When promoting your artwork, you always need to consider what your context is. Knowing your audience and understanding the “feel” of a room can make a difference.
What was the last work of art you loved? Do you remember where you saw it?
In a computer lab, viewing high-resolution photographs on a screen was less likely to be appreciated by participants than by those who viewed the same images in a museum. How does this relate to the promotion of your works?
In this article, we will discuss the lessons in art marketing that all artists should know, particularly what impact context has on the way people interact with art and how to use this knowledge to promote and sell your works.
So why were participants less involved in viewing the works in a computer lab than in a museum? Here’s something that might help clarify the issue: in the study, the most significant differences in interest and interaction occurred when participants were presented with complex images – those images that required more effort and reflection to decode or to generate a link.
Those who looked at the images in the laboratory simply dismissed those that were more complex, with impatience, while those who looked at the images in the museum usually spent more time analyzing and deciding what they understood of what they were observing.
This came as no surprise to us at Agora Gallery. Think about it – when you’re sitting in front of a computer, how often do you click, go to the bottom of the screen, or exit a tab or window? It’s only natural to “move on” when you’re in that environment. However, when you are in a museum, you also have a different mentality. You are there to stop, think, observe and enjoy.
See visitors interact with art on a daily basis, and we’ve certainly learned how much context the interactive experience can improve. Not everything can be based only on a pleasant space: you must use your strengths and context to open a two-way interaction with your audience.
At Gallery, our staff does their best to foster a warm and friendly atmosphere, offering our knowledge and professional experience to interested visitors. We have certainly noticed that this helps visitors to relax and enjoy the works.
Understanding Your Context
However, this does not mean that you need to hang your works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to be appreciated! This study is a sign of something that many of us perhaps know instinctively: context is fundamental. What is context? Well, in a nutshell, it’s the who, what, where, why and when of the promotion of your works.
- Who is your audience?
- What interests them?
- Where is your audience? / Where are you trying to promote your art?
- Why is your audience there?
- When, or what time of day, are you trying to promote your art?
When you exhibit your work, you should think about where you are: what mood is your audience likely to be in? How much time do they have to stop and interact with your work? What do you know about them? In art-focused contexts, you might expect your audience to have a more authentic interest, but in the rest of the world, things might be a little more complicated.
In simpler terms, if you’re in a gallery, it’s reasonable to expect a certain number of visitors to attend the exhibition because they’re interested in art, in seeing artwork, and in knowing more about the artists. On the other hand, an artist displaying her work from a kiosk at a horse fair will notice that there are far fewer people interested in art. They walk past her – even though her pieces are abstract masterpieces!
Does this mean you shouldn’t exhibit your work at non-art events? No. It means you should adjust your “sales strategy” for these non-art centered events.
Let’s go back to the example of the artist at the horse fair. Imagine her works are portraits of horses. Well, this way it could fit very well. Even though most people at this horse fair are not there to buy artwork, they will surely be willing to stop and talk about horses.
That’s when good interaction, promotion and marketing come into play. You can promote your artwork anywhere as long as you have a good idea of what your context is, how it affects your audience, and how to connect your artwork to the event.
Guiding the Conversation
No matter where you are, it’s always important to interact with people who express an interest in your work, because you never know if the person you just met might become a long-term collector of your work.
For example, Biddy Hodgkinson went to a dinner party organized by a friend of hers and started to conserve with a man who worked in her city’s cathedral. Her enthusiasm for her work and her ability to relate it to other relevant subjects of interest led him to suggest that she apply for Artist in Residence at Lincoln Cathedral, a position she later obtained.
Did Biddy overwhelm her partner during the conversation? No. He was sensitive to the nuances of context and conversation; his work deals with themes of death and decay, and he quickly noticed that his partner was interested in this topic, which came up naturally in the conversation.
Biddy knew that promoting her art is not about forcing the topic into any conversation, but rather noticing when this can be done organically to people who have expressed interest in relevant issues.
Let’s go back to our hypothetical horse artist at the horse fair. It makes sense to assume that your visitors have an interest in horses. So how does she initiate conversations with people who pass by her booth? Not by talking to them about painting materials or their interest in art history, but by talking about the subject: horses.
What is her personal connection to horses? Why does she paint them? That’s what your audience wants to know. When you are at a kiosk at an art fair – that will be a good time to talk about your style and materials.
If you are part of a gallery or museum exhibit, it is reasonable to assume that the people who approach you are interested in discussing, even in depth, your work. The best response is to be open and enthusiastic, and to be willing to take the conversation in whatever direction your potential buyers show an interest.
At an art fair, people are more likely to stop briefly, so it’s important not to make them feel pressured or uncomfortable. You can try to interact with them by sharing the stories of the pieces you have on display, and showing interest in what they are doing at the event. Are they having a good time?
How far did they travel to attend? These lighter conversation topics can motivate them to stay a little longer and interact with the art. Once they are interested, you can begin to incorporate your work and creative process into the conversation – but remember to regularly gauge their level of interest and give them their space if they seem uncomfortable or overwhelmed.
No matter where you are exhibiting your art, think a little about how you can motivate people to give your art the attention it deserves.
At a gallery opening reception, you can be confident that interest in your work will grow organically. Visitors have come specifically to see art and meet the artists, so you can feel free to introduce yourself to the visitors and answer any questions they may have.
It is important to relate and promote yourself, of course, but usually your artwork will do its own ‘marketing’. However, returning to the example of our artist at the horse show, she will have to work harder on her sales strategy.