Episode 291 – New Markets for Artists / Museums


Museums are a different ball of wax altogether. They are not in the business of making sales and are not concerned with selling their collections in most cases. In fact, talking about sales with a museum would generally be a mistake for several reasons, unless you’re talking about their gift shop. Museums know that exhibits increase the value of living artists, and they are careful to avoid involvement in commercial deals for ethical reasons.

Galleries Want Museums

You see, many galleries don’t understand how museums work, and for this reason have difficulty getting museums to take their artists’ work. It is a mistake to approach museums like you would other for-profit businesses because museums do not run on art sales and are unlikely to be interested in the gallery’s proposals.

Museums Do Not Want Galleries, They Want Art

Museums are not easily seduced, and indeed, tend to be put off by dealers who try to woo them into looking at an artist’s work. All the museum wants to know from the dealer is why the artist is interesting, and what, if anything, can the artist’s work teach the public. Museums, not unlike universities, are essentially educational institutions, and they make money by charging admission and having fund raisers.  The staff of a museum is largely made up of academics who have at least a graduate degree.

Approaching  Museums

When I advise galleries on how to approach museums, I tell them to focus on an artist’s educational value. The gallery must consider how their artists teach or help their viewers understand something in a new and different way. How is the artist building on the history of previous artists? Artists, too, must understand the importance of their work’s educational value, because if they approach a museum with a proposal of some kind, they must be able to convince the museum that their work is of value extrinsically, in the form of workshops, lectures, and other possible forms that would benefit the public.

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 290 – New Markets for Artists / Effective Openings

Effective Openings

The reason this event was so successful was because it had something for everyone, from kids to adults, and the show was fairly easy to understand. Plus there was free food and music. Another reason this show was packed was because so many people were involved. In addition to the event organizers, there were poets, writers and musicians, and they all invited their friends to the show as well. That is why group shows usually draw large crowds. When you propose your work to a gallery, you might also think about including other artists as well.

Collaborative Exhibits and Proposals

Artist-curated shows are more popular now, and it is OK to include your own work if you are up front about the show being curated by an artist. Also, the show could have a theme that supports your work. For example, let’s say you paint flowers. It would be helpful to recruit other artists who paint flowers. You could also ask a local florist to donate flower arrangements and demonstrate for your guests how to arrange them. Try to be creative and come up with other flower-related events. If your paintings are abstract, bring in other abstract painters and sculptors and stay away from anything figurative. Again, you could also have activities like readings and music, but what about staging a reenactment of a Jackson Pollock painting? It is important to have fun with these things. Galleries will then find your ideas interesting. You are not saying, “Do you like my work?” You are creating a rich experience that will help draw crowds, press, and most importantly, sales.

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 289 – New Markets for Artists / The Bigger Galleries

The Bigger Galleries

The best galleries in the world are able to combine a lack of financial risk with a sense for what is some of the best art in the world at the highest prices possible. If you want to exhibit in a gallery, you must think about what they are looking for. An artist is also a business person who wants to partner with a gallery so they will sell their artwork. If you want to have success with galleries, think about what you can offer them.

Making an Offer and an Event

You might present something to a gallery that includes an event like a band on opening night, a fundraiser, or anything else that would help bring in a crowd. Be sure to share any marketing ideas you have and invite your collector friends as well. Here, you can be as creative as you like, but to begin with, just think about ways to bring in a crowd so that you have a greater chance of making sales. If you have an organization you would like to give money to like the Red Cross, you can advertise at your event that a certain percentage of the proceeds will go to that organization, and this may also encourage people to buy your work.

Use Social Media and Stunts to Promote Your Show

Other ideas for marketing your show could be creating events on Facebook and promoting them with Twitter, Instagram and other online social platforms. It’s important to do whatever you can to draw media attention because galleries want more public exposure. Think about a way to make the news. One way could be breaking some kind of record. Richard Serra makes some of the biggest and heaviest sculptures in the world; Marina Abramovic, a performance artist, had a show recently she claimed to be the longest performance in the world. When- ever someone attempts to break a record, it becomes news. Outrageous things also get the media’s attention, but commonplace things like jugglers and ice cream giveaways can also work.

Gallery Invitations That Work

I get invitations to shows all the time, and I can’t go to many of them because I am either writing, making art, or spending time with my wife and son, but when I got an invitation to a gallery and read there was going to be juggling, free ice cream, original poetry readings, and a band, I decided to take my son and check it out. Can you see the fun-for-the-whole-art-family attraction in an event like that? Many journalists have social and family lives they are managing with their professional lives, and they are looking for ways to combine them. In this instance, I didn’t go to the gallery for the art, but for all the activities happening around it. My son liked the ice cream, my wife and I enjoyed the poetry reading, and the art was nice as well, and I met some new people. The event was held at a co-op gallery, which I usually avoid, but I was actually quite impressed with the art I saw so I might go again sometime.

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 288 – New Markets for Artists / Museums, Galleries, and Purity

Chapter 12

Museums, Galleries, and Purity

Museums function very differently than galleries, and they have different goals and approaches to art. Museums look for projects that expand the definitions of art and they are looking everywhere for it from the Middle East to Brooklyn. A museum wants to bring in something that educates, and since almost all curators and museum directors are academics, they are looking for something they understand and that they feel is important.

Museum versus Gallery

It is important to understand the differences between museums and galleries so you know that preparing to approach one is very different from preparing for the other. Unless a gallery is a co-op run by artists or a nonprofit space (both of which make little or no sales), it has really only one goal—to make a good profit. This is because galleries cost money to run, and their shows usually sell very little, so the sales they do make need to be as high end or commercial as possible so they can pay for all their business expenses. By necessity, galleries are less interested in the art than its ability to sell. The upside is that you can make a gallery an offer they can’t refuse, and that is generally a no-no for museums.

Making a Deal the Gallerist Cannot Refuse

A deal you cannot refuse is a staple in any businessperson’s repertoire. It means that you present yourself and your proposal in such a way that is impossible or nearly impossible to refuse because it’s clear that everyone wins. If I ask you for $100 and guarantee that I will give you $200 in a week, would you refuse? That’s an example of a deal you cannot refuse.  If you trusted me, you would pay me $100 because the deal clearly works in your favor. This, in essence, is the basis of any proposal that is difficult to refuse. It doesn’t matter if you are talking to a gallery, an investor, or a business partner; the other side wants to know what is in it for them, and they want to take as little risk as possible.

It Isn’t about Your Art Alone

That is why just showing your work to a gallery is not nearly enough. Even if your art is stunning, the gallerist isn’t interested in liking you or your work as the priority. She has a very serious financial decision to make about whether your work will likely bring them a good financial return on their investment, which is giving you a show. Museums are different, and we will discuss them soon, but galleries must think about profits. If they didn’t, you would not want to be with them. The reason you seek galleries is to sell your work, so why would you sell to a place where selling your work wasn’t their main objective? Sometimes you may find very small, poorly run galleries similar to small, unambitious businesses, and they may not be motivated to sell your work and having good shows. Do you really want to be there?

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 287 – New Markets for Artists / Local Library Follow Up

Local Library Follow Up

I wanted to give a free lecture at my local library on income strategies for artists. A friend told me to go to the library and speak about it with the head librarian. So I went to the library and asked to speak to her, but they told me she was busy and to send an email. I explained that a friend had referred me and that since I was there, it would be just as easy to talk to her for a minute. They gave me the internal office phone and when she answered I explained that I wanted to give a free lecture at the library. She told me to send an email, so I went home and emailed an outline of my lecture. I didn’t hear back from her, so I called, got an answering machine, and then sent another email. I still did not get a response. After two weeks I couldn’t believe I was having this much difficulty at a local library. I tried calling at different times of the day and sent more letters, still with no answer. Again, like any human being I was getting worried and agonizing over what I might have done wrong. But as in the past, I was determined to get an answer one way or the other, and when I finally got her on the phone I asked if she had received the emails? She said with a laugh, that she had, but asked me to send it again so that it would be on the top of the mountain of emails she already had. So right after I got off the phone, I sent her the email again and then called her right away. She said she had received it, and yes, of course she would like the lecture at the library. Right there on the phone she booked it in her calendar and it was finalized.

Don’t Take It Personally

Even though the librarian was not as highly sought after as the curator, the same rules applied when corresponding with her. She was very busy, perhaps overwhelmed with budget cuts and mounting work, and her lack of response was nothing personal, she just had higher priorities. Keep these stories in mind as you pursue people, because in this growing, competitive world, one must often be persistent. Take heart though, and remember that we are all struggling in our own ways, and it is usually not personal. We are all just overwhelmed with our own responsibilities.

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 286 – New Markets for Artists / Over Two Months of Follow Up

Over Two Months of Follow Up

Starting in May, I began to email and call her at least twice a week, sometimes more. After a month I was amazed that I had not heard back from her. What I found even more troubling was that I was calling her cell phone and I could tell by how quickly my calls went to voicemail that they were not being accepted manually, most likely. After almost another month of this I was starting to get worried. Did I say something wrong? Like everyone else, I began to think I had somehow messed up my chance, but I couldn’t understand how. I knew that even if I had messed something up, I still wanted a response. I felt I deserved an answer, and even if she had changed her mind for some reason, I wanted to know. So after about two months and at least fifty emails and calls I changed my pattern—change is sometimes necessary in cases like this. After starting the email in the usual polite manner, “Dear X,” I said that I was concerned that I hadn’t heard from her and that I hoped she was all right. Then I continued the letter as usual.

A Response

She wrote back the next day saying she was sorry, that she was writing a book and had been out of the office more than in, and finally that she had called the people at the other museum and they were waiting to hear from me. Isn’t that remarkable? I was beginning to doubt her interest in the project, but she was just very busy, and I was not a high priority. So that was a story involving a high-level curator. But of course, I could have stopped writing to her much sooner, and clearly that would have been a mistake.

This next story is quite different.

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 285 – New Markets for Artists / Get an Answer

Get an Answer

You always deserve an answer to your letter, even if they do not have the time or inclination to meet, so I would pursue them until you get one. Sometimes artists tell me that they don’t want to offend people by calling so much, and that they are afraid of burning a bridge. That should not be a concern. Even if you did lose a new contact, one person who doesn’t want to speak to you will not ruin your career. It is unnecessary to fear angering someone by pursuing them politely. If your intentions are honest and good-willed, and you are being professional and sincere about wanting to work with them, why would they be offended? Your tenacity should encourage them. When you keep writing to people, you are showing passion and drive, and people admire those qualities and respect the people who possess them, so please, do not worry about bothering people. As long as you follow what I have said here, you will succeed in most cases and save yourself the heartache of feeling ignored and rejected.

Talking to a Major Curator

Here is a story of how I got into a major New York museum that also has a museum in Europe. I had met the curator once, and I had a meeting with her at her office by contacting her as I have outlined in the previous pages. She told me she didn’t work with contemporary art like mine, but she enjoyed looking at it, and she visited my studio shortly afterwards. I didn’t ask her for anything at the time, but two years ago, I decided to call her because my wife and I had an idea for a show in their Europe museum.

The Phone Call

I called her cell phone and she picked up right away. I told her who I was and she remembered me. I explained our idea for their Europe museum, and I wanted to know who I could contact about it and how I could reach them. She told me that our proposal sounded interesting gave me the contact information I would need. But she also told me to hold off on contacting them because she would call them first to explain who I was. Four days later I still hadn’t heard back from her, so I wrote to remind her that I wanted to contact the other museum, but was waiting for her to send confirmation that she had spoken to them. Then, I proceeded to follow up with the process I outlined earlier.

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 284 – New Markets for Artists / Common  Courtesy

Common  Courtesy

Most people are just like you: They are cautious, and would like to know a bit about someone before they meet for the first time. Even if you do not have a mutual friend with the person you will be meeting you might have other points of similarity (the same college alma mater, experience living in the same town, or perhaps you both visited a recent art exhibit). These are all things that can also make someone feel more comfortable about meeting you. Take your time and do your research before writing so that you can better tailor your letter to each person. Internet profiles, press releases, and media clippings can give you clues about how to make your approach based on the current interests of the person.

Following Up

Writing this short, polite letter requesting a meeting should be the easy part. The hard part for most people is following up when you do not get a response. This is usually the part where people give up because they take a lack of response personally and assume the person doesn’t like them when they don’t write back. I will tell you a few stories about my own follow up, and also one of my friend’s stories. She was working at a major publisher in an upper-level executive position, making a six-figure salary, and was happy with her job. But she felt her boss was sexually harassing her. She filed a complaint with human resources and they told her that her situation was unfortunate and she had two choices: either stay on after giving a formal complaint and see how it worked out, or quit and they would give her six months pay and a coaching system and mentor that she could use until she got her next job. She thought that having a coaching program for as long as needed to secure the perfect job was an attractive offer. That alone was worth thousands, so she took it. As she told me this story, she also showed me all the printed material she had received on getting the perfect job from her coach. While reading it, I came across a passage on how to get someone to respond to a letter.

How to Land an Interview or a Meeting

The section began by saying that most people who send their resumes and cover letters complain that no one ever calls them back for an interview, and further stated that this is the reason that most people don’t get the job they are after, and why they become resentful. Artists can relate to this as well. Writing to collectors, museums, and galleries and not getting responses can be frustrating.

The Way to Handle No Responses

My friend’s coaching material details the proper way to handle not getting a response. When writing a letter, it says, always end by saying that you will follow up with a call in two days. Be precise and never forget to say it. That way, the reasoning goes, you will remain in power and never have to wait for a call that isn’t coming. If you call in two days and get voicemail or a secretary, simply say that you are following up per your email and will send another email in two days. Every correspondence should end with you saying that you will follow up with the alternative method to what you have just done—a phone call or email. In this way, you can pursue people for weeks or months—however long it takes to reach them.

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 283 – New Markets for Artists / Formal Manners Can Pay Off

Formal Manners Can Pay Off

This kind of politeness is what you should aim for in your email messages to collectors. Addressing someone as “Dear” and signing off with “Best wishes” may seem insignificant and not reflect your normal voice, but to the recipient, these touches create an air of respect and professionalism. The agitated man I spoke about didn’t miss the fact that I addressed him as “Sir,” and that helped calm him down. I am sure he wouldn’t address people that way, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate receiving that courtesy himself. The same principle applies to the people you write to, no matter who they are. You can still joke around or be vulgar, but if you do so in a respectful way, your message will be better received.

Short Notes and Meeting Places

When writing short notes to people on Facebook, be clear about wanting to meet them and apply some of my suggestions. When I do it, I always ask if I can meet them at a cafe near their work. If you are trying to meet someone for the first time, it is safe to ask for a meeting in a restaurant or somewhere they are used to going. In the first letter, I always ask if they are interested in meeting. Once I get a response, I ask where would be a convenient place for us to meet. One way to increase the likelihood of getting a response is to mention that you have a mutual friend. I am not talking about the Facebook friends (whom you may or may not actually be close with), but the people that you actually know and communicate with on a fairly regular basis.

A Designer’s Technique for Landing Clients

I have a friend who does very high-end construction jobs in New York City, and when he is trying to get a job he knows other people are bidding on, he employs a few tactics to set himself apart from his competition. One is to handwrite a letter on nice stationery with a fountain pen, and the other is to use his network to gain the inside track with the employer. Sometimes, if his network (a group of real friends) is not connected in any way to the client, he will try to meet the client’s friends so that he can learn more about the client and claim to know some of the same! This process works for him, and he is extremely successful in New York. It is all personal in many ways, so the more time you take with your letters and connections, the better.

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 282 – New Markets for Artists / You Must Write, Even If You Are a Painter

You Must Write, Even If You Are a Painter

Writing skills are important. What will you write to collectors on Facebook to get them to your studio? I will make suggestions, but ultimately you must decide what will work best for you. It is very much like dating, and you must think about what will sound attractive to collectors? Would you go to someone’s house on the first date? Put yourself in the collector’s shoes and think about what it would take for you to meet an artist you are unfamiliar with.

What to Write

Consider what would make you feel comfortable. There are several approaches to writing an effective invitation. Facebook and email messages do not need to be formal, but it helps to be polite and not too casual. I always say Dear X, when addressing someone. I think beginning a letter with Hi is too informal and lacks style and courtesy. I am not Mr. Manners, but everyone likes to be treated respectfully. Here is one example of how extreme politeness can be helpful.

The Politeness Cure to Anger

I have a son in Taekwondo classes and the teachers (or masters, as they are called) are from Korea. Master Kim (Kim Sangpil), who owns the school, has an authentic Korean way of greeting parents. He always bows when I see him, and if he shakes my hand, he does so with both of his hands. He always addresses me as “Sir,” and I do the same. The children in his class also call him sir when answering questions, “Yes Sir, no Sir.” In return, when Master Kim addresses the students, it is always with the same level formality. This is a practiced tradition of creating mutual respect. Bowing still feels strange to me, but it is also comforting somehow. When I sit with other parents and watch our children, we act as we normally would—we do not bow or greet each other with formal titles— but we enjoy the formal atmosphere. This code of behavior does not mean that the master is not warm and friendly; in fact, he is very friendly. He always hugs the children, plays games with them and has a way of enthusiastically and sincerely complimenting them that makes the children very happy. I have watched this for over a year and never thought much about it until one day I had a verbal conflict.

Practicing What the Master Teaches

I was leaving on vacation to a small island off the coast of Rhode Island, and I had to park my car a certain way to get in line for loading it onto the island-bound ferry. As I was attempting to get in line, a man came over and asked me, “what the hell I was doing.” He was in charge of getting the cars in order to board the ferry. His strong words and tone surprised me, and I told him I was trying to get on the boat. He starting yelling at me, saying it wasn’t time yet, that I was doing it wrong, that I should “back the hell up and park over there” (pointing back in the direction I had come from). I felt humiliated, like a child being yelled at in public, and also angry that this guy was such a jerk. I started to park the car and had every intention of going over and telling him how angry I was, and how poorly he was doing his job, and then complaining to his boss.

Pausing a Moment

As I parked the car, a different thought came to me. I thought about Master Kim and how he talked about treating people with respect at all times. So I decided to experiment. I went over to the guy, who was now red in the face and yelling at someone else, and said, “I am sorry, Sir, if I parked my car wrong, but thank you for your help, Sir.” I might have even bowed slightly. Then this agitated bull of a man suddenly calmed. He apologized and said I hadn’t really done anything wrong, that the parking process was confusing, and that he was having a tough day. I was amazed that such a small gesture of respect could both disarm the person who had antagonized me, and calm myself as well. This experience taught me a valuable lesson about diffusing tension in potentially hostile situations.

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.