and no. Like the story I told about booking bands, if they feel you can bring in a buying crowd, they are interested. A friend of mine, who is a private banker and works with some of the wealthiest individuals in the world, told me, “You have to think, what does the person want that you are trying to reach.” So in the case of a gallery owner, what they want is to make a profit and bring in more collectors. You see, they have a list of the collectors who have bought from them in the past, and they are always trying to increase that list. If they do not increase that list, they are asking the same people over and over again to buy art, and that is a limited situation financially.

So in your approach, which I will outline here, it is much more than just sending or showing them images. You can certainly do that, but you must understand how the mind and the eyes of the gallery director work. He or she is not only trying to decide if they like your work, but more important to them, they are deciding if they can easily sell this work and bring in more collectors. Of course, if you are well known and trying to switch galleries, they are interested because you have made money for gallerists in the past. If you are not well known, then you are like hundreds of others who write to them, and if you try to look at it from their perspective, why should they show 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 97 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Preparing for a Meeting with a Curator

Preparing for a Meeting with a Curator

The idea is to get a meeting with a curator, any curator at the museum, and this is what you will do once you get the meeting.

You will prepare yourself for the meeting in the following ways:

  1. Bring a printed image, not a laptop with pictures on it, but a printed image and preferably less than ten, on eight-by-ten sheets of glossy paper (or a similar size). They can be print-outs from your computer, but keep everything very neat and organized. Do not bring original work or anything that is awkward. The idea of this meeting isn’t to evaluate you or your art, but to make a proposal.
  2. Decide what you are going to ask the curator. Yes, you are going to ask them a question, because if you don’t ask them something, you will have a pleasant meeting that will end with the curator saying, “Thank you and let’s keep in touch,” and you do not want that! You want something more valuable from the curator, which is a reference. But what will you ask? What will you propose? This is the fun and creative part. It depends on your medium, of course, but think about how you would like a show of your work to look. How many pieces would you put in that show? Will the show have a message? Is that message political, personal, spiritual, or something else? When talking to a curator, it is easiest to talk about ideas, because quite honestly, talking about art is difficult. It is usually difficult for the artist as well as for the person viewing the art, so talk about ideas.

It’s about Ideas

Make your idea succinct and understandable. Perhaps you are telling them you want to have a show of paintings or sculpture or something else. Say exactly how the show would be put together and why it will be exciting. Tell them why you think the show is important. You should be able to say all that in less than one minute. Then wait for the curator to respond with something like, “Oh, that is interesting.” Then tell them that you want to present this show, do they know of any venues that might be appropriate for it? Wait for an answer; do not jump in with nervous talking. This method gets the curator off the hook from having to talk about their museum, and most likely there is little they can do for you there. However, they know other people that may be able to help you, and they might say something like, “Oh, you should talk to X, that gallery might like it, and also X, because that is a space that encourages dialogue,” or they might even say, “So-and-so at this museum might be interested.” Whatever their answer is, explore it a little, ask more questions if you don’t understand something they say, and take notes! Then thank them and leave.

The Pen is Mighty

When you get home, write them a brief thank-you note. That is the way I got a solo show at the Whitney Museum, which I will go into detail on in chapter 8. I made an appointment with a curator I did not know, and I did not bring in any images at all. I described three ideas to the curator, and she told me two places for the first two, and for the third, she suggested another curator at the museum! It is really that simple if you just make the meeting and think of something to say. We are all interested in ideas, and especially when the person talking about the idea is enthusiastic and positive. When I talk about ideas to a curator, I am very excited about it, like I was as a child getting a new toy that I always wanted for my birthday. People are very attracted to others who are sincerely excited and happy about a creative project; it is the life force we all desire and live for.

We have covered how to present your work to a museum, either for review (if they have a policy for that), or by talking to a curator about your ideas. Presenting your work in these cases is fairly straightforward, with the exception of talking to a curator, which is more creative and personal.

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 96 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Presenting to Museums

Presenting to Museums

For museums, which are usually not for profit, what you are looking for is two things. One, you want to know who the curators are there. You want to know their names and what they have done in the past. It should be easy enough to find their names by looking at the museum’s website. If that is difficult, go to the museum and ask who the curators are for contemporary work. The other thing you would like to know from a museum is if they have a policy for looking at the work of new artists. You can write them a letter and simply ask that. Now let’s go to the next step of this situation. You have a list of the museum’s curators, and you have a sense of the shows they have, and perhaps they do look at the work of artists. If they have a policy of looking at work, simply follow their rules. Usually they ask for a letter, images, and a biography of yourself. Keep in mind that most museums that have policies of looking at artists’ work are usually not exhibiting those artists right away.

What they do is look at your work so that they can understand more about what is going on in contemporary art. Also, even if they like your work very much, they will want to see more. Normally you will get a letter back from the museum stating something like, “Thank you, please send us an update in six months.” The reason they are saying that is so they can see how your work evolves, and also to see if you are professional enough to keep sending them work on a regular basis. The next step with museums, which you can do at any time in your career, is to target a specific curator. In my experience, it is easiest and best not to target the top curator.

Look for a new curator at a museum, someone who is probably young and handles something that might not even apply to you, like booking performances or music. Write to that curator directly and ask him or her if you could meet with them to talk about a project that you would like their feedback on. I always ask if I can meet the curator at the museum café at lunchtime for about fifteen minutes. Usually that is hard to say no to. It is also helpful if you Google the curator and find out something about their past so you can make a reference to it in a letter showing that you know who they are! The letter might look something like this:

Dear [Curator’s name here],

I just read your text on the paintings of [artist’s name here; find this by researching on the web], and I thought you did a great job at articulating the importance and subtlety of her work.

I am writing to you because I would like to have a brief meeting with you at the museum café to tell you about a project I am involved with. It would take about fifteen minutes and will be easy. I value your words and the way you approach your writing and hope you can have this brief meeting with me to hear about an idea that I would like your advice on.

Is it possible to meet on [date] at [time] in the café? Sincerely,


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 95 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Presentation tools and techniques for artists

Chapter 3

Presentation tools and techniques for artists

As computers and the latest social networks are changing the way we share images all the time, the way in which you present yourself and your artwork continues to change as well. To begin with, I will caution against a common practice of artists that usually gets them nothing but frustration, which is to send out a lot of cold letters. If you want to present yourself to a gallery, do not buy a list of gallery addresses and send them all a generic package with a CD, images, and a résumé. It is possible you could get a reaction from this, but the best tactic is to be targeted in your approach. First, choose the nonprofit centers within your reach and choose the galleries that you like. Not the galleries that you think would be appropriate for your work, but the ones you admire for good shows.

To do this is fairly simple. First, look at a map or just write down the name of your city. You are about to make a list and a plan. If you wrote down the name of your city, begin searching on Google for the word “gallery” and your city. Look for your state council on the arts and write down their number as well. I think it usually pays to take a trip to your local council on the arts. If you are living in another country in Europe or somewhere else, there is usually something like an “office of contemporary arts,” which is funded by your ministry of culture or similar. Wherever you are, you are putting together a list of everything in your area that is art-related, meaning galleries, museums, and nonprofit centers. The nonprofit centers are places of education usually. That means they are supported by your government because their goal is not for profit; it is to help artists in some way. Nonprofits, or in Europe, NGOs, are everything from community centers to granting agencies to foundations that have been set up to give money to artists, and also museums and universities could be part of it.

After you have made the list of art-related institutions and galleries within your area, begin to sort them by which ones are closest. If you have to drive more than an hour, in my opinion, that is too far. So pick all the places that are near to you and refine your list. Separate the types of organizations you are listing in different categories, such as galleries, universities, museums, nonprofits, art-related NGOs, and foundations for grants. Now you have a list of places and people to meet. Take it one step at a time and begin by deciding how many you are going to call and visit in a week. I would pick a low number, like three in a week. Pick a time of day that you can spend thirty minutes on this task.

The next step is to look at your three contacts for the week and do a little research on each on the web so you can understand more about what they can do for you. Ideally, you have done enough research on each that you know who the staff is at the places you are calling. Then give them a call or write them a letter. You are not sending them links or images of your work; you are writing them a letter to ask about their services. If they provide grants, you want to be on their mailing list and know when the next application is due. If you are writing to a university gallery, you want to know who curates their gallery and who you can send a proposal to for having a show there. If you are writing to an organization that supports the arts in some way, like an arts council or NGO, then you want to be on their mailing list, and you want to know if there are any opportunities you should be aware of, like competitions or grants. If you are writing to a museum, then you want to be on their mailing list as well, and you want to know if they look at the work of new artists. Let’s look at each case and exactly how to proceed.

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 94 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / The Interview at the Whitney Museum

The Interview at the Whitney Museum

My wife and I went to the museum for our interview and made a decision not to bring anything with us, like a résumé. In the office, we were asked many questions, none of which were difficult to answer. At the end of the interview, with slight frustration, she asked if we could send her something about our past. We explained that we did not believe in the past! And with exasperation, she said, “Well, I don’t know if you went to art school, or any school at all, can you send me something?” Of course we said yes, we would. Then she handed us her card and said, “Please keep in touch about new projects you are doing.” We were thrilled but had no idea what had happened. At home, we decided that instead of sending a résumé, we would send her detailed biographies of both of us. That meant a long prose piece about where we were born and lots of excessive detail about our childhood, including things we made up. It was our answer to writing about the past. We wrote so much, which was probably useless to them, but they had also most likely made a decision by then.

The curators never came to our studio or asked to come. However, late in the month of August 2001, we received a call from the curator at the Whitney Museum saying we were invited to be in the Biennial! She also said that we could not tell anyone, even our parents, because they didn’t want the press to know before it was officially released.

The Story Every Artist Wants to Hear

Why is this the story every artist wants to hear, as the curator said to us? Because we were not chosen or sought after. We were not “solicited” by the museum. We had no gallery representation. We simply sent them our materials and a letter and got into the show. It is like winning the lottery, and as the saying goes, you have to play to win. We played, and of course you could too. Let’s analyze the approach for a minute so it can be adapted to you and your medium. To begin with, it is important to keep up on who the latest curators are for the Whitney Museum or any other museum or gallery.

I read the New York Times for some of that news and also the Art Newspaper, which you can get online. That was essential to read and keep up on what is happening in the art world. Then once you have decided you know who you want to reach with your work, send them a letter. The letter is the tricky part. What will you say, and will you include a statement and a biography? Of course it is up to you; sometimes a résumé is asked for or required, other times not. But remember you are writing a letter to a person, and that person has to read something that they think is interesting. Remember the dating analogy? You must decide what to say in the letter that will generate enough interest to have them look at your work. You can be as creative as you want. Send a poem, send a diatribe, a manifesto, or a joke or a very straight letter, it is up to you; just remember the goal—to get the readers’ attention and to have them open your images and look at them.

My meditations on seeing it all happen may or may not have had some effect. I feel that when you are focused on something, it brings in other elements that can help. So perhaps the meditation didn’t make it happen, but it did prepare me for the meeting. I saw myself relaxed as well as enthused in the office of the curator. I had no special philosophy or statement behind the work. I was able to be myself, more or less. If you are a painter, sculptor, video artist, or conceptual artist, you have as good a chance as anyone, but you must present yourself in a way that makes sense and is attractive. The moral of this story is, “If you do not ask, you will probably not be invited.”

In chapter 8, I describe the details of getting a solo show at the Whitney Museum and how, even though I proposed it, the museum promotional materials called it a commission.

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 93 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / The Whitney Museum Calls

The Whitney Museum Calls

In April 2001, I noticed another news item that said people can send in their art to a particular person at the Biennial, the coordinator. I sent in a copy of the first package and also sent another package to two other curators at the Biennial. So that was a total of four packages with a letter and DVD to the Whitney Museum.

I waited and heard nothing, and it was the summer of 2001. I knew the names of the artists who got into the Biennial would be made public in November, so I was getting antsy. My wife suggested that we use meditation or mind-control to help us. That meant that we picked a quiet time each day (when the baby was sleeping) and did a specific meditation together. It was a version of the Silva Mind Control method. Here is how it worked. We would use a visualization of getting into an elevator and going down many floors. With each floor, we became more and more relaxed, and finally when the elevator reached the bottom floor, we got out in a deeply relaxed state and began visualizing what we wanted to happen. I pictured myself in an office at the Whitney Biennial being greeted by the curator. I imagined that my wife and I were talking to her, and very enthusiastically she said, “I would love you to be in the Biennial!” We did that every day. If nothing else, it made us relaxed and focused on what we wanted. Then in August, we got a call from the museum saying that they wanted to interview us.

Of course we were thrilled; we set a date to come in, and I began asking everyone what I should say at the interview. I got all kinds of advice from “Say something that sounds very important and interesting” to “Just be yourself, don’t talk about philosophy or history, just relax.” Many artists assured me that it was routine, and I probably wouldn’t get in anyway. That was my first taste of professional jealousy, and it made me feel awkward to think that some of my friends thought the interview was inconsequential and didn’t mean much. In fact, I learned that the interview meant a lot. It meant you were being considered, and now they want to put a face on it, to see what you are like, to make the final decision.

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 92 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / My Son Is Born

My Son Is Born

Now we move forward to January 2001, and I am frantic and stressed out about how I am going to make a living with my art. So I made a video about giving out foot washings and hugs and decided I would send it out to people and ask for donations to support this. A DVD is really inexpensive to make, so the package was cheap to mail. I sent it to well-known artists at first. The first letter went to the artist Jenny Holzer. Now remember, I have had no major shows, and I am an unknown artist in New York. In the letter, I told Ms. Holzer that my wife and I were artists and this is what we have been doing. I asked her if she would consider donating a small amount to help us. She sent a check for $200! Then I began to search for other artists that I liked, like  Christo and Jeanne-Claude. I wrote them a letter and they sent me $400! The letters were not only inspiring, but they showed me that I could be a fund-raiser for my own cause!

I was getting the New York Times daily, and I would always read the section on the arts. And it was in February 2001 that I noticed a news item that said the Whitney Biennial curators had been chosen. That was one of the things I was after! I put together a packet right away and sent it to the museum. I put the curator’s name on the envelope. I also made an unusual decision. I decided not to put in a résumé, and I said that the work was a collaboration between two people. The reason I did not want to put in a résumé or biography was because I didn’t feel like I had a very glorious past. What would I say, “I lived on an island for almost ten years and had a show every year in my own gallery”? I felt that my past was also irrelevant to understanding my present work.

This again brings up the example of dating techniques. When you want someone’s attention and you want them to  like you, it is usually best not to tell them everything about your past, right? The reason for that is obvious, I think. Too much information! In this instance, it worked for me. I sent in a package with a short letter describing the work I was doing, and I signed it, “With love, Delia and Brainard.” It was an unorthodox package, that is for sure, but it was also a complete one. The museum had my name, number, and email address (I had no website), and a short letter and video describing the work. I waited and waited. Nothing came.

Ep 92

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.