How to get publicity as an artist
In the summer of 2005, the Oregonian’s art critic David Row wrote an article about the art dealer Tracy Savage. The piece described how Savage was moving her art space over to the east side of Portland even though she had been quoted as calling that half of the city the “twilight zone” just a few years before in another article by the same critic. When I read the 2005 article, I was annoyed. I distinctly remembered that Savage had called the east side the “bogey land” in the 2003 piece because it amused me to use Savage’s insult to refer to that half of the city (I moved there in 2004). I wasn’t about to let this misquote of a quote go unremarked. I emailed Row immediately.
In the end, it turned out that I was wrong: Savage had in fact reffered to the east side of the river as the “twilight zone”—I confirmed this by checking on microfiche at the library. But I was okay with being wrong. By putting my foot in my mouth, I had introduced myself to Portland’s primary art critic, and he had asked to visit my studio.
Before writing to Row to correct him, I had never met him, and every press release I had sent him had been ignored. Soon after dropping by my studio, Row mentioned my paintings in an article about another artist’s work, and I’m certain he played a part in having this article written about my own work.
Getting publicity as an artist is like everything else in an artist’s career or in any kind of career: it’s about relationships. And, while I wouldn’t recommend picking a fight with a critic in order to get her-him to look at your work, I do think that there’s something to be said for trying to engage with critics about the work that they do instead of the work that you want them to be writing about. However you choose to do it, making yourself seem more like a person and less like an anonymous press release is a very good idea.