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Monday, May 11, 2015

The Revolution Begins with Beauty - Changing the Art World

I'm thinking a lot these days about how to change the paradigms of the art world. How do we break out of this cycle of galleries and artists being the only way to make it in the art world.

There are revolutions taking place in all aspects of creativity these days. Musicians now have a plethora of options for independently promoting themselves. Authors can now independently publish without having to go through the major publishing houses.

The whole creative world seems to have dozens of options available that were not even in existence 10 years ago. But I am not seeing that in the world of Art.

Yes, some may argue that there are tons of sites that allow artists to exhibit their portfolios and of course plenty of web host sites that would be happy to tell you that their services specialize in websites for the artist. And few of them are anything more than a place to put your work. Many of them take a cut of your sales without ever contributing anything to your success as an artist.

I am not seeing the paradigm shift that the other creative genres seem to be experiencing. I've not yet seen that one mind blowing step that changes the art world forever. Why is that?

I'm not sure I even know. The Gallery's still rule. It seems like every artists dream is to be represented by a prestigious gallery. It is still much easier to sell your work if you are represented even though it seems like Gallery's now refuse to take as many chances on new artists. Much the same thing happened in publishing. The publishers refused and still refuse to even bother with most new authors unless someones manuscript finds the inside track to get seen. Now as Ebooks become more and more dominant independent publishers have jumped in and started taking a look at new and unknown authors, the big publishing houses are finding they are forced to change their ways.

But that does not seem to be happening very fast in the art world. I see a vast pool of amazing artists that basically work for themselves and sell a piece here and there, but they are limping along on their own.

Creatives in any genre have to prove themselves. That is a given. It weeds out the untalented and places the most talented at the top, so we are told. But that isn't whats happening. The vastly talented artists of the world barely get noticed unless a gallery with their wonderful list of buyers comes onto the scene.

Its immensely difficult to sell expensive art online. Sure a $100 painting can sell pretty easy if it catches someones eye, but selling a $5,000 sculpture online is nearly impossible. A buyer of expensive art needs to either see it or have it recommended by a trusted gallery that the piece fits their taste, style and decor.

And that as they say is the "rub". Overcoming that one primary obstacle that the gallery owner fulfills is what stops high priced art from selling online.

I am not one to wait around for someone to solve a dilemma. I'm like a bull. I see red when there is a problem and will tussle with it for years until I solve it, even if in the end the bull gets killed.

So how do we do it? Because if we wait (with all due respect) for the gallery owners, things will never change. Here are some of my own ideas.

There is a Japanese concept called "Keiretsu". These are tightly meshed trading groups that have interlocking companies that supply their services within the Keiretsu. They provide as much as they can within their own trading circle and trade final product with other Keiretsu. A learned friend once told me that the reason that you always saw Japanese tourists with camera's taking pictures of odd random things was because they were bringing back ideas to their Keiretsu. They functioned almost as corporate spies, keeping their eyes open. I don't know the validity of this story, but there is good logic behind friends and family banding together under one goal. The whole concept of the Keiretsu makes me think about how it could be applied to the independent artists.

So what would it take to create a Keiretsu system within the independent artists? And what would could it potentially do to change the situation?

I think using the present social networking trend is part of this. Each of us holds a certain amount of intellectual capitol on the social networks. Most artists have around them a cluster of at least several hundred people. Those who wield greater amounts of social networking power have much larger clusters. In many cases these are very influential clusters. The larger the following, often the more influential.

The problem is that most artists don't have a clue how to utilize that cluster and how to make it work in unity with other clusters. The mind set is that I can't share my cluster of friends because then I might miss a sale to another artist and my friends might become part of their cluster.

This is self defeating. Think of it in terms of an assistant manager. He wants to get promoted to manager. Does he do it by doing all the work himself so that no one else on his team will shine and maybe get the position instead? Or does he get it by making his promotion a team effort where everyone shines?

If you as an artist are promoting other artists, sharing knowledge and sharing your cluster, then it can't help but make you stronger in turn.

So where do we start? By coming together with others in the art world. I don't mean the galleries. If you've noticed, on social networks the galleries barely even give you a passing glance. They rarely follow your work but they expect you to follow their artists. So ex out the galleries for now. But look towards the art influencers. Those who share others works, those that make an effort to discuss the pros and cons of the art world. Propose a sharing of ideas and art. Say to Association A, I will promote your organization if you will in turn promote mine.

But how do we find these influencers and in turn become one ourselves? You start looking carefully at others on the social networks. Don't just glance at their art and hit the favorite button. Really look at them. Look at what they create, look at their history, their portfolio and the number of followers versus followings that they currently have.

But don't just work with those that have massive followings. Work with anyone who has potential and some great art to share.

The point is to begin to put a network of associates together around you that support you as equally as you support them. You are creating your own personal Keiretsu composed of artists, artist support groups, aficionados, etc.

It is NOT enough to merely "favorite" or "like" another artists work. Just as you would not wish to just have someone hit a button every time you created a piece of work. The goal is to take it a step further.

When you consider what the galleries provide, it is exactly this kind of exposure. It is on the personal opinion of the gallery owner that a piece of art is often bought. So it stands to reason that your Keiretsu functions in the same way. You often know the tastes of the people within your close circle of friends and when you see a piece that may appeal to one of them, then say something. Point out that artists work. The point is to circumvent what the galleries provide. You have influence over your circle of friends. Your opinion counts. So you multiply your chances of selling your own art if everyone within your Keiretsu is doing the same.


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