In 2008, Marina Press Granger was working at a New York art gallery. When she wasn’t turning around top-dollar sales, she looked to the internet on her screen—a time before Instagram existed—and started making a Facebook page for the gallery. “The gallerist was thrilled when someone wanted to buy something that we posted online,” recalls Granger. “It was the beginning of online sales in the art world.”
Today, Granger is the founder of an artist advisory company for artists. The Artist Advisory, based in New York City, helps artists thrive by teaching them the nitty gritty of online sales, gallery world politics, essential networking tips and actionable steps that leave the ‘starving artist’ cliché in the dust.
But an artist advisor is still relatively new to the art world. Sure, there are ‘artist coaches,’ which help boost creative juices for an artist, or ‘art advisors,’ who help art collectors build their art collections. An artist advisor, like Granger, signals a shift in the art world, as the power returning to the artists, who can manage much of their practice as any creative entrepreneur online would (and it’s similar to the fight that rapper Swizz Beatz is fighting for artists, as he is the founder of the No Commission art fair, where artists keep 100% of the profits from each artwork sold).
With art galleries and museums across the world closed due to the pandemic, most exhibitions have moved online, as part of the ‘online viewing room’ trend.
As she approaches her two year anniversary, and her new podcast, The Artist Advisory Hotline, Granger is working towards the launch of her summer course, The Artist Academy, next month. She took some time to explain how artists can thrive during quarantine with online sales through Instagram, networking and optimism.
Why did you decide to create The Artist Advisory?
Marina Press Granger: People started asking me for art world advice, so I thought, ‘I’m going to help artists market and brand themselves online because that’s how they are going to be seen by the world.’ I no longer wanted to see artists be treated like second class citizens, because they are the backbone of the art world.
How did it take off?
From my own research, I created a method of working with artists, then I started the business with one-on-one sessions with artists, creating a strategy so they can navigate the art world and work on their career trajectory. A lot of the time, artists are told what to do for the success of their career, but not everyone has to follow the same model. But they need to know how to continue after that.
What sets you apart from other similar business types?
I don’t take commissions, which removes my bias, they’re not making me money. I’m not selling their work. I’m not a manager or agent. There are plenty of artist coaches out there, I’m sure they’re great. But many have a background as being an artist, they know how to inspire, get creative juices flowing but they don’t know the business side like I do. I have an arsenal of experts behind me too, which I invite into academy guest lectures, curators, gallery directors, collectors, writers, publicists, all of which are featured on my podcast, too.
What have you seen in the gallery world that surprised you?
Traditional gatekeepers are no longer as powerful because they no longer keep the gate shut. It’s so much easier to get what you want, than you think it is. We put these barriers and obstacles to ourselves, ‘there’s no way I could get a solo show in New York City because I don’t have a master’s degree,’ but if you give yourself a professional title, and believe you can achieve these things, you will.
How can artists stay productive in quarantine?
We’re essentially isolated, we don’t have the same stimulus than before. As artists, you must always be aware of collective cultural conversation, what’s going on in the world. Set yourself a schedule that creates clear boundaries between studio time, hanging out with friends, business time. If you run your own business, 100% of the time, you’re going to get burned out. What are the number of hours you want to be in your studio? What can you do to keep your art career going? We cover these kinds of questions in my academy program.
How can an artist use Instagram to funnel sales?
What’s interesting is we hear the economy is in the dumpster. Many people are spending so much time at home right now. Affluent art collectors are still in a space to buy art, they want to fill empty walls, or have an empty space. They want you to consider its possible for you to sell art right now.
What could be holding them back?
In times like these, some artists might feel guilty selling art because it is not as essential as food or personal protective equipment, but you’re providing joy and respite for someone. There’s a domino effect there, it makes others happy. Make your website very clear as to what is sold and what is not sold. Almost nobody should have prices on their website if they’re working with a gallery, but a secret code to view a private viewing room. Make it easy for people to inquire on your website with an email address.
What’s one way an artist can get started right now?
Put together an online exhibition or invite a curator to curate a group show, which you can be part of. If there are 10 artists in a group show, that’s 11 mailing lists to get to be on, the more you share and the more you collaborate, the better. Even better if the sales from the online group show goes towards a cause, donating to a cause you believe in.
What is the key to selling your own art online?
Know what it feels like to live with your art, not hanging over a couch but installation view on white wall, show texture in work, creating a video tour of a sculpture so people can really see the details under different lights. When I work with clients, we work together on how to show their work online, whether it’s a video of an art studio in progress paintings on a website, to show the scale of how big a piece is, for example.
How do you help, in that respect?
I teach artists how to feel comfortable talking about their work, even if you don’t feel comfortable talking about your work, you can explain a perspective of how we could look at your work – why you make what you make, what interests you, the reader will create a personal connection with it. Always use social media as a funnel for your work. Often times, when you sell something, boast about it on social media. Don’t say the price but show us you sold something by getting it framed, or on the wall in its new home.
How are the most successful artists promoting themselves online?
The ones that make it easy to contact them. And collecting emails with a pop up ‘join my newsletter’ post for everyone who visits your website, who could be potential buyers. By offering a monthly newsletter with a private link to a product page to buy works of art, an artist might easily make a sale this way. I also suggest that artists focus on building relationships with potential collectors, and make it easy for them to buy your work, making it clear as to what’s available, what material, texture and size it is, and sharing on social media, “I just finished this painting,” for example.
How are you feeding a niche that has been overlooked?
The traditional gatekeepers in the art world are no longer holding the gates closed because of the internet. The internet burst those gates wide open for anyone and everyone in the art world to be in touch with any artist. I am helping artists with guidance on how to initiate and respond to these connections and how and who to build relationships with. Essentially, I am like an unbiased guidance counselor for the artist helping them get into the art world of their choice.
What can artists do to make money from home under quarantine?
Figure out what your intention is, why you make it and why it fits into the global conversation. You also have to get over self-imposed obstacles you have created for yourself, the top obstacle for artists is that they feel they’re going to be a starving artist. But you don’t have to be Jeff Koons to make a decent living – there are artists who do. There are many ways to make money, but you can’t make money if you don’t think you can. You don’t even need a gallery, but you could have one, and you don’t have to sell paintings off your website but could. Artists can be doing book covers, murals, illustrations for publications. As long as you value yourself and the work you do.
How can visual artists make money through Instagram?
Be clear about what your artwork is when presenting it online, it’s 100% about understanding who you want to look at your work. You can have a Shopify website to make your online sales seamless, and list all your artworks as products on your website. On social media, artists need to convey whatever their intention is of why they make their artwork, to say that in every social media post, say that everywhere, put it in your Instagram bio. People will buy or share your work.
What is the secret sauce here?
Community follows into every single step, it’s so important to articulate your intention, mindset and growing your community online. My students and I go through the Marina Method, my four-step program, then decide how to reach out to people. You don’t want to connect with people in a transactional way, but authentically. I build these career roadmaps for artists, They’re based on their community and growing it. Its key to be clear about one’s intention, what it is they want.