SOFA, Red Dots, and Artist Statements

Geoffrey Gorman's "Creatures of Curiosity"

I spent a grand spring day at SOFA NY (it poured!), hobnobbing around with Geoffrey Gorman, attending a lecture by Michael Petry, the director of MOCA London on his new book The Art of Not Making, and touring all the gorgeous artwork in the two dozen gallery booths. This was a high end New York show with a clientele to match.

But for the life of me, I couldn’t keep my coaching hat off (drives my family nuts too). It was the very first booth I stepped into–because there were these stunning glass sculptures of Martin Rosol’s that simply took my breath away; I loved the clean, geometric lines, just my cup of tea–and of course I wanted to… know more about the artist.

In and out of luck

I was in luck because the artist was there (and actually lives in a small town right next to me-really!) and I could talk to him, only he was so intent on me buying a piece of work that he didn’t really connect with me or let me connect with him.

So naturally, I asked for an artist statement to take home with me. And that’s where I was out of luck: the gallery director handed me a bio on a plain sheet of paper with no image of the artist’s, saying “We’ve been meaning to get around to artist statements…” (weak, very weak)

As I looked around, this was day three of SOFA, there were very few red dots in this gallery.

In fact, as I wandered in and out of all the galleries there were only a handful of scattered red dots anywhere, except…

Where were all the red dots?

A few booths down, I saw Geoffrey (this was the first time we’d laid eyes on each other since collaborating on the 10 Week Art Career Mentor Course) and I thought I’d play “tourist” and see how long it took him to recognize me. Ha! I’d say within less than 45 seconds he looked over and his eyes lit up.

He introduced me to Jane Sauer of the Jane Sauer Gallery, an amazing gallery owner who Geoffrey swears allegiance to. And as I looked around her booth, I could see why.

There was a proliferation of Red Dots! In fact, her booth had more red dots than any other gallery there. One artist had 11 pieces and when I arrived, 7 had red dots. By the time I left for dinner with Geoffrey, there were 3 more – only one piece dotless and one day to go.

Where were all the artist statements?

Guess what, they were in the same booth as all the red dots.

Now, I’m not saying there’s a direct correlation, just that Jane clearly saw artist statements as a significant part of the mix. In fact, she had all the presentation bases covered.

1. Postcards tucked into small, clear acrylic holders on the wall next to each artist’s work. Image on one side; artist statement & mini-resume with very tiny box of the gallery’s contact info on the other side.

2. Artists right there, in the flesh, to talk to collectors and buyers about their work. (You should see Geoffrey in action – he just stands there and sells his work like he was handing out ice cream cones to kids. Such fun!)

3. Lighting that was subtle yet illuminated each piece with an inviting glow.

4. Display bases that showed of the artwork at the right eye level. (Again, Geoffrey shines here too, creating a different base for each sculpture so the base becomes a continuous statement of the piece.)

5. Enough staff to support both her and the artists.

And that coaching hat I mentioned earlier?

At a different display of glass art, I watched a woman trying to decide about a gift for her husband. “He loves glass,” she confided, “but I always wonder why I’m investing in something that can break.”

I told her about Martin Rosol’s work, but since I didn’t have anything to show her, I was stuck with trying to describe the work and hoping my enthusiasm would persuade her to go look (it was way on the other side of the fair).

I returned to that first booth and told them that I’d nearly landed a customer for Rosol’s work, but since I couldn’t show the woman anything, I felt handicapped. “If I’d had anything like this,” I pulled out one of the artist statement postcards from the Sauer Gallery, “it would have been a whole lot easier.”

They agreed.


If you are stalling on your artist statement, I’ve made the whole nasty business a lot easier with my super artist-friendly book, Writing The Artist Statement: Revealing the True Spirit of Your Work — which is what you want to do, yes?

News Flash! Just in: my publisher just sent me an email that Writing The Artist Statement: Revealing the True Spirit of Your Work is one of the top 3 best selling books on their list for this April!

Wow- that’s soooo cool.

I have to tell you that your book has been an invaluable tool for me. I used it years ago to write my first “authentic” artist statement. Now years later I use it when my work evolves and changes and I need to not only write about these changes but to understand them.

I continue to use the book when a new series emerges. Writing a “statement” for a series helps me to see where the work is going and how it is all connected. —Michelle DeMarco

6 Responses to “SOFA, Red Dots, and Artist Statements”

  1. Ariane, your book on writing the artist statement was one of the first books I purchased years ago, when I began this journey. Your books, classes and blog have keep me focused through the years. Thank you.

  2. Ariane says:

    Hi Sue! Thanks so much for letting me know. It’s a funny thing to have an audience who knows you, but you don’t know them – except in that mythological “target” audience that marketers (even me) talk about. Here’s to the joy of the journey and the support we each get along the way!

  3. Ariane,

    Thanks so much for coming to New York and visiting me at SOFA. It was great to show you my work ‘in person.’ Your perceptive analysis of my gallery, Jane Sauer, shows that professionals (and hard work) can still continue to connect with clients and make the sale. I am lucky to work with such a great gallery and great staff.

    Will I be seeing you in Santa Fe in June for my solo show with Jane Sauer Gallery?

    • Ariane says:

      Oh, Geoffrey, don’t I wish! I’m afraid my travel budget for this year is long gone…

      Let’s keep in on the Dream List for 2012, okay?

  4. Pauline Johnson says:

    Hi ArIanne,
    It was great to read HOW the artist statement can be so useful in reality. I am inspired to read your book once more and actually get my own going.

    • Ariane says:

      Hi Pauline,
      I have another one for you. This was in an email from an artist who worked with me on her statement:
      I recently sold 3 paintings! One buyer told me that my artist statement made her realize she needed to purchase one of my works! My statement is having immediate results, which I never anticipated. Again, thanks. —M.M.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *