A lot of us may think that artists are the only ones in the art world that are struggling with the changes, happening via social media platforms, online sales platforms and other PR, marketing and advertising related content, that now have to be made in addition to the work we do in our studio, but it’s actually a global phenomena.
By global, of course I mean galleries, museums and other institutions, but at the same time independent critics and curators are having troubles, too. Both are actually in the same “rut”; the same as a painter needing to upload a bunch of images, texts and other promotional and background material, they have to do the same.
Museums, if they wish to stay with the trends and still relevant in today’s hyper fast world, have to get new people; Facebook managers, Instagram posters, Google Ads experts … the list goes on and on.
And this shift does bring with it an incredible opportunity for anyone who is willing to do the work and enjoys the process of social media, PR for their own needs, to expand their field and get invaluable experience (and obviously some cash).
Let’s say Josh is new to social media, but has been making art since the last 10 years. His career has been ok; he didn’t really sell all of his work, but got some purchases here and there to sustain him throughout his career. He also had various side jobs to pay the bills that he just couldn’t pay solely with his art.
Josh, like many other artists today, now finds himself in an incredible situation with loads of potential — if before he had to advertise locally, persistently search for small shows to attend to be able to constantly be present in the public consciousness and pay magazines to show ads about him (the less read ones of course, he couldn’t have afforded the expensive ones that might have actually made a small difference), now he does his PR on his commute to work.
He makes advertisements and posts images, texts, he writes short witty comments about his creations and shares them to people that are statistically likely to engage in conversations, while he’s taking the bus.
Imagine how people in the 70s would have felt about this fact — people that paid millions to be able to get a few minutes of public attention on a black and white TV set, without even knowing whether anybody saw their expensive commercials. Edward Bernays, the father or PR, would have probably sold his uncle to be able to get his hands on such a magnificent tool.
Well, after Josh has been going at it for a few years and sees a slow but steady increase in followers and fans, he has an incredible potential to make a shift. Not only has he been learning how to use the now indispensable tools of modern advertising — tools, that any business needs to learn, regardless of what they make — he has gotten quite good at them through tedious amounts of trial and error.
And Josh, an avid aficionado of art and an artist by heart and craft now has an incredibly valuable tool at his disposal, a tool that many of the places he was aiming at to get a show at eventually, have a real need for.
He can now try to go back to the galleries that might have rejected his older work or just not found value in it and open up a different conversation — one about collaboration, not consignment.
Not only will Josh be able to practice his advertisement skills a lot more, if they reach an agreement he might just learn about how the other side of the system actually works; why some artists get signed, others don’t, who is who and what actually matters to those in power.
Not as an infiltrator or as a spy. Josh only wishes to learn and the problem with learning is, reading and listening is great, but if there is no action being taken after a certain amount of information has been given to us, it’s not worth a lot in the end. The best way to learn is hands on.
Many artists today, especially those that are still starting out and do not have a strong resume or a 30 page long exhibition portfolio, have an incredible ability to use tools that they will or have already had to learn for their own needs, and adapt their skillsets to the various needs of the very institutions that they desire to become part of as creators.
While of course there is a fine line between being an artist that does social and a marketeer that occasionally paints, each one of us must find that balance for themselves and a lot of us might even find throughout this exploration of self, that art was more a path to something, than the end goal of everything we wanted to do.