In his book Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains that some systems become more resilient and work better as they experience stress and chaos. Certain kinds of artmaking tends to behave in an antifragile manner. When randomness and chaos is introduced into the process, the art thrives and just works.
I want to help artists build antifragile businesses. I want to help artists as a group become more antifragile. In order to do that I think the art community needs two things: community and more control over diversified income streams.
Yesterday we held our first TAA Community call. We facilitated breakout sessions with three artists in each room and asked artists to introduce themselves, their art, and something they need help with or can help others with in about 5 minutes per room.
We then brought everyone back into the main room and asked them to share some things that they learned from other artists. I’ll share a few takeaways:
- It’s very easy to feel isolated as an artist, and it’s gotten worse since Covid
- Selling art in person is easier, but reaching people and building an audience works a lot better if it includes online marketing
- Street fairs and casual parties often sell better than white box gallery shows
- We’re going to do more of these kinds of community calls. More to come on that soon. We’re most likely going to organize an artist show & tell event where artists can show their art, practice a 2-3 minute pitch, and then answer questions and get feedback on their pitch.
These kinds of experiments are a lot of fun for me. I love working with artists and helping them develop their marketing pitch.
Related to that last bullet point: one of our course alumni recently held a backyard party where he displayed his art and sold five original pieces. No white box. No critics. Just inviting his friends and collectors to a party. His costs included renting tables and chairs and buying some food.
He stays connected with these folks between events and shows in two ways: email and Instagram. He sends a newsletter 3-4 times per month, includes his kid in his Instagram, and spends significant time messaging with his community. They know him and he knows them. His work is ubiquitous in his community.
Yesterday an artist told me she’d spent six months in a marketing training program and thousands of dollars traveling the art fair circuit and hadn’t sold anything.
The contrast between these two things is really stark to me. Granted, the backyard party artist has been building his following for years, but it’s hard to see that contrast and not want to tell artists that the system is geared towards helping the gallery and festival creators make money and may not work for you.
Artists need ways to perform small experiments and get feedback quickly so they can iterate on what works and stop doing what doesn’t work. Just like artmaking.
Learning how to tell your story in an authentic and compelling way and then building relationships with collectors over the long term is how you build an antifragile art business. You create a community of people who want to see you succeed and will in fact check in with you when something major happens – like when some collectors actually bought more art when Covid hit.