What does it mean to have an artistic reputation? Is there a line between being a sellout and a savy businessman? To further investigate this issue, I relied on the help of professionals. A survey was sent out with a list of eight questions to experienced art professionals that would bring insight to the modern role of marketing in art. These people have years of real-world experience dealing with the modern art world and all the business aspects of it. The responses I got ranged from successful art dealers, consultants, artists, curators, and more. Of course there was no one definite answer, as the answers where as varied as these people’s backgrounds. However, there was a general consensus on some issues, and all the responses added valuable and smart insight to the subject.
The first person I surveyed was Kara Lenkeit, an independent curator who has worked at various galleries.
(Mackey) Warhol seems to be regarded as a role model for contemporary artists in business. If so, do you think artists of today ask “What would Warhol do?”:
(Kara) Maybe. But mostly I think Warhol’s techniques are dated/cliché now. And artists are ‘doing Warhol’ without realizing it- given the technology at their fingertips. (Facebook events/email lists etc.)
(Mackey) Has the marketing of art changed since the 1960’s? Do you think it would be hard to picture Jackson Pollock merchandising his work as an artist like Kaws?:
(Kara) Mary Boone, who, in the 80s was dubbed ‘queen of the art scene’, told me there was no ‘market’ then (at least nothing comparable to what’s going on today).
I’m also reading a book about clement greenberg (an (in)famous critic, very active in the 50s-80s mostly) who describes a change in the art world (as they knew it in the sixties) when suddenly people in suites and dresses were at their openings and it wasn’t just the artists and their friends and families at receptions- openings were becoming fashionable, cultural outings, society events– and that (in my opinion, or what I’ve concluded from reading…) was all because of the media. The media made the art market. Glamorized it.
Kaws and Jackson Pollock are two different entities entirely. Despite the generational/historical difference (which is impossible to ignore, a canyon of a difference caused by the times) first of all Kaws makes toys. Second of all I hate Kaws. I kind of don’t really like Jackson Pollock, either. Lately, (and partially b/c of this book I’m reading) I get the feeling Pollock really just wanted to fuck with everybody, (by dripping paint) and it unexpectedly took off and he had no choice but to go ahead and get (more?) serious about his joke. Took it to the grave literally (AND I often wonder if it’s part of why he was so tormented (alcoholism & suicide)— because everyone took his ‘joke’ so seriously that he had to stick to it.
(Mackey) What would you consider before making a decisions about art marketing?
(Kara) I hate art marketing I’d hire someone. A marketing pro. Someone with experience in the fashion industry. Cause marketing is all about desire, and desire is so much about sex and the psychology of it. And the fashion industry knows sex and desire if they didn’t create it themselves.
(Mackey) What’s over the top in terms of marketing? Is there a line not to be crossed?
(Kara) It’s about the artist. And it’s not about ‘a sale’ it’s about a career, managing a career like bringing up a child. I learned this most recently at a gallery I worked at. An art advisor called re: availability of a certain famous artist. (A brand spanking new work, the first and only one finished in 2011) she’d seen it at the art fair, it was on our website, and hanging in the gallery when she called. Price was on the price list- no secrets, really, on the gallery’s end. Nothing special. She’d been quoted the price list price at the fair. Now, a week or so after the fair, she’s calling for availability, as she has ‘a client’ interested.
I take all her info/a detailed message, as the gallery owners are not available. ALSO- even though the work is hanging on the wall, listed on the price list- I really have no idea if it is completely available or not, I know it’s a relatively ‘hot’ piece… so my reply to ‘is it available?” is ‘I don’t know, but someone will get back to you” so I pass the message along, the owners are away… and frankly, don’t care to deal with unfamiliar advisors/clients (especially when away) so anyway no one gets back to this woman so she calls again and again, I have to keep brushing her off/ appeasing her while still making her feel important.
When I talk to an owner, I tell her this advisor is persisting. Won’t stop calling until she gets a yes or no. she tells me that the availability really depends on who wants to know. The availability depends on who the client is. So next time the advisor calls, I must inquire as to her client’s identity…. does not go over well.
What the advisor doesn’t understand is that the gallery owners are like the overbearing parents of this artists career. (That’s their job, as dealers) a brand new work by this guy doesn’t just go to anyone. It doesn’t go to an anonymous. It goes to someone who they know will buy it and keep it (for at least a long while) lend it out to exhibitions, take proper care etc, , , and if they should need to sell it, there is trust there btw. the owner that the gallery will be consulted before it is resold or heaven-forbid auctioned, or the gallery will take it on consignment and resell themselves. The advisor doesn’t think of this she just wants her cut. How dare I ask who her clients are! She has privacy policies! This is ridiculous!
(Mackey) Do you think artists need to take business classes to succeed in today’s art world?
(Kara) Doesn’t it feel like we all should take business classes to succeed financially?
(Mackey) Who sets the standard? Is it okay if it’s in The Gagosian Store or sold through MoMA?
(Kara) Standard for what? Huh? You can’t buy ‘art’ in the gaga store or at moma. You buy (overpriced) “art inspired” gifts and trinkets and jewels etc. Designy shit. Chachkees, reproductions, etc.
(Mackey) Do you think mass marketing brings more exposure to an artist?
(Kara) Yes but its not always necessarily a positive light under which they are exposed.
(Mackey) Could selling less expensive merchandise bring in people who normally wouldn’t be interested in an artist because of the cost?
(Kara) Oh sure. But it can also go awry the way people carry around ‘art-inspired’ tote bags, beach towels and have no effing clu they just think the soup can/banana motif is way cute and their 12 y.o. would love ittttt.
Look at this: http://www.worksonwhatever.com/
(Mackey) Why do you think artists market their work? Is it for exposure, to reach new markets, to make more money? Or a combination of these?
(Kara) I find that most artists I meet want to be able to support themselves and/or their family with art making. And yes it is a combination.