Marketing Mondays: A Baker’s Dozen of Negativity

Ah, the drama of our art lives! I don’t mean to make light. There’s nothing funny about the obstacles we have to overcome as we claw our way up to the mezzanine. In looking over two-plus years of topics, I realized I’ve talked quite a lot about the negative side of things (and so have you, judging by the comments). Still these posts on negative issues have useful information and, for the most part, a positive spin.  I'm liking this roundup idea so much that for the next couple of weeks, as I juggle some exhibition openings and travel, it will be the format for Marketing Mondays.

Rejection might seem like a downer of a way to start the Marketing Monday series, but the hope-dashing, nerve-breaking, thanks-but-no-thanks wall that stands between an artist and success is a looming constant. There’s no easy way to deal with it except to experience it, get over it and move on. Rejection is never pleasant, but until you get over it, you can never move on. 

You sent submission packages to a few dealers. It’s been months and you haven’t heard back. Or maybe it was an e-mail with a few j-pegs that got no response. You curse them. How busy can they be? It’s just one submission per dealer, after all.

“I am not ‘To Whom to May Concern,’” says a Westchester dealer. “If you don’t know whom to address, you haven’t done your homework.”

7.13.09: How to Reject a Gallery
“I was wondering how to tell a gallery you are not interested in being represented by them or being part of their upcoming programming. Doing it gracefully is proving to be quite difficult. How much info should you give, how much is too little or too much?”

8.17.09: Isms and Phobias
I used to have a buddy who constantly complained about the art world numbers. "Women are getting all the shows," he'd whine, after one exhibition got a couple of reviews. Or, "Artists of color are getting all the attention," when one African-American or Hispanic artist (usually male) would rise to prominence. And yet, when we visited exhibitions together, the numbers remained overwhelmingly in favor of men like himself--what Robert Hughes described (sarcastically) as "the pale penis people."

The pain or disappointment caused by a less-than-positive response to your work can be great, especially after the effort in creating, delivering and installing a show. Especially after the press release and postcards you or your dealer may have sent to critics with high hopes and fingers crossed. Especially after the euphoria of the opening, when you're surrounded by enthusiasm and kind words. 

 “The gallery that represents me does not want to give me the names of, and information about, the people who have bought my paintings. It's gotten so I am afraid to even ask. I understand their rationale but am wondering what you think of that practice. I have lost track of my work.”

Artists often talk about the very real difficulties they’ve had with dealers or consultants—late payments, non payments, damaged work, suddenly closed galleries—you know the list. Well, it’s not only artists who get the go-around.

Two flavors that artists deal with are sour and bitter: We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t taste them sometimes, but you don’t want to get to the point where you find them poisoning your practice and overtaking your life.

8.10.10: Five Queries That Got Dumped (and Why)
I have a dealer friend who forwards me some of the artists' e-mail inquiries she receives. She does this partly, I think, because she has to share them with someone (you can't make this stuff up), and partly because she knew that eventually they would make their way into a Marketing Mondays post as a cautionary tale.
It's OK to want more. That's part of setting goals and working hard. You know how it is: All you want is to get into a juried show. Then all you want is to get into a gallery. Then have a solo at the gallery representing you. But we also need to develop the capacity to appreciate what we have achieved. Without that appreciation, you get trapped in what artist Ted Mineo called "the Russian nesting dolls of disappointment."

Burning bridges is a radical act. Sometimes it's a foolish act, based on hubris or anger. Sometimes it's a desperate act, when other measures have failed. And other times it's a necessary strategy to put a distance between you and those who do not have your best interests at heart.

This post reminds us of the importance of not signing a contract unless and until we are comfortable with what we are signing. It also reminds us that not every bit of visibility for us is necessarily helpful.

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Unknown said...

such a a great round up post with amusing examples. love your marketing mondays!

Diane McGregor said...

Joanne, the "round up" is much appreciated -- I've already read several posts I somehow missed. Thanks!