Selling art work under six artist names (2009)

Why should artists sell under just one brand, when they don’t have to?

The Brand Artist
Creative Business & Entrepreneurship | 6 July 2009

Selling art work under six different names

The challenges for all artists are as multifarious as the strategies for achieving "recognition", be it critical or commercial. However very few have the luxury of financial independence that might facilitate freedom from daily responsibilities. We commit ourselves to an undetermined future, often requiring unhealthy ego integrity to steel an undefined core of "creativity" measured mostly by opinion. Much of this comes from critics, who read pornography, masturbate and then tell the world what great sex is.

You’re on your own!
Behind all the [stuff] they told you at school is just a person seeking the opportunity to "sell" their product, idea or philosophy. It is an unregulated business in which the normal rules of risk and return are perversely twisted against the artist. Where verbal articulation of work becomes a significant measure to its success, and for the most part, the decision-makers and arbiters of what is "great art" lack the skills to do anything else well. What’s required from the artist is the vision to strategize her or his own future and work in order to synthesize a "value".

Little has been offered by the academic, business or art worlds to structure the personal development of abilities for professional success (just how many artists-in-residence are there?). A brief survey of artists in New York from 2002 to 2007 revealed that the majority do not know what to charge for their own work. The fundamentals of costing and pricing remain a mystery even to those with MFAs. If it is a life-long career, then monthly bills and annual tax returns need not limit plans. There are no strict benchmarks, rules or milestones for the visual artist, only the need for an articulate audience with the means to acquire product.

Commence with some of your own principles and beliefs, then expand. "It is a team sport". "It is a personal journey". "It is a legitimate profession". "There is no single correct, true path for the artist". However if it’s only talk with no action it’s of purely academic value and that is an adjunct profession. Alternatively, over many years create several entirely discrete series of artworks under different names and knock on a lot of doors.

Don’t live with angst when a project fails to meet expectations. Put it on the shelf and it will make sense years later. If and when commercial success drives you to becoming a "manufacturer" of a single style in volume, don’t get burnt out. Switch persona and work on something else.

It is imperative that one continuously develops each element of your "artists’ portfolio". This will not only broaden technique, it will also provide academically legitimate longitudinal depth. This should result in art that has both natural balance and aesthetic ease, evidently created from experienced hands.

Do you remember the first piece of art you sold? The first awarded recognition in a competition? The first independent review in print?

The challenge of repeating those moments whilst maintaining constant development for most artists is demanding. Yet it is not necessary to adopt "multiplicity" as a philosophy. It can be used simply as a technique to refresh, test, sample, reinvent and escape from others’ perceptions of our work. Many spend their lives looking for acceptance of a style they feel is uniquely theirs, persisting in a relatively narrow, but supposedly deep odyssey. Others embrace a post-modernistic determination of synthesis. For me, two primary principles are adopted; initially, "don’t get it right, get it written" and, "the art is more important than the artist".

Freedom and responsibility

"You pay your money and make your choice" perhaps, but what I remember is the first time my art was sold in galleries under six names in a period of two weeks across three time zones. What I remember is that every time someone uses the product of his or her labor to acquire my work, the lowest common denominator becomes that measure of achievement that permits me to continue as a professional. A marketeer could define my position as the manager and creator of a product portfolio, and yet when I sculpt, paint or print I get the same "high" from the process as a five year old.

There is nothing corporate about the underlying creativity— it just helps me sell more.

The Brand Artist: Selling art work under six artist names (2009): 1 | On the other side (2010): 2