The Show Must Go On
In our previous post we discussed the foundational elements of Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. We now add on (as promised) Presentation, Personality and as a bonus- Performance. Before we begin, we suggest knowing these rules, and then forgetting about them. Why? It will ruin the fun and spontaneity of making art. (Hey, we’re all here to have a little fun).
The Presentation and final touches to a work of art are a crucial aspect to how well the work shows or is displayed. It also means how you present yourself and present your images as a whole (vis a vis a website or social media). Presentation inevitably ties together with your Product, as well as the Promotion.
One of the most difficult aspects of group shows and juried exhibitions, is not knowing whether a work of art will be accepted, and then on top of that, the gallery wants the work to be “framed and ready to hang”. “Framed and ready to hang?!” This idea can become expensive to have every work of art ready to display at a moment’s notice. Furthermore, artists are not framers- being a framer is almost a work of art in and of itself depending on the skill level. The good news is that the framing is not the most important part, just that the work is presentable (and ready to hang or display), in some way. Think of it more like “how do you frame yourself?” especially when in the context of others. Here are a few suggestions:
-Have a few works that you use as “travel” objects that work well with a variety of themes. This is where a little bit of consistency among your work comes back into play, but don’t try to tailor your art to a specific theme. No matter what style your work is, most works of art falls into themes, whether narrow (e.g. seascapes), or broad (e.g. contemporary arts).
-Work with paper, print, or canvas sizes that are typical to store bought frames that don’t require customization. When selecting store bought frames, check for inconsistencies such as skewing, chips, and blemishes to edges, corners, and glass. Stores like Michaels have 60 day return policies, so, if an art show only runs for 30 days, save the receipt and the packaging, and get your money back if the work doesn’t sell.
-Paintings: either paint out the edge or mask off the edge of the canvas to give the work a clean appearance. This way, you don’t need a frame at all and a buyer can display the work as well without having to go the distance of getting a frame. If you are a sloppy painter (this is fine), then you may need a frame. Or, the edges are a part of the art itself, but it should make sense in the total package.
-Good or bad frames (and overall presentation obviously) may make or break sale, don’t make the frame overly distracting and almost never use ornate frames unless there is a reason. Gold frames with added aging effects are best left at the antique shop.
-Unless it is a crucial aspect of the work of art, never use glossy coatings on your art or frames that look sticky. Often, in heat, these types of coatings may actually melt and create a gravity “drip and drag”. Glossy coatings also make the art look cheap and are hard to photograph. There is no reason for it.
-Sculpture should always be something that is intact and can survive the duration of time. They should also be practical in a “for sale” environment, meaning, objects that are too difficult to install or contain organic matter (for instance), are only appealing to extremely niche audiences.
You don’t have to walk into a room in a sequin tuxedo wearing pinky rings and twirling a cane to get noticed. Personality in the art sense is really being authentic and outgoing, but more so- being an active participant in the life of your brand and in showing and selling. Yes, there are a lot of introverts out there, especially in the art world, but even taking the introverted aspect of yourself and your art and using that to your marketing advantage, could make your more personable. In effect, how can people relate to you and does the product somehow relate to them?
Personable really means somebody that people want to work with, and buyers would like to possibly display or collect. Personality often shows in the work, meaning, if you lined up 7 paintings of the same street scene from 7 different artists, the most personable among the works will tend to shine. Is your art approachable, and what is it about this work (and the artist), that makes it unique. In a world full of personalities, how can one stand out? Being too “in everybody’s face” can certainly be unpleasant, but overly introverted may not get you anyplace as well. Try to make the most of experiences, laugh, and enjoy the life of art and the art world around you. Galleries will want to work with you, and when they work with you and know you, they can sell you. Remember the Rules from our first posting: Nobody will book an asshole. Likewise however, if you work with gallery and you get no responses and tag-back (in effect, the gallery is an asshole), then you know that’s not the right fit for you.
Personality grey areas show up in a number of ways, including through the art itself in the case of lived experiences. Fortunately, there are works of art for lots of different types of tastes and personalities. “Dark art” for instance, appeals to a specific type of audience. “Gay” art is a type of thing, however, overly using your sexuality and other “identifiers” with no known relation to the product may actually have unintended effects. In a “blind” world, let the product do the talking. If identifiers are in-line with what the work conveys or a particular series, it definitely is a selling point. There is also political art and art with messaging, and sure, this works in particular contexts or a show that may ask for that type of thing. (Just as an aside, our gallery never users “identifiers” during promotions, unless getting clearance or approval from the artist first).
“All the world’s a stage” says Shakespeare. “We are merely players. Performers and portrayers..” -Rush. How we go from Shakespeare to Rush in one sentence, we really can’t say. In reality, we’re just performing. Don’t be afraid to shoot from the hip sometimes, and don’t get caught up with trying to make every little thing perfect (that’s called “failure to launch”). Expect criticism. WANT and invite criticism, and then be prepared to respond professionally. Who is to say exactly what is art, or what is this, or what is that? We can be anything that we wish to be, and especially now that we can hide behind social media. That hot model with 400K likes could in reality be an old fat guy sitting in a basement somewhere (and hey, nothing against old fat guys).
Performance is about showing up, it is about participating while distinguishing, and then maintaining. It takes stamina. As we go from the act of creating through to the act of displaying and selling, the narrative begins to unfold. Beyond showing and selling, what’s next? The art of performance is constructing your narrative beyond just what it just says on paper. Prove it, and prove you are worth your asking prices. In a larger context, it is the energy behind the whole show, and the energy that plays out of the show once it reaches it’s conclusion.
Using the other “P’s” you can begin to put the pieces together to show the world what you are made of. Also, in the sales world, there are those that “perform”, some that get hits and misses, and those that don’t. The art of selling yourself (and your art), and/or having others do it for you, is a constantly moving and adapting series of pieces that require a constant battle against an ever-elusive marketplace. Once you get good enough at it (stick to it), it should just become natural, or second nature. This is a bit of how performance works. It is the life of all things put together, over time.