Episode 291 – New Markets for Artists / Museums

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.

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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.

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