We’re going to have occasional guest reviews of museum-related books going forward. This is our first, by Tufts student Molly Braswell. If you’d like to review a museum book, please comment on any post or email the editor. If you’d like to review books, but don’t have a particular one in mind, we’ve got a long list to work through and can hook you up!
Making it in the Art World: New Approaches to Galleries, Shows, and Raising Money
By Brainard Cary
Brainard Carey’s book, Making it in the Art World: New Approaches to Galleries, Shows, and Raising Money, is written for artists who either want to establish their careers, or
propel and improve their existing careers. His book is a how-to guide with a workbook component. In the book Carey delivers information about how to be a successful artist,
mostly through personal anecdotes and experiences. At the end of each chapter he gives the reader space to answer some questions and respond to certain prompts; these sections are designed to keep the reader on track with his or her career. The workbook aspect is well thought out and helpful, but Carey’s reflections and tips in the chapters are often redundant and common sense. In my opinion, Carey missed out on a great opportunity to create an artist’s workbook, complete with a calendar/scheduling component. This, for the average artist who works from home and without a fixed schedule, could be really helpful. Where Carey misses the mark, however, is with the book’s content.
Carey is a working artist whose pieces have been exhibited all over the world, most notably at the Whitney Museum of American Art and MOMA. He owns a company called The Art World Demystified, which produces tools and materials designed to help artists further their careers. The pro and con of Carey’s book, is the use of his own personal experiences as an artist. On the one hand, it is nice to hear advice that has worked for someone; on the other hand, Carey’s delivery often feels patronizing. For example, the fact that the chapters are titled things like: “Getting into the Whitney Biennial” (which Carey did), makes the book seem a little condescending. Because most of his content is derived from personal experience, the book sometimes reads as an ode to Carey’s genius handling of his career. Other times it reads as an advice column from someone who has “made it.” The truth is that Carey probably does know what he’s doing, and his success and career are proof of that. However, the book would be much more successful if the anecdotes were less prominent, and if there was more of a focus on the practical advice.
This book, if it had been a workbook with practical how-to sections, would have been successful and very useful. The short chapters and approachable writing make for a quick and easy read, and Carey is right to assume that working artists might need frequent support and a few nudges to help them stay on track. The book excels in its ability to make the reader accountable for his or her career. But Carey’s helpful advice is often overpowered by the many anecdotes about his successes, and the advice is hard to take seriously when it is surrounded by common sense suggestions like: don’t drink too much at work parties, and always write thank you notes.
As someone who tried, albeit for only a short time, to make art for a living, I was anxious to read Carey’s book. In my opinion, the art field does need to be taken more seriously, and likewise, artists need to take themselves more seriously. It is clear that to be a successful artist one must approach art like a job, and there is obviously a need for helpful, how-to books that explain this. Carey is somewhat successful in his attempt. While he is right to use his own experiences to help get his points across, he should have relied on them less and he should have spent more time on the practical tips and suggestions.