Artists are more susceptible than most to the economic downturn as fine art has long been considered a luxury, primarily for an audience with extra discretionary income. In times like these, even the very wealthy feel uncomfortable spending on what may be perceived by others as an extravagance. Smart collectors know this is the best time to buy and fine art is one of the safest places to “park” their money. But, they are looking primarily at very established artists with a verifiable sales and exhibition history. Values of these blue chip artists rarely go down significantly and smart buyers are on the lookout. But, for most emerging and mid career artists, the forecast is grim. Galleries are struggling to make ends meet and primarily exhibiting the works of artists they feel most confident they can sell. So, if you are thinking about approaching commercial galleries anytime in the near future, let me give you a reality check and some alternatives.
1. Stay informed. Do your research and follow the news. Watch which galleries are advertising and who they are showing. This will be a strong indication of which galleries will survive and help you decide when you get ready to start approaching galleries again. Accept that the gallery world goes in ebbs and flows and you need to be able to recognize when it is your time to step in again.
2. Focus on technology. By now, every artist should have an updated, easy to navigate website, an organized electronic (email) database of collectors and fans, and an accurate inventory system. It’s easy to let these things slide, make excuses about not having enough time, energy or resources…but, there will never be a better time than NOW to get this stuff done. The greatest advantage of taking care of all this now, is when you can start approaching galleries again, you will have the ammunition you need to be successful.
3. Network with other artists. Find other artists with whom you can communicate and/or meet on a regular basis. It’s going to be important during this downturn to keep the creative juices flowing. Being an artist can be a solitary profession, you need to surround yourself with other artists and help each other maintain a positive attitude. Nothing does that better than talking to other artists about their work and inviting them to your studio to discuss yours. You are not alone in this.
4. Curate yourself. Use this time to submit your work (and any other curatorial ideas) to non profit exhibition spaces, such as small museums and college and university galleries. These places are not as concerned with long term relationships or sales. Since many may find their budgets cut, they may welcome a suggestion for an exhibition that is already pre-packaged and ready to go. Use whatever distance you are willing to drive as your geographical radius and submit proposals to everyone within striking distance.
5. Make time for you. We are all under a tremendous amount of stress in this uncertain economic climate. The world seems chaotic right now. Familial and financial responsibilities can appear overwhelming. Remember, it is your art that centers you and defines who you are as a person. We will all get through this, continue to make the best possible art you can make and you will survive.
Resources by Sylvia White-ArtAdvice.com