Yesterday I mentioned the importance of having your work available online. Today I'm going to expand on that and give two reasons why I think this is important.
MAKE LIFE EASY FOR CURATORS - THEY LIKE THAT!
Things have changed in the art world: I believe that curators increasingly expect to be able to find information about artists online. Of course, it could just be me, I am very immersed in the net, having been online for about 12 years at this point. However, I personally know several other curators who take a similar approach to me.
That's not to say that curators primarily look for artists online yet (although I know at least one who does) but I believe curators are using the web to expand their knowledge of an artist who has come to their attention.
When I'm curating an exhibition, I still advertise for artists through print media and expect artists to send me postal applications. However, if I get a postal application and I'm interested in the work, my next step is always to Google the artist's name to see if I can find more images of their work. I won't discriminate against an artist if they're not online but it does make it harder for me to accurately judge their work.
In an exhibition application it's usual for the curator to set limits on the number of images that an artist should send. Briefs typically say something like "10 images max" and it can often be less than ten. This is to prevent curators being absolutely inundated in stuff: if you get 50-70 applications for an exhibition you simply don't want to look at every single piece of work each individual artist has ever done!
However, it's quite difficult to judge an artist from 10 imges or less, a CV and an artists' statement. So I Google. Googling artists puts an artist in context for me and expands on the information that they've already sent me, allowing me to make a fairer and more informed judgement about their work. It also allows me to make my own judgement on which piece to include. Sometimes an artist will send me images of what they think is their best piece but if I can see more of their work online, I might find a piece that is actually much more appropriate for the show I'm trying to curate. That can make the difference between being included in a show and being turned down.
So can you see how having a visible online presence can widen the odds for you?
LET OTHER PEOPLE DO YOUR PROMOTION FOR YOU
By being visible online (under your professional name, of course), you allow other people to do your promotion for you. This works largely through the medium of blogging, although occasionally artists are picked up by the larger mainstream media because a story about them has appeared online.
British artist Lauren Porter got global media attention when she made a lifesize knitted Ferrari for her degree show at Bath Spa University.
Now I don't know whether she first got attention in the mainstream media and it then spread online or if it was the other way round but either way, the fact that photos of her work were available online meant that it was very easy for bloggers and online communities to distribute the story. It went through the enormous online knitting community like wildfire but a quick look on Google shows that it was also linked in geek blogs, car enthusiast blogs (including the Ferrari Owners Club), craft blogs, art blogs, popular news blogs like Digg and even YouTube: the coverage was truly vast.
Visitors to her Bath Spa University degree show would probably have been in the hundreds, maybe as high as a thousand or so but I'm absolutely certain that millions of people saw her work in newspapers, magazines and online. What a way to start your art career!
Of course, Lauren's piece was an incredibly appealing story and wouldn't have been a hard sell in any media but I believe that any artist can find themselves being promoted by other people through the medium of blogs if they're doing interesting work. Even if you don't break out into the mainstream media, there are a large network of artist bloggers, some more influential than others, who will happily link to your art if you make it easy for them to do so.
Of course, being easily found online won't mean that you never have to do any promotion but it does mean that once you've started the ball rolling, other people might pick it up and run with it for you.
Neither of these things will help you if your work isn't any good: making good work must always be every artist's first priority. But if you've reached the stage where your work deserves a wider audience then building an online presence can help to give you a leg-up in the art world and may bring opportunities your way.
Building a visible online presence should never be all the promotion that you do but it should definitely be some of what you do. If you're not on Google then you're basically invisible in the modern world and artists who want to succeed just can't afford that.
Over the next few weeks, I plan to follow up this article with more detailed ones about how to create a visible online presence.
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