Note: Gray underlined wording represent links to click.
#artworldchanging and #artkeepsgoing are very popular tags right now. Yes, the artworld is changing, but it has always been in flux—from the patron system to the academies and salons to art independents and brick and mortar galleries to art in the streets and art fairs. In addition, the internet has allowed artists to be their own brand with online exhibitions and sales. Now COVID-19 has shut down the venues where folks can gather to see art. More and more businesses, from individual artists to galleries to museums are turning to alternatives to present their art. So, what are some of these alternatives, what does this mean for both artists and audiences, and how do they work?
Above: Cerulean Arts 1355 Ridge Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19123
Brick and Mortar Galleries, Spaces, and Museums
As quarantine occurred, many venues were unprepared to face shutdown. The ones best prepared had already begun featuring artwork online and opened their archives to visitors or even had some virtual tours at the ready. (Here’s a link to a list of some great tours and museum collections-- https://upgradedpoints.com/best-virtual-museum-tours/). If you, like me, follow any number of art institutions and sellers you will have an inbox full of announcements, video links and newsletters— the preferred communication devices used to keep the art in front of us during this time.
Above: George Adams Gallery-- Art from Afar
It is also interesting to note some of the ways that art spaces have kept our eyes on them— both by utilizing their physical space and by expanding their online presences. For example, George Adams Gallery has a window about one-story from the sidewalk on 26th Street, near the High Line. He had artists take turns decorating the window for visual impact on any passerby and also as something he can add to his website. Every summer, Pentimenti Gallery has done something similar: it has had its storefront window decorated by a selected artist. During shutdown, the gallery also began offering what it called “Pentimenti Warehouse”, a select group of work by gallery artists available only online. Cerulean Arts, which also has windows facing the street, featured selections from the work it offers displayed in each window. From ceramic, glass, jewelry, and crafts to fine art paintings, prints, and sculpture, all items are available directly from their gallery website.
Above: Philadelphia Magic Gardens 1020 South Street Philadelphia 19147
Some local galleries have been highly effective in using technology. The Philadelphia Magic Garden has an online tour that makes you feel like you are there. You can even take measurements of some of the walls as you click through! Merritt Gallery in Havertown offers a virtual tour of their space similar to the Magic Garden, while Stanek Gallery and Cerulean Arts provide videos about their artists, often by John Thornton. Cerulean Arts, with its history of offering studio art classes, has also turned to using zoom for instruction. Whether using “Look Books” (another name for catalogs), videos for artists, click-through online galleries, or media notes on happenings of gallery artists in the art world, there is quite a bit that can be learned from how art businesses are handling social distancing and shut down.
For myself, I had an exhibition in New York City that was scheduled for March into April; obviously, it could not occur due to COVID-19. When it did open this past September, the gallery space, Atlantic Gallery, had readied itself for visitors as did the building and even the city. It should be noted that most people in New York wear face masks only dropping them when exercising and eating. Face masks are so prevalent in NYC that you notice those who don’t don them as opposed to those who do. Buildings have signs requiring masks and had sanitizing stations. The gallery, too, had masks on hand—no one came through the door without a mask—as well as hand sanitizer and wipes. Galleries began offering online reservation sign-ups and limited the total number of visitors at one time depending on the room’s size. Like in stores and public buildings in most states, marks were made on the floors to represent and remind visitors of the 6 feet distancing rule. Many of the spaces also had an air purifier running along with air conditioning. In the end, traffic is much lighter and more planned. Because of this, I knew I needed to adapt the ways in which people could view and interact with my art.
I looked to virtual/online practices to allow others to experience my exhibition. I used three formats—a virtual tour, a “self-guided, self-paced” tour and a #OneMinuteCrit compilation tour. Each format was created with a specific intent, presented the exhibition uniquely, and could be used to connect on several online platforms.
Above: Installation view of "Carol Taylor-Kearney: Process of an Artist Mind".
The virtual tour is a video, so it was designed to look best on my YouTube channel. It began out in the hallway with the poster advertising my show, went to my answering the gallery door to invite you into the space, and proceeded throughout the exhibition just as you would walk through it. At the end, I thanked viewers for coming and encouraged them to comment or sign-in as having viewed the video.
The “self-guided, self-paced” tour is a series of images taken in the gallery, and works really well on my website, and as a series of images on Facebook or Instagram. The tour is anchored by images of each wall of the gallery. Following each image of a wall are the images of each individual piece hung on that wall. On my website, each image was clickable so you could zoom-in to greater detail and also included a link to the artist (me) speaking about the piece. In this way, they drive people between my website and my social media platforms.
The videos, to which each “self-guided/self-paced” tour image links are based on a practice I started about a year go called #OneMinuteCrit. The mission was and is simple: I talk about an artwork (either my own or another artist’s) for a minute, then post it on Instagram and YouTube. For my own exhibition (that was now more virtual than physical), I went through and spoke about each work to draw interest to a viewer. Then I combined all of these #OneMinuteCrit videos with the images of each wall to make the final format: the video compilation.
Above: Link page for tours from my web site www.taylor-kearneyarts.com
The great part about the compilation specifically is that each individual #OneMinuteCrit is made for Instagram and thus also Facebook; plus when combined the longer compilation is perfect for a platform like YouTube.
In this new virtual world, I made sure to post all of these formats on my social media, YouTube channel and website; and — just as importantly — I also made sure they were posted to the gallery’s social media and website.
The images and short videos I created worked well on a variety of platforms because— knowing I wanted all videos and images to work across platforms— I made decisions based on the idiosyncrasies of each platform, specifically the defaults of Instagram. Twitter, YouTube and Facebook all support a variety of ratios for images and videos on their platforms; Instagram does not — it will default to a squared image ratio. By knowing this going in and planning for it in advance, you can create images/videos that will do double-duty. It’s important to keep the focal area in the center (adding a white or black background to create a squared image can work when necessary). If you keep this in mind, you’ll have images that can be used across platforms.
With this advanced planning and with these tools, I could make easy daily posts to my own social media accounts (making sure that I set the privacy settings to public so that they could be shared by my friends, family and collaborators). Moreover, this allowed the gallery to post to its Facebook and Instagram accounts, and they have my virtual tour on their YouTube channel for posterity.
Above: Cover for catalog for Carol Taylor-Kearney: Process of an Artist Mind
Additionally, I designed a catalog for the exhibition. Because it is called “Process of an Artist’s Mind”, I determined the design to be based on a concept map—which is also the process I used in creating the artworks themselves. I made the catalog, press release and price list all available in a PDF on my website and included all of them in my emails to promote the exhibition. This leads to what I like to call “Eye Contact”
Everyone knows how important eye contact is in communicating with a single person or with a large audience. As a visual industry you need to make eye contact-- eye contact as personalized attention and eye contact in getting eyes to look back. You need to find ways to create the connection, closeness and attention of physical closeness but in a virtual world. This is where an email marketing platform is important to share updates on you and your process. Mailchimp, Constant Contact, HubSpot and GoDaddy are just a few and some come with a free trial. Both HubSpot and GoDaddy have CRMs (Customer Relationship Marketing software) while Mailchimp and Constant Contact can give you expanded versions that include customer analytics. You can even get your website through GoDaddy—and YES you need a website in this day and age! It should be added that websites like SquareSpace and WIX also offer varying levels of CRM capabilities. Depending on your capabilities, updating once a month or once a quarter works well, but don’t forget to add more notifications for special events and shows. And include images! Images and links to content (your website, social media, etc. and/or the venue’s website, social media, etc.) are important. Whenever you make a sale, ask the buyer to send you a picture of your artwork in its new home (don’t forget to get permissions) to post.
Every artist has a busy calendar. Make the most of yours by organizing “To Do” lists for artwork you have recently started or finished and of opportunities that you are exploring—whether plein air or teaching events, exhibitions you have, opportunities that are coming your way, and even some of the functions and gatherings that you hope to attend. Let folks know what an active and industrious artist you are! Of course, connect via links and tags to everything you share.
Here is part of a MailChimp message I sent to keep my audience up to date on my forthcoming exhibition and ways for them to see it. Notice the use of imagery to wet appetities and logos that attach to my web sites for branding.
Search Engines – Titles, Tags and Getting Yourself “Seen” by Google Speaking of tags, make sure that you are SEO compliant. What this means is that you have named your posts, images, website(s) a searchable name. Don’t just upload an image you have taken leaving it IMG_202026_415—which will not connect it to you in a search. Rename it with metadata including your name, title of artwork, even materials and size. This goes for your website, blogs, social media, everything. Make sure the image has all the appropriate metadata in its file name – even if it’s just a quick snap for Facebook or Instagram. Taking the time to include the metadata will help Google or any search engine link to your images no matter the platform – whether it be Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, your website or your blog.
And this has a specific formula for letting search engines read it by using dashes (-) to connect terms and underscores (_) to separate (_) between related information. For example, here is a file name for one of my art pieces: Carol-Taylor-Kearney_Embodied-Ideas_reverse-painting-on-glass-with-collage_20”-x-30” This way anyone searching my name, this artwork’s title, the medium, and even the size can find this piece. To make for even better searches I could name it this way Carol-Taylor-Kearney_Embodied-Ideas_reverse-painting-on-glass_mixed-media_20”-x-30” This way the search engine would file this image under both “reverse glass painting” and “mixed media”. Instead of the size I could put “window art” which would be indicative of the size and the window that is its support. Carol-Taylor-Kearney_Embodied-Ideas_reverse-painting-on-glass_mixed-media_window-art
Above: Embodied Ideas, reverse painting and mixed media on a window, 20" x 32".
Properly naming files and giving descriptions is an art in itself. I know some artists who use a thesaurus to try to find descriptors. Most go to websites that provide free trials for keywords and topics. Brainstorming with other artists can also lead to finding searchable terms that you can check on Google. It will tell you how many times it has been used and how successful it is in searches. I suggest trying to find the words that most accurately describe your work, as honesty is the best way of getting an engaged and authentic audience. To include words or topics only because they are trending will instead get you ill-will or worse lead you down a path where your following trends instead of finding yourself as an artist or creating a brand that works best for you. If you feel you need more descriptors even after you have made a list of possible keywords and phrases, check them out on a keyword finder like https://www.wordstream.com/keywords. This is a better way to find even more words and phrases. Aside from titling your artwork, your website and even your web pages, you will also be using keywords to create links to you through tags, namely #hashtags and/or @ ats. Get in the habit of #yourname and @your location. Other tags should include descriptions--#sculpture or #oilpainting, #abstractpainting, #mixedmedia. Subject matter is also important-- #stilllife, #landscape. You can even get more specific-- #bythesea or #cityscape or #newyorkart. Emotions can also be used in hashtags-- #happyart or #colorfulart. Google the hashtag you are considering and see if it takes you to an Instagram page full of examples related to your term. Social Media —Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, oh my! For purposes of showing how the artworld is changing and strategies for addressing these changes, it is important to look at social media. There are a variety of social media sites, but the important thing to know is that the goal of all social media is the same—SHARING. How they share and what is worth sharing may be different for each platform. In all cases, it is important as an artist that you remember that you are a professional —which means that you are both a person and a brand to your artwork. So, keep your friends, your non-art activities and social engagements, your family (unless they are subject matter or collaborator) off your “Art” social media pages. How? Have a separate page for friends and family, and a professional page for you and your art. It is one thing to see your group setting up a forthcoming exhibition and another to see you partying on a random Tuesday at the local bar without any association with your artwork. I have children. I love children. I love pets. BUT if you are going to show me a picture of your child—human, dog, cat or otherwise—I will be looking for technique and composition in an artwork based on them. It can even be another photo! But what it should not be is unrelated to your art or your art business.
I am not really going to get into SnapChat, LinkedIn, or TikTok. SnapChat is too ephemeral, LinkedIn is more resume-based and TikTok is a bit too new to have established best practices for artists. Rather, I am going to focus on the three most established, which I have already listed—Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For younger artists Facebook is quaint, for older artists Facebook can seem invasive and crude. Younger artists tend to think of Instagram as a replacement for a website, older artists tend to only use it to show whatever new work they have without hashes or links. Right now, everyone thinks of Twitter as a maelstrom, yet it is actually good for posting links. It is important for artists to register with all three and it is easy to post on all three simultaneously. If you start on Instagram, Instagram lets you post an image and on the last page, before you hit post, you can slide the button to share to Facebook and Twitter. All use72 dpi. Sometimes both Facebook and Instagram will resize your images to fit their format (specifically Instagram’s “square”), so – as mentioned above in the video section—be mindful that you center the picture on the focal point. This will minimize any cropping Facebook or Instagram may do. Always confirm the images have rendered well on each platform. Also, really be certain that the permissions/privacy settings are set to public so that your image can be openly shared by others.
What you have to say about the image is important, too. Don’t think of this as just context; think of it as a combination of personal message and an advertisement. That means that your name, title of artwork, and some description should be in there. Make sure that you add some hashtags of topics and places where the work can be found and fill in the “tag people” and “location” fields. It should be noted that you have the ability to sell from Instagram and Facebook via a “business”/”e-commerce” account. You do this when you set up your accounts. For Facebook you need to set up a “store”, a catalog of objects. You must also set your accounts to “business”. Keep the “personal” account for your own use (as mentioned above). This opens tools where you can attach pricing to objects in images. You will have to attach this to either Pay Pal or an Instagram account for payment. Another, single click way to do this is through Shopify, but it will cost $$$. Here is Instagram link that can answer questions on setting up a business on Instagramshop. Twitter is really all about making connections, so you should have a feed with links in it. Yes, I know that politicians and celebrities use it to promote themselves and put opinions out for discourse. But for artists, Twitter is best used to promote their blogs, videos, research, etc. It links information to you. Artist Registries Aside from Facebook, Instagram and even your own website, there are Artist Registries. Artist Registries have been around for a long time. The first was a slide registry by the Ad Hoc Committee of Women Artists to address the under representation of women in the Whitney Museum Painting and Sculpture Annual (now called the Whitney Biennial) in 1970. Housed at Rutgers University, it included slide examples of artists artwork, artist statements and biographies, and became the template for all future artist registries. At present, slide registries have become digital registries that allow artists, art groups, art galleries, museums, collectors, and audiences to find art that normally they might never know. These registries can be searched by artist, medium, subject, type, and even price point. Some, like Saatchi Arts, Artrepreneur, and many city and state Artist Registries are free or have a “free” level. Others, like White Columns, are juried sites. Artsy only allows artists through galleries that are part of the Artsy network; while SHIM, an off shoot of Artsy, is a digital platform that artists can register with through a SHIM group membership. Inliquid.org is a membership-based non-profit that includes a formidable registry for artists of the Philadelphia region.
As artists, we need to think of belonging or being on registries as belonging to another gallery. A separate room with its own rules for showing your work. That means that you must curate your images into a flow of going from one artwork to another – like you would in a physical show. You need to look at the page set-up and determine its arrangement. Also, because this is an online space, subtleties and details are not always evident. Some registries will allow for a detail or two within a group of works. Others will not. Coupled with this is the size of the image you can place. Since it will be seen on a computer or cell phone, 72 dpi is the standard resolution, and many of the sites will have a max file size – so beware when posting images with large ratio sizes (i.e. 2500px by 1500px at 72 dpi is quite a large file). When you upload images, make sure they are as clear and clean as possible and as large as possible. This will allow a little more clarity when viewers use a zoom to look closer. Moreover, just like belonging to a gallery, it is not enough for you to just park your work onto a site. You should update your artwork continuously, at least once per year. And when you do, make sure that you announce it across your website and social media accounts. It is very important for you to know which registries offer you the most in opportunities. For example, some registries are used by curators looking for artists for themed exhibitions or provide a place for your work to be seen by people and agencies looking for work samples for commissions or public art. Others, like Inliquid, provide opportunities for their artist members to be part of exhibitions that they or another member put together for spaces that they oversee. Inliquid also offers community outreach programs and places member’s artwork for sale on Artsy. Saatchi Art, like Artsy, is huge with an unbelievable number of artists in this registry. But collectors can buy right from Saatchi and, as COVID-19 has closed art fairs, it now offers online art fairs for selected cities. Artrepreneur is what use to be Orangenius. It is a free registry which can be extended to a “pro” (a.k.a. “for pay”) level. What makes them interesting and different from most registries is that they sponsor open calls to artists, have a jobs section, and even a marketplace where you can sell your artwork. The exhibitions are online and include prize money.
Finally, a new entry in Artist Registries is SHIM art network. SHIM art network is facilitated by Artsy. The work you show in a SHIM art network gallery is also available on Artsy. Up to this point, Artsy only showed artwork from galleries who registered (meaning paid) to be a member. SHIM offers artists who choose to come together – in either an already existing collective or in a collective that they start on their own—to exhibit pieces on Artsy. Moreover, SHIM art network members can band together to share or exchange galleries and spaces, participate in art fairs, and offer other opportunities. All work posted to SHIM is for sale and a commission will be taken on work sold. SHIM utilizes a “build up” process of placing four (4) pieces per quarter, that is four times a year. By year’s end you will have sixteen pieces in Artsy along with your Artist Statement and Biography. As an artist you are responsible for many things when selling an art piece—invoicing, payment, tax, shipping and handling. They cut down on your time negotiating and setting up payment (including the charges for shipping) as it is written into the receipt. You are responsible for packaging, insurance, and mailing. But it is nice to know that these fees, often overlooked by artists, are collected for you in advance. Now you begin… I have hashed out quite a bit of information here. But if you read this carefully and take some notes, you will find yourself more prepared to get started in setting up your own art business—which is the take-away from “how the artworld is changing”. As artists you are now your own artworld: designer, maker, entrepreneur. Eventually enclosed spaces will be opened and hopefully opened safely. But this time of quarantine has shown us that the future is digital and all of us need to learn how to interface in order to get an audience.
Here are a couple of videos from my exhibition, “Carol Taylor-Kearney: Process of an Artist Mind” as an examples.