One of the many things I love about running my art marketing services business is that I’m constantly learning. I routinely discover new and better ways for artists to market their art, and I’m dedicated to sharing these great ideas as they come to me. That’s why I want to tell you about a conversation I recently had with one of the leading artists in the U.S. The topic? Curating websites.
I love the word “curating.” It implies connoisseurship, a careful selection of only the best. It also connotes a whole that’s greater than the sum of its’ parts, a cohesive message that’s communicated when all of the pieces live together beautifully. It’s a concept I think all artists need to apply to their portfolio websites, just as my friend, the top-notch artist and marketer, does with his website. According to this artist, curating includes two important phases: selecting and organizing.
Let’s talk about selecting first. I think this is one of the toughest things for us artists to do with our own work, but it’s essential to be completely honest with ourselves. We all have a tendency to see positive aspects in nearly every piece we create, concluding that even the ones that are “pretty good” are worthy of offering for show and sale. “You never know. Someone might like it,” we tell ourselves. Occasionally, we also develop fond feelings toward a work of art, usually because we love the subject (favorite vacation spot, favorite flower, favorite animal, favorite grandchild… just kidding) or because the piece represents some kind of breakthrough in our artistic development.
If your portfolio website features more than 50 or 60 pieces, chances are good that it includes some of these “pretty good” works or sentimental favorites. Bottom line, it’s time to pull those out. Your portfolio should include nothing but the absolute best of your recent (as in last three to five years) work. You should also have a much greater number of works available for sale and far fewer sold pieces. If you’re concerned that 50 to 60 examples of your work is not enough, consider this: Museums typically show only 10% of the works in their collections. They show only their best acquisitions, and they rotate those masterpieces on and off view. If you want to look like an absolute pro, treat your website the same way.
Once you’ve narrowed down to 50 or 60 pieces—or less!—it’s time to decide how to organize them. You have several options. Some obvious choices are to categorize them by subject, medium, series, or perhaps style (for those artists who work in more than one style). I don’t recommend categorizing by year created because viewers might wonder why older works haven’t sold. But here’s the thing that my successful artist friend told me: Before you choose an organizational scheme, think carefully about how those works look together. Most websites take visitors to a page of thumbnails before giving them the option to look at a selected image at a large size. So choose an organizational system that will allow you to create a page of thumbnails that look fantastic together, even if it means choosing a seemingly “random” method based entirely on how each group looks in context with one another.
Considering how much effort you put into getting visitors to come to your website, you want to give them the best possible impression of your work when they get there. Take the time to curate your work. Be judicious in your selections, and organize them with an eye toward making beautiful, attention-getting collections. What other tips do you have for curating your artwork? Let’s connect!
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