I recently put a question on one of the Linkedin artists groups I subscribe to, asking what experiences members had of finding unusual places to exhibiting in and their consequent experiences of exhibiting in those places. The response was great and the locations artists have found to show their work were diverse, ranging from hospitals and libraries to car parks, shopping malls and theatres. I’ve long considered the issues that may be connected with this kind of exhibiting having taken part in numerous art fairs and latterly been looking for spaces that could accommodate a group show, preferably at no cost.
Artists in search of an audience
The issues have been circulating round my mind since setting up Artists-Connect eleven years ago (www.artists-connect.co.uk) when there was a perception that getting on-line was a panacea to the matter of developing an audience for your work. My mission with Artists-Connect was to connect artists with audiences but, in time, it became evident that being on-line was not enough to be discovered. In fact, with the explosion of content, being discovered on-line is increasingly unlikely. Besides, as with other things you find on the web, qualitative assessment of artwork is difficult. Another concern of mine is the cumulative cost of submitting work to open exhibitions and the cost of hiring exhibition space. Organised around art galleries, the success of exhibiting relies either on footfall or the gallery operator being prepared to put in a lot of marketing effort on the artists behalf to be effective. Galleries don’t generally seem to attract a huge footfall and the only time significant numbers attend a show is the preview. The costs involved mean that it is imperative to make sales which becomes the measure of an artists success and I don’t think any true artist establishes their practice with the intention of becoming commercially successful. Operators or owners of galleries can only represent a small percentage of artists who are producing at any time, no matter how interesting their work is. I also think galleries tend to engender a perception of exclusivity. The majority of the public believe them to be places for an art cognoscenti.
Go out and find your audience
The alternative, as I see it, is to show your work where people already are, hence the question on LinkedIn. For me any form of art is, and always has been, fundamentally about communicating ideas. No matter how great or small the subject, art needs an audience and it is part of the job of being an artist to find that audience. I have found that people are open to interacting with both art and artists if given the opportunity, being interested to discuss the subject matter and the process of creation. I paint outside as much as I can and if I’m in a public place I will attract attention and people will come and talk to me about what I’m doing. It seems people generally are not used to interacting with art as it’s not part of every day life. I don’t think it has to be that way.