Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Snake Oil

A couple of days ago, I came across a marketing blog that referred to my much-publicised, public declaration of artistic and commercial independence and an attitude I summed in a self-penned catch-phrase: Art Is War. The blog's author, Cory Huff, works as a 'Blogging and Social Media Specialist' for a marketing firm,
In his blog, Huff co-opts my phrase, using it as the title for an event he is organising called the Art Is War Workshop. The workshop promises to explore the key elements of my success and the success of others like me.
I don't know Huff. I certainly didn't give him permission to use my name to spruik his own schtick. I have nothing to do with the event.
In discussing how to circumvent a system in which art dealers are (as I see it) predatory middle men, Huff promotes his own services as a middle man despite having no deep experience of art. The workshop is free, a common strategy among commercial 'mentors' to generate sales of further information and paid guidance. However, everything an artist needs to know is freely available online already, not least from my blog and the interviews I give (for which a very complete
Bibliography on my web site provides links), as well as blogs such as Hugh McLeod's smart Gaping Void. Both Hugh and I make ourselves very accessible to those wanting to know more.
There are those who innovate, then there are those who follow behind making money talking about – and completely missing the point of – what we do and why. More and more art marketing sites are springing up, targeting gullible artists and artisans who want to sell their work online. Some are positioned as services by artists for artists. Others are unashamedly opportunistic middle-men with smooth patter and no real knowledge or experience of art at all.
Oddly, none waste much time on art itself – let alone exploring the core importance of creating a body of work. And yet the concepts of an artist's work are integral to the ways in which each artist should share it. (Which is also to say that what works for one artist might not work for another). Articulating the work should be the main focus of using new media, with sales a welcome side-effect, not the main purpose.


Regina Agu said...

Wonderful post! I watched this whole situation unfold on twitter, and I was hoping you would address it.


Forrest Long said...

Great post! I think in this media format online, what you described happens more often than we think. People are borrowed from and used, thinking there is no need for permission. Not much you can do about it, but keep talking and writing and alot of artists will benefit from what you have to say. As a starving artist, I appreciate your advice.

andrea pratt said...

I'm glad you pointed this out as I have had a recent influx of these "experts" dumping their "services" in my email inbox lately, disguised just as you described. One of them was writing an art marketing blog (from Oz actually -- he "quit being an artist because he liked selling it more than making it" -- WTF?) and once he figured he had enough readers tried to go commercial. I hope he failed. I am so tired of artist exploiters, feeding on the vulnerable. Nothing wrong with marketing per se as long as it's done ethically and aimed towards the haves rather than the have nots.

Ashley Handlin said...

ugh i hate snake oil salesman! i have a habit of blocking them and their 'social media guru' cohorts on twitter. they annoy the crap out of me, even more so that they steal your ideas to make money off of by reselling empty theories.

Zian said...

At a time when the credibility of art agents and dealers is already under heavy scrutiny, you have to wonder at the audacity of those citing experience and connections when that can be so easily discredited and undermined...

Daniel Ambrose said...

A very insightful post Hazel, thank you for sharing. You hit the nail on the head labeling these mushrooming art marketers and their products as snake oil. Some may be sincere, while many of them just smile and say all the things we want to hear while digging in to hungry artist’s pockets. To paraphrase you, articulating our own work should be our main focus, not jumping on the back of another pretty peddler’s wagon.

cory huff said...

I am sorry that I co-opted your "Art is War" phrase without your permission. I gave you credit everywhere that I did so, but I should have asked if I could use it.

I honestly thought you would be happy that someone was spreading your idea, but that doesn't matter. You are angry and I apologize.

I hope that we can have a real conversation about this and resolve it in a way that is satisfactory to both of us.

I have been, and continue to be, a big fan. I emailed you about this several days ago. Hopefully you will respond.

Gary Peters said...

Hi Hazel,

Your last paragraph nails it.

For me, identifying the difference between marketing my work and sharing my work has been huge.

Marketing is me wanting you to do something. It's one way, it's broadcast. Sharing is me inviting you to have a conversation around my work. It's two way and it's no big deal if it's not your thing. I'm not demanding or expecting anything – I'm simply sharing something I believe in. Having a conversation about the work is definitely what it's about, not sales.

Lesley said...

"Oddly, none waste much time on art itself – let alone exploring the core importance of creating a body of work."

Yes this!

Julie Caves said...

Thanks Hazel, well articulated.

Like Lesley I found the final paragraph very important. In all the marketing the work is being lost.

Billy Huys said...

Hi Miss Dooney. I read your blog and I think this event that Mr. Huff is speaking at was misunderstood as a "sales" event.

The New Communicators was started by local creatives in Portland, OR to share wisdom, advice and lessons on new ways of communicating amongst one another. It's an event that has stemmed from a public brainstorm and allowed people in the creative community a forum to discuss current topics.

It's unfortunate that Mr. Huff used your title to address his point, especially without contacting you. But the intention of Mr. Huff and the event is to create conversation amongst local designers, artists, and technologists and move our community forward.

Paul McCall said...

Right on! I'm so glad you articulated this issue...much better than I could have. Seems like there are so many saboteurs disguised as supporters! Thanks.

Hazel Dooney said...

Mr Huys,

Either way you cut it, this event appropriated not only a title but also, associated with it, an attitude and a set of ideas very publicly associated with me, without any communication with me beforehand. The only alert I had was a smug, offhand tweet to the general community from Corey Huff.

If you are trying to promote the idea that you guys have anything realistic, viable, and derived from first-hand, real-world experience to add to the discussion of alternative methodologies for artists seeking to manage their marketing and sales outside the commercial gallery system ,you are certainly not demonstrating it by utterly alienating someone who has both widely acknowledged international experience and large-scale success and who has demonstrated a real willingness to advise and help other artists negotiate this new paradigm.

I am not the one who has mishandled this situation. However, I continue to be among the few who are out there actually blazing trails into this new territory – not just talking about it.

Rasul Sha'ir said...

I just came across this post Hazel. Very interesting. I think "Snake Oil" captures the whole situation well. Glad I came across this. A couple of years ago I had a client and some "snake oil" marketers tried to dupe one of my clients claiming to be "social marketing strategists" by trying to sell them some SEO crap and Marketing BS. Not exactly the same issue as yours but its the same vein of being disingenuous and not knowing how this new realm works. It's funny, they're social media marketers yet pulled stunt like this?!? How savvy can they be then?? Again glad I saw this. I continue to love your spirit, ideas and your art.