This article is by Brian Sherwin, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint and Art Fag City. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Having written about art for half a decade, there are a few issues that readers-- and followers on various sites-- frequently contact me about. One of the main topics I’ve faced happens to concern vanity galleries. Artists often contact me to find out if vanity galleries are worth pursuing-- if they are strategic for art marketing and so on. My answer has always been a very firm “N0”-- and my thoughts on vanity galleries are warranted by years of observing the disbelief of artists when they discover that exhibiting at a vanity gallery had little to no positive outcome in regards to their art marketing growth. My opinion on the matter has not changed-- I feel that exhibiting at vanity galleries can be harmful to an artist's career.
Before exploring this issue, I want to clearly define what a vanity gallery is-- I‘ve noticed that there is some confusion. For example, some individuals have suggested that cooperative galleries run by artists are nothing more than vanity galleries-- in my opinion, that is simply not the case. A vanity gallery does not involve the mutually beneficial aspects of an artist co-op-- instead, vanity galleries benefit from the desperation of artists who want their artwork seen in a physical exhibit, no matter what the cost. Thus, vanity galleries are art galleries that charge artists fees in exchange for exhibiting their artwork. Point blank-- vanity galleries have no incentive to sell art because they have already cashed in on the artist, so to speak.
Part of the confusion is spurred by the fact that some vanity galleries try to pass themselves off as a legitimate artist cooperative gallery. That said, it is important to remember that a key point of vanity galleries-- no matter what form they take-- is that they make the blunt of their profit from artists instead of from sales to the public-- which is very different when compared to artists banding together in the form of a cooperative gallery that strives for mutual exposure and a steady flow of sold art. Another key difference between artist cooperative galleries and vanity galleries is that artist co-op galleries tend to be exclusive rather than inclusive. In other words, artist run galleries tend to have strict guidelines as to who is accepted into the co-op gallery while vanity galleries accept anyone who can afford the 'privilege' of exhibiting.
There is a famous example of how most vanity galleries work involving a Village Voice reporter, Lisa Gubernick, who posed as an artist contacting a gallery with hopes of being exhibited. The gallery, which was obviously a vanity gallery, offered Gubernick an exhibit within 20 minutes-- along with a contract that requested Gubernick to pay $720 for 16 feet of wall space. From the research I’ve conducted on the story it appears that the vanity gallery did not bother to view Gubernick’s artwork before offering her an exhibit.
Lisa Gubernick’s exploration of the exploitation of vanity galleries took place in 1981-- yet vanity gallery owners regularly exploit artists today. Some vanity galleries today are charging artists well over $1,000-- plus additional fees-- for the 'privilege' of exhibiting at their space! I’ve known artists who have paid thousands per year after falling into this career trap. Reckless? Yes. Yet some artists continue to fall for these mock-success schemes year after year-- and the only person profiting from it are the vanity gallery owners!
With all of this in mind you might still be asking yourself, “Why is it harmful to pay to play with vanity galleries? How can it hurt an artist?”. The answer to that is simple. The money an artist wastes on these lackluster vanity gallery ventures could be used to fund other methods of art marketing that will have real impact on their art marketing growth. For example, an artist should use that money for further art education, time-tested promotional efforts, maintaining a personal website, or registering copyright of their popular works of art. Those five suggestions alone are enough reason not to waste money on vanity galleries. Any waste of money on efforts that do little to help your presence as an artist is harmful to your career goals! Unfortunately, some artists appear to get addicted to making others wealthier out of desperation-- desperation is the heart and soul of vanity galleries.
In my opinion, exhibiting at a vanity gallery can be harmful to an artist's career in other ways. Point blank-- by exhibiting at a vanity gallery there is a huge chance that your artwork will be exhibited alongside a roster of artists who are not on the same level of artistic skill as you. The end result being that you had an art exhibit that is of little to no relevance-- and will certainly not help you to gain the reputation that you are seeking from established galleries nor gain the credibility that you want to convey to potential buyers and art collectors in general. An artist can easily become the 'art star' of a vanity gallery simply by being the artist who pays the most-- but I promise you that if you take your paper-tiger accomplishments to a legitimate art gallery you will most likely be laughed at behind closed doors-- if not in person.
As an art writer and critic I can tell you firsthand that a short legitimate exhibit history is worth more toward sparking my interest than page after page of paid for accomplishments in the form of vanity galleries. A string of vanity gallery exhibits fails to tell me anything about the artist other than the fact that he or she had enough money on hand to pay. Sadly, some artists have these lackluster accomplishments thrown between legitimate accomplishments-- they promote themselves as if both are equal! It boils down to this-- do you want to be known for marketing your art well or do you want to be known as a fool for the marketing strategy of vanity galleries?
My negative opinions of vanity galleries often provoke artists to ask me how one can tell if a gallery is a vanity gallery-- especially if the art gallery in question is a relatively new establishment. My answer to that is always the same-- do research. If you have not heard of the gallery-- especially if the gallery contacts you-- do as much research as you can to find out if the gallery is legitimate. Find out and learn as much as you can about the artists who have shown with the gallery-- don’t be afraid to ask them about their experience exhibiting with the gallery. Your goal is to find out if it is worth being accepted by the gallery-- it is not a time to get blinded by the excitement of a potential exhibit. If you let your guard down for just a second you may end up signing a contract involving a hefty fee that does nothing to help your career.
In closing, if you want to wear the golden dunce-hat for Most Desperate Artist of the Year or to be the winner of the Lifetime Accomplishment of Nothing award go ahead and exhibit at vanity galleries-- make a career out of it if you wish. I’ll be more than happy to hand out these 'privileged' awards to you in order to use you as a warning to other artists who are at risk of falling into the same career trap. That said, if you want to be respected by your peers and considered by legitimate gallery owners, art collectors, and art critics I strongly advise that you focus your time in the studio and on productive forms of self-promotion. Don’t hurt your reputation or art marketing strategy out of desperation or due to the silver-tongue of some vanity art gallery promoter.
Take care, Stay true,
A couple responses from my last blog were about selling art - that thinking about sales is the wrong thing to be concerned with. A couple of my friends would disagree with that notion. I have to say I disagree with that notion, too.
I, for one, never think about selling the piece while creating it. However, when I step out the door of my studio I am David the business man and I am thinking about sales, sales that pay the bills and allow me to return to the studio. In the 50 years I've been working as an artist, I've seen a number of talented artists toss in the towel. I know of one who committed suicide. The need to create, whether it is painting pictures or writing a novel is there inside all artists. For some, it is like breathing. When we stop breathing, we stop living. For others, it is something to do to fill their days between golf season and bowling.
I am glad for those that do not need to sell art to survive, who can decorate the walls of local restaurants and retirement homes. For some, though, sales means paying for a daughter's braces or her college tuition.
Building a name and gaining respect is a must right from the start. Going into fine art is a very difficult challenge for most artists, especially if there is no support available in times of need. I've seen marriages break up over one's desire to be an artist. I've seen very talented friends go into deep depressions and lay down their brush never to pick it up again because they did not know how to sell art. So when someone says sales are not all that important, I just think of all the artists out there who are not painting the masterpieces the world will never enjoy because they are behind the counter at McDonalds.
Why do I believe restaurants are not such a great places for showing art? If you are serious about making a living from art, you need to talk with those looking at your art, thus you need to pick a venue where you can do so. I hate being in a restaurant in the middle of a conversation to be interrupted by the waiter asking if everything is ok, so a total stranger interrupting me to ask me how I like the decor would really tick me off. Decor is what art is in a restaurant. I will admit, there are a few restaurants that it would be of some use to have one's art on their walls, but in those cases the restaurants know the value of good art and have purchased the art they show.
When I was out painting in parks, people were always coming up to me asking about my art and where they could see more. It was that personal contact that helped me. Artists at art fairs who sit behind their tents sell less than those in front of their tents chatting with people. Sales do not always come from those first meetings, but when those people are ready to buy art they'll remember the artist who took the time to chat with them. Pick places to exhibit where you can meet and talk to the people looking at your art. Should you pick a library, make a point of letting people know you will be there at certain hours of the day. Have open studio shows or backyard shows where you can do a demo. Rent a tent. Be creative. Invite other artists to show with you or form a small group and have group shows. Do you really need to spend hundreds of dollars to find out how to make it in the arts? Attend other art shows and see what will work for you. Whatever style or form of art you love doing, there are people like yourself who will see what you see. When I first started, my adviser said you will sell to friends. It took awhile to realize that I was making friends as I was talking with those looking at my art.
You can view David's original post here.
Until next time
1. Nigel Carruthers (Facebook entry)
2. Eric A Jacobsen (Facebook entry)
3. Ali Munay Holland (Twitter entry)
Thank you all for participating, spreading the word about my artwork and supporting my art.
If the winners would please email me at email@example.com in order to select their print of choice and provide a delivery address. You may choose from any of the Modern Floral Collection, the Port Issac Collection, the Bucks County Barns and Farm Collection and select winter scenes. You can look through my paintings here in the gallery. These lovely fine art prints are a $50 value each. Congratulations again and I look forward to delivering your fine art print!
Until next time
Part of being an artist is reading, listening, and watching what is happening in the Art community. That is not to say you cannot do your own thing, but you should be aware of what is going on in the world. For lots of people, including artists, this is a difficult thing to do. Many of us get wrapped up in our own worlds. I came across the letter in an article, Going Aggressively Passive written by traditional artist Lori Woodward in which she suggested to read what plein aire landscape painter Joe Paquet wrote.
Open letter for all artists
Almost every artist I speak to these days has a profound tale of woe to spin. The common complaint: bad economy=lack of sales= “Whaa happened?” For those of us who make our living and put food on our family table, it doesn’t really matter what happened so much as what we can do to adjust. In our moments of panic, rash and destructive choices are made to turn a buck… we diminish ourselves and often do untold damage to careers which have taken a long time to build.
For so very long galleries were the way: the omniscient ones, and for a very long time most of them did a fine job of it. But in the end they were only merchants. No one knows better than you when you are on the right path.
Rainer Maria Rilke says, “A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity.” The need to say something is a far cry from the need to be heard. There is art and there is product and they are rarely the same thing.
Walking out of the final Harry Potter movie last week I was struck by something larger than the film. It was the fact that Ms. Rowling built this thing, this idea from thin air, moved words around in a personal way, created a world which had not existed and turned it into a very real thing.
That is what we get to do everyday - create. We can construct what has never existed, bring something to the world and shape it with our own hearts and hands. It’s a gift we have which is east to lose sight of.
What to do about it?
Innovation, Resilience, Perseverance, and Faith
- Change your plan; create your own opportunities to teach or sell your own work.
- More is not better; better is better. Make an effort to improve on both vision and craft.
- A good website which represents you elegantly and truthfully with new content on a monthly basis.
- If you want to be remarked about - be remarkable.
- Quality is a habit.
If you haven’t already, learn to take a hit and get back up. Nothing works like it used to, and when it does change it will be different than before. Get used to the idea and turn to yourself. It’s your life, make better choices - don’t be a victim.
Like Karma, the artist’s life has it’s own organic path if you let it unfold naturally. Work ethic, love of the job, proximity and opportunity all play a role in developing a life in art. Be clear about these and adjust your life to maximize your gifts.
Now for the most important and, ironically, counter-intuitive part of it all: Belief in yourself. Read your art history - every artist has wrestled with this one. I have always believed that humility and hubris must walk hand-in-hand; you must have humility to receive the world, yet have the ego to face a blank canvas and believe that you can add something to it.
Make a conscious choice to surround yourself with authentic words, music and art to remind you of what is possible. Above all surround yourself with those who love and believe in you and are willing to hold up a mirror. In every weak moment of my life my wife Natalie has been there to hand my words back to me.
Growth is always on the edge of uncomfortably.
Be grateful, be humble, be open and create without fear.
- Joe Paquet
Joe Paquet has many messages above and personally I agree with all of them. In fact, I have said some of the comments myself or heard my artist friends say the same. We don't enter into the art world thinking we are going to be rich. We create our art out of love and emotion. It's what we feel. It's what we do. It's what we wish to express. We do have something to say in our own way. We want people to listen, and to see and hear what we are saying without using words that can be misconstrued and twisted. We are trying to make the world a better place to live by opening the minds of our fellow man to new ideas through vision and their soul. We are leaving some piece of ourselves for the future generations to find in our ART.
Lastly I'll close in reminding every one that my fine art print giveaway ends tomorrow, April 14, 2015 at midnight EST so you still have some time to enter the competition. To find out more information on the four ways you can enter to win read last week's blog post.
Until next time!
It was a wonderful feeling to reach 300 fans on my Facebook page so I would like to celebrate and share that wonderful feeling with my supporters. There will be three lucky winners who will win an 11 x 14 inch fine art giclée print of their choice from any of the Modern Floral Collection, the Port Issac Collection, the Bucks County Barns and Farm Collection and select winter scenes. You can look through my paintings here in the gallery. These lovely fine art prints are a $50 value each.
You will have up to four chances to enter the competition. You can like my Facebook page and share this post on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and tweet this post, follow me on Instagram and regram or instagram your favourite painting of mine or follow me on Google + and share this post. In order for me to view your entry on each social media format you must tag me in your post as the following:
Facebook: @Tom Furey
Google Plus: @Tom Furey Artist
Each person entering the competition can only win one print to guarantee there are three unique winners. No immediate family members are eligible to win. The competition will run from now until April 15, 2015 at midnight EST. The winners will be announced on the blog on April 16, 2015. Once announced they will need to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to select their print of choice and provide a delivery address.
You can't win if you don't enter so please submit you entries.
I found this interesting video explaining basically how the art community works through the eyes of galleries and others. It highlights just how crazy things can be. It also tries to convey the reason for types of art popularity at any given time. It attempts to answer the question "Is there Democracy in the Art World?".
So what's your opinion? Please feel free to leave a comment below.
Until next time!
I have been very fortunate this year in having my work accepted into many shows and exhibits as well as appearing in some great Public Relations articles and videos. As previously mentioned, this all takes time away from the canvas. Today was spent running paintings to a show fifty minutes from the studio. I then had to pick up some work and I took the opportunity to check out a new frame shop in the area. By the time I had navigated a number of road detours and got home, the whole process had taken me four hours! Where does the time go? This is all in a days work as an artist and the part that people don't tend to think about.
I spoke about shows and membership in my last blog comments and I wanted to take the opportunity to elaborate on that subject a little. For me, the most wonderful thing about the shows and joining new groups is meeting people. If you hold the belief that we are all here to help each other whilst enjoying life to the max, then art organizations are the best example of this. Artists share information about everything needed to succeed almost by nature and even strangers are very open to conversations and discussions, artistic or otherwise. The arts are a wonderful experience for anyone and I love to share it with all I can.
Until next time!
Shows and exhibits are a big part of my efforts this month. Juried shows and exhibits are especially important to enter for anyone wanting to succeed as a professional artist. Of course artist are not required to ever enter a show, however if you want investors in your work to see you as a serious artist it's part of the business. Most artist will tell you that the time it takes to market themselves would be better spent creating their artwork. Unfortunately, most creatives do not have that opportunity. Today marketing has been supersized with the explosion of social media, tweeting, instagraming and Facebook posts galore. Techniques used to market yourself with social media could fill a book. I'm sure there are shelves full of books providing guidance on this at your local book store or library not to mention somewhere online.
For the actual juried shows, the entries are selected and narrowed down to those who will be in the competition. Sometimes just being accepted to a prestigious show is winning. There are many juried shows all over the world. Today with the internet and mass media you are no longer confined to your local area. The shows I entered this year require the artist to supply a good digital photograph or scan of their work which the judges will review and choose who gets into the show. Some shows are actually judged for awards by these photographs supplied so having good scans and photographs of your body of work is critical. Shows and exhibitions also come at an expense to the artist. Entry fees can range anywhere from $10 to $100 a submitted work. Some exhibits allow artist to submit two to three works as well. Whilst other shows may require membership in the organization, which again adds membership fees. This is just the tip of the iceberg with entering shows and exhibits. I'll share more soon.
Until next time!