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  • Writer's pictureARTE.M

The Art of Self-Promotion: Strategies to Success in the Competitive Art World

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

As an artist, your passion and creativity inspire you to create amazing artwork, yet standing out and getting recognition can be difficult in a sea of talents. In this article, we will look at the most important strategies and techniques that artists may use to promote their work.

And the best part, is you will have the opportunity to read the tips from one of the bests, Cefyn Embling-Evans, a respected authority in the art world.




But, first, let’s introduce ARTlid, an innovative project supported by Erasmus+ with a strong focus on helping young and emerging artists with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in the dynamic art world.


Created through a collaborative effort with our ARTE.M Association & ARThub Madeira and our partner from Poland, Centrum Edukacyjne EST and Wadowicki Centrum Kultury ARTlid has already a platform/website to promote and engage aspiring artists and through various workshops to even develop their talents even further.

That being said, at our Art Center Caravel and ARThub Madeira, we have had a series of workshops, where participants had the unique opportunity to learn from professionals such as photographers, art curators, art dealers, art gallery managers, digital creators, and Social Media managers. These workshops serve as invaluable learning experiences, offering practical insights and techniques that can significantly impact an artist's career journey.



The workshops are done in a supportive and collaborative environment, where young artists can exchange ideas, gain new perspectives, and refine their skills. By participating in these sessions repeatedly, we firmly believe that we as an art association and art hub are contributing to the development of these emerging artists, equipping them with the tools they need to effectively promote and sell their works.

On many occasions, our participants and artists are not only encouraged to explore their artistic expression but are also tasked with submitting their artworks and artist statements to Cefyn Embling-Evans, a curator and collector as well as our special friend and collaborator. With his keen eye and experience, he provides personalized feedback and suggestions on improving their artistic statements and portfolios, guiding them toward presenting their work in the most impactful way possible.

For everyone that still hasn’t had the opportunity to participate in any of the workshops and lectures by him, we did a special interview where you can read all about the tips and tricks of having a good artistic statement and the importance of networking in the art world.

Enjoy the interview and his profound answers.


1. As an experienced art curator, what role does an artist statement play in an artist's journey? How important is it, and how does it impact the perception and understanding of an artist's work? Also, can you point us to the main differences between artist statements and artist biography?

There is a very good description of an artist's statement (or artist statement) here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artist%27s_statement. I recommend young artists to read through this before they attempt their own statement.

An artist´s statement should be a written description of their work, and in support of their work, to give the viewer understanding and context. It should present the basis for the work; it is, therefore, didactic, descriptive, or reflective in nature. If it is being presented to accompany an exhibition to support the artist´s work, then I would suggest a rewrite so that their latest work is addressed first. Since the 1990s it has been almost a requirement for all exhibitions, especially for solo but also collaboration shows. It is there to help the gallerist sell the work. It is a statement of intent. Of course, the viewer will decide for themselves whether the artist has been successful in that endeavor. The statement is so important in today´s contemporary art scene that a whole vocabulary has been created, often dismissively described as “ArtSpeak”. I would suggest one avoids such language and also pretentious and/or preposterous claims. As a young artist, this would appear naive and immature. The default language of the art world is still English but I would recommend artists offer an English version and one translated to their own language. I would recommend avoiding sounding too aspirational – it’s about what you have done not focused on what you intend to do.

Artist biography is quite different and should include biographic details covering your life to date, such as nationality, birth, education, academic achievements, and a complete list of exhibitions previously involved with. Of course, if the artist is just beginning their career this would include student shows and even areas of study. If the artist has no formal art training, this is not a negative, and the biography should state so simply. Give details of influences and the work of other artists that you have been inspired by and from which you draw interest. This gives context.

Remember the role of the curator, who designs an exhibition and will need to pull often desperate artworks under a theme. Your statement will help if it has clarity and purposeful intent. How did you make it, why did you make it, what is it made from, what does it say…?

A statement is about the artwork. A biography is about the artist.


2. In your experience, what are some key elements that make an artist’s statement compelling and effective? Are there any specific tips or guidelines you can offer to artists who are crafting their statements for the first time?


I’ve found that artists whose work falls into the genre of crafts have the most difficulty with creating a usable statement. The form of a formal statement is more useful for fine art rather than decorative art, and the latter should stick with descriptions of materials used and methodology. A trick is to consider how the title of a work could “fill in the gaps” when choosing titles. Of course, there are many artists who refuse to title their works. Some artists are very accomplished with describing their work and go on to publish their ideas, philosophies, etc. but the statement itself does not need to be a work of literature! It should be a paragraph or two at most. It needs to be succinct and crafted and thoughtful. It should be aimed at the viewer considering buying the work. If addressing a specific exhibition, it needs to explain why the work was created and how it sits within the artist´s general oeuvre - central or maybe excursive.




3. From your perspective as a curator, what are the key components that make a portfolio stand out? What do you look for when reviewing an artist's portfolio, and how can artists ensure they present their work in the most impactful way?


Biography first, then artist statement, then high-quality visuals of the work – in that order. Illustrating the work, if you are going to use the portfolio to tender a gallery to show your work, I would list your work using a reverse timeline, beginning with your most recent. As a curator, I needed to see how the artist had developed or not, and estimate which part of their career they were at. The portfolio is often submitted online and not face to face. For me, it needed to stimulate my interest to warrant asking for an interview with the artist either in person or via Zoom, as the next step. Sending your portfolio with an email introduction to a gallery you have never visited, or to a curator you have never met, rarely results in success. The art world operates by personal contact and relationships that develop through trust and understanding. A portfolio could contain quotes from exhibition catalogs for shows the artist was involved with and recommendations/critiques from art professionals. Also published editorials and links to broadcasted interviews.


4. As an artist just starting out, what are some common mistakes or pitfalls to avoid when creating an artistic statement or compiling a portfolio? Are there any red flags that might deter curators or art professionals?


Over-reaching claims, clichés, and obviousness (“I’m inspired by Picasso”) are all do-nots. Avoid overtly psychological dissection of the work unless you have studied psychology (it is a science in itself and quite distinct from commonsense or layman’s grasp of its basic vocabulary! Stay with its vocabulary that is in common usage. Avoid being glib.

In the portfolio include illustrations showing the process, and not just finished works. Due process is fashionable and interesting to collectors. Spend more time on content, and less time on construction. The presentation should be balanced. An over-designed portfolio will not make up for less-than-interesting content.


5. In the ever-evolving world of art, how important is it for artists to adapt their artist statements and portfolios to different platforms and audiences? Are there any specific strategies or considerations artists should keep in mind when submitting their statements and portfolios for specific opportunities or contexts?


Several versions of your statement and portfolio will be needed and should be updated regularly. Always bear in mind who will be reading/receiving them. A gallerist will be looking at marketability, a curator will look for ideas, technical ability, etc. If you are being invited to submit work for an open exhibition adjust your texts and selection of illustrations of your work to suit its parameters. A biography sent to a gallery should include some details of sales if there have been such e.g. “my work has found an international/national/local audience and included in private/public collections in (List countries but not private individuals).



6. Collaboration between artists and curators is often crucial in the art world. From your perspective, what are some effective ways for artists to establish connections and build relationships with curators? Are there any proactive steps artists can take to increase their chances of being noticed or considered for exhibitions?


Visit the gallery you wish to exhibit in, and often. Be seen to support that gallery by attending its exhibitions and social events. Network, network, network…. The curator/artist relationship is a partnership. Listen to the curator and be guided. Too many possible relationships have been lost early by an artist imposing themselves as the creator of the work. Producing work and selling work are two separate sets of skills, both deserving of respect. Trust is essential between the two parties.


7. The art market can be competitive and unpredictable. From your experience, what are some strategies that emerging artists can apply to navigate the art market successfully? Are there any lesser-known avenues or platforms that artists should consider exploring?

Establish your own online presence asap. Instagram, Facebook, a website that includes your bio, artistic statement, and visuals of your work – both finished and the process. This will demonstrate your appeal. Craft your commentaries. I don’t mean to fill them with selfies! Your online presence is your window into the world. If you consider offering sales through your online presence, be careful. You are not a shop or gallery. (Decorative artists and craftspeople will have much greater leeway here, and maybe no such restrictions.) Learn to understand where you fit in the art world – it’s a collection of wholly different tribes. Remember that websites such as Artsy.net or Saatchi (saatchiart.com) which offer you a huge selling platform are focused on the buyers, and may impose restrictions on you as a seller, (Saatchi has strict requirements for artists for packaging and posting for example), and will have hundreds of artists listed. To be “curated” usually means you have to pay more for your listing.

Engage with websites as a potential customer/buyer. They often furnish huge amounts of useful and free information regarding current trends, market results, and ideas. Look at auction sites that are proliferating by engaging with distant customers and therefore no longer have only local cultural interests. Some examples are below, as well as the usual Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonham’s, and Phillips (all provide free website access).

SUGGESTIONS:

Catawiki, = Auction site

auctionet.com = Scandinavia-based auction site but covers Europe and UK

mutualart.com

boldbrush = free online art magazine

galeriemagazine.com





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