Media maintains its interest in art

Many opportunities exist for media coverage of art, but PR pros must overcome the intense competition and the lack of attention paid to unknown artists.

Many opportunities exist for media coverage of art, but PR pros must overcome the intense competition and the lack of attention paid to unknown artists.

Obituaries declaring "art is dead" have been written many times over the past several decades. But despite budget cutbacks still impacting newsrooms, and the current fascination the public and media have for all things pop culture, both art and the coverage of the art world remain strong. "Publications covering art come and go," says Katharine Carter, president of New York-based Katharine T. Carter & Associates, noting the recent demise of Art Dialog and the New Art Examiner. "But there's still plenty of opportunities to get art coverage." Art and artists can be found in virtually every community in America, but New York remains the center of the country's art scene and of most of its media. Richard Salzberg, communications director for the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA, says that can present a bit of a logistical challenge, but he adds that outlets like The New York Times are devoting more space to regional arts coverage. Artist challenges Carter adds that there is strong media support for art outside of the major cities, noting it is often a bit easier to get a new show covered in regional art magazines, newspapers, and alternative weeklies. "What would make an artist happy is a review in one of the major art magazines or The New York Times," she says. "But the competition is so unbelievably fierce that it takes years of a very distinguished career before you're even considered. So we encourage artists to be appreciative of whatever they can get." Museums looking to attract media coverage of new additions to their permanent collections face a slightly different challenge, and Salzberg says that they often have to focus their PR pitches beyond the art itself. "It's always the story behind the art that's the thing," he says. Toward that end, Salzberg says the museum always makes sure that its curators are usually the ones doing most of the media interviews. "They are like our celebrities - they are the ones who have the most product knowledge, and most curators are wonderfully articulate," he says. Still, art can be a hard sell, given that many of the country's most distinguished artists remain largely unknown to the masses. "We've become such a celebrity-driven culture that many outlets, especially television, largely overlook art and artists," says Helen Shelton, EVP with Ruder Finn's arts and communications division. The art community is encouraged by the fact that Cond? Nast editorial director James Truman recently developed a prototype for a new arts magazine that might begin publication in 2006. "When you have the world category leader in consumer magazine publishing saying, 'We're going to do an arts magazine,' that should tell you that this is a vibrant and viable thing for people to cover, and that there is consumer interest in this kind of news," Shelton says. Art media's scope Robin Cembalest, editor of ARTnews, says art media is much more than coverage of art and artists. "We focus on artists, exhibitions, the people and institutions shaping the art, art restitution, looting, corporate politics, museums," she says. It also includes the role of corporate sponsors, though Cembalest stresses, "We don't necessarily note the sponsor, although sometimes it's part of the story. There was a case where the Guggenheim had an exhibit of motorcycles, and it turned out that BMW was one of the sponsors, so that became part of the story." Shelton adds that corporate sponsorships of the arts has evolved, adding media attention is no longer the sole goal. "It's become more important that the corporation is mentioned in the catalog, or their logo is put on the signage, or if they're allowed to host a series of private events for their employees or customers," she says. "So it's not always driven by the belief that, 'If I sponsor this, I'm going to be in The New York Times.'" Jeni Paris, president of Princeton, NJ-based The Paris Agency, suggests that for unknown artists, generating those first critical reviews can still be a challenge. But Paris, who says part of her job is to help artists think creatively about their own publicity, notes even the boom in both reality and home-decorating TV programming can be used by artists to generate recognition. "It's great if you get your name mentioned somewhere, but it's even a boost to your credibility if you can say you've had your work featured on the set of The Real World," she says. Pitching... art and artists
  • Outlets that don't specialize in art tend to need interesting angles focused on either the artist or how the piece was created or obtained. Use those as your news hook
  • Outside of major cities, art coverage varies dramatically from market to market, so target your outreach to cities with vibrant art communities, such as Indianapolis
  • Coverage in The New York Times, Art in America, and ARTnews may be the ultimate goal for any artist, but stress patience and teach them to be proactive in handling much of their own publicity when first starting out

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