“It takes a lifetime to build trust and only a second to destroy it forever.”

backsideI have written previously about the art business as a con game.  Well here is a painting I know you will like. . .

Once, on a cruise ship, the auctioneer was angry that no one was bidding.  So he placed a painting backwards on an easel and assured his bored audience of its provenance, reading aloud what was printed in full justification on its backside.  The bids poured in, because apparently they preferred not to trust their own eyes. Their imaginings were far more compelling, when combined with a good story – a story which could be verified, one which generated trust.

So dear artists, turn your paintings over, and like small children, your buyers, trusting and believing they are getting an authentic artistic experience, will buy and never stop buying.

The above story and moral are very cynical, of course.  But there is some truth in it we should know about. Without a personal relationship to the brand, i.e. the compelling, authentic story of the person who is the artist, there can be no sale.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYour story, the story of you as an artist, is very important.  People must believe you are sincere and authentic and that your art is connected to your life.  There’s a good chance they will, if you believe it is. So create a business model that is authentic.  Once people sense that you are a slick business man, a super fantastic marketeer, tying to pull the wool over their eyes, you are sunk.  If you lie about an award, your education, where you’ve shown, the archival elements of your work, if you inflate your abilities, you will be found out. Never make a promise you cannot keep. Being polished is not a pre-requisite for success but an artist who lacks integrity, will never be taken seriously as a professional.

In a way, artists must have even more integrity than other professions, because there is very little regulation of the art business. I have seen far too many scams perpetrated by shifty artists or their reps. There are numerous examples where artists or galleries have breached the public trust, including the story above.

So we must self-regulate. If your prices are too low, or too high, fluctuate wildly, you will generate mistrust, not just for you but for others. You must be consistent in your business practices. If you are very versatile, that’s great. But if you can switch genres and styles that easily people may assume you are a charlatan.  You and your art are a brand.  People must know you by your style, if you want to be taken seriously.

I haven’t lasted 35 years in this business because I am a marketing genius, nor because I am a talented artist, but because I value people’s trust and work my tail off to win it. My efforts to communicate, advocate, to provide meaningful content and information, to be the best artist I can be, are meaningless if I have lost the buyer’s trust.

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