Publicity for artists
April 8, 2005
Yesterday Bob Ragland of Denver, Colorado, who claims to be a
"Non-Starving Outlaw Artist," wrote: "I just had a very good
write-up in the Denver Post. I arranged to be interviewed by a
reporter. I never talk to art critics--they just try to beat
you up. I learned a long time ago to get a storyteller to tell
my story. Smart eh? I try to get ink every two years in this
town. So far, so good. A critic can't speak louder than a bill
Thanks Bob. Artists frequently write to ask the best way to get
print publicity. Bob has a system, and he's on to something.
Human interest stories that tell of an artist's projects or
dreams are ten to one better than a write-up by the local art
critic. An even greater waste of ink can be an erudite
deconstruction in a critical journal. These days people don't
want to be told much about art--or whether it's good or bad.
The right kind of folks make up their own minds. The right kind
of folks love to hear about adventures, passions and dedication.
Not all artists want or need publicity. For those who do, the
best plan is to prepare your itinerary before you speak to a
reporter. It's your 'story' and you need to take control of it.
If you don't do this your reporter may try to make a story
himself. Think of the headlines you don't want: "Artist has to
sell his hair in order to make ends meet." "Artist is so rich
he doesn't have to paint." "Artist says critics are slime."
I've found there's real value in being seen as an interesting
and evolved person--worth reading about and worth the trouble to
go and check out. In the long run a community asset is more
significant than a community ass. A few written notes
beforehand will help you to control your reporter. Don't use
jargon or obfuscation. Straightforward honesty and humility go
a long way in our over-hyped world. I'm convinced that this is
the best path for artists whose work is what is called
"accessible." More inaccessible, conceptual, and
entertainment-art may require concerted hype in order to get
people to venture forth. Often there's something in it to hype
about, and there's always something more to talk about. But the
general public these days has a bit of an attitude: The more
the hype, they rationalize, the poorer the art.
PS: "Why don't we spend less on advertising and just make
better airplanes?" (Bill Boeing, 1918) "The market is the critic
that matters." (Walter Kirn) "Do not deviate by a hair's
breadth from your principles." (Gustave Courbet)
Esoterica: The best publicist is extraordinary art. Just try
to make quality work and let people discover you. When people
discover you they take you as their own. Reporters too. A
downside when working with commercial galleries is that
extraordinary work can go to a customer before paint is dry.
Your extraordinary art is not seen by enough people. While it's
not always easy to do, try to get the dealer to leave it up,
red-stickered, for as long as possible. Red-stickered on line
is good too.
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