Constance Smith’s Art Marketing 101 is now in its 4th edition (just released in March). The book is structured like a workbook, walking the beginning artist through “Business Basics,” “Legal Issues,” “Strategies,” “Networking,” “Exposure,” and “Strategic Planning,” with spaces for the reader’s responses to specific questions and to broader planning suggestions. It leads directly to the same publisher’s Advanced Strategies for Marketing Art, dealing with the subject in more concrete terms, such as where to market.
Since this is a beginner’s guide, artists already established in their careers may find much of it too basic, though the chapters on Strategic Planning could be a good tool for artists at any stage of a career. Earlier sections contain advice on pricing, shipping, framing, and other straightforward aspects of the art world, but there is also advice on less obvious aspects of working as an artist, such as setting up a studio. And the “Exposure” section includes helpful sections on areas where artists might continue to pay attention, like artists’ statements and press releases.
Make no mistake, this is a guide to art as a business. The section on “Branding” may cause some gnashing of teeth among artists and art students who don’t think of themselves as entrepreneurs, small business owners, or willing participants in the capitalist neo-liberalism of today’s mainstream global economy. The aesthetic considerations that are dealt with under Branding and elsewhere are geared entirely toward a mercantile approach to making art, though some of the reading suggestions broaden the discussion into bigger subjects.
Beyond its helpful workbook approach to basic marketing ideas, the book might also serve as an antidote to an artist’s notion of his or her inevitable, instant stardom or the ability to devote oneself totally to aesthetic issues in one’s career. In that sense, the straightforwoard, outline layout is helpful: flipping quickly through the text might cause a young artist to fall back to earth, or perhaps hurl the book to the ground in dismay, but a moment’s consideration of the business of art, taken as a positive or a negative, could be a constructive step in confronting a fork in the road that might lead someone toward the kind of career success Smith has in mind or some other definition of what success might mean in art today.
By Glenn Harper