From the Editor’s Perch…

Selling Art

Creativity and Sales

Posture is Everything

SELLING

Selling is a great teacher.  And one thing selling has taught me is that in order for people to part with their money, they have to feel certain.  People must feel certain that what you are offering is what they need.  And people must feel certain that you can provide what you are offering.  After that, you are dickering over cost.

Of course, each of these factors bleed into one another.  But, what they all have in common is this feeling of certainty

This presents problems for the marketing of Art.  Because Art is full of questionables, imponderables, unnamables, inscrutables, immeasurables, unfathomables… the list is long.  But all have one thing in common: ‘uncertainty’. 

Now whether people are buying something or giving money away, they still want this sense of certainty that their assets are not being wasted.  So how does one go about selling Art?

Well, the only thing more uncertain than Art might be people.  And traditionally people are sold by dressing them up in certainties.  You dress successful; you act successful; you speak successful; you move successful; you associate with success – you appear successful… and you stand your best chance of being purchased successfully, because you have made people most certain of your success.

Art is sold in much the same way.  What is absolutely undefinable, unfathomable and inscrutable is dressed up in the certainties.  Let’s see how this applies to the theater.

Your average regional theater purchases successful produced plays to present; it uses successful authors; it hires successful directors and actors and set, sound and lighting people.  Its productions take place in up to date venues located in the better part of town.  It struggles to become the most prominent (successful) theater in town.  The more successful the theater appears, the more money it is given.  And the more money it has, the less risk it can afford to take.  Because, the rule is, you only spend your money with certainty.

CREATIVITY

The creative artist creates.  They are not re-iterative.  They lack production tools, marketing brio…  Everything is a prototype.  Nothing goes into production.  Once something has been produced, then the artist’s job is done. 

The creative artist tends to spurn the trappings of success, because trappings are hindering, because they are already known quantities, because they are certain.   The artist’s job is to pursue what is uncertain, ineffable, unknowable and caste it in the certain.  For example, we cannot wholly know a person – but we can write their speech.  We can record how they act.  We can illuminate and give insight.  We can create the feeling of certainty.  “They feel so real,” an observer might say, or even, “I knew that person.”  From immanence (pagan) or transcendence (Judeo-Christian), but more likely from some of both such certainties are sculpted.  The creative artist sculpts certainty from risk.  And because money is shy of risk; money necessarily skirts the creative.  It is a very great artist indeed who can create the certain as a naked thing, and just walk them out of the sea.  Even the best often must dress them in some fashionable garb or another.

So, okay.  I’ll cut right to the chase and say, yes, money is good for Selling; but it’s bad for Creativity.  So the next time your hear your local Arts organizations lamenting the fact of there being no money out there for the Arts…  just think:  Maybe bad for them, but good for us!

Photo by Carl Nelson

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4 Responses to “From the Editor’s Perch…”

  1. Donn Trenton Says:

    An insightful essay on the vagaries of certainty contrasted in the world of art versus the world of the creative artist. Your observations on the importance of certainty in sales were startling–but then I know nothing of sales!

  2. fishclamor Says:

    excellent points, carl. thank you for writing this. i happened to read it when i needed to! you write nice essays, too! thank you 🙂

    –fish clamor

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