Featured in the December 2016 issue of Pastel Journal, available now in print or as a digital download.
By Eric Maisel
Building and maintaining strong relationships in the art market can be complicated. You may be friendly with a fellow painter and simultaneously quite envious of her. You may dislike a gallery owner or a collector but decide that the connection is too valuable to abandon, perhaps because he’s your sole advocate or only customer in your art business. Here are some guidelines:
12 Sensible Rules for Positive Relating in the Art Market
1. You can make art as if you were on an island, but as soon as you want to share your creative efforts with others, you’re embroiled in a world of others—there’s no getting around that. Accept that reality.
2. You get to decide how you want to be in your relationships, even if you feel pressured to be someone else.
3. You don’t have to reveal your true feelings in all of your relationship dealings. You might act friendlier than you actually feel, or maybe not let people know of your reservations about your work. You can create a professional persona that serves you.
4. Know your intentions and choose them wisely. Do you want to blow up your relationship with your gallery owner because you’re embarrassed to tell him that you don’t have paintings ready for your show, or do you want to do the right thing and make your confession early on in the conversation?
5. Expect people to come with shadows. Everyone you’ll deal with is a human being with all of the baggage that human beings acquire along the way, including hidden agendas, thin skins, passive-aggressive tendencies, self-interestedness and so on.
6. Be strong when you need to be strong. It may be smart and strategic to be pleasant and low maintenance in most interactions, but you also need to be assertive when necessary.
7. Ask questions. Marketplace players have plenty of reasons for not always being clear. Ask, even if you feel embarrassed or aren’t sure that the questions really need asking.
8. Ask for help. If you want to make contact with a journalist but you think that the contact ought to be made by your gallery, ask your gallery owner to reach out to the journalist. Request what you need.
9. Negotiate. We tend to avoid using this skill with marketplace players because sometimes they intimidate us. We fear that if we ask for any-thing, the deal will vanish. Get used to negotiating politely, carefully and matter-of-factly.
10. Be careful with your time. If someone you know in an arts organization asks you to volunteer to support something they’re doing, think twice before agreeing. Make sure that you don’t give away your time, talent and energy cavalierly.
11. Try to make your personal relationships support your art intentions. Let everyone in your house know that you’re an artist and that you need a certain amount of time and space in which to work—and their unconditional support.
12. Don’t burn bridges unnecessarily. If a gallery owner rejects your current paintings, thank her politely and keep her in mind for the future. If you haven’t yet honed and mastered these skills, the time is now.
ERIC MAISEL (ericmaisel.com) is a creativity coach, psychotherapist, teacher and author of more than 40 books for creative and performing artists, including Coaching the Artist Within (New World Library, 2005).