Artist promotion: How to introduce your work to the professional community (2009)

Excerpt from The Artist’s Guide: How to make a living doing what you love (2009) by Jackie Battenfield.

Jackie Battenfield
Creative Business & Entrepreneurship | 17 April 2011

Artist promotion

The Artist's Guide How to make a living doing what you love Jackie Battenfield

If you want to be a part of the art world, you need to survey the landscape and imagine your place within it. Reflect on who would be interested in the content of your work or your approach. Outside of your peers, consider whom you want to see your work and why. What spaces feel like a natural fit? Who is their audience? Most artists operate with only the vaguest notion of their viewer or supporter. They imagine an amorphous group of collectors, artists, or the general public. I realize you can never predict exactly who will be interested in what you do. Discussing different audiences and venues with others will help spark productive conversations about who might be most receptive to your work. These conversations could trigger referrals to certain critics, curators, or organizations. Learn to decipher the distinctions among different spaces and the diverse interests of art professionals. Venues you approach for support will analyze your work based on their tastes and programming needs.

Making potential supporters— curators, art administrators, critics, collectors, gallery directors— aware of your work is essential to connecting with new opportunities and expanding your career. Promoting your work introduces it to someone who will do something on your behalf. There are many ways they can benefit you. They will come and see what you have created, visit your website, show your work, collect it, or support it with grants and services. They will help spread the word about what you are doing. They promote your work to others when they write about it or review it. The best way to cultivate these promotional partners is through relationships you develop one at a time.

Promotion is a necessary ingredient in your artistic practice. You want to develop ways to promote your work that maintain your personal integrity. If you view it as an uncomfortable suit of clothing you must don a few weeks out of the year, it will always feel stiff and unnatural. Instead, you need to incorporate a few actions every day toward this goal, as uncomfortable as it can be. This allows you to practice and hone your skills. It’s unfortunate that the pervasive notion in the art community is that “good work will be recognized.” It sends the message that if your work is worthy, you don’t need to actively promote it. If you have to promote it, then it must not be creditable. It’s no wonder many artists are straitjacketed by these conflicted feelings and would rather completely avoid making an effort.

This excerpt is on pages 97-8 in the chapter: “How to Introduce Your Work to the Professional Community”. The Artist’s Guide: How to make a living doing what you love (2009) is published by Da Capo Press.