Monday, January 09, 2006


Can an artist show their work to much? What does it mean for an artist to be overexposed?

I am talking not about the dialogue surrounding an artist or the press being written about an artist, instead can an artist exhibit too often, particularly in one city? This question has been brought up during a number of conversations I have had with artists, gallery owners and other arts professionals over the past several months. Indianapolis has, for the most part, a small artistic community, and it is not uncommon to know most of the artists' work being shown in the galleries around town. This isn't to say that you will know everybody and their work, but that you will often recognize a large percentage of the artists shown in a group show. I have even experienced going to six or more gallery shows in one night and seeing some of these artists showing simultaneously in numerous venues on the same night.

Overexposed? Being an artist, I feel that this is a topic I need to further consider. In the long run, can it be damaging to an artist's career to exhibit too often in, say, a given year within a city? What is too often?

On the side of the artist, I can understand the line of thinking that the more they show the better their chances of being seen by a larger and perhaps more diverse audience, and thereby having a better chance of making a sale, or getting new exhibition opportunities to build their resume. (but is this really the way to build a better resume?) On the side of the viewer, I can understand the disdain from always seeing the same artists, time and time again, being shown when you go to a gallery or art event. Where are the surprises? Though an argument could be made that if the work is always new and exciting, that the viewer would not tire of it, and if the viewer tires of seeing the art once a month or every couple months, they surely wouldn't be willing to buy it. While from the point of view of the gallery owners, if you are showing all over the city, then collectors who may have come to them to buy your work have now bought at other venues, thereby hurting the gallery's chance of making sales on your work.

I think that this is where gallery representation contracts come into play, and without such a contractual agreement the gallery should not expect such from the artists they have shown, and currently, unless I am mistaken, only two of the galleries in town (Ruschman Art Gallery and Editions Limited) contractually represent artists. I, as of yet, have not come to complete terms on where I stand on these issues as an artist; though I am beginning to see merit in restricting the number of times an artist exhibits within the city during a particular year. How many group shows should one participate in? How many solo or two person exhibitions? How about public art works, installations, or performance art works?

I know I am bringing up more questions than answers - that is because I do not know the answer. Perhaps there are no long or short term problems with an artist showing too often? Perhaps it depends on what the artist's aspirations are, be it to make a living off of the sales of their work, or to find recognition and validity in the "Art World". I am currently evaluating my position that I should show less often so that the work, when viewed perhaps 1-3 times per year, will be able to have the excitement factor that may get lost in overexposure. Do open studio views count? Well, I am going to say no, as I often enjoy going to open studios to see the artists work, and get an insight into the artists' production. I don't count these viewings within the exhibiting standard, as the viewers are making conscious decisions to go to that artist's studio, and studio views usually have an air of casualness not expected in a gallery setting.

So if artists restrict their exhibiting to 1-3 shows per year, how could they possibly make a living? Will they feel fulfilled showing that often? To this I think that artists need to break into other art markets, other cities. The art world is much larger than a single city, and it will only benefit an artist more to show in as many cities as possible, in as many countries as possible, as long as these tasks do not hurt the production and quality of their work.

What do you think about artist overexposure?

Open Topic...

16 Responses to “Overexposure...”

Liriodendron said...
January 9, 2006 at 11:27 PM

I'm probably with the *less is more* crowd. I get tired of seeing the same artists so much. I guess when you're hot your hot....

Anonymous said...
January 10, 2006 at 1:37 AM

I remember discussing something like this at your birthday gathering after I metioned that the murphy opened every month. I thought about that and decided that studio openings once a month may seem excessive to some artists, but like you mentioned in your article, it doesn't really count as an exhibition. I plan to continue opening studio once a month, to keep myself on my toes somewhat, but mostly just as an excuse to party.

gben said...
January 10, 2006 at 5:30 PM

I think that the 1-3 is a good standard. It might force artists to think about their careers on a more serious level, and I think it would bring up the quality of the work that is exposed in the city. It seems that some artists here tend to find a fast comfortable formula for making quick sells, and I feel that fewer spotlighted shows would put more emphasis on what the artist has to offer.

Edward_ said...
January 11, 2006 at 8:18 AM

This is a very important topic IMO. One we discuss frequently in my circle of artists friends (a few of whom are perhaps overexposed).

There's an artist I know now showing at one of Chelsea's most powerful galleries who was struggling with the rest of her friends about 10 years ago. She got tired of not making any headway, locked herself away in her studio for three years, not letting anyone see what she was working on, and then emerged with a new, very successful body of work. I use this example all the time in trying to get artists who are in danger of being overexposed to reconsider what it takes to get the attention they deserve.

Anonymous said...
January 11, 2006 at 10:39 AM

overexposed: richard tuttle, say no richard already!!!he's everywhere.

jen said...
January 11, 2006 at 10:51 AM

It doesn't take much to be overexposed in a smaller market-I think that you should have a solo show only once every two years (in the same city) and participate in group shows inbetween. The ideal is to have atleast three galleries in different cities to maintain income. Also, Ed's point is well taken-take time to develop good work or change mediums to keep it fresh. The quality thing is so very important...
I did two solo shows in 2005 in two cities and I barely got them done-two was almost too much for me...I thought a little quality suffered-which leads me to...

I have a question for you artists out there who are getting busier-would you consider hiring assistants to help get the work done and how far would you let them go?

pc said...
January 11, 2006 at 11:40 AM

I'm guessing very few artists worry much about overexposure, at least using that word. Except for the canniest artists, such as Jen and Edward's example of the artist who holed up for three years before showing, there's no such thing as too much of a good thing. But artists certainly obsess about a very related questions; Am I getting stale? Am I repeating myself? Do I have any new ideas?

I don't show enough at the moment to worry about overexposure, but I do enough work and have high enough standards that I worry about repeating myself. In fact, it's one of the things that unite the successful and not-so artists. I'm thinking of a friend who's very successful (moma, whitney, 57th street, england, paris, etc.) and who I'm very jealous of in general (although he's the nicest guy on the planet). But he's suffering more than I am at the momemnt because he's stuck and can't quite do work that's as good or as popular as his best. It's my worst fear, to think I might have no new ideas. So I hope it's not off the topic of overexposure, but staleness seems to be the problem, from whatever origin.

Anonymous said...
January 11, 2006 at 3:17 PM

Well in Indianapolis you are born and automaticly overexposed. Have you ever seen an IMOCA exhibit that had a local exibiting artist? Even if the guy is doing well in other markets I find hard to believe a museum would go through the trouble and financial commitment to exhibit an artist (s) that are "overexposed" or even closed of being. I think other markets is the only way. Even for artists based in NYC or San Francisco or any other big market in the world. The fincancial strain that a reclusion of a few years could cause on an emmerging artist could be devastating. Quality is to me one of the few characteristics that could get your work at other markets, so I don't know.
Speaking of group shows I would like to suggest that IMOCA develops a biennial for the region.

Samuel E. Vazquez said...
January 11, 2006 at 3:17 PM


Thank you for shedding light and raising questions to some vital issues.

Yes. Artists over exposure can finished careers. I think of art as a marathon instead than a 100 meter sprint. In a marathon you pace yourself, survey the field, make adjustments, and conquer one step at a time.

Too many young artists have the sprint mind set. Wanting the same notoriety as a seasoned artists. So they spread themselves to thin and burn out. The audience also gets burnt out by the lack of creativity and repetition in an artist's work. Greatness takes time.

I recently went to a new museum gallery opening and saw a young man wondering around as if looking for people's attention. The opening was on a nice sunday afternoon and most patrons seemed relaxed except this young man. What caught my attention was that he was wearing paint filled torn up jeans and a stretched out sweater. Obviously he wanted everyone there to know he was a painter. He became a walking billboard.

Do you see a baseball player wearing his baseball uniform out to dinner? So why some artists have the need to wear an artist uniform to a public event?

In life we have to flow with every situation and not force things to happen. If we force things we may encounter great challenges.

Money and/or fame should never be the motivating factor for doing art. So, doing something other than art (a day job) will pay the bills. Be resourceful, collaborate with artists that share the same passion. Too often artists wonder around with no clear direction. I currently have a few mentors. Artists I can go to ask questions and learn from. Spend time experiencing other things like music, theater, fashion, sports, travel, learning another language, etc.

Ones you experience life outside of art, you'll realize art is not all that we are making it to be. Life is Amazing! Think Love Not Art!


Anonymous said...
January 11, 2006 at 4:01 PM

gee...peace brother.

anonartist said...
January 11, 2006 at 5:34 PM

Over-exposure is an issue in any market. I've worried about it over the past few years as I kept getting invited to participate in group shows. Some were in other locations, but many were in New York. I've started to pick and choose more carefully, and to leave more free blocks where my work can develop. I was starting to feel like I was always just working toward the next show, which doesn't necessarily allow me to push the work as much as I'd like.

Even with artists whose work I like, I can start to get a bit bored if I feel like I'm seeing it everywhere.

Tim said...
January 12, 2006 at 1:23 AM

Someone once told me that you are more defined by what you wont do as by what you will do. That's been helpful.

Jeremy Tubbs said...
January 13, 2006 at 3:27 AM

Well Scott, this is my first visit to your blog and I just finished visiting: ... the kid made more than a million! His conclusion was "Creativity Works".

I have trouble with exhibitiong to much in one city because it becomes boring... same people same art... low bar!

To the Anonymous person up there... IMOCA exhibited my work and Keri Thomas and Greg Hull. They do show the locals!

Remember "Creativity Works" and we need to find alternatives to make things more exciting!

Holy Crap! I just went to IMOCA's website and they have a solo show of local artist "I'm Brian Presnell" opening March 24th ..Thats great and funny!

remaining, Jeremy Tubbs

Anonymous said...
January 13, 2006 at 12:15 PM

in regards to samuel. I can understand finding the instance of this boy going to a gallery opening his "painter uniform" being down right silly. not because of it's faux-pasity but because, as you make it sound, it was an obviously intentional move to gain attention. however, I'll go to happy hours or movies or other public events in my work clothes with no shame. because I either don't care or don't have the energy to home and, I guess, normal up for the strangers. and so when the general public looks at me, or probably anyone else in their "artist uniform", it probably just looks like we're in construction. like walking bilboards for the manual labor industrty.

Anonymous said...
January 14, 2006 at 1:13 AM

To the last anonymous,

Thank you. I can wear whatever I want whenever I want and expect it to be OK or not and not care either way. Concerning overexposure; I appreciate the opportunities given to me as an arist in this city as much as the next artist if not more than most in this city. Artists in town raise their eyebrows at me for some of the places I show my work, but I just eight paintings at a non-art gallery this week. Sell out? Reinvestor? Yes! What are you supposed to do with the blood, sweat and tears of several months of your life if it flops at the solo show you have designated yourself for the year so as not to overexpose yourself? By a tarp to avoid the collection of dust b/c that particular crowd was not into it or that gallery was unable to sell it? Show it. It is good work. Better yet, sell it and reinvest in your next masterpiece. Stop typing and go make art. quincy

Anonymous said...
January 19, 2006 at 11:48 AM

Sell out bitch!

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