Surviving The Art World During A Crisis: A Crash Course For The Art Entrepreneur

Like all industries, the pandemic drove people in the art industry amok- however, this resulted in them working together and finding new ways of resurrecting, connecting, redefining, and stretching the commercial reach of art.

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By Sam Saliba


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If you are reading this and thinking that there's no such a thing as an art entrepreneur, let me first disprove you of that notion. There are, in fact, many business sectors within the art world: art consulting, art fabricating, galleries, individual freelance artists, designers, place makers, and more.

When 2021 slid into the limelight, a general cloud of fluffy wishes and optimistic delusion hooked its way into many of our creative, corporate ambitions. Hey, we can dream, given that the previous year, thanks to COVID-19, was like the dystopian world pictured in "Sin City," in dark mode for many industry sectors, and with the art world virtually on its knees.

Like all industries, the pandemic drove people in the art industry amok- however, this resulted in them working together and finding new ways of resurrecting, connecting, redefining, and stretching the commercial reach of art. Some were more ready than others, be it by taking their art platforms online, or by changing target markets/creative offerings.

A lesser known fact is that the creative industry roams, in a kind of "stealth mode," across a very large market terrain. Art can be found in many places that are considered the wide social domain; this domain includes the very places people frequent- like restaurants, hotels, parks, beaches, retail areas, hospitals, gyms, schools, and work spaces.

The reason why we find art in those places is, of course, because humans are born with the language instinct. The language instinct is ultimately responsible for words, ideas, and actions, and it effectively drives our need to innovate and be creative. Because it is so basic and intrinsic to human nature, it plays a significant role in the evolution of cities and countries.

Bold statement as this may be, we can conclude that as long as there are people, groups, and cities, there will be creative output, and therefore, a demand for art. However, are there hesitations, or are the funds more restricted? Has it become easier to sell something that is initially invisible, and must be found through creative inspiration?

Related: How Art Helped Me Find A Different Perspective To Business (And Life)

The answer lies in the sum of the actions taken and untaken. A little deeper look into some ways an art entrepreneur could envision the playing field might just inspire the necessary reform. Here are a few ideas on how one can go about doing just that:

1. Upgrade your business acumen Pandemics have a thing about requiring some suiting up, and marching into the battlefield, fully armed with a new level of business acumen. Learning new skills, spreading the word via social media and PR, working more mindfully and jumping into massive action is the drill of today. New skills and engaging with utmost professionalism is necessary always, but especially during a pandemic- because other stakeholders are also under pressure, in need of a break, and just want to work with people who are easy to work with. Simple.

2. Understand the ultimate goal is to help your industry recover As someone anonymously said, when things go down, one must rise. This means reaching out to clients and telling them you are here for them– if they still are planning on going ahead with projects, you can be their partner and take on part of the burden. If your clients don't make it out, you are unlikely to make it out yourself. Remember that a pandemic cannot stop an art entrepreneur who is willing to work, find creative solutions, and deliver high quality creative output on a budget.

3. Opportunities often come masked Like any industry sector, understanding the opportunities in art is not through just a positive pep talk; it requires an art entrepreneur to have a finger on the pulse. On the rise in 2021 is workspace art and better art in hospitals and medical facilities - and the art entrepreneur will gravitate to those sectors needing creative transformation now. For example, it is also the case that outside medical facilities, offices, restaurants, and hotels, the art entrepreneur is exploring art integration to create happy and thematic experiences within these venues, to entice even the most reluctant guest to take the leap, and go to town. Beyond beautification, industry professionals are seeking genuine ways to connect with their customers, aiming to create hospitable and inspiring environments. Developers are seeking to create communities, in an effort to unite a few unrelated buildings in a place making effort. The pandemic has not stopped these needs; it's just changed them.

4. United we stand, divided we fall. We are all interconnected, and hopefully, that is the key lesson we take away from the COVID-19 pandemic. Leading not only clients, but also industry peers out of the recession, will guide us to better chances of recovery within the creative market. There is still a chance of going bust- but taking a chance to reach out to competitors and create alliances is a good long-term strategy. In very bad times, the demand side will look for the least expensive product and service they can get, and that means they go searching outside and beyond borders. That's a tragedy and double-whammy. So, it is better for that value exchange to stay within the art market and society you are operating out of, rather than be extracted out to others, which will have no ripple effect on the ground. After all, such ripple effects are what will affect our 2022.

5. Be selective It's not like opportunities are lying around like sand on the beach; however, even in hard times, being selective is not a bad idea. What it means to be selective is developing a new business strategy, and choosing and hunting projects strategically with the goal of increasing the chances of survival. It's selecting a range of sizes, so that temporary cashflow is achieved, while also working on the larger projects where it's clear that payments come segmented, because the project is more of a long-term commitment.

6. One for all, and all for one Discuss and agree with your team about some sort of a workable arrangement in terms of renumeration, and decide together that united, you will sail to the end of the pandemic, or at the very least, as far as possible. This may be a difficult path, but it is one worth taking if the modules are in the right places, and everyone understands that their fancy artsy clothes will need to be replaced with power suits.

7. Keep an eye on the money Lastly and never leastly, get paid, dear art entrepreneur. Ultimately, it matters little how good you are when it comes to operating in a world of unprecedented challenges; what matters more is that you start what you signed up for, you finish what you started, and you make sure that payments are planned and arrive on time.

Related: From Web To Wall: Inkopia Delivers Bespoke Photography And Art To Interiors Across The UAE

Sam Saliba

Founder and Creative Director, Art Painting Lab

Sam Saliba is the founder and Creative Director of Art Painting Lab, an art consultancy. She leads a team of fantastically talented visual artists whose expertise includes canvas art, murals, and illustrations.  

Art Painting Lab supports encompassing solutions by applying its team’s insight, studies, consulting skills, and technical know-how. As many in the team strive as experimentalists, the enterprise prides itself with the capability to delve into many art genres and stylistic techniques. Every member of the Art Painting Lab team is an individual with a style of art that is molded by their own distinctive life experience. Together, they accurately represent the melting pot that is Dubai, bringing in fresh perspectives from all over the world. 

Art Painting Lab practices a multi-level critique process that ensures projects and clientele receive high caliber work. Every artist in the team has the knowledge and expertise in a select area of art and design, and together they deliver art that is well executed, creative and sophisticated. The company’s clients consist of interior designers, art consultants, architects, hotel operators, hospitals developers and restaurants, high-end residences and artists. Art Painting Lab’s mission is to support these industry sectors by facilitating and actioning the creative process, from concept stage, to installation and handover. 

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