Ditching social media does not have to mean sacrificing your audience reach. Here are 8 alternate ways you can continue building your audience.
By Sonia Luhong Wan
Social media may be king, but a growing number of artists (such as Andrea Crespo and Jack Borndal) are declaring a coup d’etat. Whatever your reasons for moving on from the medium—be it for better mental health, getting out of social media addiction, privacy or copyright concerns, or simply to diversify one’s approach, here are 8 ways to promote your art beyond Facebook and its kin.
1. Create an online art portfolio
Social media or no social media, a portfolio is your face as an artist; a single point of reference for potential patrons and interested persons to be introduced to you and your work. Having an online version of your portfolio makes it accessible anytime, anywhere, to anyone. If getting a unique domain name isn’t financially viable at the moment, consider creating a free website at Wix like Pahang-born artist Wong Ming Hao, or upload your artworks on portfolio websites such as Cargo and CarbonMade.
Wong Ming Hao’s art portfolio on Wix. Courtesy of Wong Ming Hao.
2. Turn your art into merch
Many may love your art, but not many may be able to purchase a framed original. Turning your art into usable or wearable merchandise makes it available to your fans at more accessible rates—and doubles as a mobile art exhibition of sorts! T-shirts, tote bags, digital wallpapers, stickers, enamel pins, fabric; you name it. Moreover, having daily reminders of their favourite artist may even motivate your fans to one day invest in buying an original piece. Creative United produces for and features merchandise by independent Malaysian artists.
Creative United aims to highlight Malaysian artists in particular. Courtesy of Creative United.
3. Sell your art online
Don’t wait to display your artworks in an exhibition to sell them! The art sector, like most sectors, is becoming increasingly digital at a rapid pace; no surprise then, that a survey published in 2019 forecasted online art sales to grow to 9.32 billion USD by 2024 as more and more art buyers look to the Internet to purchase art.
Saatchi Art is a popular option worldwide, whereas Displate provides the unique opportunity to sell your art as metal posters. Closer to home is Artroom 22, a KL-based art platform offering opportunities and resources for Asian artists to promote and sell their art online.
Artroom 22 offers an array of services for both artists and art lovers. Courtesy of Artroom 22.
4. Join art competitions
Besides that sweet prize money, winning art competitions also comes with free publicity. Even if you don’t win, runner-ups will often be highlighted on organiser websites as well—which means exposure for your work regardless. Just take a look at how Penang Art District’s Spotlight winners and finalists have leveraged the annual competition to their advantage. International Competitions and Call for Entries offer a comprehensive list of competitions you may participate in.
Call for Entries provides a directory of art competitions and other opportunities. Courtesy of Call for Entries.
5. Get involved in your art community
You might not be able to physically interact with others but various art groups have started online discussions to check in, brainstorm solutions or just offer support (or ideas). Being part of an art group in your community not only provides emotional support and camaraderie; it also offers a wider variety of avenues and resources for you to promote your art and forge collaborations compared to riding it solo. Level up! 5 ways to upgrade your artistic skills features two such art groups in Malaysia.
Being part of an art community offers tremendous opportunities to connect with other artists and share one’s work. Courtesy of Borneo Bengkel.
6. Go all out—organise your own art exhibitions!
Galleries may be closed but the internet is not. Organising your own art exhibitions (whether online or when the situation permits, offline) is not just one of the most direct ways to promote your art—it also teaches useful skills in art marketing that will stick with you for life. If doing a solo sounds intimidating to you, consider putting together a group exhibition.
And it goes without saying that the more people you know, the bigger the audience you can promote your shows to; this is where #5 and #7 come in handy (on that note, another plus with group exhibitions is that fellow exhibiting artists can also put the word out to their contacts).
Sarawakian artist Kedung Ballang Kapong shows her artworks to then-mayor of North Kuching, Datuk Haji Abang Wahap Abang Julai, during 9Lives’ group exhibition in Kuching in 2017. Courtesy of 9Lives.
We might be under a Movement Control Order (MCO) right now but with collective effort, we will be able to beat the virus and slowly be able enjoy going out again. #7 and #8 are suggestions that you can keep for times ahead.
7. Get featured in cafes/hotel lobbies/high-traffic areas
While exhibiting in art galleries undoubtedly comes with many perks, not everyone frequents an art gallery. Propose your artwork to owners of cafes, hotel lobbies, community spaces, and other places with high public access as well for a shot at wider immediate visibility and consistent exposure to a broader, more diverse audience beyond the art circle—such as business owners, organisation founders, members of the media, and practically anyone who would benefit from owning or featuring your artworks.
Borneo Restaurant and Bar in KL hosted the ‘56’ audio-visual art exhibition by Sarawakian artists Syed Rusydie and Sonia Luhong Wan in 2019. Courtesy of Syed Rusydie
8. Attend art exhibitions and art fairs
These occasions are perfect opportunities to network with and promote your art to fellow artists, art collectors, gallery managers, and the like. Knowing who are part of the art scene will also provide useful knowledge you can leverage on to develop further as an artist. Check out your local art galleries for updates on exhibitions; some regular annual art festivals in Malaysia include George Town Festival, Urbanscapes, Rantai Art Festival and Borneo Arts Festival.
*This article was written amidst the implementation of the MCO during the COVID-19 pandemic. For all of us currently going through various stages of cabin fever, thank you for contributing towards the national effort to keep everyone safe. Take care and stay creative!
A Sarawak-based artist, Sonia Luhong Wan’s foray into the art world began early on in life with colourful scribbles on encyclopaedias, and she has never looked back since.