Inside the Gallerist’s mind…. advice for artists

Today I was lucky enough to be amongst a selected group of artists invited to this insightful discussion with Fraser Kee Scott. In the artistic spirit of sharing and collaboration, you’ll find my learnings below…

Amongst his achievements Fraser Kee Scott has been a gallery Director for over 13 years, putting on exhibitions in Embassy’s in America, on Pall Mall and the City as well as maintaining his Wimbledon gallery. Currently Director of A Gallery, he has launched careers including GQ’s Art Issue’s Man of the Month – Killers album artist Paul Normansell (*amazing painter check out his site http://www.paulnormansell.com/). He has also promoted Thomas Ostenberg as well as the Stuckists. He tells us he is about to open a gallery in New York, looking forward to it!

I  summarise some of the things he said here.

There are 4 key things that an artist needs to tackle in order to progress their career:

1. The very first thing you notice about an artwork is it’s technical skill. There’s no point having an exciting message or concept if it is not skillfully presented. Every artwork should blow people away. (I love this- what’s the point in making work unless you try and make it ALL mind blowing? And it’s more satisfying that way too.)

The interesting thing about this – as Fraser pointed out – is that we all go to art school as painters/artists, and are systematically taught to forget how to paint/sculpt/draw. He suggests this does not prepare us for the commercial art world, and what we should really think about is what engages people (not art critics)…  how refreshing to hear that from a gallery Director.

2. Fraser says ethics are very important. Are we being true to our artist selves? Are we following our hearts? Are we conducting good relationships with those around us? Artists are very important, we keep the world alive by pumping culture and interest into it. “Think of a world without art, music, literature”, he says.

3. Make sure you surround yourself with the right kind of people. Because of the stigma of art, the ‘promotion’ aspect, the press side of things, it’s easy to find that negative or destructive people are attracted to you, people who may be critical in a non-constructive way, jealous, or just generally negative. (we all have one of these, even if it’s just a friend/family member who doesn’t believe in art). Fraser was keen to stress that these negative influences should be avoided or managed, because the artist’s work and creativity is really quite fragile, when it comes down to it.

“Creativity is sanity (Insanity is destruction)”.

This is my favourite quote of the day. It helps artists un-pigeonhole themselves as mad-folk, and is also true quite literally! Plus an artist knows exactly what it feels like to not be able to create.

Surrounding ourselves with the right network of people who can be truly helpful is the way forward. The right galleries, the right contacts, the right professionals, the right circles.

4. Fame and attention. Fraser was quick to admit that although skillful work is key, you need to keep getting attention, and this is where the press and marketing side comes in. There’s so much information out there that an artist needs to differentiate themselves and make themselves seen. Price is based on fame, how well known are you? Value is essentially based on supply and demand, and making ourselves unique and therefore rare. And demand is based on exposure, i.e. attention.

Some of the ways he suggested artists can achieve this:

  • Work hard,  make mind blowing art, get a great gallery onboard and  great professionals around you
  • Have solo shows
  • Keep aligning yourself with well known brands/people/etc: positioning. (Especially if you are emerging/unknown, align and associate with something known.)
  • Outflow=inflow (e.g. contacting people by email/newsletters=receiving enquiries/placing artworks)
  • Concentrate on people who will communicate for you (i.e. galleries, press) with those you want to engage (i.e. collectors)
  • Write down your ideal of what you want to achieve, and then turn this into goals, subgoals, and strategies to achieve this.
  • Direct all your energy and effort towards these
  • Get the work to important people
Lots of great advice and interesting thoughts. Thanks Fraser and thanks to Debut Contemporary for arranging the talk.
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2 Comments

  1. Hi Nicola! This is fantastic. Thanks for sharing this great Fraser Kee Scott discussion with lots of other artists through your blog. I so agree with the whole “why make art if it doesn’t blow you away” part! (Let me be quick to add that personally, I can guarantee that not EVERY one of my pieces makes it all the way to whoa! But they were all aiming for whoa! when created.) 🙂

    Really loved this part too: “…what we should really think about is what engages people (not art critics)… how refreshing to hear that from a gallery Director.”

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