How do you get on the radar of the Art World?
We've been talking about four levels of exhibition opportunities available to artists, presented as a staircase.
Stages of an Art Career (52 KB)
Look at the various levels to figure out where you are right now in your art career, and where you want to go. By taking advantage of these opportunities you become an artist whose name and work people begin to recognize. As you become more visible you will move on to the next level, so that you gradually build your career as an artist.
Today we're looking at Level Three, which I call "Getting on the Radar." When you read the announcements of artists chosen for major art awards, you'll see that a small number of well-known artists seem to get picked. Check out the artists selected for the Artadia Awards, for example, or the Whitney Biennial. Google their names to find their resumes, and you'll see how they got there. None is an unknown artist who came "out of the blue." They were already on the radar of the Art World.
So what you do to get noticed? The first thing to remember is that galleries, critics, curators and magazine writers want to "discover" artists, rather than be bombarded by your marketing campaign. Most decision-makers in the art world ignore emails from artists they don't already know.
The opportunities listed in Level Three are legitimate ways for you to get on the radar. Let's start with group shows at local or regional museums. Often these venues have member programs for local artists, where you can join for a fee and become eligible for "member shows." Make sure these are juried, so that the quality remains high. Also check to see if they sponsor national juried shows. While they are harder to get in, these exhibitions are often juried by a prominent curator or gallery owner, so your work becomes visible to them. Some museums also review artists' proposals for solo exhibitions.
Another way to access museum shows is through your professional art organization, like Oil Painters of America, the National Sculpture Society, the National Watercolor Society, etc. These organizations partner with museums (and sometimes galleries) to sponsor juried shows for their members. While these exhibitions are highly competitive, they give you access to major museums who wouldn't otherwise know about you. Sometime these exhibitions travel to a number of different venues.
College and University galleries are another great place for you to find Level Three opportunities. Start with those in your state or region, as these galleries often feature local artists. They attract a serious audience because of their affiliation with an educational institution, and curators and gallerists pay attention to what is shown there.
Some commercial galleries offer exhibition opportunities for artists. These galleries do not take submissions from artists, but use an "open call" to survey a large group of artists whose work they might not otherwise see. Be highly selective in responding to these open calls. Only submit to galleries where you see a good fit with your own work. Take a look at the artists shown on the gallery's website. What do they have in common? Is there a particular look (often called their "aesthetic") or a conceptual focus? If your own work doesn't match their interests, do not apply to these calls.
Your social media presence is another good way for you to get on the radar. Many artists are using Instagram to heighten their visibility. It is important to be regular and consistent in your posting, and to build your art story over time. Do follow the galleries and museums you admire. Feel free to "like" and comment on what they are doing, but do not post your own work on their wall. Your genuine interest will gradually make your name familiar to them.
Finally, get out there in the real world of art, whenever and however you can. Go to openings, visit museum exhibitions, talk to other artists, visit your friends at open studios. You never know who you might meet and what you will learn.
Next time we'll take a look at Level Four opportunities, which I call "Making It."
All the best,
I'm a Career & Life Coach for artists and other creative people. I’m based in the San Francisco Bay Area but work with artists throughout the U. S.and all over the world.