Written By Geoffrey Gorman - Art Career Advisor
“The art trade is a discreet, unregulated, and highly fragmented industry. Auction specialists and dealers who have been in the business for decades cannot pin down how many art dealers exist or the breadth of worldwide annual sales.”
--ARTnews January 2000
The art world is bursting apart. It has literally fragmented into pieces—and turned on its head until it is unrecognizable. All signs predict it will continue its headlong course, exploding well into the next decades.
What does it mean for the artist? It means a lot--more than most are prepared for. It means that artists are being forced to take on new roles and change the way they think about themselves and the way they conduct the business of art. The phenomenon fueling the change is quite simply the current proliferation of artists, most of whom dream of one day exhibiting in a gallery. But the dream is increasingly difficult to realize. Already, the world is seeing successful artists serve as their own gallery dealers, their own museum curators, their own publicity firms and all-round promoters. Artists have to wade through the choices offered by Internet galleries and artist-run web sites. It means they have to learn to be their own business managers. And it means they have to move far beyond the traditional gallery-artist relationship because they will have to market their work directly to their clients, while developing a working association with museums and galleries.
First, develop a positive attitude. This means you must go beyond some of the myths that are still perpetuated in the art world. These myths prevent you from reaching your goals. Here are three of these myths. Myth No. 1: I have “sold out” if I take over the marketing and promotion of my art career. Truly successful artists no longer think this way. They can’t afford to if they want to succeed. Myth No. 2: I will be discovered. Gone are the days of artists being discovered while hidden away in their studios. Artists now have to have a more visible, consistent presence in the art world. Myth No. 3: Society owes me a living. People in the art world are not interested in artists who think they don’t have to do anything but create art.
But a positive attitude alone is not enough. You need to develop a game plan or road map. Consider these three steps:
1. Define your goals. Give serious thought to what you want to achieve with your artwork, such as lifestyle, income, and level of recognition. Where do you want to be in six months, one year, five years, 10 years? Be honest about your goals because if you are to reach them, they must be realistic.
2. Develop a strategy. You must formulate a marketing plan that ensures that collectors, museums, gallery dealers, and arts writers will see your work. The plan should look at both short- and long-term strategies.
3. Implement the plan! Once you have designed a strategy to achieve your goals, break it down into day-to-day activities. Set aside at least one day a week to work on your plan. Also look at what it will take to continue to implement the plan.
Rebecca Bluestone, a Santa Fe-based fiber artist, followed this very kind of planning, and it has contributed to her success, she says. She exhibits her work both locally and throughout the country. Her show at a local gallery this summer was acclaimed--and profitable--and she has just completed a large commission for the new courthouse in Albuquerque.
“It took me several years to figure how important a well-defined strategy is for my art career,” Bluestone said recently. “I am interested in long-term success. I work with both the public and private sectors of the art world. I have to be organized and look at my schedule years in advance. If I didn’t have my game plan, I don’t think I could have gotten this far.”
In addition to planning a strategy, you need to take your creativity out of your studio and use it to plan novel ways to market your work.