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You Gotta Get Your Stuff Out There

Sunday, 4. August 2013 23:34

An artist I know has just begun to put some of her work on the web. There were two reasons for her hesitancy: (1) she makes some very complicated pieces and was, for a long time, concerned about having her ideas copied before she could get them fully developed.  (2) She was somewhat influenced by another artist who refuses share his work in any way on the internet due to fear of theft.

What finally convinced her to put work on the internet was the advice of a mutual acquaintance who said, “You just gotta get out there and shake your booty. You want people to know who you are, and the only way to do that is to show off a little, put your stuff out there and be ready to tell people why they need to take it home with them. ” Sound advice I think.

But there are some legitimate concerns associated with putting your work out there, the first and foremost being that people will steal it. There are many on the internet who know nothing of copyrights and others who simply do not care. If it’s out there, it’s free and available, so they take it.

The other side of the coin is that if you don’t put it out there, nobody knows that you have made it, and that means that nobody except those you show physically become at all familiar with your work. Now that may be fine with you. Many of us ultimately make art for ourselves, but most of us would be pleased to sell a piece once in a while. The odds of doing that are much better if you have a larger audience.

Sure people will pin your work and like your work and make desktop backgrounds of your work, all without your permission or supervision. But some of them may like your art enough to reach out to you and negotiate the purchase of an original piece. Again, the odds of that happening are far greater if more people are aware of your art. Several artists I know say that their goal is to sell art to people they don’t know—to make work that appeals to people who are not family or friends. That can’t happen if those strangers don’t know what you do, and as stimulating as showing your work physically might be, whether it’s in a group show, solo show, or gallery presentation, you cannot possibly reach as many people as you could with carefully placed postings to internet sites, including your own.

Now it becomes a question of how much of it you put out there, and how you represent yourself. Once we make that decision to put our stuff out there, we take responsibility for our internet presence: what we show, how we show, and where we show. There is certainly no requirement that we put everything we make on the web or provide unrestricted access to what we do publish electronically.

And, of course, there are those aspects we can’t control: who’s going to pin it, who’s going to like it, who’s going to link to it, who’s going to steal it. But there a significant number of aspects we can control, and there are many tools available to make this job easier.

What those of us who decide that we want to show and sell online have to do is balance our own comfort level with the necessity to publicize what we do. It’s not easy because there are opportunities—and scams—everywhere. Of course, there is still the bricks-and-mortar approach, but those opportunities are scarce and put our work in front of far fewer eyes. There is, however, no reason that we cannot use multiple venues and multiple strategies to offer our work. But regardless of the approaches we choose, we have to take the first step: we gotta get our stuff out there.

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The Seductiveness of White Walls: On Gallery Representation

Monday, 18. July 2011 0:34

One of the advantages of living in a major metropolitan area is the opportunity for viewing art. There are museums, street shows, galleries. Recently I experienced what was essentially an “open gallery day.” A friend and I managed to get to just over 20 galleries in a single day, and we were not rushing through them. Admittedly some were tiny, but others were not. And not only was the range of art extreme, but the galleries themselves were very different in nature.

The range was from the very posh with classical music playing softly in the background to the tiny brick and corrugated metal walled section of an old warehouse building, and everything in between. Although most featured the ubiquitous white wall, the arrangements were very different from each other, as were features such as windows, lighting, personality of staff, methods of display. Even the labels on the art were different.

The only thing that the 20+ galleries had in common were red dots by sold pieces, and even these were different space to space.

Some galleries were retail spaces that had been converted into art spaces with a very clean, new look. Some conversions traded on the antiquity of the buildings in which they were housed. Some were obviously built as galleries. Of those, some offered a very restrained interior personality; others were pretentious “art spaces.”

Seeing so many different spaces in one day caused me to wonder about how the nature of the gallery impacted the sales of art, since the gallery and its adjacent pieces functioned as a “wrapper” for the art on sale. Obviously the art presented was what was important, but given equivalent work, did I want to buy art from the gallery with classical music, bartender, varied choices of hors d’oeuvres, or did I want to buy from the pour-it-yourself-red-wine-only-accompanied-by-indie-rock gallery?

More to the point, which gallery did I want to sell my art work? Certainly the more sophisticated gallery might command higher prices, but that did not necessarily mean that they would sell more art.

Some artists, Hazel Dooney being foremost among them, would advise artists to avoid the gallery system entirely and sell their art directly to patrons. Some of the smaller galleries we visited were artists doing just that. Most of the galleries, however, were not artist galleries, but representatives taking a significant percentage of the sales price for the effort of displaying and doing the sales pitch.

Except for that percentage part, the appeal is very seductive. It is very easy to imagine one’s work hanging on a wall on a flawless white wall while music plays softly in the background and patrons sip wine and listen to a professional, persuasive salesperson—while you are in your studio creating more, doing the work that you really want to do.

The part that’s left out, of course, is that it is just as difficult to obtain competent gallery representation as it is to sell art directly. The difference is that you have to sell at a different level—and then depend on your representative to retail your work to the actual collector.

The truth is the gallery influences what the patron thinks of the art, just as a boutique influences what you think of a particular piece of clothing. Who do you want representing you? So the question is not just representation, but which representation, and what that will that do for your art sales.

When you walk in the door, sometimes before you walk in the door, you are forming an opinion of the place and, by extension, the art contained therein. And while it’s easy to envision your work hanging in this or that gallery, you must choose carefully. After all, it’s your livelihood we’re talking about here.


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