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 69 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / How the Book Can Be Used in Different Countries

How the Book Can Be Used in Different Countries

To be an artist in any of the cities today, as well as tomorrow, you need to earn a living in one way or another, and balance that with your art. As rent prices increase and living looks like it will not get any cheaper, we must all find ways to earn money to support our dreams as well as our monthly expenses. Many artists end up bitter at having to give up their practice of art to settle for a reliable job. It is a difficult choice. All the while, artists and creative people are seeing other creative people make fantastic livings at what they do, getting plenty of press attention and reviews, and think in some form, “Why can’t I do that?” Herein lie some of the answers for many artists.

Almost all of the resources mentioned in this book apply to international artists. Because of the online presence of slide registries in New York and elsewhere, anyone that has access to a computer can use resources that will offer them more expo- sure.

But more importantly, no matter where you live, there are people around you that can help in some way. In chapter 4, we discuss how to map the entire area where you live and make lists of important places and people for you to contact. This is a universal concept: how to make a friend. In all walks of life and in any town, the issue of how we befriend people and make good business contacts is essential. One of the guiding principles that will run through this book is how to be direct and polite in making new relationships. And that idea can be used in any city in the world, or any town, provided there are people 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 46 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Presenting Papers

Presenting Papers

To present a paper means presenting a lecture on a topic of your choice from your perspective. At international biennial and art conferences around the world, papers are always being presented by artists, curators, and others in the art world. The best way to really understand this is to go to lectures, panel discussions, and presentations at museums and nonprofits near you, as well as universities. You will also meet other curators, directors, and artists.

Your topic could be anything, but as an artist, you are talking about something that will make people think, “Oh, she’s interesting, what is her work like?” Not because you presented any of your own art or even mentioned your own art in your presentation, but because you yourself were simply interesting. An example of “interesting” can be summed up in a title sometimes, which is what draws people to a lecture in the first place. I once saw a title for a presentation at a biennial called, “If You’re so Smart Then Why Aren’t You Rich?” I liked that title very much. I would think many papers could be presented on that subject from all different angles on art and the artist.

You don’t have to be an academic to do this, but college will help unless you are just a good writer or can get your ideas across easily. One artist, Ken Lum, who represented Canada in the Venice Biennial one year, presented a paper that was also based on a question. It was a question his grandmother asked him when she arrived at an opening for for a group show where he had some work. As he tells it, there was a crowd at an opening in a small East Village gallery and he had a piece in this group show. He said his grandmother walked in and shouted out his name in Cantonese. He went to her and was surprised she came to the opening. She asked him, “Who are these people and what do they want?”

He told me he didn’t know how to answer that question and wrote a paper on it. That is, a paper or presentation (lecture, panel discussion) on the question, “Who are these people and what do they want?” as it relates to the art world. Because the presentation is to the very people that the presentation is about, it is of course of interest. It also has a sense of humor and a self-reflective quality which is admirable as well.

Presenting papers is also a great way to meet more people. For now, just go to more presentations at museums, nonprofits, and galleries and you will most likely make interesting friends. You will also see other people presenting papers, or lectures on different topics, and use those as a model for your own if you are drawn to that.


Whether you are networking by talking to someone sincerely and potentially building a friendship, or presenting a lecture to a group, the goal is to engage your audience and have then take an interest in how you are thinking and acting. That is why papers and presentations based on questions work out so well, because the entire point of the lecture is to engage by asking questions. That in itself, perhaps a Socratic form, is a simple rule of thumb as you make more friends on all levels of the art world: keep asking questions. Of course listen and respond as well, but questions as opposed to “here is my information” statements are more interesting because the audience must complete the question, even if it is to themselves.

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


Episode 45 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Promotion & Networking

Promotion & Networking

This chapter is about how to present papers, give lectures, and engage the community of artists around you, as well as art administrators, with thoughtful presentations.

Promotion is a dirty word for some artists and a calling card for others. In this chapter we will discuss how to promote your work in a way that fits your situation. There is no need to be pushy or awkward about it. It must be done with grace and style, and the elements of that will be discussed here with specific advice to advance your career.

Another word for this is the rather cold sounding—networking, a term that has meaning now as a social media tactic as well as an interpersonal strategy. How you approach this concept will greatly determine your future. The idea that an artist shouldn’t promote their work, or that too much promotion hurts work, is one of those ideas that prevents good work from getting out into the world. Without promotion, which really means sharing, how will anyone ever see it? The less promotion, or sharing or networking that you do, the smaller your audience will be.


This concept of how to share, how to network, and how to engage your audience is the most important in this book, because without it, nothing else will work. Essentially, it boils down to this—make more friends. That is both the easiest thing in the world and for some, one of the hardest. Yes, it is “who you know,” but that is not a bad thing, because you need to know more people and have more friends so that your system of support can grow. It is true that we live in a world that can be more isolating, that we spend more time at home, more time with a computer, and less time singing, dancing, and being part of a community that makes us feel good and part of something larger.

It is also true that we are most comfortable in a mutually supportive environment, and that we must create that environment for ourselves. Let’s get down to what that means in terms of how you will create your community of supportive curators, artists, and gallery owners. It is not about getting introductions to all of them, because even if you did get introductions, then what do you do? For the museum shows I have gotten, and my patrons and sponsors, too, I never had any introductions: I contacted them directly. I often asked a foundation or museum for their email, contact information, or office information, and found I was able to get to just about everyone. Why shouldn’t you be able to do that? At the highest levels, everyone has a secretary, an office assistant who will pass on your letter if it’s good enough. So at the very least, work on writing letters to people you want to reach.

I interviewed Ida Applebroog, an artist now represented by Hauser and Wirth, a very high end gallery. Her work is also consistently disturbing, that is, the content is often faces that look as though they are distorted or upset, and other work is often challenging on social and political themes. She would never say she promoted her work, because I asked her and she said she did not, but she also had a different definition of that meant. Before she had exhibits or was known, it was the seventies in New York and she was trying to get her work noticed, but as a woman—and in the seventies—it was difficult. She began making small, inexpensive, xeroxed (copied) booklets in black and white. (That process is simply folding four pieces of 8 . x 11 bond paper in half and nesting them all together and putting a staple or string through the binding.) She copied black and white reproductions of her paintings and words. The words often didn’t even connect, so the reader would be puzzled, trying to figure it out.

She sent these inexpensive productions to whomever she wanted to reach, even if she did not know them. That meant gallerists, friends, critics, curators, writers, and anyone she wanted to share work with. She said that sometimes people would write back and tell her to “stop sending these dark images,” and that it ruined their day! Ida said she took that as a compliment.

Was she promoting herself? Of course. We must find away to share and get work out no matter where you are. You don’t have to use Facebook, but of course you can. What Ida did is something you could probably do today. Make small books regularly and send them out. Make the books hard to decipher and memorable perhaps, or whatever you like. In this age of emails and text messages, paper mail is even more special. Receiving a small handmade book in the mail is something special that will be remembered, and if your name is associated with it, why wouldn’t you also be remembered?

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


Episode 39 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / The Personal

The Personal

An essential theme of this book, and most books on advancing a career, is about the personal contacts and friends that you make. Those contacts are often made through inbox messages on social media or email. In both cases, the writing that you do in those initial stages will make all the difference. I would try to imagine how you would feel if you received the letter you are writing to someone. What if someone sent you an inbox message that said, “My show will be up until May 15, here is the link.” Does that sentence attract you and want to make you click the link or go see it if you have never heard of this person before? I would think probably not. The reason is that it is the opposite of personal. It is a directive masked as an invitation. I get messages like this often. But when I get a message that says something more personal, like, “Hi Brainard, I am really enjoying your book, and have been finishing up my website as you suggest. There was one issue I had with using an email newsletter program and integration—is there an email program for newsletters that you would suggest?”

That is something I would tend to answer because it is a question that does not require me to review a whole site to see what is going on. If you were writing to a curator, you could also say something similar, such as, “Thank you for the great work you do, I just saw the show you curated at X space, and I thought your choice of artists mixed with scientists who approached the same subject matter was innovative and inspiring. Mixing two fields of study in this way add to both, and as an artist myself, I found it inspiring.”

In that note, you are not asking the curator for anything, just making them aware that you are sensitive to who they are and what they do. Since you did not leave a website, it becomes even more sincere. Anyone who reads that will probably respond with a thank you at the least and will most likely look at your Facebook page as well. Even if they don’t, in your next letter you can ask a question, or even, gently, send your website, or preferably talk about your work before sending it and ask if they would like to see work. Essentially, I am emphasizing writing that is personal and meaningful and not a quick note with your website link.

Your Story

Everyone has a story to tell, a story about who they are and why they do what they do. Even if you were not an artist, everyone has a passion of one kind or another that they could talk about. In crafting your story, which could be similar to what has been called an elevator pitch, you need to tap into some kind of passion. Since you are most likely an artist if you are reading this, you will be writing about your art and your life. How you end up telling this story in a brief biography or an artist’s statement is of great importance, because it is how you will be initially perceived and perhaps even remembered.

Earlier in the book I reproduced the stories that my wife and I sent about ourselves for the Whitney museum curator when she asked. That was my style and how I approach things. In the interview with Allard van Hoorn, he is telling his story and it revolves around a specific theme that we can all relate to. He talks about wandering and trying to find out what he really wants and who he would like to become. That alone is something we can all relate to and draws us in. Then he describes what eventually became his statement or theme on the basis of his experience with Aboriginal culture and the idea of Songlines, which was a method used by that culture to navigate or map existing structures and paths in the world. It is a concept that in itself is fascinating, steeped in myth, dreams, and a culture that is a mystery to most Western minds. He tells it in a straight-forward manner, no unnecessary theory or mystifying, yet it is interesting and memorable while weaving a line of thinking throughout all his work. It also is something we can all relate to in some form; it is very much about connecting with our environment, the people and buildings around us. It is also sincere. No matter what your story is, that is how easily it could be presented, as a straight-forward account of who you are, and how you became that.

The Form of Writing

That is the form I would suggest when writing about yourself and your artwork. Choose something that is memorable and reach deep into who you are and who we are as human beings. The idea of creating a mystery around yourself does not have to be as obvious as what Joseph Beuys was doing in his statements and texts and work, but that is of course valid, too, if that attracts you. Many artists like to keep it short and sweet and use a piece of writing over and over for statements, but the problem with this is that it can sound too smug, and leaves little room for exploring your ideas. Part of the form your story takes should be about exploring. Like the Van Hoorn example, his idea can be continuously explored in many ways. This is extremely important because it is not about just one idea, it is about how you continue to discover new ways of articulating that idea over and over again.

As I write in the next chapter about talking to curators, the idea of structuring your conversation and approach will rely heavily on how you write about yourself and your interests. A teacher once told me that artists can often be heard saying something like, “I wish people understood me for who I am, not what I appear to be.” His comment on that was that we are in fact only what we say we are. We are not the secret thoughts and ideas we have not yet articulated, we are our words. We are our pictures as well, but to understand art we must understand the artist, and words must be used for that. Thus, your writing should be a clear explanation and exploration of what it is you are discovering and looking for in your work. It should tell the world what you cherish most and what you are seeking to understand. It should tell the world why it is exciting to be doing what you are doing.

It is acceptable to break the rules to some extent here. That is, you can be quirky in your writing, but you must be able to communicate clearly. For example, if you are going to create a poem for your artist’s statement, it should be a poem that is narrative, or something that is understandable and somehow relates to your work. Most of all, the overtone of your writing should be about an idea or ideas that you are interested in. If not ideas, then perhaps topics or cultural reflection of some kind.

When in doubt or stuck, look at the writing of other artists. Look at the brief biographies of artists that have recently won grants or awards. When artists win awards or are given them without asking (like the MacArthur genius award), there is always a brief synopsis of the artists’ work when announcing the grant or award. Those pieces of writing are great examples of how an artist’s work can be summarized in a way that makes sense to the general public and can be easily understood. Usually that is done in less than a paragraph.

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.