Art Industry Networking: Tips for Building Connections

Photo above: Spider Web Installation by Tomás Saraceno; Photo Credit: Paul Keller

There is one artist whose installations I immediately associate with networking. Tomás Saraceno’s mesmerizing spiderweb installations serve as a tangible representation of how countless tiny connections culminate in a vast, interconnected network—a metaphor that resonates deeply with the essence of networking in the art industry.

Networking in the art industry is a vital aspect of advancing your career and gaining recognition for your work. Whether you’re an emerging artist seeking representation or a professional looking to expand your reach: meaningful connections will open doors to opportunities and collaborations.

Here are my four essential tips for effective networking in the art world:

1 – Attend Events: Art exhibitions, gallery openings, art fairs, and cultural events serve as hubs for networking in the art industry. Theys bring together artists, curators, collectors, and other professionals, providing valuable opportunities to connect and exchange ideas. Go to such events regularly, you can expand your network, stay updated on industry trends, and forge new relationships that may lead to future collaborations or opportunities.


2 – Use Social Media: Instagram is still rising as the leading social media for buying Art (Hiscox online art trade report 2023). By actively participating in online communities, following relevant artists, galleries, and organizations, and sharing your own work, you can increase your visibility and establish meaningful connections. But be careful in choosing the right channel and don’t use too many as you will lose focus.

My tipp: Start with Instagram and focus on this channel only unless producing social media content comes super naturally to you.


3 – Join Art Organizations: Art organizations, associations, and clubs offer great resources and networking opportunities for artists and industry professionals. Whether local or international, these groups provide a platform for artists to connect, share knowledge, and collaborate on projects. By joining art organizations relevant to your interests or practice, you can gain access to a supportive community, attend meetings, workshops, and networking events, and build relationships with peers and mentors who can offer guidance and support.


4 – Maintain Relationships: Building and maintaining strong relationships is THE key to successful networking in the art industry. Beyond making initial connections, it’s essential to nurture and sustain these relationships over time.

My tipp: Follow up with contacts after meetings or events, express genuine interest in their work, and stay connected through regular communication. By building meaningful connections based on mutual respect and support, you can cultivate a network of collaborators, mentors, and supporters who can contribute to your artistic growth and success.


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Mastering Lead Generation for the Art Market: Tips for Success

While inflation rates rise and markets falter, the art market continues to boom. After COVID, fairs are taking place again, art lovers can travel, and exhibitions are being visited. However, Corona and the rapid digitalization have contributed to a rapid change in the art market. The requirements of buyers have changed, as well as the opportunities to find and address buyers. The business is now more international and digital. The rapid change is overwhelming as well as promising!

What marketing channels are interesting and relevant for galleries and art dealers? What are the biggest challenges? The Marketing Report of the company Hubspot for the year 2023 shows:

The biggest challenges that companies worldwide will face in 2023 are generating traffic and leads.

What does that mean?

Reaching as many people as possible and generating their data or information so that they can be contacted and, ideally, “converted” into customers.

Lead generation can be done in two ways: digitally or analogously.

Digitally, by directing people to one’s own website through ads on Google, social media, or through digital clippings (interviews, reports). Ideally, to a page that matches the ad or clipping in content. And where the visitor is then visibly invited to leave their contact information (name and email).

Analogously, one should try to generate contact information at every opportunity where one encounters potential art enthusiasts.

By asking the conversation partner for their business card at events or fairs, which is the classic way. Or by laying out a list at the opening.

But this is not the most sophisticated way of generating leads: who voluntarily signs up for a list that is lying around somewhere in the room? Is someone keeping an eye on that happening?

Have you ever tried to station a colleague at the entrance of the gallery who welcomes every visitor and, as a condition for entry, enters their contact information directly into the gallery’s database? Via laptop or iPad? The visitor can even do it himself. He should click the checkbox to receive the newsletter, too. Win Win! This is already such a common practice at many events, so why shouldn’t you adopt this procedure for lead generation for your gallery?

I highly recommend brainstorming as a team for half an hour, identifying “lead generation opportunities”. And thinking about how to react in each situation or opportunity to achieve the goal of getting the data of the respective person.

What approach is convincing and charming?

So that it sounds like a real opportunity? “We have a pre-event in two weeks in a small setting and I would love to invite you.” “Do you already know our limited special editions? We only sell them to our customer base. I would be happy to add you to our database so that you automatically receive an email when there is a limited edition again.”

Keep brainstorming, there are so many convincing arguments.

This is just a brief overview of the possibilities that exist for lead generation. They are diverse and it is very worthwhile to always keep in mind that contacts in the art market form the basis of your business model.

Art is a product that you don’t buy en passant, some customers take years before they finally buy a piece from you. So make sure that customers are always reminded that you exist!

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Crafting Your Art Market Narrative: Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Storytelling
Annika Wittrock Art Market Storytelling

Kehinde Wiley is a remarkable storyteller, and I will tell you why that is. Let’s take a close look at his unique approach to portraiture:

  1. Reimagining Art History: Wiley’s work often reimagines traditional portraiture by featuring contemporary Black subjects in poses and settings reminiscent of historical European paintings. Through this juxtaposition, he challenges historical narratives and questions the absence of Black figures in classical art, thereby telling a story of inclusion, representation, and empowerment.
  2. Empowerment through Representation: Wiley’s portraits depict individuals from marginalized communities—particularly young Black men and women—in positions of power and dignity. By portraying his subjects with regal poses and vibrant, ornate backgrounds, he elevates their presence and asserts their importance in the cultural narrative. In doing so, he tells a story of resilience, strength, and beauty within communities often overlooked or misrepresented.
  3. Interplay of Identity and Culture: Wiley’s portraits are deeply rooted in exploring identity and cultural heritage. He often incorporates symbols, clothing, and accessories that reflect the subject’s personal identity and cultural background. Through these visual cues, he tells stories of cultural pride, heritage, and the complexities of identity in contemporary society.
  4. Global Perspective: Wiley’s artistic practice extends beyond the boundaries of the United States, with projects that involve collaborating with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds around the world. Through these collaborations, he tells stories that transcend borders and celebrate the diversity of human experience on a global scale.
  5. Dialogue with the Viewer: Wiley’s portraits invite viewers to engage in a dialogue about representation, power dynamics, and the construction of identity. By presenting his subjects in larger-than-life scale and with commanding gazes, he compels viewers to confront their own preconceptions and biases, fostering empathy and understanding across cultural divides.

Kehinde Wiley’s art goes beyond mere representation—it challenges historical narratives, celebrates cultural diversity, and empowers marginalized communities. Through his innovative approach to portraiture, he creates visual narratives that resonate deeply with viewers, inviting them to reconsider their understanding of history, identity, and representation in contemporary society.

“Marketing is not anymore about the stuff you do but the stories you tell” is the quote of a famous marketeer, Seth Godin. What he wants to tell us with it, is that today we are accustomed to processing an enormous amount of information in a short amount of time through various channels. Whereas in the past, we would be confronted with three commercials during a movie break, today there are hundreds of brand messages that reach us more or less directly through Twitter, Instagram, Google, our email inbox, and so on.

Storytelling is the new way for good digital marketing. It is mainly images that are anchored in people’s minds. “Images are processed between 6 and 600 times faster than language.”

There are many stories out there, you may think. Surely, you regularly talk to customers in your gallery or at an art fair and have a sales conversation. Good gallery owners are good salespeople. They should know how to tell good stories that also work in marketing, right?

Not entirely: Storytelling means building an emotional connection with your target audience first, and then using it to “sell” in the second step.

Here are my suggestions for 4 Do’s and Don’ts you should consider when it comes to good art market storytelling:

The 4 Don’ts for Effective Storytelling

1 – Speaking to customers in jargon

While it’s important to showcase your expertise and knowledge as an artist or gallerist, using jargon and technical language can be confusing and alienating for potential buyers. Instead, try to communicate your ideas in clear and accessible language that everyone can understand.

2- Confusing storytelling with a sales pitch

While the ultimate goal of storytelling in the art market is to sell art, it’s important to avoid making your story sound like a sales pitch. Instead, focus on sharing your personal journey, inspirations and motivations, and let your potential buyers draw their own conclusions.

3 – Talking about something “cool” that happened recently

While it’s great to share exciting news and updates with your audience, it’s important to keep in mind that not everything that’s “cool” to you will be relevant or interesting to your potential buyers. Instead, try to focus on insights and perspectives that can help them better understand your art and connect with your story.

4 – Not knowing what your customers want and not addressing it

Finally, it’s essential to understand your potential buyers’ needs, preferences and interests, and tailor your storytelling accordingly. If you’re not sure what your audience is looking for, try to engage with them through social media, surveys or other channels, and use their feedback to inform your storytelling approach.

The 4 Dos for Effective Storytelling

1 – Speak in images

Rather than relying on dry descriptions or explanations, try to communicate your ideas through vivid and evocative imagery.

2- Leave room for imagination

Leave room for imagination: While it’s important to convey your message clearly, it’s also crucial to leave some space for your audience’s own interpretations and experiences. This can create a more dynamic and engaging dialogue between you and potential buyers.

3 – Be honest, talk about yourself

Authenticity is key when it comes to storytelling. Be true to yourself and your art, and avoid exaggerating or inventing details that don’t align with your personal narrative. This will help you to build trust and establish a genuine connection with your customers.

4 – Be constructive

Storytelling is not just about self-expression – it’s also an opportunity to inspire and educate your audience. Use your platform to share insights, perspectives and ideas that can help your audience to better appreciate your art and the wider cultural context in which it exists.

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How to use Social Media for your Art Business

Social media has become an increasingly important tool for galleries and businesses in the art market over the years. It allows them to reach their customers, create relationships, and increase their exposure. With the right social media marketing strategy, art galleries have the potential to reach new audiences, promote their brand, and drive sales.

When engaging in social media marketing, galleries should focus on creating compelling content that captivates their audience. This can be done by providing helpful advice and valuable information related to the art market, as well as visually stimulating images or videos. It’s also important to blog regularly and share this content across all the main social.


1 – Determine Your Goals

The first step in creating an effective social media marketing strategy is to determine what you want to achieve. What are your goals – do you want to increase brand awareness, drive more traffic to your website, or increase engagement with your existing customers? This will help you focus and tailor your content.


2 – Know your target audience

The second step in creating an effective social media strategy is to identify your target audience. Who are your customers and what type of content will they engage with? Knowing your target audience will help you create content that resonates with them and also determine which platforms and channels will be most effective for you to use.

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3 – Choose the right channel(s)

Choosing the right channels for your social media strategy is essential for maximizing your online presence and reaching your target audience effectively. You habe now identified your business goals and the demographics of your ideal audience. Different social media channels have unique strengths and are preferred by different demographics. For example, TikTok is popular among younger audiences: Do you reach the customers you need that have interest in your art and the money to purchase it?

Be bold and leave out social media channels. Instead, focus on a channel that precisely matches your goals and target audience, and play it professionally. By strategically selecting, you can optimize your reach and engage your target audience more effectively.


4 – Create a content strategy

The next step is to create an engaging content strategy. This includes brainstorming ideas for content that will be interesting and engaging to your target audience. Also take into account the type of content that works best for each platform. Planning out in advance what kind of content you will be sharing on each platform can help make sure that you are staying consistent.

Showcase your art: Share high-quality photos and videos of the artworks in your gallery. Provide background information, such as the artist’s name, medium, and inspiration behind the artwork. This helps to educate and engage your audience.

Share behind-the-scenes glimpses: Offer a sneak peek into the artist’s creative process or show what goes on behind the scenes of your gallery, such as preparations for an exhibition.

Highlight events and exhibitions: Use social media to promote upcoming exhibitions, art fairs, or other events related to your gallery.

Use a consistent style and voice: Use a consistent visual style and tone of voice across all social media channels to build a strong brand identity for your gallery.


5 – Engage with your customers

The fifth step for a good social media strategy is to actively engage with your customers. This can include responding to comments, answering queries, and providing helpful advice related to the art market. Additionally, you can also use social media as a platform to promote specific events or new artworks, or simply as a way to stay connected with your community. Engaging with your audience is key in order to build relationships and keep them coming back for more.


6 – Measure and analyze

The fifth and final step is to measure and analyze your results. This is where you can determine whether or not your social media marketing strategy is successful.  By analyzing and measuring your social media channels, you can gain valuable insights into your audience and their behaviors, and optimize your social media strategy for the best results. There is no need to pay for expensive third party tools in the beginning. Use analytics tools provided by the social media platforms, such as Facebook Insights or Instagram Insights. These tools provide detailed data on your audience demographics, reach, engagement, and content performance.

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How to build up a marketing strategy for your art business

Good art marketing is often said to be a budget issue. Where there is no budget for a marketing professional, good marketing cannot take place. However, this budget is missing for smaller galleries.

In addition to the countless daily tasks that business managers, sales directors and/or gallery assistants must acquire, marketing is another competence that has to be professionalized. How is this supposed to work?

The good news is that marketing is not a science that one has to have studied.

Marketing is not magic. Yes, it requires work, but, above all, a good strategy!

With a good strategy, you can do good art marketing without professional staff and large budgets – and grow sustainably.

What many teams however do wrong: they lack this concrete strategy!

They do not know their goals and simply try to keep up with the rapidly moving market and digitalization. TikTok? Big museums are doing that now, we need that too! Instagram? Must Have! Virtual gallery tours? Absolutely! But what specific goal are they pursuing with it?

Let’s take a quick step back to ask ourselves one important question:

What is marketing actually about?

No, it is not about stocking an Instagram channel with appealing pictures, regularly organizing exhibitions and sending an invitation to the existing customer base.

Marketing is about reaching more people, converting them into new customers and bringing existing customers back to purchase!

The first is called “generating leads”, the second is called “retention”. To do this successfully, you have to know your goals exactly. Generating leads, for example, works very differently from retention marketing.

If you know your goals, you can more easily break down the required measures necessary to achieve your goals.

From top to bottom! Without a strategy and goal agreements, which is what so many companies do wrong, marketing will be empty.

For example, a new customer is much more than a achieved sales of X euros. Would it not be exciting to find out how much it costs to acquire a new customer? How much marketing budget is needed? Would it not be interesting to find out where the new customers come from, what their interests are, how old they are, how they are socialized? And would it not be especially interesting to find out where and how to reach these new customers?

For example: If you know that you have never sold art on Instagram, but that art sales are usually generated through the website; if you know that the process of the transaction on the website is cumbersome and involves a high organizational effort for the team … then it makes sense to set the goal of revising the website and prioritizing this process – before caring for an attractive Instagram channel.

If you know that you attract many visitors to the website, for example, through Google search, links or social media – but that these leave again without making a purchase – it makes sense to set the goal of improving the conversion rate on the website.

Or, if you know exactly who your top customers are and what artists or art they are interested in, it makes sense to inform these top customers individually about current works rather than sending them general newsletters. What I mean by this:

Every company, every art dealer, every gallery is different: the goal is therefore to find out which marketing tools work for your own company.

And professionalize them. A continuous, goal-oriented optimization process leads to long-term success and revenue, rather than having to dance aimlessly at all weddings.

These are my tips for a good art marketing strategy:

1 – Be open to change

The rapidly moving art market and rapid digitization require quick adaptability. I still frequently observe a lack of willingness to change on the art market. The excuse “we’ve always done it this way and it’s always worked out well” no longer applies. At the latest since Covid and the loss of fairs and gallery visitors, it should be clear to everyone that it is an advantage to be able to respond quickly to changes.

2 – Know your customers

Customers are the A and O of successful marketing. The better you know them, the more precisely you can address them and do good marketing. Their data, their purchasing behavior, and their “user behavior”, meaning the way they move around your gallery, on your website, in your newsletter, give insight into possible re-purchases and possible new customers.

3 – Solve concrete problems

An example: you observe that your high-priced works are only bought by existing customers? That the majority of your address data is art lovers who regularly come to openings and visit your newsletter, but never buy? Then you should think about a low-priced “entry-level product”.

4 – Develop a clear positioning

… to stand out from the competition! The clearer your customers know what they get from you and nowhere else, the better!

5 – Analyze your data

As mentioned above: the behavior of your customers, your “users”, allows you to draw valuable conclusions about your marketing strategy. You don’t have to subscribe to expensive tracking tools and be a Google Analytics expert! Simple data such as the opening rate of the newsletter or the duration of the website visit are already a very good start.

6 – Define clear goals

Based on the information and data you collect and analyze, you can formulate clear goals that will help you plan concrete measures and their scope, and calculate the resulting costs/budgets. They will help you plan the business year in advance.

7 – Develop a marketing plan

Does everyone in the team know what to do? A good plan is not only the A and O for good marketing. But also the A and O for a smooth and organized workflow. This saves time and resources and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

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