The Art of Demystifying Success (episode 4)
This is part four in a series about how I went went from emerging artist and residency director, to bringing countless of artists to Art Basel Miami and other big art fairs around the world, while giving them the best professional practices to show up confident. It may sound like a quick success story, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
It was all becoming clear. My idea for the Exposure Program was the ticket to getting into a big art fair, and a great way to help other emerging artists get there too.
I decided to take my idea to the directors of the Select Fair, and after answering lots of questions about me, Starry Night, and the artists that we have worked with already, they saw the logic of working with me. In fact they loved the idea.
(My inner dialogue went something like this: Did they just say yes?! Uh, yeah, I think they just said yes. Is this really happening? Um, yep, I think this is actually happening. WHAT???!!!!)
I immediately began dancing around, which led to excited brainstorming and planning and then, writing a call for artists to apply to the brand new Starry Night Exposure Program!
We put out a call for artists for exhibition during Art Basel Miami, and I was dizzy with excitement. By the deadline, we had received way more applications than any of us ever thought possible. We had a big pool of talented, excited, independent artists who were dying to participate in the program.
As amazing as it felt to get my foot in the door, it was even more exciting to make this opportunity open to other artists (even though some of the applications were incomplete or incorrectly filled out). The last thing I wanted was to get ahead only to find myself lonely. (I’m a people person, what can I say?) With the Exposure Program, I was able to open that door and hold it open for other artists, and help them learn how it’s done. I was actually making a better way for artists to get into large art fairs without a taking a gallery commission.
I knew that was the right thing for them, because it was the right thing for me as an emerging artist.
No longer did any of us have to wait for a gallery to pick us up. Or hope that a gallery would take interest in us and bring our work to Art Basel Miami, or even the Venice Biennale. Most of all, we didn’t have to watch the gallery take over half of the money for the sale of our work.
So, how did the first show go? Did this crazy mastermind plan actually work?
The first Exposure Program exhibition took place at the Select Fair, during Art Basel Miami in December of 2013.
Want to know how crazy it got? Well, it got NUTS.
Truth be told, I had put together dozens of exhibitions before, I had curated in several galleries, run more than one gallery, and even worked with other people’s galleries and traveling shows. But nothing could have prepared me for the level of hustle I had to bring to this show.
But, you know what? Even after all of the last minute surprises, the show was a total SUCCESS! My dream had become a reality, and the initial plan to have one booth of artists DOUBLED to two booths, and before I knew it, Starry Night was representing nearly 20 talented artists. All without any inhibiting gallery contract, which left them all free to network and reap the rewards of their art sales, free and clear.
They had the opportunity to mingle at special VIP events, pass out the promotional cards and flyers we made for them, read and link to the press releases we wrote and distributed for them, re-tweet our tweets, like our posts, and generally leverage our message about them and how talented we thought they were. For the artists who attended in person, they could also follow up on that buzz and bring the interested buyers they met back to where their art was being shown.
And nobody had to sell their first born child to afford to get there.
In short, we sold thousands of dollars worth of artwork (some to collectors from the Guggenheim!), made tons of contacts for our artists, worked with curators from the MOMA, and along the way had more fun than we thought was possible. We were even covered in a spread in Vogue Italia! The artists walked away from it with a newfound knowledge of how art fairs actually work, lots of contacts of buyers and collectors in their pockets, a beefy addition to their resume, and a comprehensive professional practices training program that they could access for life.
To this day, I still hear from those artists about their new collectors, invitations to shows, speaking engagements and collaborations that they attribute to the Exposure Program.
It was a total game changer, for all of us.
I learned how to make the program more valuable by offering actual tangible things each artist could take home. First, we made a beautiful, printed catalog of the exhibition, featuring each artist, that they could show to collectors and gallerists in the future. We sent all of our artists home with printed flyers to hand out to visitors, and show to folks back home just where they had been. We also also created a web site dedicated to our collection of Exposure artists so that whether they had a web site of their own or not, there was a beautifully designed space where their work could be seen online, even after the fair was over.
Success was ever closer, more attainable than ever, and most importantly- demystified.
This was just the first step down this new path, and I felt like I had even more ideas to bring forth. How did I continue to create my own destiny – while making this all possible for other artists as well?
You’ll find out in episode five- the last and final part in this series. Stay tuned.
Until then, check out our free video on creating a strategy to make the next twelve months your best year ever.
Join the ongoing conversation in our Starry Night Artists group.
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Dedicated to nurturing the careers of emerging artists, Starry Night’s programs are designed to lower the traditional barriers that artists face when trying to establish themselves, and help them to start making a living doing what they love. To learn more about our comprehensive online training program, Artist Resources & Tools, click here.
Check out the previous posts in this series:
Episode 1: It Started With My Curiosity- And Maybe a Little Jealousy
Episode 2: Which Came First, The Chicken or the Egg?
Episode 3: Overcoming Barriers in a Messed Up System
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