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Art Marketing: Wanted: Promotional Opportunities That Simply Drop Into Artist's Laps

Maybe today will be the day something big finally happens after all your hard work. You make a nice cup of coffee and settle down to read your incoming messages.

You secretly hope that you’ll get one that says, ”You are a fabulous artist and we want your art!”

Maybe one like this e-mail with has a proper address and full signature block, so you go ahead and open it:

My name is ABC, and I am the publicist/curator for DEF Arts Magazine in GHI City. I came across your art work and found it quite striking. I would be very interested in representing some of your pieces in our magazine and our LMN area gallery.

I would like to include a selection of your work in the upcoming issue of DEF Arts Magazine, both in print and online, as well as physically displayed in our Gallery.

This would be a unique opportunity to display your work. There is a production fee that would cover the costs for the print, online, and gallery campaign for a full year.

You can take a look at our gallery website at <clickable DEF web URL>

Please email me so I can send you an attached document which can also be viewed through our website to view the full publicity proposal and exhibition invitation.

Looking forward to working with you,
Best Wishes,
<Signed with full contact information and links to web site>

So, if you got this, what would you be thinking?

Maybe “Wow, they want my work! I could get a show in a gallery in a prized location. Not only that they have a magazine!”

That’s my client did at first. Then she remembered to take a closer look at requests like this before she spends time, money and energy. This could be an opportunity, but only if the result is more audience, money or fun.

So she answered, “Please send me the specifics of your promotional package, the costs and why you think my art would be a good fit for your gallery.”

I suggested that she also copy and paste the magazine and gallery names into a web browser to see what she could learn online. The gallery turned out to be on an upper floor of a building. The magazine was really more of a catalogue of the work shown there than a publication that might be found on a newsstand. Not a prime location or publicity vehicle so far.

As you read the following reply, ask yourself what conclusions you would draw, and what would you do?

Great to hear back from you! I am excited to collaborate with you and would love to learn more about your work. I feel that each piece holds alot of attention to detail. You use color and form stimulates the eye and the mind. I find your work to be fresh and contemporary, for instance your piece OPQ has alot of color and form to it, brings attention to the eye as well as piece RST.

I am working with the owner of DEF Arts Magazine and we would like to publish a full page of your work in print and online. In addition, I want to exhibit your work at LMN Gallery, representing your work for an entire year. This is a strong opportunity to promote and present your art. The fee for a full year of publicity and promotion is $1,900. This includes both online and print media, as well as, publishing and production costs.

Here is a sample of our work with UVW Artist.

Please click this link to a PDF for the full publicity proposal and exhibition invitation.  I have also attached an artist's information form. If you would like to get online exposure immediately, I am happy to deliver this to the editor right away.
We look forward to working with you.
Kind Regards,

The reply is cordial and well written, and now the artist has more information to add to the preliminary web search:

  • This is not a commercial gallery where artists are paid a commission for work on consignment. The opportunity is what I call “pay to play.”
  • The value of the offer is unknown until the artist contacts previous artists on the web site to learn how they fared -not just the one mentioned who is clearly going to say good things.
  • According to the more detailed PDF, the fee quoted is for the low end of the “opportunity” and involves just enough room to display one medium sized piece of art. No mention of a reception, postcard mailing, social media blitz.

I thought my client could do better by investing the promotional fee in marketing her three upcoming local shows. But, she protested, “It would give me a prestigious city name and gallery to add to my resume and that way folks in my area would think I am more important.”

Perhaps, but you (and any reputable gallery or knowledgeable collector) would know the truth. You’d also be at least $1900 out of pocket, plus shipping and insurance costs two ways, for no guarantee that anyone would see the art. Then add the cost of attending the opening reception, if there is to be one. That’s a lot of money for questionable bragging rights.

Of course, this kind of request gives you a warm feeling so enjoy it while it lasts, but don’t get burned. Several artists came to me after paying a $5000 non-refundable fee for a similar “exclusive” representation for two years. They all wished that they had done more investigation before signing on the bottom line.

That’s not to say that this offer is a scam because the terms are clearly stated. It’s simply another business model for art sales, commonly known as a “vanity gallery” because the artist buys wall space to display their art.

You might able to leverage this offer into something that does generate sales for you. I’m just saying that if it seems to good to be true, it often is.

So please be careful out there. Do your research before you sign any contracts or hand over your hard earned art money.

P.S. If you’d like another pair of eyes to look over any tantalizing offers to give you more exposure for your art, please contact me at There’s nothing I like better than to help you keep more money in your pocket.

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