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 247 – New Markets for Artists / Art Fairs: Small and Large

Chapter 7

Art Fairs: Small and Large

There are only two major art fairs, and they are The Armory Show and Basel. There are, however, small DIY (Do It Yourself, usually run by artists) or small commercial fairs that travel around neighborhoods where major art fairs occur. Art fairs are undergoing big changes. The two big fairs are extremely exclusive. Basel Art Fair, for example, only takes certain galleries in their fair and has VIP openings that cater to wealthy collectors. Generally, fairs like Basel are not a good place for moderately successful artists to promote their work. The reason is that the gallery directors at these fairs only want to talk to collectors and sell the art on display, and are not interested in meeting new artists. In fact, artists tend to get in the way of delicate new meetings between directors and their potential clients.

Meeting Gallerists at Art Fairs

Most gallery owners and directors are present at the fairs, but it is difficult for them to respond to your questions because collectors are hovering around their booths. However, you will have other opportunities. At the biggest fair, Art Basel, which now travels and has an event in Miami as well, you can certainly meet people. All around the fair are some of the wealthiest collectors in the world. The place to meet them is not near the booths themselves, where business takes place, but in the lounges and bars. If you are this adventurous, you will have to buy a pass to get into the fair, or know someone who has one. You will also have to be brave enough to not hesitate to ask someone wearing a power suit what their name is. If you do not have a pass to the fair, you may also be able to meet people in bars and hotels around the fairgrounds. These can be very high-powered encounters, but if you meet people and get their business cards, that in itself is a victory. Be forewarned that there will be a lot of schmoozing going on at these scenes, and if you are not up for that, I wouldn’t go, because that is how the game is played 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 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 98 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Gallery Presentations

Gallery Presentations

Galleries are very different from museums in two ways. One, their motive is profit. If they don’t sell, they are out of business. Two, they are privately owned, so there are no strict rules or standards at all. You are approaching a business owner who has certain goals. One may be to show great art, but the most important thing to them is making money. For a short time I helped a friend who was a musician get booked at clubs in New York. I didn’t know anything about the music business, but I thought I could learn quickly, and this is what I learned. If you have a band and want to be booked at a club or bar or venue of some kind, you have to convince the owners of the venue that you can bring in a crowd; that is all, and you are booked. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is all about the money. When people come to see bands, they drink at the bar, and that is how money is made there. So if I can just guarantee one hundred people will come, I can have almost any night at any club. Amazing, isn’t it? It is all about the money and not necessarily the music at all! If you have a band, the key is obviously how to bring a crowd in. That comes from great self-promotion with stickers, Facebook, YouTube, giving away CDs on the street, and more. I know one band that packed the house by telling everyone of their friends they would supply free beer to everyone after the show!

I mention this because it is not dissimilar in the gallery world. You have gallery owners who want to turn a profit and are not afraid to talk about money. You may wonder, “Is the quality of your work important to them?” Yes and no. Like the story I told about booking bands, if they feel you can bring in a buying crowd, they are interested. A friend of mine, who is a private banker and works with some of the wealthiest individuals in the world, told me, “You have to think, what does the person want that you are trying to reach.” So in the case of a gallery owner, what they want is to make a profit and bring in more collectors. You see, they have a list of the collectors who have bought from them in the past, and they are always trying to increase that list. If they do not increase that list, they are asking the same people over and over again to buy art, and that is a limited situation financially.

So in your approach, which I will outline here, it is much more than just sending or showing them images. You can certainly do that, but you must understand how the mind and the eyes of the gallery director work. He or she is not only trying to decide if they like your work, but more important to them, they are deciding if they can easily sell this work and bring in more collectors. Of course, if you are well known and trying to switch galleries, they are interested because you have made money for gallerists in the past. If you are not well known, then you are like hundreds of others who write to them, and if you try to look at it from their perspective, why should they show your work?

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.