Episode 121 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / The Artist’s Statement and the Critic

Chapter 5

The Artist’s Statement and the Critic

What I will tell you about an artist’s statement will be different from what you will read in other books on the topic. There is a New York art critic, Jerry Saltz, who has a Facebook page, and one day he told all the artists that he would edit their statements on Facebook or give commentary. He got tons of replies and, for the most part, was very critical and even began cursing at artists and calling them mediocre! As a critic, he can often be mean and hurt people, but at the same time, the ones who are not getting hurt find that attractive. I mention this because I think it sheds some light on critics and how you will view your artist’s statement and responses to it.

When I was in the Whitney Biennial exhibition, I was thrilled to find that Arthur Danto wrote about my work in The Nation and, in general, said wonderful things about the show. Danto is one of the most powerful art critics in the world. He has written many books on art, theory, and art history and is a profound thinker that many in the art world reference. I asked the curator at the Whitney why there were so many terribly angry reviews of the show, but Danto loved it. She said that Arthur Danto was very powerful and could write what he liked because he has nothing to prove. Isn’t that an interesting thought? Perhaps the reason that some critics as well as artists can be so negative and even downright mean is to boost their own status because, in general, that impresses people. Kind of like the bully in the school yard—that is, if he isn’t beating you up, you consider him a friend. The reason to talk about that before I discuss how to make a good artist’s statement is that you should be interested in what others say about their work, be curious, be open, be aware that all the artists that have ever written statements are writing something very personal, and it should be handled gently.

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.

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Episode 120 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / A Major Celebrity Connection

A Major Celebrity Connection

That was all a digression to illustrate how getting someone well- known to host your party may not be as hard as it sounds, or for that matter, to meet someone well-connected or famous.

Here is another example I saw when I was a teenager. My mother worked for a thrift store that existed to fund a local youth program. It was a small used-clothing store no one knew anything about except neighbors. The woman who was running the store wrote a handwritten letter to Yoko Ono one day, saying that she was a big fan of John Lennon and that she was sorry he was gone and a little about her thrift shop and the organization it supports. More than anything, the letter was an honest and heartfelt statement. It was not formal in any way and did not even directly ask for money, but it was effective. She got a call from Yoko Ono’s office saying they were sending a check for $2,000. The woman who wrote the letter didn’t even believe the call was real at first. She thought it was a friend joking with her. In fact, Yoko Ono did send a check for $2,000 to her and asked specifically that it not be announced in the press. Amazing, isn’t it?

Ask Directly

In chapter 2, when I talked about sending out letters to fund my own art, this was one of the stories I was thinking of. I had written to Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Jenny Holzer, and other well- known artists asking for a direct donation. In those cases, they gave it to me in amounts between $200 and $500. The point I am continually trying to reinforce here is that you can directly ask people for what you want, and the higher you aim, the easier it is to hit your target because there is less competition there. Most artists are applying for all the traditional grants and services that are out there. I am not saying that you shouldn’t apply for them too, but when you think outside of the traditional box and write to people directly, the odds of success increase dramatically because there is no one you are competing against! So keep this in mind as you plan your studio party. From your guest list to inviting a famous host for your party, there are ways to make it a very special event that will attract the people you want!

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.

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Episode 119 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Building a Collection of Your Own

Building a Collection of Your Own

Mark told me he would go to artists’ studios, famous ones, and look for a very small drawing, even something on a scrap of paper or something that looked odd for some reason, and he would ask about buying it. The artist would either give him a payment plan, or in most situations, they actually gave him the work for free! They gave him the work because it seemed small, and they liked that Mark was so enthusiastic about it. In Mark’s apartment, he framed all the works beautifully, and it was one of the most interesting collections of modern art that I have ever seen. Each piece was fascinating because at first it looked nothing like what you would expect from the artist who made it. Upon closer inspection of the work, you might see traces of the style of the artist, but it had many surprises in it. This was the person who made me realize that the world of art might work very differently than I previously thought. Just as I casually advised a friend to call an artist he wanted a studio visit from, this is the person who shifted my perspective from not knowing to seeing a way into a world that I knew very little about and had no connections in.

Getting a Dream Job

There was another time I had a friend who was looking for a job. She graduated as an industrial designer. She wanted to design her own products but also to work for someone she admired. I asked her who her hero was, and she said the name of a woman  I had never heard of, but was a major designer now in her early ’70s. In short, I encouraged her to write a letter to the designer, telling her why she liked her so much. My friend wrote a letter and sent it off to the designer (via regular mail), and when the designer read it, she called her up and asked her to come down. When my friend arrived at her studio, she told me the designer announced, “Here is the angel that wrote to me, everyone, come meet her!” And though my friend was a bit embarrassed by this introduction, she was offered a job right away and kept working for her, quite happily, for several years.

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.

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Episode 118 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / The Hero Arrives

The Hero Arrives

This story continues with the actual studio visit. When Andres Serrano came to his studio and looked around, he said, “These are some of the best works I have seen in a while,” or something very similar to that! He also gave the artist the name of a dealer (Stefan Stux) and said, “You should go see him and tell him that I love your work and recommended he see it!” That is a pretty good recommendation, isn’t it? Now you might think there are extenuating circumstances here. After all, the artist lived in NYC, and so did the person he invited, and also, the timing was right. You might think this wouldn’t work for you. However, this is not the only way to reach people and ask for something, to ask for help or advice. You can write to people as well with regular mail or email.

My First Mentor

The reason I gave that advice to a friend was because of an experience I had in my first year of undergraduate art school. I had met a friend there named Mark. He was an art student, and I hadn’t chosen my major yet. He told me that he liked my drawings and that I should try to get a show in New York, and I should show the work to other well-known artists. At the time, I was not only very young, but I also didn’t even have much work. I continued to listen to my new friend and watched the way he worked. After college, he was already working with some of the most popular painters of the time, like Ross Bleckner and other painters from the ’80s and early ’90s. I asked him how he met all these artists who were famous, and he told me they are all in the phone book! He simply began calling them all up and asking them a question. The question he would ask depended on his situation. One question was if they would consider selling him a small drawing or something that he could pay for in installments, since he was a student.

Think about that for a minute. A well-known artist gets a call from a very young artist, asking if he can buy something on a payment plan because he doesn’t have much money. That is an unusual call that is quite flattering to the artist. Because even if that artist does not really need the sale, he or she also realizes that the person wanting to buy their art is more sincere than the average collector who is making an investment. Do you see the attraction? Even though the caller, my friend Mark, does not know the famous artist, the artist is impressed that someone without much money wants to buy his or her work. What would typically happen next is that he would get invited to the artist’s studio. That was nearly enough reward for him, because while he was there, Mark could talk to the artist, see the studio, and maybe even ask for a job. Did they need studio assistants?

The result of his efforts was to get a job as a studio assistant in New York City and an incredible collection of art by major artists! That’s right, Mark built an amazing collection this way.

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.

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Episode 117 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Calling Your Hero on the Phone

Calling Your Hero on the Phone

There are countless stories of well-written letters to celebrities that get a response. Instead of telling you about clients that I work with and coach to reach the contacts they are after, I will tell you a casual story that happened among friends. In one story, I was at a friend’s studio, just looking at his work. We were both fathers of infants and had met in the park pushing strollers. As he was talking to me about his photographs, which were altered in different ways, he kept saying he wants to show them to more people. I asked him who he wanted to show it to. He said people that he respects, other artists that are well known. I asked which ones, and he said someone like Andres Serrano would be amazing. Andres Serrano was one of the top art photographers in New York at that time. My suggestion was simple: “Why don’t you call him and invite him over?”

He balked at the suggestion and said he didn’t have his number, anyway. I said that I thought his number was probably in the phone book since he wasn’t a celebrity. I encouraged a bit more, but to cut to the chase, he called up Andres Serrano and asked if he would come to his studio, and he did just that, the next day! I will tell you what Andres said when he came to his studio in a minute, but first, what did my friend say to him on the phone? It was human, simple, and quite direct. He called up someone he didn’t know, had to ask for them because someone else picked up the phone, and then awkwardly introduced himself and invited the listener to come by for a studio visit. It is that simple, and that crazy, and sometimes awkward, but that is all that is expected. It is not easy for anyone to just reach out and ask, but it is a very human gesture, and when it is sincere, we all respond to it, if we can.

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.

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Episode 116 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Getting a Celebrity Host for a Bigger Party

Getting a Celebrity Host for a Bigger Party

Once you have pulled off a small party of an hour or two in your studio or home, you can move on to a larger affair. The same rules apply: bring in almost all new people and make it a very polished and polite affair. That doesn’t mean it all has to be so special; it just means that you consider everything. That you consider the food, the drink, the conversation, the entertainment, the music, etc. Just as in professional fund-raising and museum-level parties, as your own parties increase in size, you can move to a different level of showmanship, or miracles. One, level it to have a party at your house or someone else’s house and have it hosted or cohosted by someone who is a celebrity of some kind, or a local personality. That may seem like a stretch, but often it is not as far as you think. Do you know anyone that is a celebrity or do you have a friend of a friend that is? If so, you can ask the person to cohost a party if they like you and your work, and that doesn’t mean they will be there; it just means their name is on the invitation.

If I wish it

I had a friend who got Leonardo DiCaprio to say yes through his agent that his name could be used as a host for his fund- raising party. It is not an uncommon practice. The tricky thing is to make their agents trust you, especially if they don’t know you. That is why it is better to have a friend, but if you don’t, you must earn some trust. It is OK to start at this cold; most people do. Even seasoned fund-raisers and directors of development can’t hook a celebrity with ease or without being intimidated! It is a considered and planned request. One that may or may not work, but if you don’t try at all, there is no possibility, so you might as well.

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.

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Episode 115 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / A Small Party

A Small Party

Invite three to seven people that are similar in relation to the gallery owner I just wrote to, someone very new. Clean up your apartment, studio, or house. If it is your studio, don’t overclean it; it should still look like a studio, just make it easy to walk around so people can see everything clearly, and so they can navigate the space easily. You could invite each person personally in a letter saying,

Dear [guest’s name here],

I am having a small gathering of six friends at my studio, and I would like to invite you to be a guest there as well. It will be from six to seven on Monday evening, and there will be cheers as well as art and a brief studio tour. Can I count on you being there?

Kind regards,
[You]

Now you can write something that is more flowery or less formal than I did, but it should contain that basic information. You can add to that by explaining exactly why you are  inviting them to meet other people there of interest or elaborate on a new body of work. Once you have your group and you have prepared your place and bought the food, there is one other element you can use to make it special. You can have a performer there. You could have a well-known local poet or writer read their work to a small crowd. That not only takes you out of the hot seat, but it is an additional draw that will add to the appeal and comfort level of your invitation.

Just like the first miracle that we were talking about, a performer doing something memorable that is just for pure fun and entertainment is always a good draw. And it can also be very low-key, like a poet reading or a brief talk by someone on some- thing of interest. Be creative here. Remember you are orchestrating an event, and everything is in your control, so enjoy the process of putting it together and making it memorable. The one mistake you should not make is to invite your friends. This is not about hanging out with your friends; it is a professional atmosphere where you are cultivating relationships.

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.

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Episode 114 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / The Master of the Ceremony

For a party this size, you prepare in much the same way as for a large party in terms of the sophistication of your design. The guests that you are going to invite are people you have met once or twice for coffee or at an opening and you have exchanged several emails with. They are collectors, curators, or perhaps friends of the family that have an interest in art.

This party is a reach for you. It is not about a cozy scene you can settle into; it is a party where the guests learn about you and your studio. The guests talk to each other a lot, but you are the master of ceremony. Of course that means that you have designed the event. When does it start, stop, and what happens in between. It is important to have something to eat. You can go with the traditional wine and cheese, but if you pay more attention to the food, you will present a more attractive setting. I recently went to an opening in a gallery in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The gallery could not have been more than three hundred square feet, it was tiny! If twenty people were in there, you wouldn’t be able to move. There was a group show of drawings, and instead of wine, there was a small table with eggnog and homemade Swiss cookies. The eggnog came with a dash of whisky in it, and the cookies were delicious! It may seem like a trifle, a detail that doesn’t really matter, but I think it does. I am not advocating alcohol in any way, but it can be one of many elements. That was a good opening in terms of the art, but the hosts were even more memorable. They were two people who seemed to put some care into what they served their guests, and that is the most memorable thing at a party!

In the case of the gallery I just mentioned, that I went to for the first time, I felt compelled to write them a thank-you note for the opening. The note was in my interest, of course, but it was also just being polite and knowing that everyone likes it when someone notices what they have done. This is what I wrote to the gallery, which is one way to begin a relationship:

Dear Eva and Hp,

I very much enjoyed your opening last night and had to write you to tell you why. First, you have selected a wonderful and fresh group of artists, but also because you were such good hosts.

The delicious eggnog was a very elegant touch as was the warmth of the homemade cookies you served.

I simply want to say thank you for making such an aesthetically pleasing space, you are adding much to this world!

Best wishes,
Brainard

And this was the reply of the gallery director:

Thank you so much Brainard, this means a lot! Hope to see you at our next opening!

All best,
Eva

And that is all, but it is good because it is the beginning of a professional relationship. At the next opening, I will introduce myself to the director, and they will be happy to see me and will wonder what I do. At that point, when they ask me what I do, I can decide what I want to tell them. In my case, I can say, “Oh, I am writing book about making it in the art world,” or I could say, “I am an artist.” Before I get to that point, I will make a deci- sion with myself about what that I want to talk with the director about. But now I have a personal connection, and this is a way to meet more people and invite them to the party we are planning here!

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.

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Episode 113 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Have a Party and Make a Miracle Happen

Have a Party and Make a Miracle Happen

It was the first miracle that Jesus got tons of PR for; don’t you think it will work for you? In fact, the example of turning water into wine is a great one. All politics and religion aside, it is a fantastic story, making it one of the most memorable parties in history; don’t you think we can learn something from that? Let’s take it apart for a minute. The story is roughly that there is a wedding. At the wedding, everyone is drinking and having a good time. After a full day of nonstop partying, the wine is finished and the guests are disappointed! Luckily, there is a magician there who does an amazing performance; he turns the water that is there into wine. The only witnesses to this event were drunk from a day of drinking of wine; it was just right. The perfect story. Whatever happened from then on is history. The story of that miracle maker continues to attract press, admiration, and controversy: all the things you could use for your art practice. Parties can be events where something truly spectacular happens. You may not be able to turn water into wine, but perhaps you have another trick up your sleeve? I am talking here about a party not where everyone gets drunk, but where some- thing very memorable and interesting happens.

The Party

To have a party, you don’t really need me to give you instructions. However, to do a professional job, where the goal of the party is not to get a date or show off your new place, but to meet collectors and raise money, you need to be more calculated and thoughtful. Of course you can take this idea in any direction, from a very low-key intimate party with three guests to a gala event like Jesus attended with performers wowing the crowd at a place you have rented or borrowed. Let’s begin by talking about a smaller event, with three to six people as guests.

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.

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Episode 112 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Take Notes with a Pad and Pen

Take Notes with a Pad and Pen

The reason you are holding the meeting is to get to know them, feel comfortable, and tell them what you are doing and how they might be able to help. There are many ways to solicit funds from people, but I like to use the approach of asking them indirectly, at this stage, if they know where or whom you could ask for support. Again, this tactic prevents you backing them into a corner. It gives them an easy way to get out. What you will probably hear from them are other places you can go to ask for funding or even individuals. Then you have a reference, and that is important. When they tell you about such and such an organization, ask them if they have a contact person there; try to be as specific as possible. Take notes on a small pad. I think that is the least offensive, the small pad and pen. You can tap notes into a phone, but it is awkward, and a laptop is too big. I like small leather-bound pads that look nice as well as convenient. Just use a pen and a small pad to take notes about who they are mentioning, get names of individuals, and take note of any relationship that is being mentioned.

After the first meeting, it is required that you send a thank-you for meeting them and always act as polite as possible. In an email thanking them again, make a summary of what happened and tell them what actions you are taking and that you will report back to them on what happened.

Attitude makes a big difference

Thank-You Notes

Those simple actions, sending polite thank-you notes after meeting someone and following up, are a professional practice that will get you everywhere. The next step is to build your relationship with this person on a deeper level by attending events that they are involved with, even offering them help or a donation of your art. Board members of museums and others on that level are often looking for help in different ways. They often have a foundation of their own that they are raising money for, and if not, they are usually helping other organizations, and if you take an interest in those organizations, you will be even more in the favor of the collector/patron you are talking to.

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.

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