Painting Images With Words
“Red Fancy Deep” in Search of a Setting
by Shari Kantor, Abstract Artist
A “Red Fancy Deep” is the most highly valued diamond because it is the rarest and exceptionally difficult to find. This also applies to artists like myself who are trying to find ways to achieve recognition for our work without the traditional support system.
I know a few very talented painters, sculptors and jewelry designers, myself included, who have been trying for years to get their work shown on an international level while working in jobs to help fund our artistic careers. I have been creating art for 25 years. I am a self-taught artist who views the world as both canvas and inspiration. My work has been shown in local galleries and boutiques because I approached the owners with my portfolio, and a few pieces of my work are on permanent loan to educational institutions I am affiliated with. These galleries and boutiques are in business for the love of art, not profit, so they do not attend major trade shows. One of my paintings was featured in an unpublicized, limited exhibition of contemporary art at a major museum that was closed to collectors, dealers and the media, but open to its visitors, thus shutting the sales and networking doors to every artist whose work was shown. Few artists have the inside connections to galleries, collectors and dealers necessary to gain the recognition they well deserve.
My fellow unknown artists and I approach big-name galleries, artist agents and publicists about getting our work displayed, only to be shut out with comments like, “We don't take unsolicited work,” “We only speak to agents/publicists,” “We only show work by artists who are internationally known” and “Call us when you have a solo exhibition in a major museum.” How can we get our work displayed if no major exhibitioners will give us a chance?
The worst replies to submissions involve offers to display work if we pay them and publicize the exhibition ourselves, on top of giving the gallery a commission. Perhaps I am mistaken, but isn't it a gallery's mission to display, promote and sell art? If I had the kind of money that's been asked of me, I would use it to buy a booth at Art Basel rather than give it to a gallery that wants to make money off my art without putting forth any effort to market it. Conversely, I will happily give a commission to a gallery or dealer who promotes my work properly.
Art fairs and competitions usually request submission or application fees of anywhere from $5 per work to up to $100, so this is not always economically feasible for unknown artists. It also makes it seem as though the organizers care more about making money than supporting art. I can easily spend $20 on one tube of paint, but I can use that tube in a lot of paintings that will hopefully sell, as opposed to forking my money over to a potential vanity project. Many of my works are priced between $500 to $800, and I frequently donate a portion of my profits to the charities that are listed on my website. I have yet to learn where all the fair and competition fees go.
The biggest free competition generating buzz right now is Art Takes Time Square because of the potential of having art on all of those billboards. I hope to win (http://sharikantor2.artistswanted.org/atts2012), but it's doubtful because it often seems like those who are praised/promoted produce visually arresting work that is jarring, dark, stressful, cacophonic or some combination thereof. Most of my paintings are vividly cheerful abstracts. Do you know how hard it is to get people to buy vibrant, happy abstracts instead of depressing statement pieces? Or to become known by large groups of influential people like the ones reading this article?
Unlike some of my friends, I have no qualms about promoting my art and myself. Yes, I would prefer it if respectable galleries and museums, dealers, curators, agents and publicists did it instead, but until then, I've embarked on a guerrilla marketing campaign to push my work. I'm using social media, trade shows, networking, postage, and yes, this article, to let the world know how fabulous my art is and that they will feel happy to own it. My campaign may backfire or offend some people, but I'm taking the risk because I believe in my art and in myself. I see how delighted people are when they view and purchase my art. Now I need a bigger stage. So do other unknown artists. You can support my artistic endeavors or you can try to ignore me, but I am a Red Fancy Deep, and it is my time to sparkle.