The other day, I was surfing social media where an artist posted this lonely, pathetic statement.
“I need a gallery!” the artist said.
Okay, there are so many things that are sad about this statement. Let’s dig in, shall we?
1. Few people in this day and age are going to come within 10 feet of anyone who “needs something.” Especially not online. Everybody has their own problems.
2. Isn’t an adult posting something that says, “I need a gallery,” pretty much akin to a baby crying for a bottle? The last thing anyone online wants is another baby.
3. This statement is so typical of many artists who don’t know how to properly court galleries. Is posting, “I need a gallery” suppose to make galleries leap out of the woodwork and come to your rescue?
4. No one loves galleries more than me, but galleries really are the old model of the contemporary art world. While many are hanging in there during these tough, changing times, the new internet model continues to chip away at brick and mortar establishments.
And yet, we’re still living in a time when many artists think that galleries are going to save them. They’re waiting to be “discovered” by some entity that will swoop in, do all of their promotion, marketing, selling, processing and shipping, plus give them instant credibility and recognition in the process.
This remains very sad because even the most mediocre galleries are overwhelmed. They’re stunned by their current workloads and astounded by all of the changes taking place due to the internet. In short, many galleries are fighting for their lives. Plus, long established art dealers are exhausted. They’re running out of energy.
There simply aren’t enough brick and mortar galleries on the planet to accommodate all of the talented artists out there. And even artists who are represented by galleries often feel slighted because their dealers may be focusing more attention on the “hot artist of the moment.”
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it yet again. I think most artists are far too passive. They’re just not assertive enough. There are so many artists out there who are waiting for that “wealthy collector” or that New York Times feature story or that art dealer to tap them on the shoulder at an opening and say …
“I MUST have you in my gallery!”
Guys … this is a FANTASY. Sitting around and waiting for fantasies to happen only leads to frustration and despair. Of course, this could happen to you, but why sit around and wait for this to happen?
Artists today have got to learn to TAKE ACTION. First off, let me write this equation …
Artist + social media page – personal website = hobby
In short, if you’re an artist who has a lovely, social media profile page, but no real, personal website … that means art is a glorified hobby for you. If you hope to be taken seriously as a professional artist these days, you MUST have a great website. Period. Personal websites that artists control are CRUCIAL and they’re very affordable these days.
Every minute of every day, there are millions of people online … even in the wee hours of the morning. 4 a.m. for you is NOON for someone else in the world. A website, social media page and a little ingenuity can still take you a long way … even for less talented artists. Like it or not, that’s reality.
I’m contacted by many artists who want me to interview them, but they do not have their own, personal websites. In this day and age, personal websites are your BEST shot at getting people to see your BODY OF WORK. I use artist websites to view their work and come up with interview questions, but I also use my interviews as a way to promote the artists using their website links. I rarely promote artist social media pages because I’m not being paid to do so, nor is the artist being paid to promote social media.
Real and professional artists today always have websites that they keep updated with their latest work. You need BOTH … a personal website AND social media platform to promote what's on your site.
I’m still waiting for artists to smarten up and join forces with other artists and great marketing people who’ll help them organize and promote pop-up exhibitions in affordable spaces. This model is happening more and more and I like it because it gives artists more power and flexibility to call their own shots.
Most artists want it both ways. They want freedom and they want to create their work while someone else handles the business side of the equation.
Those days have come to end my friend.
These days, artists are small business people. They are entrepreneurs or “artrepreneurs,” as I like to call them. Freedom isn’t free. With freedom comes responsibility and with responsibility comes a LOT of work, blood, sweat and tears. And despite all of that, it often remains a crap shoot from start to finish.
So many independent artists are now faced with the very issues that galleries always handled. Today, there’s no more hiding behind the knees of a prestigious or even not-so-great art dealer. Now, it’s ALL on YOU. You are an artrepreneur.
Funny, I don’t hear artists complain as loudly about galleries as they once did. As more galleries morph, fold and step out of the picture, we’re seeing more and more artists standing there … naked and afraid. Their knees are knocking while their teeth are chattering. And by the way, I’m talking about gifted artists, not even wannabes.
So artists, what are you going to do? It really is up to you. You've got the floor and the microphone is in your hands.
I’d suggest you upgrade that website, beef up your social media presence, reach out to REAL people as potential customers and join forces with other artists to organize some great shows and set your agenda yourself. Anyone can call themselves an "independent artist," but actually being one is not for amateurs.
Your fellow artists are your best hope. These days, “I need a gallery,” should be, “I am an artrepreneur.” That’s the reality.
Let’s say it all together, shall we?
“I am an artreprenuer!”
“I am an artrepreneur!”
“I am an artrepreneur!”
Now … let’s go kick some ass.