As your artistic practice begins to pick up steam, how can you make sure you’ll be well placed to participate in upcoming high profile artist opportunities? What proactive steps can be taken to stay in the news and on people’s minds as new exhibitions are planned? While being selected for the right artist opportunities can feel like a murky process, at best, there are straightforward ways to move forward with advancing your career with a little help from your friends. Along with staying social and joining existing communities, there are distinctive ways to set yourself apart to be considered for future endeavors by art world power brokers.
We’ll delve deeper below into specific aspects that improve how your work is considered and shared between those figures surveying the art world for up-and-coming influencers. As Forbes notes in their critical article “25 Things Influential People Do Better Than Anyone Else”, it is clear that influencers “have mastered the art of communication… They are always curious and always ask, “What is important here?”” While you personally do not have to be a community influencer (although it doesn’t hurt!) you should have a few influencers who are major fans. You should also make sure your immediate artist network is a healthy art world ecosystem consisting of more than just other artists.
Two more crucial aspects of succeeding with your practice? Be in on the ground floor – be in the know about what’s coming up and what’s on people’s minds – and communicate why your practice is important to highlight in a personal, empowering way and to people who will be in a position to act on this information.
Finally, find a niche for yourself and become known as a leader in that area of specialization. Curator and Arts Educator Adam Zucker notes that when he began focusing his research on a particular movement in American Art, he just immersed himself in it. “I met all the artists, critics, and collectors that I could [in this specialization]..” he says. We’ll explain these points in further detail below, and investigate crucial steps to take in developing lines of communication and a powerful artist network that will advance your work on a larger scale.
Influencers in Your Corner
You’ve had a few exhibitions, you’re continuing to develop your practice and inviting guests to visit your studio. What’s missing in the equation? Why isn’t every single curator knocking on your door to host your solo show at their museum? Perhaps it’s time to re-examine existing contacts you have – friends, acquaintances, former co-workers – and brainstorm ways to share each other’s successes. “Make new friends but keep the old” is a hallowed saying for good reason. We build connections and an artist network through the years that we should continually renew and cherish. Have you participated in a group show with another artist who works in your medium and has recently held a solo show at a museum or gallery? Invite them out for coffee or over to your studio to hear about their experiences, get their feedback on the exhibition and allow them to propose any introductions through organic and open conversation. Have you taken time to touch base again with a curator or critic who has worked with you on past projects? Invite them out for a heart-to-heart, checking in on them and what upcoming projects or artist opportunities they may be developing. Does your work not fit the bill? Suggest other artists’ work who will. It will build trust and good relationships, a solid basis for the favor to be reciprocated.
In addition to contacting past collaborators, reach out to peers within your artist network through social media whose work you admire: artists, curators, critics, influencers. Let them know what they’ve worked on that has specifically impacted you and ask what they have coming up, or if they are available to meet up and discuss their work with you. In our expanding social universe, it’s acceptable to introduce yourself via social media (Instagram, Facebook, etc) and to propose meetings to get to know someone’s practice better. Community-building is key for artists, critics, and curators – critics need content, curators need artworks. Find ways to get resources to the people who need them, and communicate your needs, as well. It’s ok to let supporters know you’re seeking support for upcoming projects, that you are available to work together on projects, and that you’d love if they could share announcements you post within their own artist network. Asking for help is a way to communicate the passion and hard work you’ve poured into what you’re doing. Listen to what others need, but also don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself for new artist opportunities – you’re in the best position to do so!
Keep Good Company and Build An Artist Network
Parties and openings are great, as are step and repeats, but think more about after parties. While social scenes are crucial to engage with, keep company with a core group of trusted mentors, advisors and collaborators who you know are working hard to reach new heights, find new artist opportunities, and challenge their existing practice. These are the core supporters who will be crucial advisers and advocates for you as you develop. They will be the network who suggest you for exhibitions and recommend you to gallerists. Once you’ve had the chance to begin deepening these relationships, keep in contact and find ways to partner on initiatives together. Most importantly, stay fresh in your closest peers’ minds: Artslant contributor James Loks says it best when he notes from his interviews with art galleries for “How do Artists Find Gallery Representation?..” that the results show that “… your peers are your life raft, your savior, and the best chance you have of making it to the next stage of your career.”
A close-knit artist network you trust is the most important, because the real artist opportunities will arise at the private dinners celebrating artist’s openings, tours in small groups around galleries to meet directors on targeted visits, and gallery walk-throughs during exhibition planning meetings. These are the moments that you’ll be separated out from the mass of opening night attendees and really have a chance to converse with key contacts within your artist network. Private and semi-private visits and events make all the difference when aiming to attract new artist opportunities. Keep contact with friends who are natural influencers and social connectors, and stay active at their social events, continually supporting your extended artist network at every opportunity.
And, always have business cards – this may be 2017, but having someone pull out their phone mid-conversation to follow your social channel and join your virtual artist network can be disruptive. Word to the wise though: More important than giving the business card is getting one from your new contact, which is still possible even if you run out of cards – so don’t forget!
Know What’s Up & Perfect Your Talking Points
Keep up with your calendar and know what’s happening within your artist network two weeks out. Have it ready to roll off the tongue so that you’re proactive, able to recall who has an opening when and letting others know as a gentle reminder whose upcoming exhibitions are on your radar. By showing on a regular basis that you are making a point to stay informed, others in your artist network will learn to trust in your savvy awareness. It also shows your close peers that you value their accomplishments and sets the right tone to be remembered for yours, as well.
Finally, continue to deepen your practice. Show others that you regularly incorporate new technologies and theoretical concerns into the work you produce. Taking your work seriously and communicating this to your inner circle will prove to serve you well as you deepen your connections with increasingly visible figures and influencers. By continuing to impress with your comprehensive knowledge of events and demonstrating your dedication to your work, you will be well positioned to attract the best available artist opportunities.
By following the above advice and extending your practice in a specific direction to focus on a niche topic, you’ll be able to demonstrate expertise within your artist network and be known for being a knowledgeable person tapped into what’s important. Show why you’re relevant and continue to develop your work and share with your core artist network. By moving forward and continuing to provide reasons for others to advocate for you, everything will fall into place. New artist opportunities will arise as continue to expand these important points within your network.
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