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FineArtViews Interview: Alan Bamberger, Art Appraiser, Consultant, and Author

by Brian Sherwin on 1/15/2011 1:40:52 PM

This article is by Brian Sherwin, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint and Art Fag City. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.


Brian Sherwin: Alan, you have been an art consultant since 1985 and have written about art business since 1983. You are also known throughout San Francisco for being an astute art critic. Thus, you have no doubt observed how art marketing has changed over the years-- specifically since the advent of the Internet and the bombardment of social media that our lives tend to be linked to today. In general, what are your thoughts concerning the meshing of traditional art marketing with the Internet?


Alan Bamberger: The internet is an incredibly valuable tool; use it.  Artists can reach more people than ever with their work-- no matter where they live-- as long as they have an internet connection.  You don't necessarily have to be in a big city anymore, or know the right people, or play the game according to other people's rules.  If you have talent and you put it out there into the electronic ether, sooner or later they'll find you.


BS: Would you say that the Internet has made your job as an art consultant easier? Or does technology-- in general-- spur challenges that were not present before? If so, can you explain?


AB: The Internet has made it far easier for me to put my point of view out there.  My writing is generally not the type of writing that arts publications chase after-- because it's not the kind of writing that contributes to advertising revenues.  But I don't write to contribute to someone else's advertising revenues.  I write to help people understand the art world better.  And that's another reason why publications aren't that thrilled with the stuff I write-- plenty of arts professionals don't want educated clienteles; it's easier for them to take advantage of people who don't know anything. 

My goal is to inform people with my writing-- to make them better artists or collectors or people who just plain appreciate art.  So readers get exposed to my point of view, hopefully they learn stuff that they didn't know, and if they like what they read, they hire me-- and plenty of  them do.  It's just that simple.


BS: In your opinion, what are the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing social networking and a personal website for art marketing and exposure efforts-- specifically in regards to the efforts of emerging artists who are seeking recognition for their artwork? Is it important for an artist to be active on social networking websites like Facebook and to have a personal website?


AB: Advantages:  You show your art, you place it in context, you give a little background information about yourself, and you let people decide for themselves whether they want to know more.  You keep on producing and adding to your website or Facebook page or Flickr page or whatever-- CONSTANTLY-- so that people can see you're dedicated, productive, and committed to being an artist.  And don't ever give up!


Disadvantages:  Some artists get caught up in this "Look at my art and tell me what you think" kind of presentation-- soliciting responses, constantly asking people to do stuff for them, give them free advice, talk about them and their art (and nothing else), and rarely giving anything in return.  If you approach the Internet like that, all you become is a pest.


BS: As an art writer what is your opinion of the success of art blogs compared to traditional art publications? Do you feel that art blogs are having an impact on art criticism as far as the public is concerned? Do you think that specific art bloggers will find their place in the history of art writing?


AB: Blogs work.  But you have to dedicate yourself to it, post regularly, develop your own unique perspective or story line, and keep at it.  That's how you get readership; that's how you get a profile.  Back in the old days, the main way people got their art news was through a very limited selection of publications-- or from the local newspaper's art critic.  Now it's a free-for-all.  Anyone can play the game, and as with all games, the best players inevitably win.


BS: What advice do you have for emerging artists in general? Do you have any suggestions for gaining exposure or selling art?


AB: An art dealer once told me, "No art sells itself." And he's right, but that doesn't mean you hawk it like timeshares or used cars. Perhaps the most important key to "selling" art is giving people reasons to care. With all the other stuff out there for people to care about, why should they care about your art? Why do you care about your art? That's a great place to start.


If you can convey and convince, in a simple sentence or two, why people should care about your art the way that you care about it-- you make sales. The same can be said for gaining exposure online or in a more traditional manner. You have to give people reasons to care. I offer hundreds of pages of advice on my site.


BS: Point blank-- who are the most influential artists exhibiting at this time in your opinion?


AB: I don't see art that way.  An artist may produce a brilliant body of work one year and a complete yawner the next.  I prefer the overview-- watching everything happen at once, witnessing the evolutionary progression of it all, experiencing the totality of artists making art and of people responding to it.  I could care less who's doing what this week... or next week... or the week after.


BS: As for the services that you offer-- do you work with emerging artists or do you prefer to work with artists who have traveled a few blocks on their own, so to speak?


AB: I work with anyone who's committed to making art and to surviving as an artist.


BS: Finally, what advice do you have for art collectors who are interested in discovering new talent online-- but are nervous to take that first leap of making an online purchase? Furthermore, do you think e-Commerce is a valid edition to art marketing in general-- or should artists focus on traditional routes for sales?


AB: Buying art with a keyboard and mouse is the new frontier of collecting. I cover this in Chapter 11 of my book The Art of Buying Art. The chapter covers basic facts about how online art buying works, how it differs from buying art in traditional ways, and how to progress from looking at art for sale to locating art you like and considering specific pieces for possible purchase.


This much I will say about buying art online-- you have to know what you're doing, know what you're looking for, know what you're looking at, be able to ask the right questions and evaluate the answers, be able to research what you're thinking about buying (not just take the seller's word for it), corroborate any claims that sellers make, and on and on.  If you're an amateur who thinks you're going to beat the Internet bushes for bargains, think again.  There's no shortage of unscrupulous sellers lying in wait for suckers like you.


To learn more about Alan Bamberger, visit his website at


Take care, Stay true,


Brian Sherwin


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Topics: FineArtViews

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Carol Schmauder
I enjoyed this interview very much Brian. I love to create art but am always hoping to learn more about how to promote my art. I have bookmarked Mr. Bamberger's site and will check it often.

Marsha Hamby Savage
Thank you for this interview. I totally agree with everything that was said. Many artists I know that are "emerging" are all about themselves -- how am I doing, what could be better, tell me what you think, etc. Sure we have to ask these things sometimes, but I think, just continuing to paint, learning to evaluate your own stuff, and giving back in some way ... these are what I believe the "real" emerging artists are about.

It is nice to hear a professional talk about what the coming new ways are for selling and getting your work out there -- getting recognized. It requires constant work, constant re-evaluation, and caring about what we do.

Again, thanks for more insight!

Bonnie Samuel
Good piece, Brian. Interesting in that if someone is looking for the magic that will get them on the charts, well it is simply dedication and hard work is what Alan seems to be saying. Along with some internet savvy and some wisdom about marketing one's self. Thanks!

Jo Allebach
I better get your book!

Teresa Tromp
I also bookmarked Alan's web page.
Looks as if he has a lot of interesting posts for artists.
Thanks Brian

Casey Craig
"And don't ever give up!"

This is truly the key. Artists have to have the perseverance to keep working, keep improving, and to keep learning regardless of their circumstances.

Plus - aren't we fairly miserable trying to do anything else? :)

Great interview and lots of good resources, thanks Brian!

Marsha Hamby Savage
I thoroughly enjoyed going to the Alan's website and reading many of the articles he has. I think I have read at least 25 of them so far.... if not more! I advise everyone to go to his web site! I plan to use many of the thoughts found there. Good stuff.

Sandy Askey-Adams
Thank you Brian.

This is a very professional, informative and helpful interview.
All artists will learn much by reading this post. I know I will be referring to it, as well as going on the business web site.

The book looks like a good idea to have also because it will offer a perspective from the other side..."The Art of Buying Art."
Perhaps it will help us know what may be in the mind of the buyer and how we might want to present out work to the buyer.

So glad you put this out there for us to see and read.


Well, I definitely think there needs to be more critical art writing that is independent of commercial interests, so I'll be checking out Alan's site.

Carolyn Henderson
Thank you for conducting this interview. Very informative.

It's amazing how that message keeps coming through: Keep at it, keep working, keep posting, keep your spirits up -- don't give up.

Brian Sherwin
I'm glad that so many of you have enjoyed the interview. Alan is a writer who is not afraid to make his opinion known-- even if it goes against the grain of popular opinion within the context of the mainstream art world. I respect him as a writer and for his integrity.

It is common for art writers in general to box themselves in with other writers. Alan steps outside of that box-- and if needed... breaks the box in. I have potential interviews lined up with Mat Gleason and other art writers who have strong opinions that tend to go against the grain.

"AB: An art dealer once told me, "No art sells itself." And he's right, but that doesn't mean you hawk it like timeshares or used cars. Perhaps the most important key to "selling" art is giving people reasons to care. With all the other stuff out there for people to care about, why should they care about your art? Why do you care about your art? That's a great place to start".
IF for no other reason this is the message to take away from this excellent interview...

Sandy Askey-Adams

It is nice to read all this once again. Glad it popped up again.
The web site is stacked full of valuable information.


Gail Taylor
Brian, Enjoyed reading your article on Winkleman and Bamburger. Have been a fan of Bamburger for many years. Looking forward to reading your take on Mat Gleason.

Thanks for sharing.

Scott Solda
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