Marketing Mondays: Stayin’ Alive

With the “For Lease” and “For Rent” signs popping up in Chelsea and SoHo, the smug schadenfreuders are told-you-so-ing even as the ground gives way beneath their feet. Of galleries that have not closed, many are letting staff go—reportedly, even Pace and Gagosian. Red dots are everywhere less in evidence.

But the will to survive is strong. Whether the soundtrack is the BeeGees—oh, oh, oh, oh, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive—or Gloria Gaynor’s evergreen anthem to perseverance (or Celia’s Cruz’s inspired version in Spanish), we are all, as Celia sings, sopraviviendo. Surviving. Or trying to.

At least Five galleries in New York have come up with novel ideas to keep going strong:
. Winkleman and Schroeder Romero, those side-by-side dynamos over by the Hudson on 27th Street, have come up with Compound Editions, a project that offers limited-edition prints, sculptures or cards at acquisition-friendly prices (so far, in the 100-$150 range). The series are selling out, such as All Your Eggs, by Andy Yoder, shown left, an edition of 100. (Disclaimer: I bought one.)
. Invisible Exports, down on Orchard Street, offers its Artist of the Month Club; pay $2400 for a year's subscription and you'll get a limited-edition print from a curator-selected artist each month. The collectors will know who the curators are but not the work they will select, says Benjamin Tischer, a director of the gallery. The website describes the process as introducing "Duchampian chance into the act of collecting."

. In Williamsburg, Jack the Pelican Presents has installed Old School, a salon-style show of work by gallery artists and others. The paintings, works on papers and sculptures--all small--are priced to sell. Everything is under $2000, and many works are in the modest three figures. Cash and carry is the operative mode, with new work installed as sales are made. The gallery features work primarily of emerging artists, and in this economic climate it's a chance for the work to be seen as well as sold. The show runs through April 26.
. Metaphor Contemporary, the gallery run by painters Rene Lynch and Julian Jackson, also in Brooklyn, has invited artists to donate a piece that will be part of a group exhibition and silent auction at the gallery in May (and an auction component that will take place on line). The show is titled Stayin' Alive. They've given artists the option of receiving the usual percentage of the sale, or something less, which would put more money into gallery programs. It's unusual, but artists who have shown there--I'm one of them-- are pitching in. (And thanks to the gallery for the title to this post; I unconsciously plagiarized it from them. ).

Artists have their own ways of keepin' on keepin' on. Some are holed up in the studio painting more than ever. Some are focusing more on works on paper than on painting, or small paintings rather than large. Some are participating in group shows rather than committing to solos, or taking the opportunity to show at venues they might not have considered before: open studios, art centers, private dealers, even some non-profit venues where everyone kicks in a couple hundred to cover expenses (but not vanity galleries).
I haven’t painted for a couple of months. Instead, I’m working with my network of galleries to place work that has already been made. For some time I’ve been trying to get off the treadmill of “What do you have that’s new?”—as if work from two years ago isn't as good or important as the new piece whose paint is not yet dry—and this downturn has given me that opportunity. I’m pleased with the sales, and I think my collectors are pleased with the work they've acquired. I’m also catching up on a ton of administrative work (and, if you haven’t noticed, blogging a little more than usual). I’m seeing more art, making more studio visits. When I get back in the studio—which will be soon, soon—I’ll do so with energy, enthusiasm and optimism.
So here’s what I want to know from you, artists, gallerists and others: What are you doing to stay alive?



Tina Mammoser said...

Such great inspiring ideas! I love the lateral thinking going on.

I'm one of those artists who's in the studio. Taking the opportunity of the coming year to actually get a larger studio, produce more work. I'm not necessarily reducing sizes or doing work on paper but will not discount those options as much as in the past. So on the whole my output will increase and become more diverse. I already do work on paper and photography, I've just never promoted and sold it before. So rather than change creativity I'm just looking at what studio work could be made more public.

Art said...

I'm so excited by the idea of art I can actually afford. I'm going to check out some of the things you mentioned, as well as the Affordable Art Fair. The only thing that I would not do: Artist of the Month club. I'm not nearly into into chance, Duchampian or otherwise.

WPBNYC and Anything Else said...

I now live in West Palm Beach, Florida so right away I have cut costs on rent, utilities etc. I do miss NYC and Long island but am here for now. In NYC rents I see are down but here I can live in a mammoth one bedroom with a twenty foot patio for 735.00 a month with free parking, free washers and dryers and a utility bill under 100.00 a month. I am trying to pay down business debt. There are also medical clinics here that are inexpensive and you can pay out of pocket.They are called Urgent Care Centers and seem to be popping up on every street corner like a McDonalds. I now shop at Walmart even for clothes. Surprise to find decent labels for sale like Danskin and White Stag. 5.00 t-shirts. Jeans that fit and are 20.00. In this day and age I am shopping with the goal of not spending any more than I have. I use no credit cards these days and have locked them up! I have found a farmers market here where I can get a bucket of tomatoes for 2.00, a bucket of huge sweet potatoes also for 2.00. I joined a health club but only a month at a time. I can drop out with notice. I clip coupons and use them. Shop for coupons online and is great for that.

In terms of jobs. I am going online as a gallerist very soon as Zatista launches. I am going for the European and South American collector. I don't have overhead or insurance costs since I won't keep artists works at my house and in addition I don't have shipping costs. Artists get to keep more of the sale since my percentage of it is smaller. This creates a friendlier relationship. Social networking sites I find are a great way to go as well. I have met artists on them as well as other dealers and gallerists. Times are changin'. Last night I watched Larry King and P Diddy etc... The new is unfolding and this is a transition so I think I will wait it out.

Donna Dodson said...

I haven't been pursuing any shows this year because I have a big solo show coming up in the fall 2009 that will travel in the spring 2009 and I am creating a new body of work for that. In the meantime, I have been networking alot more this year, paying down old business debts and pursuing online opportunities to stay active in the art world dialogue with my work. In the last week, I've been invited into 4 solo shows which is going to fill up my upcoming schedule (gulp) but which will also help move some of my inventory out of my studio. As for new endeavors and new markets- I am collaborating with a jewelery designer who is creating a collection based on my sculptures and that new project will launch next fall.

Anonymous said...

I think you are seeking practical ways to 'stay alive' so I realize this may not be what you're looking for BUT: during this time of re-building I'm applying two techniques to keep my spirit alive and they're both spiritual.
1)I re-frame EVERY experience from negative to positive, no matter how miniscule (the rude clerk, the rainy day)with the last resort of compassion;
2) By doing this, I keep my vibration positive and find it attracts other positive energy and it helps me network on a spontaneous level with kindred spirits.
After spending my 20s, 30s and half of my 40s being anxious or depressed, this has been very liberating!

Bill said...

I continue to work in the studio every day, but (for the first time in many years) at a slower, more deliberate pace, less hours too, three or four, down from 6 or eight/day. I'm not as concerned with being prolific right now (i.e. producing a large body of work - 20 plus pieces/year, which was my normal MO). I'm researching some different materials to paint on (aluminum panels) too.

Like Joanne, I'm also working at getting more attention for work already in my inventory - some of which was never exhibited or even seen, due in part to the "What do you have that's new?" mentality (I always had something new), and also because of my productivity. A current year's work would leap-frog over the previous years just because galleries wanted to see only the "newest." I don't think my work loses validity because it's a year or two older.

Other things I'm doing are - updating my web site, prospecting for new contacts and opportunities to exhibit - and this includes looking into new area's - not just galleries. I'm also spending an hour each day cleaning/organizing my home office (that's the most I can tolerate), And another hour/day learning/using the GYST software program I purchased last year. If you aren't familiar with it, GYST stands for (getting your sh*t together), it's software designed by artists for artists with features to organize your inventory, and much more - here's a link:

In addition to the above, I'm spending time out and about in nature. After a long winter, it's great to go out hiking minus that extra 10 lbs. of winter gear! The peepers are out, and then there's my favorite sound of spring here in the sylvan fields of upstate, NY, "the blackbirds."

Like I said, I AM alive.

Christopher Quirk said...

Re: innovation by galleries in the current environment, another example is John Davis Gallery in Hudson. He is offering a finely produced edition of prints by gallery artists. said...

How I am staying alive.
1. I have no car; therefore I do not have to pay car insurance.
2. I have a large stock of art supplies from previous years; so I haven't bought supplies in about a year or two- aside from a pencil or whatnot.
3. I am versatile- capable, willing and wanting to work in many mediums and sizes.
4. Even though I have been out of work for about a year (my job is finding a job 8-10 hours a day) I still find time to work on something- presently a book and large watercolor series.
AND 5. Some ways/things I don't spend money on: Internet (use public access), dining out ( not worth it), make my own bread, pizza, etc., PATIENCE.

Stephanie Clayton said...

Great post and comments!

Here's my list:
1. My car died last year and I decided not to get another. I work out of my home/studio, and use my husband's car when necessary. Having no car equates to more money in my pocket.
2. I've cut advertising costs to almost nothing, apart from website updates and maintenance.
3. I'm investing more time on virtual gallery sites and online networking.
4. When traveling to "art" cities, I focus more than ever on making strong connections.
5. I've cut back on ordering supplies, virtually eliminating international shipping costs. I still order when necessary, but get most materials during U.S. trips and bring them here in a suitcase. I'm trying to finish what supplies I have before purchasing more.
6. I rarely eat out, buy vintage clothing, make my own bread, etc.
7. I got rid of $100/month DSL, and now rely on wireless. It's not as fast or reliable, but the local DSL wasn't either.
8. I'm focusing on artistic growth now more than ever, not worrying too much about peripheral things which never enhanced my career in the first place.

Like others who've posted, I'm doing what is possible/practical and definitely not sinking into despair. Determination and patience is crucial.

Neanderthals Destroyed Atlantis said...

"the smug schadenfreuders are told-you-so-ing even as the ground gives way beneath their feet..."

This concept, which I regard as a bit of a strawman, comes up a lot. Winkleman, Saltz, you, and many others mention these people who are cheering on the demise of the art world as we all know it. You add something to the mix by suggesting that these people are cheering on the end times while going down with the ship. Can we name names? I would love to know who is being referenced when this kind of thing comes up. I would assume you aren't refering to conservative culture critics, people at The New Republic or National Review, etc., who are dull and repetitive and never surprise their readers. For them, criticism is really shtick.

Joanne Mattera said...

I'm delighted to be in the company of Ed and Jerry. To be honest, I'm not referencing anyone specifically; it's more the general tone I hear from some art folks when the topic comes up.

You are all so positive and practical. Such good ideas here. And good links. And I love that while, as a whole, you are paring down, you are still making art. Thanks, all!

Barbara, please keep us posted on your online gallery.

Nancy Natale said...

Thanks for this topic, Joanne, and for all the great comments from everyone.

I'm cleaning and reorganizing my studio and reassessing what's there. I've cut back on production because I remember your description of the big dumpster filled with artworks when an artist dies, Joanne, so I'm trying to move old stuff out of my studio to make room for the new. But the new is being made at a slower pace.

I'm also spending less time in the studio but trying to make the time that I do spend there more worthwhile. I've decided to work on some projects around my house that remain unfinished because I was so desperate to be in the studio. Maybe this time I'll get my house fixed up so I can enjoy it before I sell it. That would be a novelty. I'm also rehanging art in my house.

I'm planning a larger vegetable garden and a consolidation of flower beds to save time and energy on maintenance. I think I'll take time to enjoy being in the garden this summer. Maybe I'll even read out there?

Neanderthals Destroyed Atlantis said...

I always find criticism to be more satisfying when it is as specific as possible. That is why I asked. But of course naming names would go against your philosophy. Best of luck Joanne. It is nice of you to offer up advice and an optimistic take on things to people.

p.s. Thanks for listing the link to my blog on your site. I was always surprised that you did this. Anyway, I deleted my blog so feel free to delete my blog from your blogroll. Consider it a form of stain removal.

NJ ART 73 said...

I am staying alive by trying to paint & improve my art Eventually I will set up a website & blog but for now I am enjoying the act of painting. Since my last one person show was 6 years ago I figure that once I re-emerge it will like starting all over. I am aware of what is going on but eventually the economy will pick up. I refuse to sit in a conversation of negativity. In fact I am taking "classes" via DVDs and I am going to push myself to go outside my comfort zone. I am going to do some plein air painting instead of my usual sketching. just because the world is going crazy doesn't mean I have to join in.

Kathy Hodge said...

I worked for 3 years to put on a solo show that opened just as the panic hit and wallets snapped shut. So now I have a full show's worth of framed paintings stacked in my studio. The advantage to that is for the first time I have the ability to put on a show without painting up until opening night. The downside is that opportunities to show seem very scarce. So I'm indulging in random thoughts about painting and looking forward to an artist residency this summer in Great Dunes National Park.

Caleb Taylor said...

As a studio artist, I often feel I have the best job-security. I paint everyday, work hard and love it. It is the thing that allows me to forget about my financial situation. Having recently finished my MFA, I've relocated to a new city with a tight group of established artists. It has been tough breaking that bond, but I've been getting a little deeper by applying for local grants, slide registries, and showing in alternative spaces. I am cautious about where I show, but have found the small galleries push harder to move my work than the spaces with 30+ artists. Also, I continue to make drawings that have been selling fairly well. When I moved, I intended to increase my prices to begin building market value. I have been able to do this, but in smaller increments.

I've applied to jobs, but the MFA tends to make me "overqualified" unless it's for a teaching position. I am trying to be practical...making paintings that fit in my car so I don't have to rent a UHaul. I don't go shopping much and a night out is a treat for my girlfriend and I. My days in the studio are a treat to me. Thanks for the other great posts.

Joanne Mattera said...

Thanks for this post. One of the things I usually say to emerging artists is that it's a tough slog as you as you settle into a studio practice, apply for grants, broaden your network, and show, show, show. You are doing all of those things. So inasmuch as you are at the beginning of your career, the good news is this: Whatever the economy, you have nowhere to go but up.

Caleb also brings up another issue that I'd like to explore sometime soon: the MFA. (Hold your comments; I know you have them. Let me frame a discussion first.)

A.K. said...

I am a few days late entering this discussion. However, I thought you'd enjoy this link to a story about a couple of Canadian artists who solved their economic woes by moving to a TINY town. (they are also pursuing MFA's...but as you say, that's another story)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Joanne! Very interesting post and dialogue.
Compound Editions