Despite the growing trend for artists to self-promote, galleries are still an essential part of an artist’s journey. The opportunities of the virtual world are tempting and platforms like Instagram, are making it possible for artists to showcase their work, but as much as I like social media I can’t stop asking myself - Should I do this myself?
Since I started painting more seriously, I’m showing my art in one gallery, just one for now, but it played and still plays a vital role in my development as an artist. Not only I am able to position in front of an audience that is interested, but I have much more confidence and self-esteem. Yes, I can dive into self-promoting and master the online marketing game, become my own social media manager, my ambassador, but can I do it on my own? I don’t think artists are bad marketers, I just think galleries are better in making the process of promoting art easier. And while online you can reach 100 000 people that may or may not want your art - in a gallery you can easily reach 100 people that are the right people for you.
Galleries provide a safe and friendly environment for people where culture is shaped formed and developed. Galleries are open for communication, friendly and ready to educate the audience. Galleries are the creative hubs for their community. But are they? Like everything else in life - culture also changes. It changes because people change, the new ways in which we live, the improved tools we use, the new mindsets we adopt, the vast amount of information we are exposed to, all of this changes our culture. Yet I feel some galleries fail to change with the times. You know the type, the ones that feel like mausoleums or are cluttered like thrift shops, the ones that are so unwelcoming that you don't even dare to enter. So I decided to share some ideas, that hopefully will help those that are open-minded and will make galleries great again :)
Open Your Doors to Traveling Artists As a frequent traveler, I find it very difficult to find a place to paint. The Airbnb I’m staying in is usually not bright enough, or not big enough and I am constantly looking for a place I can go and paint. So if you have a spacious gallery why not host a few artists, this will give you:
Access to new talent;
Promotion - artists will share this experience, people will start coming to watch the artists create, etc.
Content opportunities - you will have something to talk about in your social channels;
Additional income - you can charge artists a small fee;
Vitality - galleries are usually pretty static, they have kind of museum vibe, that’s why having someone there that paints will make the place feel more alive. Now, not every artist will be willing to share the introvert process with the public, but some will be, and honestly, you are not losing anything by offering.
Be an Educator Become the to-go place for people that want to learn how to paint or learn more about art. Organize art classes, art history lectures, art & wine evenings. You don’t even have to do everything yourself, invite other organizations to use your space. Welcome the art communities in your area. Create marketing courses for artists.
More and more I see artists creating courses for artists, and although this trend is growing, I feel that galleries can teach artists even more interesting things. This will differentiate your gallery and communicating with your artists will provide valuable insights into the artists' needs. Work with a popular artist on a masterclass, organize creative talks...
Events Organize and host events, don’t limit yourself to art events only. Why not let the local clubs use your venue for their monthly meetings? Even offered for free, this will bring people to your gallery, and people you need. Don’t just open the doors for everyone, research and find the right group of people, the one that suits you the best. If you sell mostly expensive art, try with the local private clubs ( Rotary, Lions, etc) if you want to reach a more wide audience go for a club of interest, try the local book club, it’s entirely up to you.
Create Unexpected Partnerships Partner with businesses that might help you bring more visitors. Go to that nice restaurant or the place you buy your coffee every morning, put some art on their walls. In exchange, you can give them a percentage of any sales they make, promote them in your gallery or use their services when you need catering. Make it a win-win. Partner with real estate companies, interior design firms, furniture shops, all of them have a similar purpose - to create a beautiful home for people to live in. Use that. Surprise Don’t be confined to the walls of your gallery, go outside. To build awareness you need to create an element of surprise - so talk to the local authorities and occupy a street for a day, but the art on the outside walls of houses, creativity is rebellious so dare to push the norms, do something different (too bad Occupy Wall Street is taken). Care About Your Valuable Assets
Your artists are not only your most valuable assets, but they are also your ambassadors. Every single artist you represent should be promoting you as much as you promote them too, so don’t hold back the praises, be proud of your choice and talk about your artists. If they are not promoting you, make sure you know the reason. Is it because they don’t have the time or the skills to do it, ask them, if it’s something you can do to help them, do it, it’s mutually beneficial, help them help you. You can even create a promotional manual for your artists including templates, tips, and ideas. You are not a service provider, you are a care provider. Don’t forget this, care more.
Get Those Tourists Tourists will always buy art, I’ve met people that have the habit of buying art from every country they visit, some even from every town they go to. It’s a great memory token from a trip, and people love to collect tokens. The places to get in front of tourists are the hotels, the info centers, and ... even some Airbnb’s. Hotels have plenty of space on their walls, use it to your advantage, make them an offer they can’t refuse, by exhibiting some art in their lobby or restaurant. Make pop up exhibitions in different hotels every month or every two months. Get in touch with the local info centers and make sure they have your flyers, catalogs, and business cards. They are usually open to display your materials for free. Find out the most active tour guides and get them to include you in their city tour, offer a quick stop for coffee and cookies in your gallery. Airbnb is one of the largest accommodation booking engines and you probably know someone that sublets an Airbnb apartment( there is a big chance you might be managing one yourself). Put some flyers in those. On Airbnb also you can add a guided visit to your gallery, and charge a symbolic fee for it. Check out Airbnb experiences. Be Bold With Technology Everything is digital, so use this to your advantage. What digital tools you can use in your gallery that will make it differentiate from the crowd? How about using digital screens to showcase art that is in storage or an interactive display where people can fill out a questionnaire and suggested a specific artist. Or an app to show them how their art will look on their wall at home. With a quick research a bit of imagination you can figure out many different and interesting ways to implement technology in your gallery. Organize webinars, go live on social media...
Art Installations and Engagement In my opinion, every gallery that has enough space should have installations. Installations are amazing what to bring the experience to a different level. Almost every day I see on Instagram people sharing pictures of installation from Yayoi Kusama, why because they are freaking awesome. Make your installation - dedicate a wall where everyone can paint with markers and time-lapse it, use this content for your social media channels.
Build Your Community Build a community of art lovers, people that would love to hear what you have to say, people that appreciate art as much as you do. You can start it online or offline, or even create some kind of a mix, you can start your own art club, where people and artists meet, where they discuss art. Be the preferred matchmaker both for artists and for art buyers.
Art is a reflection of a personal internal world, not only for the creator but also for the viewer.
How art can make you feel something completely unexpected is mysterious and fascinating, and although the world of online shopping hasn’t spared the art industry I am not convinced that you can experience fine art online as well and as powerful as in person.
That and the many opportunities to use the gifts and talents of your community are why I believe that galleries should not only exist but flourish.