How getting press is like getting a gallery is like...
from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here)
Some long-term followers of Be Smart About Art will know about a piece of research we conducted to find the top ways that artists get representation by galleries. That survey was done in advance of the first time I gave the the talk, 'DOs and DON'Ts of attaining representation.' The topic turned out to be of such great interest that as of today, I've facilitated discussions and run workshops on the subject 25+ times. Between my own experiences in the art world, mentoring artists and art dealers alike and running that event in various formats many times, it's a subject I know in and out.
As a result, it strikes me when parallels are drawn with other subjects. This brings me to a panel discussion I facilitated earlier this week at Cass Art in London: 'How to get press in the art world.'
London-based journalists Anna McNay and Tabish Khan provided terrific insight on the topic. Although they do differing types of journalism, with Anna's pieces typically needing 3-5 months' lead time and Tabish's requiring weeks, they at least concurred on the principles of getting covered.
So when Anna talked about the way that creative professionals / PR reps get in touch with journalists and how much impact this has, I was flashed back to the talks on representation. Anna was talking about receiving emails from people who send the same email a mass of journalists at the same time and suggest that their exhibition would be of specific interest to the journalist or publication. By the very nature of the mass email, almost all of the recipients would not be interested.
And bingo! This is exactly what art dealers and gallery managers are forever advising artists not do. I personally have recollections of artists emailing me when I was an art consultant, writing that what they create is a great match for my programme. This included a painter who depicted cute kittens (not my sensibility in any shape or form). They'd clearly not done their research (a point that journalists and dealers both emphasise) and, by saying something that was clearly not the case (i.e. It was suitable for my gallery), I, like journalists and gallerists today, was repelled all the more.
However much people want to hear back from journalists, dealers and others, making proper effort makes a difference. Take little care, and that's likely what you'll get in return.
The steps you need to get covered or represented share many similarities. If you understand how to succeed with one, see how you can apply the same general principles to the other.
Moreover, it helps to put yourself in the other person's shoes. What would work for you? What wouldn't? And if you've previously been in a position in which people reached out to you to try to get involved, what approaches worked, and which ones didn't?
Much of this is common sense. Yet it often requires thought and reflection to get it right.
p.s. Want to know more on the topic of working with galleries and others? Check out our forthcoming online professional development program: Making It As An Artist in the 21st Century.