If you’ve secured that important sit-down with a potential collector, arts journalist, or gallerist, you may be wondering how you might prepare. What are some of the most common artist interview questions you might have to answer?
Being prepared for an interview show the person on the receiving end that you’re respectful of their time. It’s also a crucial way to ensure that you’ll achieve your desired result, whether that’s snagging a new gig, landing a commission, or being featured in your favorite art magazine. Making sure you’re prepared also helps you to avoid any embarrassing mistakes that could come back to haunt you later in your career.
Thinking about how you might answer these visual artist interview questions is an extremely beneficial exercise, even if you’re not quite at this stage of your art career. Considering which artist interview questions you might be asked in future dealings will allow you to think critically about the way you’d like to set up your career and practice.
So, what are some of those artist interview questions you definitely should practice answering? Check them out below.
Artist Interview Questions: From Routine to Convoluted
1.What’s your background?
This line of artist interview questions shouldn’t simply be met with “I’m from ___. ” Instead, you should use this question as an opportunity to highlight those aspects of your cultural background that make you and your work unique, with bonus points if you can tie your life experiences to your artwork. Did your upbringing prompt a specific reference point within your work? Is your work informed by certain concepts or themes from your cultural heritage? In addition, you’ll want to use this question to discuss your educational background or any experience that may have contributed to your evolution as an artist.
2. What does your work aim to say?
While many artists would consider this a fairly loaded question, its important point to make during the interview process, and there’s a very likely chance that this will be a question you’ll be asked. After all, if you’re not trying to say anything about your work, then why are you making it?
The answer to these types of artist interview questions should be more introspective than simply what inspires you. Instead, you should frame your answer in a manner that explains how these inspirations are warped to form a cohesive narrative that sparks a dialogue about your work. For example, perhaps you’re an artist working with recyclable materials because you’re inspired by their texture and pliability. In working with these materials, you’ve come to reflect quite a bit about waste and harmfulness, and these materials’ inherent role in the effects of global warming. Your work, therefore, comments on environmental issues through the use of recyclable materials.
3. How does your work comment on current social or political issues?
In framing your answer to these types of artist interview questions, consider which materials or aspects of your work make a comment on current events. Similar to the question above, it’s important to remember that some of the most revered artistic work always plays a deeper role in the transformation of societies. If you aren’t considering how your work relates to the current sociopolitical landscape, you are missing out on an important opportunity to join a broader conversation in the art world. If you’re not already considering how your work is imbued with these themes, consider how you might deepen your practice to explore more substantial issues.
4. Who are your biggest influences?
Every artist has a handful of other artists they look to for inspiration and guidance. Maybe there’s a particular artist that inspired you to become an artist in the first place, or perhaps there is a palette of artists’ works that you look to for your influences. Whatever the case may be, you should be aware that this is one artist interview question that will come up frequently because it allows patrons, collectors, and writers to better categorize your work. It’s important for them to be able to group you with your contemporaries and see how you fit within a larger dialogue in the art world.
5. How have you developed your career?
This is another important artist interview question because it signals whether you can be taken seriously as an artist. Contrary to popular belief, ‘making it’ in the art world isn’t merely a game of luck: It takes a calculated and determined effort and requires you to consider the steps you need to take in order to ensure your sustained viability and success as an artist. If you’re sitting down with a potential collector or gallerist, they’ll want to know that you’ve been thinking about your career trajectory and are therefore worthy of investment.
When answering these types of artist interview questions, you should include information about your work experience, your studio practice, the exhibitions you are working on or have participated in and how those opportunities came about, and how you’ve gone about solidifying a solid base of followers and contacts. Avoid giving an answer that makes it seem like your success has been happenstance, rather than the result of a thoughtful approach to your career.
6. How do you seek out opportunities?
Similar to the previous inquiry, this artist interview question focuses on your career, but your answer here should take a more measurable format. Be specific about the way you’ve sourced and approached new opportunities to display or showcase your work. Do you frequently research potential galleries, and send portfolios to your top picks on a weekly or monthly basis? Do you frequently invite visitors to your studio? Do you have any dedicated marketing efforts, such as maintaining a newsletter that alerts your subscribers to what you’re working on? This artist interview question is an opportunity to showcase how hard you’re working to get your work out there.
7. How do you cultivate a collector base?
Any potential gallery or collector will want to know how you seek out new opportunities to sell your work. Do you participate in art fairs? Attend local events that allow you to show your work? Frequently reach out to local art world players to invite them to your studio? Sell your work online? Being able to answer this artist interview question shows that you’re actively working to live off your artwork. Demonstrating that your artwork is already in demand makes you a safer bet for a gallery or collector that wants to take a chance on your work.
8. How do you navigate the art world?
According to Nikki Grattan, one of the founders of In The Make, a blog showcasing the studios of West Coast artists, artists are frequently far too “ambiguous” when it comes to answering this artist interview question.
“To be honest, most everyone approaches the question about how they navigate the art world with too much delicacy and ambiguity,” she says. “They often seem reluctant to speak of just how frustrating and baffling the whole experience can be. Obviously, they are being diplomatic and protective of their public persona and don’t want to ruffle feathers, share too many secrets, or burn bridges. I get it— the Bay Area art world is small, sometimes fickle and opportunities aren’t a dime a dozen. But still, it’s important to be real about this topic. Artists sometimes don’t like to reveal just how hard they try– as if being ambitious about getting one’s artwork seen and sold is somehow shameful. I think it’s a disservice to perpetuate the myth of “opportunities just happening” if that’s not really the case.”
Instead, artists should approach this question with plenty of transparency. They should note the challenges they face in bringing their work to new audiences, and address some of the ways they’ve chosen to engage in the art world.
9. How do you price your work?
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when having a pricing discussion with a collector is hesitating when it comes time to name your price. You need to have a good idea of why you charge what you charge for your work. Calculate the costs of your materials, the size of your artwork, the hours it takes you to build a piece, and your hourly rate. Then, once you’ve calculated all these elements, assign a price to your work, and determine how far you’re willing to negotiate. We’ve provided plenty of additional resources for pricing your work here on Artrepreneur, so do check these articles out so you can feel confident about pricing your work.
10. Which current art world trends are you following?
A large part of being a successful artist is having a deep understanding of the market. How can you presume to earn a living as an artist if you aren’t following the art-making and buying trends currently dominating the industry? When asked this artist interview question, there’s no need to try and compare your work to any current art world trends, but rather, highlight how you’re considering these movements in the context of your own work. You should be familiarizing yourself with what’s happening in the art world around you, on a local, national, and international level.
Which artist interview questions do you dread? Let us know in the comments!
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