The other day, I was chatting online with an artist whose work I admire and collect.

We were talking about how to get more people involved with contemporary art and ultimately what it would take to create more collectors.  He told me that he thought that my approach was a bit too simplistic. He also rightfully and understandably expressed how tiresome it gets trying to explain his work to people who either have no interest or think contemporary art is a joke.

With that, he added that he doesn’t even try to explain his work anymore.  I totally get it.  Constantly explaining your inspirations and motivations often becomes an exercise in futility. If people don’t engage, let alone buy art, then what’s the point?  Why not just continue to create amid the solitude of your studio and enjoy the silence?  Why bother?  

But then, I really thought about it.  Multi-national corporations actually came to mind.

Why is it that major, worldwide corporations spend millions and millions of dollars each year on advertising?  Why does a single 30-second tv spot during the Super Bowl now cost an average $3.5 million?

Because … the marketers and promoters KNOW that selling is ultimately about MENTAL CONDITIONING.  Every single day of our lives, we’re being bombarded with advertising.  We think we’re ignoring it, but it’s quietly and insidiously working on us.  It’s mainly subliminal, which is probably the best long term advertising strategy around.  We’re being GROOMED.

McDonald’s, Target, Macy’s, Apple … we know their brands very well, don’t we?  Whether we even LIKE them or not doesn’t matter.  They KNOW that one day, we’ll saunter into their stores and drop some cash.  It’s inevitable.

Why?  Repetition of message … that’s why.  Simply put, they are unavoidable.  They spend millions to make themselves unavoidable and irresistible to us.

They all make GREAT products, but substance isn’t enough.  You’ve GOT to get out there and promote the HELL out of the product. 

Does the artist who constantly toils alone in the silence of his/her studio have an impact?  Probably not. Pitching your product to the general public is a MUST.

Most creative people only want to create.  They don’t want to have to schlep themselves all over the place like tacky salesmen.  They don’t want to promote their work and risk rejection or answer dumb, repetitive questions.  They would rather outsource this work to galleries and publicists.

This is sad.  Know why?  Because if YOU don’t have enough conviction about your own work, why should I as a potential buyer?  I don’t want to hear some gallery or publicist pitch your work, I want to hear from YOU.  Whenever I buy art, I INSIST that the sale be soulful.  Soulfulness doesn’t exclude the art dealer, but I want the artist involved.  Nothing against art dealers.  Hey guys!

So many artists dislike Damien Hirst.  They consider him a total “sell out.”  Regardless of whether you like him or not, the dude KNOWS how to sell himself and his work.  Is this good for art?  We could debate this issue forever …

But that’s NOT the point.

The point IS that if we want to create more buyers and collectors, WE have to do the work on a daily basis. WE have to CONSTANTLY explain what we do, how we do it, where we do it and why we do it.  It comes with the gig.

Yes, it’s tiresome, frustrating and sometimes infuriating, but creative people … just like multi-national corporations must get into the business of literally “grooming” future customers.  This is happening right now in Asia where markets are opening up like gangbusters and the biggest brands in the world are fighting for their share of the market.  Again, it comes with the gig.

Of course, you may be a creative-type who disagrees with everything I’ve just said.  That’s your right. But keep in mind that I’m saying these things BECAUSE like you, I believe that art is high-minded, profound and beautiful.  Art is worthy of the best possible regard and treatment that we can give it, but so are the artists who create it.

Artists need to be able to sell their work so that they can continue creating work and contributing to society in the best way possible for them.  Yet more importantly, when we promote and market art, it’s not only about money, it’s about reminding the world that ART MATTERS.  Art is about human expression and it opens dialogue about culture, life and why we’re all here.

Now, having said that, you may want to continue to enjoy your life and create in solitude and silence.  If so, more power to you.

Enjoy the silence.