"Can you name an artist you read about three years ago in Art Collector, Plein Air Magazine, Southwest Art, Western Art Collector, Art Business News, International Artist, American Art or Art of the West Magazine? You will find these articles have little lasting effect." -- Jack White
The above quote is from an article written by Jack White. Jack made an excellent point on the FineArtViews blog. He stressed the fact that coverage in a celebrated art magazine has little lasting effect. I've mentioned this in the past as well. In fact, it was one of the first topics I covered during my years at Myartspace. Several readers thought I was insane at the time. They assumed a feature or review by a major art magazine would 'make' them. Don't bet on it! In my opinion, direct interaction with your fan base is far more beneficial.
Jack tackled the issue at hand with brutal honesty. He said, "You get written up and immediately think everyone will know of your fame. This is simply a falsehood. Few who subscribe to the various publications read all the articles and those who do are usually other artists." Jack went on to suggest that it is impossible for anyone to retain the hoards of information provided in an art magazine from one month to the next. Jack is speaking the truth!
Here's the thing: The art magazine issue featuring your art is old news the moment the next issue hits the shelf. Frankly, you shouldn't rely too much on that momentary burst of fame -- because the burst of interest will soon fizzle out. Enjoy it for what it is. It is a moment of your art life caught in time.
I had access to issues of several top art magazines while studying at Illinois College. There was an archive of past issues stored on the lower level of the college library. Some of the issues dated back as far as 1945. It was a treat to thumb through old pages of Art in America and ARTnews. I recognized a few of the names as I flipped the pages. However, I found that most of the artists had long faded into obscurity. Being featured in a prominent art magazine wasn't enough to make them household names.
Artist Sylvia Sleigh once told me that success is momentary. She said, -Any artist having instant success should enjoy it! Remembering at the same time that the situation is so momentary it is not to be depended on." Sylvia implied that an artist can't depend on a constant stream of success -- you WILL face ups and downs, dear artist! Her work fell in and out of fashion several times throughout her life. I reflected on Sylvia's wisdom while reading Jack's sagely advice about art magazines and fame.
Sylvia Sleigh died in 2010 at the age of 94. She died 57 years after her first solo exhibition. Needless to say, Sylvia had gained an incredible amount of knowledge about the art world during her productive span of life. She was one of the first women to burst through the glass ceiling of the contemporary art world, had been written about extensively, and was considered a feminist icon by many -- yet few people younger than 40 know who I'm talking about when I mention her name. Fame is fleeting.
I suppose the main point of this article is that an artist can't depend on media coverage alone -- be it in the form of an art magazine feature or newspaper review -- to remain relevant. As Jack suggested, these efforts may have little lasting effect as the clock ticks forward. The printed page may speak highly of you today -- but it may not speak for you tomorrow. This is why it is vital to form real connections with people. You need to interact with your fan base.
I'll use myself as an example. I didn't learn about Sylvia Sleigh from reading past articles about her work. I wasn't aware of her work -- even though her work can be found in major art museums. In fact, I didn't know about Sylvia Sleigh until a friend mentioned her work in passing. My friend had met Sylvia several decades ago during an event -- the brief encounter had clearly left a lasting impression in her mind. It solidified her interest in Sylvia's artwork. I may have never learned about Sylvia's life and art had it not been for a chance encounter that occurred long before I was born.
With the above in mind, Sylvia's legacy continues to live on within her fan base. I imagine most you didn't learn about her by reading back issue art magazines or during a museum visit. You learned about her because I mentioned her in this format -- 5 years after her death -- all because a young person became a fan of her work after a brief encounter which took place a decade before my birth. The lesson is clear: Direct interaction can trigger continued interest in your artwork long after the printed page is tossed aside.
In closing, take heed of Jack's warning about art magazines and other forms of media coverage. You simply can't expect a few articles to sustain interest in your artwork. The 'meat' of your artistic legacy will be found in the work itself -- AND in the interactions you have with your fan base. A brief conversation with a fan may trigger future conversations about your art. Have you reached out to your fan base today?