Episode 144 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Generate Ideas

Generate Ideas

You can say that you are having an auction to raise money; would they (the business you are talking to) be willing to donate a gift certificate for this? The answer is almost always yes. That means a gift certificate for a meal at a restaurant, a hotel room, catering, anything at all. That is one way to begin to build support in your community.

Also, you can think up “cross-promotions,” which means that you say to a hotel or liquor store that you will give a work of art or a discount on a work of art to the person that tells the most interesting story about art or something like that. Radio stations do this all the time. They offer something for the tenth or hundredth caller, and it is a sponsored promotion; they are giving away something like a meal or a room or tickets to a concert. Their goal obviously is to get more listeners who are actively calling in. But a traditional promotion where both parties benefit could work something like this: the hotel you made a deal with tells everyone on their mailing list that if they book a room within a month, or even if they just fill out a questionnaire about how service was at the hotel, then they will get invited to a special opening at a local gallery that is a private affair. Do you get the idea? You are asking a business to work with you on a promotion, and if they send their clients an email enticing them to do something they want, you will offer a reward.

Or you could ask something further. You could say that if the hotel client signs up for your newsletter or mailing list through the hotel, then they will get to come to all the private receptions at your gallery. The goal here is to get a business owner that likes what you are doing and can see the benefit in offering something to his clients that would make them better and more grateful customers. In turn you can get people to sign up for your mailing list and come to your event.

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 63 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Believing in Yourself

Self-worth, delusion, and other aspects of how an artist presents herself is essential to any artists’ career. Enthusiasm is a big part of the puzzle to learn how to make contacts and influence people.

The idea of “believing in yourself” has a different meaning for artists, because it is not initially about self-esteem or confidence, even with psychological issues aside, artists tend to have one thing in common. It is a belief in something they do, however small or large – and that is what makes an artist different from every other professional. For some it starts in childhood, but either way, the seed is always there. Then the belief has to be nurtured to some degree, by a parent, or a teacher, or a friend, and then you learn to nurture it yourself by making more art and exploring more ideas, in most cases. So this process of “believing in yourself” to me, means to keep working in the studio or wherever you work, because the art is the center of it all of course. If you do too much “business” or “networking” you will lose studio time and a balance is necessary. The center is always the studio.

The idea of the “artfully constructed personality” is not always as cold as it sounds. Andy Warhol might have been an example of a certain ‘atsy’ self-consciousness about how he appears and acts in public. Dali and others were performers in that sense as well, but Warhol seemed to play up his ability to bore rather than entertain. Another example of an artfully constructed personality is Lady Gaga the performer who once said that Stephanie Germonatta (her real name) could never be as bold and do the things Lady Gaga does.  

I mention these examples to say you can take “believing in yourself” to another level as well, and construct an artful approach to dress, manner of speech, and ambitions. It would be perfect for experimenting with while networking and meeting people, but of course you already have your own style, it’s just a matter of doing it more and trying new approaches.

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 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.