The Marketing and Branding of the Artist

It seems today there is more and more talk about the success of an artist being associated with how much his or her works get sold for. Or that recognition of an artist and the work comes along with a good marketing plan for people to get noticed. But then what happens to quality? Is there some sort of quality control put into place?

We still have critics, well reputed ones who give their mostly honest opinion on art pieces, but how much leverage do their opinions and expertise have in the actual auction room? Or when an art dealer sells a work of art to their client? These days it seems like good marketing sells better and counts more than an honest critic’s opinion. Why is this?

This is not to say people don’t listen or trust critics- they are a necessary voice of reason in the chaos of art and money that surrounds artistic production. But then again, you can’t help notice that the big artist brand names (Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince and Gerhard Richter) and works getting the most attention are represented by people used to advertising and promoting anything (ahem…Charles Saatchi) and the people buying at the highest prices are the ones used to the system of financing, hedge funds, oil tycoons, big businesses where most of the time the point is to buy, invest, and sell for a larger profit later on, with all the intricacies of marketing and branding going along the way for successful sales. The truth is people are obsessed with money, but people are also curious about art. As artists, have you ever noticed how much attention you get from strangers if you’re simply sketching in the park? Art and money together is bound to be explosive.

Anyone who has talked to marketers know that even the best quality products won’t sell unless they’re promoted to their consumers in an appropriate manner. This almost means artists should think of their art as a commodity and product, something that needs promoting, pricing, and placing. Some artists may think of this as the ultimate evil, but maybe it’s a reality the idealistic artist has to face, or in a more positive light, it’s what needs to be done for their life and passion’s work to get the attention it needs to survive. I think many will agree art needs viewers to exist to its fullest, although a debatable subject, the artist creating for him or herself does not seem like a sustainable solution if their art is going to support their living from a financial perspective.

It might be tough love, but waiting to be discovered, or thinking you’re ‘selling out’ because you’ve repeated what art sells best, or even thinking you’re a godly creature put on the earth simply because you have a talent few possess are all illusions. Artists understand illusions best, so why not use the advantages of the illusions marketing can create to benefit the art and the artist?

Some concessions should be made, make yourself noticed in an intelligent and supportive way, marketing your artwork won’t necessarily change the magic or creative energy the artist initially had to make their art. However, having the ability to show others your art is worth looking at is an indispensable tool. Time will tell if what the artist has promoted does have a place in art history. Until then, it can only be good that art is being produced, that people have always been intrigued by artistic productions, and this is what you (the artist) likes to do- so why not make life easier on yourself? It only makes sense!

BOLA TANGKAS