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Accelerating on the Curves (book review)

Victor M. Cassidy

For the past 25 years, Katharine T. Carter & Associates, Kinderhook, NY (www.ktcassoc.com), has operated a “full-service public relations and marketing firm for artists.” (Full Disclosure: I once free-lanced for Katharine Carter, don’t any more.) Dealing mostly with little-recognized mid-career artists, Carter exhaustively evaluates the artist’s work and marketability in a three-hour one-on-one session. She tells the artist where they are in career terms and develops advancement strategies. Next, she prepares a presentation packet—resume, visuals, critical essay—that she sends out to a targeted list of small museums, college and university spaces, and not-for-profits. She also helps artists secure commercial gallery representation and deal with larger museums.

Carter is very good at getting shows for her client artists and helping them make the most of such opportunities. Few if any of Carter’s artists end up with big national reputations, but she does inject discipline into their marketing process, significantly advance their careers, and help some of them make decent money from their work. Now, Carter has self-published Accelerating on the Curves: The Artist’s Roadmap to Success, which describes her techniques and provides art world insights from her mostly New York City-based associates.

Carter divides an artist’s career into three stages—(1) local, county, and statewide recognition; (2) regional recognition; and (3) national recognition. Her description of an artist who has completed Stage One is presented in a sidebar. Read it and weep! Those who are ready for Stages Two and Three will benefit from her descriptions of territory that is unknown to most artists.

In the second part of Accelerating on the Curves, Carter presents the materials you’ll find in any artist career guide—how to write a cover letter, press release, resume, biographical statement, and artist statement. Her approach is extra professional because she’s had so many years of successful experience in dealing with curators at all but the top levels in the art world, dealers, art consultants, interior decorators, and architects. Much of what she says is not new, but it’s presented in such detail that any reader will learn things.

The third part of Accelerating on the Curves contains the most new information and is the most fun to read. It is nineteen essays by art world insiders—dealers, art magazine editors, print specialists, art critics and more. A personal favorite is Robert Curcio’s The Five Quickest Ways to Lose a Gallery, or How to Not Even Get in the Door in the First Place. Curcio has been a dealer, art fair organizer, and all-round art world entrepreneur in New York City for twenty years or so. Another winner is Richard Vine’s Getting Lucky, Getting Reviewed, which outlines strategies for beating the odds against getting reviewed as art magazines shrink their review pages or close down completely. Vine was Managing Editor of Art in America for some years and is now their senior editor for Asia. Accelerating on the Curves ends with a monster 65-page (!!) listing of resources for artists.

Readers should know that Accelerating on the Curves presents a program that works best for painters since it leads the artist through the commercial and non-commercial exhibition system. Many sculptors live on commissions and private sales. Some never seek gallery representation because they can get along without it. Photographers and textile artists will get fewer specifics from Accelerating on the Curves than painters will. Even so, every artist will benefit from reading this book with its no-nonsense approach to career development.

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SIDEBAR: POISED FOR STAGE TWO

[Quoted from Pages 77-78 of Accelerating on the Curves: The Artist’s Roadmap to Success Kinderhook, NY: Running Hare Press, 2010.]

  • You have competed in and been accepted by the most important juried or competitive exhibitions in your state and been recognized with awards and honors on multiple occasions by significant jurors.
  • You have been invited to participate in a number of major group exhibitions organized by museums or institutions in your state or beyond—exhibitions that have traveled to several other venues of importance in the state. Catalogues may have been published in conjunction with some of the exhibitions.
  • You have had at least five or six one-person exhibitions at Level I—better college or university galleries, small museums, art centers, alternative spaces, or important corporate spaces.
  • You have garnered media coverage on a number of occasions, and have been reviewed by a recognized art writer or critic in your state.
  • You may be a recipient of a visual arts grant in your state, or participated in a residency or visiting artist program.
  • As a result of your successes and recognition, there is curatorial interest in your work by [better] museums in your state. They have been made aware of your work either because of your involvement in a group exhibition, or you have formally introduced yourself in the context of your accomplishments and accolades.
  • One or two gallery affiliations are solidly in place and several consultants are working to place your work in corporate and private settings.
  • You have made contact with many noteworthy professionals, some of whom have offered to assist you by way of introductions to an important curator or dealer—in your state, region, or beyond.
  • You have a base of 20 to 30 collectors—nonprofit, institutional, corporate, and private—and you have made repeat sales to a number of these patrons. You have cultivated relationships with your serious collectors.
  • Collectors and art professionals alike are beginning to watch with interest to see what may be coming next in your artistic and career development.
  • You are thinking strategically as you make your professional choices. You have clarity of purpose and realize that this kind of awareness . . . is taking you closer to your goals.

Editor’s Note: For an alternate take on Accelerating on the Curve, check out “Eye Exam: Be a Professional Artist Today!” on NewCity.com.