Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ten tips for selling art

By Geoffrey Gorman, Guest Writer
I am always interested to hear how artists succeed in the art world. Most artists don't have an advisor to help them, galleries don't seem to have as much time for career development, and unfortunately the days of being discovered are over. Therefore, I have come up with my ten tips to help artists succeed.

1. Set yearly, five year, and ultimate career goals. The goals that you plan are a road map for your career. Be realistic but at the same time don't be afraid to dream about your goals. Be prepared to change and re-prioritize your goals as different opportunities arise.

2. Be committed to realizing your goals. You have to believe in your work and yourself; you have to love what you are doing and be persistent. Sometimes the day-to-day details are the hardest ones to take care of, such as updating your resume, photographing your work, or keeping accurate records of your inventory. These are also some of the most important tasks to stay on top of.

3. Understand where your work fits into the market. Read and analyze a variety of arts related journals, books, and newsletters to find out where the audience is for your work. When you approach galleries and museums, do your homework ahead of time so that you know what type of work they are interested in exhibiting.

4. Document your work and career. Always photograph all of your work and have a labeled record of every piece you have created. This means producing good slides of each piece. Good slides are professional and in focus. I have seen many portfolios that have had dark, out of focus pictures that were shot in the backyard. Also keep a clean copy of every article about you and your work in a notebook that can be reproduced. This book, which should have your master slide list along with any press you garner, becomes your bible.

5. Work with your own mailing list. A mailing list is one of the most important tools you have in front of you. Every professional artist I have worked with has an active mailing list that they have accumulated over the years. Your mailing list is made up of five elements: collectors/interested people; museum directors/curators/staff; gallery dealers/staff; arts writers/media; arts professionals like grant writers, etc. Send out postcards to this list at least three times a year.

6. Find role models and mentors. When I was running a gallery ten years ago, I picked out several other dealers who were successful, got to know them, and then found out how they structured their business. A mentor can be a businessperson you admire or an artist that has succeeded on a level that you want to reach.

7. Network with your peers. Set up salons or critical discussion groups. Use your peers as an arena for feedback on your work and career. Knowledge of other opportunities is very important to artists.

8. Be a visible participant in the art world. Go to lectures, openings, and arts events that pertain to your work. Introduce yourself to dealers, curators, collectors, and critics. Museum curators like to see artists at their events and appreciate the support. If your specialty is printmaking, let the local college or museum know that you are available for demonstrations or talks about your specialty.

9. Make efforts to promote your work. Consider donations to charitable organizations, auctions, museum collections, and fund-raisers. Join and participate in arts related organizations and exhibit at juried/alternative spaces. Get invited to invitational shows. Consider local and national advertising either on your own or with your gallery.

10. Secure appropriate representation at each stage of your career. Consider several galleries around the country to build up a large collector base, advertising opportunities, and varied critical attention. Have a clear understanding of how much work you can produce in a year.

All of these tips are to help you become clear about what you want. Remember: exposure equals success for artists.

Geoffrey Gorman, a former gallery director, attended the Maryland Institute of Art and the Boston Museum School. Five years ago he founded GG+A, an artist career development firm that works with artists individually and through workshops.

This article was originally created for It appears on NYFA Interactive courtesy of the Abigail Rebecca Cohen Library.

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