9 comments to Deep Thought Thursday: Art agents and reps
I’ve been an agent / manager for my artist husband for almost a decade. Since I’ve had so much success with him, I started representing other artists as well. But after a couple years I came to understand why many agent-artist ventures don’t work out.
There was one artist that I had a lot of success with, because he was focused, a hard worker, and produced a lot of art every day. He also had a great understanding of business. Eventually, I just mentored him and now he’s doing great on his own. But there were other artists that I worked with that didn’t want to put in the time required on their end, and the results reflected that.
Bottom line: Artists should learn to represent themselves as best they can. Once they get to a certain level of success, then it’s time to hire a full time manager or assistant.
Thanks so much for the link to your article. It helps us artists to understand what to expect on a venture such as this.
In art licensing, agents are very common for getting the work out there. They are the one that find the manufacturers and deal with all the logistics etc. It’s a different type of client (from the regular art buyers) and therefore much harder for the artists to get to work with. Although there are many successful artists who are not using licensing agents but do it on their own.
On another note, I just wrote on another blog how coaching might be important for artists. The analogy was athletes who spends many hours daily and are very dedicated to practice and they always have coaches to help them. I don’t know of any sport that does not require coaches…. So would that be similar in art? Yes, it might not be the job of an agent, or it might be a combination of agent/mentor, but for some reason it seems that visual artist culturally are “required” to be a one-man/woman-show. Maybe we are “taught” not to get the help that we need, instead of building a culture that will create a win-win situation….
Just my 2+ cents
I think the fallacy is that the agent WILL do all the work. As the creator, the artist still needs to be responsible for knowing where she wants to go, what kind and how much work she wants to produce, etc. The artist cannot just hand everything over and then sit back and rake in the rewards. It is a partnership as noted in the first coment here.
I agree that a coach can help the artist see her part in all this.
In order to be successful, artists must begin to see themselves as business people and (gasp, horrors!) marketeers if they want to make a living from their art.
I had the opportunity to be coached by Calvin Goodman for a couple of years and I learned a ton about how to promote my work. I also was mentored by Jack White – who takes a practical approach to selling art.
Artists do well to get a good academic education (unless they are able to teach themselves art principles) AND they also do well to get a good art marketing education. Calvin wasn’t responsible to sell my work – just coach me. Besides, art agents who just turn around and work with galleries take an extra percentage out of what the artist gets when the work is sold – and that hurts income levels for the creator of the work.
I like what Maria said above: when artists become successful, they can hire an assistant. I’ve seen artists like Clyde Aspevig do this, and it gives him time to paint. He also sells directly from his studio now.
like any other relationship, if a great artist meets the right representative, and both have a clear understanding of their common goals, strengths, weaknesses, and responsibilities, are willing to work very very hard and consistently, and value and respect each other, then the possibilities are unlimited. But, just as with any relationship, finding such a partner requires much self awareness and patience and a bit of good luck.
This is interesting. I have been working as a professional artist since my first solo show in 2006. I represented myself then, but I was helped by a business manager who helped come up with business ideas and close deals etc. That was his job, but we worked as a TEAM. I never expected him to do everything. We parted company, but after that, I worked alone, representing myself with the help of friends and family, BUT I ALWAYS maintained that at some point I would need to take on a manager to allow me more time to produce the work.
The time has come, and now i am working with said manager. We speak every day, we brainstorm, he attends meetings with me and helps negotiate deals. He is very knowledgeable about intellectual property having worked in the recording industry for MANY years. He knows what he is doing and although I know I can do this alone if necessary, I would not want to be without him. He has become an invaluable member of the Damoah Arts team. I do not pay him a salary, he gets a percentage of net sales receipts which suits both of us. The relationship is a strong and close one, which is necessary especially when when times get hard as they sometimes do.
Damien Hirst’s manager Frank Dunphy fulfills the same kind of functions, I have even nicknamed my manager Frank!
In short, what I am saying is you do not NEED a manager, but they can be a very very useful and worthwhile addition to help to promote your career and back you up with things that they are more experienced in doing. Never hand over so much control to another human being that they do everything for you. that is a dangerous place to be, rely on yourself first. Thats my opinion for what its worth
Thanks for all the great information!
Everything I have read in this site is very encouraging…Thank you. I a very hard working artist,basically a painter,and I am a recipient of a prestigious national award here in my country. I have just sent out my finished book/manuscript for publication. My actual concern is my new/latest invention…’THE ART KEEPER’S LAMP’, It is fast gaining grounds here in my country, and I have had 3 exhibitions so far,I have both foriegn and local clients. My career as a dedicated artist is growing fast, and I have reached a peak where my works need to be managed by those who are strictly arts agent/managers… I believe with all my heart that the lamps,which are very afrcan, and artistic in nature will receive more attention in the international market…. I will need to include some newer photographs of our carved lamps….and will notify you as soon as I do so. Please I need someone whom I can relate with to manage me/my works… I’ll do the works, let them handle all the exposures…exhibitions, etc. I am eagerly looking forward to your positive response.Thank you.