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Give Your Clients (and Friends and Family) An Education in the Arts

August 4, 2011

Don’t ever be afraid to speak up about your art and the art market in general to those who don’t know how things work.

I don’t know how many times people have casually asked me how my work is going. They like to ask me things like “do you have your work in a gallery?” and “are you planning on selling some of your work?”

Yes. Because it’s that easy. Poof! Paintings are sold, just like in the Sims.

Honestly, my gut reaction to these kinds of questions is a mix of guilt and shame and a bit of anger. I feel badly that I have to say no, my work is not in any galleries at the moment. Yes, I’d love to sell my work but no one is buying it. I also feel put-out that these questions are asked at all. It’s somehow akin to asking someone how much they get paid at their job.

Then come the inevitable “helpful suggestions.” Maybe you could show your work here, or maybe you could sell your work there. It drives me crazy. But then, I might be a little sensitive!

The truth is that people have no idea what the art world is like and their questions come from a place of ignorance and well-meaning curiosity. This is our chance to educate!

Instead of being annoyed or embarrassed or ashamed, I try to take the opportunity to explain a little bit about how the art market works. Most people are completely unaware of how a gallery operates, what the process is for applying for art shows, or the fact that you need to have a body of work before you’ll even be considered.

This also applies to your own work and how people view it. Many people have zero knowledge when it comes to art in general, and a little education can go a long way towards their understanding and appreciation of art. According to Alyson Stanfield, “helping people to understand why [your work is] amazing can lead to more fans.”

So the next time someone asks you a dumb question or says something about your work that gets your back up, shrug it off and take the opportunity to educate. You do yourself a favor, you do the person in question a favor and you do every other artist a favor!


From → Art General

  1. Good article as it relates to a recent experience that I just had. However, I usually try to educate only if people seem interested in knowing how things work, because they usually don’t want to know all the ins and outs of the art market world.

    • Good point, David. It’s probably not a good idea to launch into a lecture about the nitty gritty details of the art market, but surely a brief and gentle explanation wouldn’t be amiss!

  2. Thanks for this post! I felt so alone when I felt the same things – guilt, shame, anger (at myself and at the questioner) too, and I thought it was just me! Great tip, and will keep that in mind next time someone asks and gives advice 🙂

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