Should You Show at Art Basel?

Should You Show at Art Basel?


Artist Jina Kim 
Raleigh, North Carolina

Ann Rea: (00:01)
Hello everyone! This is Ann Rea coming to you live from San Francisco, California. And before we do anything, I want to make you aware that there is a live event happening this Saturday at noon Pacific Standard Time, 3 o’clock Eastern Standard time. It’s going to be great. We’re going to be talking about the five stages of selling more art, doing it with less time and effort and dignity. So you want to, make sure that you sign up sooner rather than later because we actually have more registrations than we might be able to handle. So if you want to participate in the live event, there’s going to be a Q&A at the end so that you can ask me anything you want about marketing and selling your own art. But today I have Jina Kim here, and she’s here because I am writing a business book for fine artists. And one of the things that I’m going to be discussing in the book is all the things that artists do that don’t freaking work and never will. . So I put together a pretty comprehensive list of strategies that most artists most commonly use, and it’s not their fault. They just don’t know that there is an alternative. Jina was one of them. I was one of them. The problem with these strategies is that they not only– they don’t actually help you sell your art. They also crush your confidence and can suck your soul. And so I wanted Jina to come and just kind of share. You looked at the list, right, Jina, of all the different ways that don’t work?

Jina Kim: (01:43)

Ann Rea: (01:45)
So tell me, on that list, what are some of the things you tried?

Jina Kim: (01:52)
I tried art contests, art fairs, art shows, artist statements. There’s just so many, and donations, email newsletters, discounting my art, and changing genres, and then mediums styles all day.

Ann Rea: (02:16)
. Okay. So you tried to change. You thought, “Oh, if I change my genre, if I change my style, that’ll help me sell my art.”

Jina Kim: (02:24)
Yes. And then it was just horrible.

Ann Rea: (02:27)
Alright. So of that list, I know, so Jina is a hard worker, so of course she tried a bunch of these. And what’s the first thing that pops in your head that’s like, “This was the worst.”

Jina Kim: (02:40)
–here were actually three things, but one of that was,

Ann Rea: (02:44)
Let’s start with the first one. We’ll go through them all. .

Jina Kim: (02:47)
Okay. There was this really big art show that I have participated in. Mm-hmm.

Ann Rea: (02:53)
. How much did it cost?

Jina Kim: (02:55)
I think because I rented half booth, it was $1,600.

Ann Rea: (03:00)
And what was like travel and all that stuff?

Jina Kim: (03:02)
Yes. Travel. Yes, travel. And yes, shipping my art and everything.

Ann Rea: (03:08)
So was it $1,600 total or $1,600 just for the booth space?

Jina Kim: (03:12)
I think I spent probably four to $5,000.

Ann Rea: (03:16)
Four to five. And how much do you sell after spending four to $5,000?

Jina Kim: (03:20)
Zero. .

Ann Rea: (03:22)
Okay. You guys, I hear this all the time. Alright. So this is why we’re sharing this because if this is you, you’re not alone. Okay? Alright. So you spent four or five grand, you probably don’t have the precise number because you’re probably trying to forget it, right?

Jina Kim: (03:38)
Yes. And it was before Making Art Making Money program. {Unintelligible}

Ann Rea: (03:42)
Right. Okay. So take me back to the moment. When did you realize, okay, you spent this all this money and you thought this isn’t going to work? What was that moment?

Jina Kim: (03:54)
The moment was actually the opening night. .

Ann Rea: (03:58)
Oh, sh*t!

Jina Kim: (03:59)
Nobody came in. It was a huge, it was, I think it was a part of Art Basel, but they wanted to try it in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And it was huge, and the advertisement was big and they said, “It was going to be big, and you’re going to sell all your art.” And then all the marketing people, sales people were really like, you know, and they were, I don’t know if they really needed, they were exaggerating or I don’t know. They said like, “Oh, it’s going to be a big night and everybody’s going to buy your art and blah, blah blah.” And I mean, there were some people, but almost nobody. It was a huge place. And there were only like 10 to to 20 people who are obviously drunk because they get free drinks.

Ann Rea: (04:42)
. Oh yes, they do get free drinks. And you do get a lot of drunks at these shows. It’s true.

Jina Kim: (04:47)

Ann Rea: (04:47)
How many artists do you think were there?

Jina Kim: (04:50)
I don’t know. I think a hundred? Over a hundred?

Ann Rea: (04:55)
Oh my God. And so what was the average booth fee for participating in this show?

Jina Kim: (05:01)
So mine was a half booth, so it was $1,600. So probably like three to $4,000. And even more, I heard that some booth– they were big, big booths and they were like almost $10,000.

Ann Rea: (05:14)
Okay. So let’s just pretend on the conservative side, they were $3,500. You know, not even $10,000. And there were about a hundred artists. So they pulled in $3.5 million

Ann Rea: (05:30)
They didn’t have to do Jack. They didn’t have to help you sell your art.

Jina Kim: (05:32)
No. And they didn’t help at all. And they treated all the artists like animals. Like they–

Ann Rea: (05:39)
So tell me, what did that look like exactly? What do you mean?

Jina Kim: (05:42)
So when I was displaying this woman who was in charge of I guess displaying art, I don’t know why she was in charge and she walks around like, “Oh, take that down. I don’t like that art.” Or like, “Put that art–

Ann Rea: (05:54)
Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait! You paid.You paid good money to display the art you have for sale.

Jina Kim: (06:01)
Yup, Yup.

Jina Kim: (06:02)
And she comes walking around and says, “Take that down.”

Jina Kim: (06:05)
And if there was any artist who didn’t listen, and she’s like, “Oh, do you want to sell your art or not?” And then she was really rude like that. And then the artist would get scared and they’re like, “Oh, I want to sell.” And she said, “Then you should listen to me because I know better. I’ve been in this gallery and that gallery. I was at the museum or blah, blah, blah.” So yeah, she was really mean.

Ann Rea: (06:24)
But yet you sold nothing,

Jina Kim: (06:26)
Nothing. And at the end of the show, all the artists were disappointed. Everybody was disappointed. So they started packing like 30 minutes earlier and she yelled at everybody saying, “You guys are all cheap because you’re packing right now. You should wait until,” and she was like, “There are like three people trying to buy art from someone and you guys, you guys are going to ruin the sale because you’re packing right now. You’re ruining our reputation.” She was saying that to all of the artists.

Ann Rea: (06:56)
There were over about a hundred of artists there and there’s only three people buying? That’s like– yeah, I’d be out of there too.

Jina Kim: (07:02)
Yeah. And we were just packing. We’re just– we’re done. I’m going home. And then she started yelling at all the artists and ,”You guys are all rude and you guys all have bad attitude! And you don’t have patience.” And then this one guy said, he stood up and he said, “We are all disappointed because what you promise is not here.” And she said– she really yelled at him and she said, “Oh yeah, like what kind of artist are you? Like you can go home. Nobody needs you in this world.”

Ann Rea: (07:28)
Oh wow! She said that to a paying customer.

Jina Kim: (07:32)
Yes. And then he got really sad. I guess he is a softhearted person and he actually cried at the end because he was just so embarrassed that he got yelled at by this woman.

Ann Rea: (07:46)
Oh, wow!

Jina Kim: (07:47)
I talked to a few artists and I said, “Are you gonna participate this kind of– because there was like a group, it was like a media group that was in charge of other Art Basel in Florida and Santa Fe and all that. So they were actually recommending the artists saying, “You should go to the one in Miami. We are doing one in Miami, so you should go with us.” And then they were like taking payment right there. And I was like, “Are you really?” There were artists who actually signed up there. They’re like, “Oh, it might be different next time.”

Ann Rea: (08:29)
Oh! This is what I call the “Tyranny of Hope.” You can’t pay your way to customers. You have to– Oh wow! Wow! That’s horrible. So how did you feel? Like, what were your feelings?

Jina Kim: (08:46)
I was just like, I don’t know. I was just like– I was really just really, I felt really uncomfortable. I remember that. And then I was really stressed. and I was just like, “What have I done? My money!” All that.

Ann Rea: (09:05)
You’ve done what so many artists have done and are still doing. And that’s why you and I are doing this interview.

Jina Kim: (09:12)

Ann Rea: (09:12)
And that’s why I’m writing this book because I wanna give voice to artists like you who are being manipulated into spending tons of money for false promises. That’s not the way that art is sold. It’s not! And it’s not unusual. People don’t– look, it’s so common that people come to art fairs or art shows because it’s something to do. They have no intention of buying. Sometimes they do, sometimes they get drunk enough and they do. But real relationships equal revenue. It’s about knowing your niche. But oh my gosh, that sounds horrible. And I’m so sad for that guy. I wish I could interview him. So what do you think you learned from participating in that show?

Jina Kim: (10:07)
What I learned was that I would never do this ever in my life. That was the last art show that I ever participated.

Ann Rea: (10:16)
Yes. Yes. Would you do anything differently or just not participate at all?

Jina Kim: (10:21)
No, I did not participate at all.

Ann Rea: (10:24)
What did you like– what do you think you ultimately learned from this experience with this art show?

Jina Kim: (10:31)
This experience? Actually, I realized that I should be in charge.

Ann Rea: (10:41)
Yes! Yes! Yes!

Jina Kim: (10:42)
I shouldn’t. The media {unintellegible}.

Ann Rea: (10:44)
It’s your business.

Jina Kim: (10:45)
Yes. What do they know about my art, and what I do, and my business, and I don’t know. And also I realized it’s not about displaying because I remember I was walking back to my booth after going to bathroom, and then I saw the whole show and they all looked the same. The art looked all the same. It’s just like after a few art pieces, I just could not tell what’s different and what’s not. And I was thinking, why would anyone buy any art here? Because there were just so many. And, you know.

Ann Rea: (11:20)

Jina Kim: (11:20)
Yes. So I just thought maybe I should, you know, I don’t know. That’s when I realized I should do something different and I should be in charge.

Ann Rea: (11:28)
Yes, a 100% you should be in charge. And if you don’t take anything at all away from this interview, remember this, people who care about fine art actually care about the artist. They don’t care about the middleman. They don’t care about that woman who is yelling at Jina and making that guy cry.

Jina Kim: (11:49)

Ann Rea: (11:50)
I mean, so they care about you if they care about your art. So, Oh my gosh! This is a– somebody said, “I hate these people who profit from artists. It should be illegal.” Well, it’s not so much for– it’s not about profiting so much as taking full advantage. Profit’s wonderful. I freaking love profit. I teach Jina. Do you love profit?

Jina Kim: (12:11)
Yes, I do.

Ann Rea: (12:11)
Yes. Profit’s amazing. Profit is the only way you can stay in business. What’s bad is false promises. What’s bad is treating people with complete disregard and disrespect, like what Jina is describing here. It’s horrible. So what’s another on that list? Give us a second one.

Jina Kim: (12:31)
The second one might be worse than the first one.

Ann Rea: (12:34)
. Whoa. Ok then. Alright. Isn’t it good you can laugh about it now because–

Jina Kim: (12:38)
I know! Now I can. Now I can.

Ann Rea: (12:41)
Now you can because you’re selling your.

Jina Kim: (12:43)
Yes. Now I can.

Ann Rea: (12:43)
{Unintelligible} painful for people, but let’s see what else we can share to help other people, other artists sidestep this. So what’s the second one thing that happened?

Jina Kim: (12:52)
I think a lot of artists do this too. And again, it was before I joined the program. I just did not know where to go. And Ann, you know that I started selling my art door-to-door.

Ann Rea: (13:03)
. Yes. I love–

Jina Kim: (13:05)

Ann Rea: (13:07)
I’m got to say though, I got to give you respect for that hustle, man. I know it didn’t work, but who cares? At least she was like, “I tried anyway.”,

Jina Kim: (13:17)
When I first moved to– there was like, I think a month later I moved to United States. I started selling my art door-to-door, restaurant-to-restaurant, and door-to-door. And then there was one restaurant, and then I just walked inside a restaurant and I showed them my painting. And I was like, “Hey, do you want my paintings?” And then the manager was there and she said, “Yes, we need paintings.” And I was like, “Yay!” I was so happy that it worked. “It worked!” . And then we made an appointmen so we had a meeting. And then she said, “Oh, I’ve been talking to the owner and she wants to see more painting.” So I brought more and they were asking if they could keep my painting there for a little while to see.

Ann Rea: (14:01)
When you pay for it you can.

Jina Kim: (14:03)
. I know, but at the time I had no idea what to do. So I said, “Okay.” I left my paintings there. And then after like a month, they did not respond. I was like, “Where is my painting?” And the manager said, “Oh, the owner haven’t been in this restaurant for a while. She’s out of town, so she hasn’t seen your painting.” And then I kept following up and she said, “Oh, the manager is here like tomorrow. Can you come in?” And I went inside and the owner of the restaurant was there, and she said, “Oh, we love your painting and everything.” And I was like, “Okay.” And she said, “We want this painting, that painting.” And then I said, “Okay.” Like I was discussing payment with her, and she said, “Well, actually we just want the print.” I had one print of my original painting at the time. And I said, “Okay.” And then– oh, no, no, no. She said, “Original art.” And then she said, “Well, actually, I want to hang this in my restaurant for a while to see if it looks good, and then I’ll decide.” And I said–

Ann Rea: (15:00)
Oh God! No! It’s like, “I want these shoes. I’m going to wear them for a while and I want to see how they fit and if I like them. And then if I do, maybe I’ll pay you.. Maybe I won’t.”

Jina Kim: (15:11)
It’s called “Stealing”.

Ann Rea: (15:14)
It’s called “stealing” people.

Jina Kim: (15:16)
And I said, But I was like, “Okay.” I was really desperate at that time. My English was not very good. I didn’t know where to go, where to, you know, sell my art. And I said, “Okay.” And then she said, “Well actually, can I just buy your print?” Oh, no, no. She said it then, “But it has to be in the bathroom.” That’s what she said. And I said, “The bathroom?” And she said, “Yes, bathroom is the only wall that I can see your art. you know.” And I was like, I felt a little insulted. And I said, “Okay.” And she said, “But actually our bathroom is connected to outside, so anyone can use our bathroom not only just to customers. So it might be– it might get stolen. Is that okay with you?”

Ann Rea: (16:02)
She doesn’t want to pay for it. ,She wants to put it in the bathroom and she’s letting you know it might get stolen, but really she’s stealing it anyway.

Jina Kim: (16:10)
And I said, “No!” That’s when I said, “No, no, no, no, no, no, I can’t have my art there.” And then I was like I stood up and tried to walk away. And she said, “Well, I saw your print inside,” because it was inside of a bag. And then there was one print, and she said, “Can I actually buy your print? I like the print.” And I said, “Okay.” And she said, “So how can I pay you?” And I was just discussing that. And she said, “Can I just give you like a restaurant credit?” .

Ann Rea: (16:41)
Oh God! Okay. A lot of artists get like, “Well, I don’t want to pay for it, but I’ll barter, I’ll give you this.” Oh, wow! Yes– sorry, I can’t. Oh my gosh. Alright. So how did you feel when this is happening?

Jina Kim: (16:56)
I actually cried after the meeting. I felt really– and the restaurant owner was, you know, she had an attitude. “I’m the owner, you know.” And I felt really belittled. I felt really small, and I was just like, my confident level was just, you know, it just hit the bottom.

Ann Rea: (17:16)
Yes. Yes. And this is what happens. Like I said at the very beginning, you know, artists’ souls get sucked out and their confidence gets crushed by this stuff. Alright. So somebody wrote, “I did an art show recently and people really really complimenting my paintings, but nobody bought anything. Either I don’t know how to sell or was in the wrong environment.” It could probably be both, Jane. It’s probably both. And I don’t really like art shows. I think they were freaking waste of time. That’s probably the first problem. Okay. So, Oh my gosh. Wow! That’s pretty horrendous. Shame on that lady! Wow. Alright. What’s the third one?

Jina Kim: (18:02)
The free advice. .

Ann Rea: (18:05)
Ah, yes. There’s a lot of it. Oh, there’s so much free advice from people who don’t make art, and who have never sold their own art, never mind their own art. Okay. Go. Who gave you free advice? What was it?

Jina Kim: (18:18)
I think it was a guy who does like investment. I don’t remember. And he wanted my art. And then he started to giving me advice and he was like, “You can sell it on Amazon, and then you can– yes. He was saying like, “If you sell it on Amazon or something.” I was like, “On Amazon?”

Ann Rea: (18:40)
You can, but it’s an overcrowded marketplace just like Saatchi and Fine Art America, and the list goes on. And the way– just so everyone is aware, why do you think it’s free to list? Okay. Free to list your art because it’s not going to be shown and it’s not going to sell. So they’re going to come back around to you and they’re going to try to sell you advertising. That’s their model. They have to make money.

Jina Kim: (19:06)

Ann Rea: (19:06)
Somehow. So that’s how they make it. Nothing wrong with making money, I’m just like, let’s just be transparent about it. I make money. I make money from my artists’ tuition, but my students don’t graduate unless they’ve earned back their tuition investment at a minimum. That’s my graduation requirement.

Jina Kim: (19:24)
I think the difference is investment or wasting money. Wasting money is you pay for the service, and you don’t get anything in return. And investment is you pay for something and then you get something more valuable than what you pay.

Ann Rea: (19:40)
Right. Right. You give me a dollar, I give you two, or help you get two. That’s an investment. That’s how an investment works. So my program’s an investment for those who qualify. Not everybody qualifies. Let’s be real. Okay. So, but this about you and okay, so your confidence is crushed, and she’s left you crying. Do you think you could have– just based on your level of knowledge at the time, do you think you could have done anything differently?

Jina Kim: (20:12)
At that time?

Ann Rea: (20:13)
Yes. At that time.

Jina Kim: (20:16)
No. I was really, I mean, right now I have you and other artists in the program that I can discuss like laughing, but at that time that was the only thing in my life. That’s how I felt.

Ann Rea: (20:26)
Yes. See, this is what scares me. And this is why I’m writing this book in this way because I want to share these stories so that artists don’t get stuck in these situations. Because what happens is it’s after you experience something like that, it’s so easy to give up.

Jina Kim: (20:42)

Ann Rea: (20:42)
And when an artist, like a true artist gives up, man, something inside of them really dies. And I know that from personal experience, I gave up and I just got so depressed. You have an urge to create and you don’t create and you don’t feel affirmed. It’s very much a struggle.

Jina Kim: (21:01)

Ann Rea: (21:01)
So, alright. So in fairness, you were just doing your best with the information you had at that time. Like, so many artists are going to listen to this. But let me ask you this, did you think after these experiences, and I know everyone’s different, but did you think, “Oh man, Making Art Making Money? It’s probably a scam too.” Did you have that feeling?

Jina Kim: (21:23)
you mean about the program?

Ann Rea: (21:25)
Yes, about Making Art Making Money. Did you think that it was a scam?

Jina Kim: (21:28)
Actually, not. Actually not because I think I was just like, I’m out of options, and you know, if I don’t participate in art show, if I don’t work with these restaurants–

Ann Rea: (21:40)
The bathroom, the bathroom gallery.

Jina Kim: (21:42)
Yeah. The bathroom

Ann Rea: (21:43)
Your art is stolen routinely.

Jina Kim: (21:45)
The toilet gallery!

Ann Rea: (21:46)
The toilet gallery! .

Jina Kim: (21:50)
If I don’t do that, but you know, but I had my envision. So I was like, “I will never fulfill that without art galleries and without these bad people.” I have to like brown-nose all these restaurant owners or gallery owners, and I hate that.

Ann Rea: (22:08)
No, you don’t, everybody. You don’t.

Jina Kim: (22:10)
You don’t. Yeah. And, and then actually I saw– and then I saw the program and then I was like, “Yes!” I was reading all the things that you posted on Instagram. And I was like, “Yes! Yes!That’s what I want. That’s what I want!” I think I saw something like, “Are you tired of art shows?” Or something like that. And I was actually tired of art shows. I was like, “Someone is here to save me.” That’s how I found–

Ann Rea: (22:38)
I’m tired of art shows, and I’m tired of these nitwits telling me that I got to re-arrange my art or take it down, even though I paid to have it on display.

Jina Kim: (22:46)
I was literally really depressed at the time when I saw your Instagram and then I was like, “This is a sign. This is a sign! Someone is handing me their hand and I need to grab it.” That’s how I felt at the time actually.

Ann Rea: (23:00)
That’s good. Well I’m glad you did because you have changed so much as a result. Oh my God!Alright, so if someone was like– if you could give, let’s say you bumped into a fine artist, they want to sell more of their art, they’re not sure, like what’s the advice you would honestly give them?

Jina Kim: (23:19)
I would say, “You have a business.”

Ann Rea: (23:26)

Jina Kim: (23:26)
What would you do if you opened a restaurant, or if you opened a store, what would you do? A lot of people fall into this thought that, “I’m an artist so I should do this. I’m an artist so I should do this.” But if you have LLC or whatever the business, you’re a business owner, so what would be the first thing you need to do?

Ann Rea: (23:45)
Yes! Yes! Not update your resume. I haven’t freaking updated my resume in freaking decades. Like, you don’t need a resume, everybody.

Jina Kim: (23:54)

Ann Rea: (23:55)
You don’t need a resume. You don’t need a CV. You do not need an artist statement. You know, if you hated writing that artist statement, then everyone else is going to hate reading it. You don’t need them.

Jina Kim: (24:04)
No. {Unintelligible} .

Ann Rea: (24:08)
So if someone was like, “Oh, I’m not sure about applying to enroll in the Making Art Making Money program. I don’t know. I’m scared. I’m scared for any number of reasons.” What would you honestly say to them?

Jina Kim: (24:20)
What’s your intuition? I mean, everybody knows. Everybody knows what is true, what is not, you know, by their intuition. They always do.

Ann Rea: (24:33)

Jina Kim: (24:33)
They just got burned so many times So they just think that even though they know that that’s not true, they believe that this is going to be another scam or this is going to be another thing that– that makes me really sad because, “No!” Like, “This is a real.” And I know that. I know that you made a lot of mistakes in the past and a lot of people took your money, but that doesn’t mean that that’s going to repeat. again. That just helped you to find the better way.

Ann Rea: (25:04)
Right. Exactly. So that’s– yes. It’s how you frame things like yes. What’s so disappointing for you has turned into– you flipped the script on it. Now all that has become focus. All that experience has become confidence. All that focus, it’s all turned into focus. And I think this is what happens. This is my experience. I’ve been working with other fine artists for 16 years and what happens is they are skeptical and they have every right to be skeptical. You all do. But then that turns into cynicism. And then cynicism turns into self-sabotage. You stop trying. You can’t even recognize the truth when you see it. So as what you were saying, right? So yes, it’s really important. Jane says, “I love how this artist seems so much more confident now. I can’t wait to read your book, Ann. And I’d love to do your course.”

Ann Rea: (26:08)
Well Jane, you should come on Saturday. It’s a free event. Register now though, because we don’t– just click. Look below. There’s a registration link. Be there on time. We’re going to move really quickly. It’s going to be packed with new information. And at the very end, Jane, you and anyone else listening can ask me questions about how to market and sell your art. This is really valuable. Thank you so much for sharing, Jina. I’m hoping that our conversation will help affirm the bad experiences that a lot of fine artists are having and help you understand that there is another way. There is a better way. There’s a faster way. There’s a more profitable way. There’s a more dignified way. There’s a more fun way.

Jina Kim: (26:56)

Ann Rea: (26:56)
Than all this crap that you have been very skillfully sold. I mean, if you could think about one small show we’re estimating it took in 3.54 million, then they have the budget for some skillful marketing to grab your money. And, unfortunately, I hear this all the time. Jina’s story is one of so many I’ve heard over the years. So you want to learn about the way to do it right, the way to do it quick, the way to do it, or quickest. There’s nothing quick, right? There’s nothing quick about building a business. This is the quickest way, however. And you want to maintain your sense of dignity and pride. Join us this Saturday at noon Pacific Standard time. Register soon because we don’t have a lot of registrations left. Alrighty then. Jane registered. See you later, Jane. Okay, thanks Jina. Bye.

Ann Rea

Ann Rea, Fine Artist & Mentor

Ann Rea is a San Francisco-based fine artist. She created Making Art Making Money, the leading and most reputable business program for fine artists since 2005. Rea’s art and business savvy have been featured on ABC, HGTV, Creative Live, The Good Life Project, in the book Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields, the San Francisco Chronicle, Art Business News, Fortune, and Inc. Magazines. Rea’s artistic talent was commended by her mentor, art icon Wayne Thiebaud. 

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