“Artists don’t belong in front of a camera,” a French painter and sculptor once told me. “We’re supposed to be the ones using the paint brushes and creating the art, not overtaking the spotlight.”
As a publicist, it’s always been my mission to manage the press. I talk to the media, deal with journalists, and arrange coverage for some of the biggest brands in the world. For years, I did that in Paris at the iconic Hôtel Plaza Athénée, but now I do it for some very influential and upscale clientele here in New York, where I live today.
Up until almost two years ago, I was communications manager at the Plaza Athenee, where I helped turn one of Paris’ most luxurious hotels into a veritable art gallery. Liaising with international galleries and art boutiques in Paris, New York, and elsewhere, I selected stunning pieces of modern art to display in the central courtyard, frontal façade, and plush corridors of our property, and our clients would regularly purchase these pieces of modern, imaginative artwork for tens of thousands of euros or, sometimes, much more.
I learned a lot about working with artists during my time there, and that’s what I want to share with you in this story — what it’s like to represent some of the biggest names in the art community and try to expose them to press and media, even when they often do not want it.
You see, artists are an interesting breed: They’re not quite as social and outgoing as you might expect. Not all artists are like Andy Warhol or writers and singers like Frank Sinatra and Ernest Hemingway. Many of them are quieter, more brooding, and more introspective, preferring to keep to themselves rather than be the center of attention.
And, very often, this created some interesting — if rather awkward — situations for me, as I tried to make these artists stars.
But, what I discovered is, like any other kind of person, artists need to trust the people they are dealing with. They need to know that they have their best interests at heart, but, in the case of artists, it’s all the more difficult to make that happen. Perhaps it’s because artists know that so many people around them are trying to profit off of their hard work and labor, whether they appreciate the efforts that went into creating a masterpiece or not.
I think what is so fascinating about artists is that they really express themselves through their work. One of them once said to me: “I don’t need to speak — people just need to look at my work, and they can understand what I have to say.”
Being in such close proximity to the work they created helped me understand what these artists were thinking and feeling. Even if they were wary of speaking to journalists, I could understand the deep and heartfelt emotions they poured into their work, just by spending so much time with their most intimate and personal of creations — their masterpieces.
What I learned about promoting artists is that you can’t focus so much on promoting the artist, because they don’t want to be front and center. It’s their creations and innovations that they want to stand out above all else, so you really have to spend the bulk of your time promoting the work itself.
After all, there’s an old French saying that speaks right to the heart of these enigmatic souls: “A good artist is someone whom you will never understand.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself!