Artists Dying of Exposure


Upwind Flames by Louis Copt

Upwind Flames by Louis Copt

I was asked to speak before an influential group of retired businessmen and women this past summer. By “influential” I basically mean millionaires. But listen, not all rich folks are jerks.  Many started with nothing, never forgot where they came from, and are…

generous beyond description, especially with the underprivileged.  Several of those types were present where I was speaking.

They dug the talk

And understood the relevance of participating in the arts in our region, and helping the region to grow culturally. Nice round of applause. Most came up to thank me afterward, and I knew I’d won a few new clients. But one dude, inevitably, came up to tell me about his son’s practice, how they couldn’t afford art (yeah, right), but would I be willing to loan them works in exchange for…

…the “exposure” the artists would get?

I thought of another artist, Louie Copt’s, standard response to this kind of presumption: “Man, I know artists who have died of exposure.”

But as the art dealer, I have to be diplomatic. So I just gave the dude a card, telling him in a certain tone that I’d think about it. He never called, apparently able to read a tone.  Man, some people. I mean, do you think this guy ever worked for free?

My point?  When you’re an emerging artist, you’ll inevitably have to do these gigs.  We all have. And with the current economy, even mid-career artists or established artists, making a come back, may have to also.

But here are the rules:

1)  The host insures the work for its retail value.

2)  The exhibition should last no longer than 60 days.

3)  A table will be cleared for your cards, bios, artist statement, press kit, etc.

4)  All works will be priced with a title card.

5)  A guest book will be set out where browsers can write down their contact info.

6)  Offer a 10% commission to all the office workers, should they facilitate a sale.  Believe me this works, and is better than retaining 100% of nothing.

7)  Offer the host a discount at the end of the exhibit, if it helps to place a piece.

We never sold much doing these exhibits, since it normally takes a sales person to sell anything, including art.  But we often picked up new clients, the hosts were grateful, and many later became collectors. 

However, if the host has no personal interest in your work, I advise you not do it.  It’s important that they feel passion for what you do, because it’s that passion that will become infectious.

One Response to “Artists Dying of Exposure”

  1. A anyone who has taken a basic Psych 101 will be familiar with the experiment with the two working groups of people, both doing the same job; one getting paid ten dollars and hour the other getting one dollar and hour. Which one works harder? Surprise, the one getting a dollar. Reason being: inherent in our culture there is the belief if you work hard you will be rewarded…hence the American dream and even the Canadian dream (that’s a joke). Fact is, we aren’t rewarded accordingly, just really taken advantage of, screwed up the butt and then expected to be grateful!
    Catherine Meyers

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