Best Art Business Books
This list of art business books is purely subjective and not exhaustive. Yet, as for the rest of the website, there is no affiliation link or ads so we are not influenced in our judgment. Contact us if you have any suggestions. Here is the list:
- How to start and run a commercial art gallery by Edward Winkleman
- How to sell your art by Cory Huff
- Launching Your Art Career by Alix Sloan
- Art INC by Lisa Congdon
- The Smartist guide by Alicia Puig (worse book :p)
- Starting your career as an artist by Angie Wojak and Stacy Miller
How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery
This book came to my radar. After reading it, I would like to share some of my thoughts with you and help you decide whether to spend money or time on this book.
Informative on starting an art gallery
Being one of the only guidebooks on starting an art gallery, it has a unique value proposition. It brings us a lot of good information in a pragmatic way. You can learn what’s the difference between the primary market and secondary market, how to draft a business plan, how to do accounting, how to place an ad in local newspapers. It’s very compact and very concentrated. It has 16 chapters, and each chapter could be written as a book itself.
Throughout the whole book, there isn’t a single picture or drawing. Isn’t it a book about art? Clearly, it is not here to entertain you. This is a very dry manual on how to operate in the world of commercial art dealership. It reminds me of the syllables from my MBA program.
New York art scene
The author Edward Winkleman runs a gallery in New York. He talked a lot about how to do paperwork and how much things cost in New York and different states in America. If you live outside of the U.S., you will face a very different reality. I would say if you live in a city very different from the U.S., this book might not work for you.
There is one chapter dedicated to art fairs and also a few paragraphs about placing an advertisement in newspapers. I think both art fairs and newspapers are becoming less and less relevant today.
For inspiring art dealers
Who is this book for and who is not for? This book is for someone who is serious about running an art gallery but has no idea where to start. It covers a wide range of things, a great source of information for aspiring art dealers who seek general guidance.
Online art business
This is not for art dealers who wish to focus his or her business online, because a lot of the stuff written is based on the old brick and mortar way of doing things. The second edition of the same book is co-authored with Patton Hindle, a younger author who has more digital marketing experience. One chapter has been added on promoting your gallery and artists online. However, the majority of the content is still focusing on the physical art gallery business model. I will be getting the second edition of this book, and update this review in the future!
How to Sell your Art
True but no surprise
I have been helping artists promote and sell their art online, so this book is presenting the whole ‘selling online’ idea to artists in a very simple and straightforward way. In many ways, there were no surprises in there – we all know what we have to do, and Mr Huff spells it out pretty clearly. The difference is between those that do and keep doing and those that just think or talk about doing, hoping that success will come.
It’s very well said, I agree with her. However, here comes o my second point. I think it’s a good book that reminds you of the ‘right things’ to do in bullet points, very brief. This little book works as a shopping list. It’s not the nutrition content on the food packaging. I think it lacks some detailed instructions. The author could have thrown in more information and his years of experience. Perhaps he is holding back a little bit because he wants you to go on his website for more.
Entertaining not Systematic
Comparing to the book ‘How to start and run a commercial art gallery’, this book is very easy to read. You can read it with a coffee or tea over a weekend. Don’t get me wrong, there is good information too! If you can follow these suggestions, you have a lot more chances of making it as an independent artist. I wish it would be more like a systematic textbook, that helps you to map out your knowledge structure. I would compare it to an entry-level language book when you learn a foreign language. If you already speak some of ‘selling art online’ language, this book can be too easy for you.
Not Yet Outdated
Someone commented online saying this book is outdated. I would say in the e-commerce world, things can change in a matter of days. It’s a book, from writing, editing, printing and delivering to your hands, it would take a few months and even years. It’s gonna be slightly outdated. For someone who is reluctant to learn or intimidated by the idea of selling your own art online, this book is a small leap to a new world.
Eye-opener for artists
This book offers just an eye-opener for artists who had never thought about selling online. This book is not for someone who would like to follow one book and succeed. It’s clear that each artist is a case study, and there is no magic formula for how to be successful. Just by reading this book won’t make your art sell. You need to use the mentality offered in this book and work on your own strategy and business plan.
Launching Your Art Career
Artist common sense
This book is ideal for artists who are introverted and lack basic common sense in a professional setting. For example, it tells you ‘not to complain about one gallery to another gallery’. For some people, this is just basic common sense, but for others, this can be a lifesaver. It’s called a practical guide, I think its content does reflect the title. Someone commented this book as ‘the definitive guide for what they don’t teach in art school’.
40 artists and dealers say
There is one chapter called ‘what do other people say’ with advice from over 40 artists and dealers. I really like this part. It offers different perspectives yet curated. You can see what others say in Reddit, Facebook, Quora, but here the content is filtered and catered for you. I just wish there are more words from art dealers, researchers, curators, marketers, and cultural managers, instead of from other artists.
Personally, I believe the gallery system needs to change. It’s already changing since online marketplaces entering into a competition. More and more artists are managing their own business and becoming entrepreneurs. I think that’s the future of art career. This book does not talk about this tendency. On the 2-and-half chapter on ‘Budgeting, Taxes and Trades’, there is nothing really about how to declare tax. No charts or tables. I miss the book on how to manage your art gallery. I feel the necessity to go back to that book when it comes to how to manage your art business.
There are some things missing on ‘making money’. For example, in the one paragraph about ‘crowdfunding’, Alix did not recommend using Kickstarter to cover the day-to-day costs of making art, because that was the responsibility of the artist. I agree with her in the sense of completion. But Kickstart is not all there is to crowdfunding. There are other crowdfunding platforms like Patreon that help artists to get by, and there are platforms that help them make a special project. There are artists make a good living from Udemy courses and Youtube ads revenues. Those things are not talked about.
Fine art graduates
This book is for introverted fine art graduates who wish to enter the gallery system. Also, this book is a must-have for art school libraries. This book is not for entrepreneurs who would like to enter the online art market and become their own bosses in the art business. It doesn’t show you all the options as an independent visual artist.
Visually pleasing book
The first impression I had on this book was visually pleasing. It’s very ‘put-together’. It has good information at the same time it’s a lovely object to hold. I would say it’s the perfect birthday gift to any young artists and artisans. The author Lisa is also an artist-illustrator, so it makes sense. By far this book is the best-designed book among all a dozen artist guidebooks I bought.
I find the content very easy to read, very encouraging. There are some artist interviews, which are well placed among other things. I think this book is perfect for young people like high school students who are very eager to start their own Etsy business. It’s so comprehensive, that even people with limited English level can understand and learn from this book.
Not for contemporary artist
Unlike the book yesterday from Alix Sloan, this book is for design school graduate, not art school graduate. Why did I say that? She has an Etsy store. For many art school students, who are set to be ‘dead in a museum’, having an Etsy store can come across being ‘cheap’. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer to make a profit than starving. I like what she is doing. But I have to say this book does not represent the contemporary artist.
I saw this word anecdotal from a comment saying this book is ‘anecdotal’ and full of ‘platitudes’. I didn’t know these two words even after completing 3 master degrees in the English language. I think it means: highly educated people are not happy with this book. OK. I agree that this book has a lot of personal stories, like how I become successful. But if Lisa is willing to share her secrets, we still could learn from her. However, this book is not for art business management, although the title of the book might suggest so. INC sounds like a big deal.
Who is this book for? Anyone who wants to become an independent artist-entrepreneur, and who wish to sell art without art galleries. This book is not for someone who has an MFA degree and wishes to make it in the contemporary art world and end up in a museum.
The Smartist Guide
I bought this book earlier this week for $9,99 and I just got it from the post office 1 hour ago. I just went through it and I had such a burning desire to review this book. It’s written by two artists who went to art school. The author, Alicia Puig, is the director of business operations at Creative! Magazine. The second author, Ekaterina Popòva is the founder of Creative! Magazine.
The first impression I had when I got the package, was that it must be a mistake. There was no book in there! Ok, it was a very thin book. It has 81 pages, and every 2-3 page, there was a blank page with poor illustration. I am so sorry to say, what was that?! Page 23 and page 31 had exactly illustration. This is not acceptable. The book is written by art school graduates from Creative! Magazine. I expect it to be either beautiful or full of insights. I think in this sense, this book offered very little of both.
On Amazon and Goodreads, the lowest rating was 4 stars. Mostly the readers gave 5 stars. I think it must be her marketing effort. There is no problem to do that, I think it shows some kind of skill level. However, just because I read the reviews before buying, I had such high expectations on this book. It was the latest book among other art books, so I thought it could offer something cutting edge. But no. I think it covered a little bit from How to sell your art online, and a little bit from Launch your art career. A mixture of both.
Artists tricking artists
One thing for sure is this book is from artists for artists. It’s very easy to follow and very encouraging. It says things like ‘don’t give up’ and ‘celebrate your achievements’. Perhaps it works for Smartists, although it doesn’t work for me.
Don’t get me wrong, this book is not all bad. It has good information for first-year art school students. However, I wish to see more insights. For example, it’s written a list of web hosting service providers like Wix, Squarespace, Format, and a list of books to read. However, the authors did not include their opinions or experiences using these services. This information is too generic to my taste. If I want to know, I can just search for a list of books, it’s public information. If they could tell me what are the Pros and Cons in using such websites or reading these books, I am paying for their insights.
Who is this book for?
This is for first-year art school students who want an easy-to-follow guide, and who hates reading textbooks. It’s a little book which you can read in an hour or two. This book is not for art school graduates or working artists who seek insights from experts.
Start Your Career as an Artist
This artist help book is the most similar to a textbook among other books I have bought. Just the details of this book, such as the Index, you can see it’s very well investigated and documented. Also because the two authors are professors at art school, their writing styles are also very academic and teaching oriented. It’s not a book you want to read on a Sunday. Instead, I would say this is a perfect book for electives in the last year of art school.
Complete art career reading
In one chapter it is writing about street art and unusual spaces for art exhibitions. I was actually surprised to see this coming from art school professors. They don’t just show you how you can work with the government and entities, also they encourage you to go out there and ‘get it’ on your own. But they also worried about your safety. In one chapter they talk about how to create a safer studio environment. I think this is the most complete book on an art career.
Not Sexy and timeless
There are a lot of 5-star reviews. The only 4-star review comes from a student that got this book because of his professor told him so. In this case, this book is not ‘sexy’ or ‘cute’. Again, you see words after words, without any picture or illustration. It is a bit dry, like all the textbooks. Although it was first published in 2011, I felt this book could be written in any year. The advice and insights given in this book are quite timeless.
US artists Only
Again, this book is primarily made for the U.S art school students. Many things mentioned in this book would only be valid in the States, for example, how to teach art at schools, how to get legal help. Many things can not apply if you are not living and working in the States. I would say this is my only complaint about this book.
For art school graduates
This book is perfect for art school students or graduates, who wish to have a better idea of the world of fine art. It covers a wide range of topics and not only for painters but also for sculptors and photographers as the title suggested.