If you've ever been to an established art fair like the Armory Show in New York or Art Basel in Miami Beach, or one of the satellite shows organized as counter-programming, you may wonder how to get on to the Broadway (or Off-broadway) of the art world. For aspiring artists, the title of Brainard Carey’s book Making It in the Art World: New Approaches to Galleries, Shows, and Raising Money will definitely appeal to you. But does his book give you a recipe for success?
Carey and his wife Delia won a spot in the 2002 Whitney Biennial, along with a $10,000 fee (they’d asked for $950,000) simply by persistence and force of personality, and his book is evidence of that persistence and personality. A lot of what Carey says about reaching your goals as an artist is common sense: researching art dealers and galleries, pounding the pavement and meeting people and getting into contact with people who may help your career. But there's an air of condescension and calculation in his approach, as a writer and as a self-proclaimed artists' coach.
The tone of his prose may be due to the editorial policies of the Allworth Press, an imprint which could fill a shelf full of self-help books about various aspects of the art world. Carey writes likes he’s talking to a six-year old, and if that wasn’t clear enough he draws stick figures to illustrate concepts like attitude and incidents like an invitation to his studio. The crudeness of the figures are probably supposed to make the reader feel at ease and not intimidated, and they are certaibly more interesting than standard-issue self-help clip art.
But they seem patronizing — look at me, if I can do this, you can too! The calculation is more telling, as Carey encourages readers to make acquaintances that will be useful to you. Maybe that’s the way it works, but it seems tacky and insincere to put it that way. But sincerity doesn't appear to be part of the formula for making it in the art world. Just take a look at who the author admires.