Features / Focus

How to Win Global Art Market – An Interview with Sherry Dobbin

posted 11 June 2020

This month, TheArtro presents a special feature series titled “How to Win Global Art Market,” that is essential for Korean Contemporary Art’s competitive stake in the Global Art Market. The series, starting with an article by the curator Daehyung Lee, interviews leading journalists, art consultants and art market and marketing specialists from around the world. Discussions on global art marketing trends and strategies over the past ten years are coupled with expert inputs on institutional support to strengthen the international competitiveness of Korean Contemporary Art. Experts interviewed include Carsten Recksik, the publisher of art magazine ArtReview and ArtReview Asia, Jane Morris, Editor-at-Large of The Art Newspaper, Partner of Futurecity, Sherry Dobbin and Louise Hamlin, founder of Art Market Minds, which is a leading platform for art business conferences. In addition, James Green, Director of theDavid Zwirner, Jagdip Jagpal, Director of India Art Fair, David Field, Freelance cultural communications consultant, and Jesse Ringham, Head of Content at the Serpentine Galleries also accepted our requests for interviews. These privileged insights from the insiders of the global art market surely deserve our undivided attention as Korean art sets sights on broader horizons.

Sherry Dobbin is a partner of Futurecity(UK)

Sherry Dobbin is a partner of Futurecity(UK)

Q : In the last 10 years, what major changes have there been in global marketing strategies? What kind of roles are being shared and collaborated in global and local media?

Sherry Dobbin : In ten years, social and digital media have completely altered the ways in which we communicate about events, distribute content and consider consumers as active participants. Paid media has radically altered price points and distribution numbers. The offline media and print are now supported by the digital and virtual experiences. Strategies have shifted from being concrete campaigns to responsive media buys.

The power dynamic of PR has been upended as major newspapers have reduced their editorial and critics staff and are now outsourcing freelancers; there are few fact-checkers; thus, misinformation spreads quickly online and the ‘weight’ in getting major newspapers has reduced in value.

Q : Could you elaborate on how the global and local have merged in the art marketing world? How do you see its future?

SD : As the local and global markets and audiences merge into a heighted shared pursuit of the ‘authentic’ and ‘distinctive,’ there is combined category of ‘glocal’ experiences and audiences. Cheapening and expanding travel options over the past ten years and more visitors staying in local neighbourhoods, has these audiences mixing frequently. Their common interest in ‘exploration’ at home and abroad for new ‘discoveries,’ leads to posting ‘snapshots’ on shared. social media channels and on reviews and rating apps, creating a more democratic and consumer-led distribution.

Q : We are experiencing a rapid change in platform from offline public relations to digital and mobile marketing. How are digital strategies changing, and how do you see its future?

Digital strategies are dialogues with consumers and thus delivery is rapid and fluid in real-time. Emphasis is placed on how nimble, responsive and connective to partners in other sectors, as there is a greater interest in sharing brand association through the reposting of content. The strategies place less importance on predicting outputs and outcomes and are focus on leveraging limited budget allocation to best attract influencers who will distribute the content, to hit the right target audiences. Purchase of online ads or boosting posts is apportioned to trusted individuals to maintain the dialogue with consumers and promoters.

Campaigns now represent bought media plans and investment in content creation of still and video assets that will appeal to the influencers’ markets. The importance of staging the artwork is necessary. There is a higher value in the ‘behind the scenes’ content. The role of producing offline, printed material must support the virtual, digital content being distributed. Event activation or performance to engage the audience with a longer, in-person experience that lives beyond their online engagement is valued highly. It is not enough to just exhibit- audiences want to be content producers – making their individual film/statements which etch personal statement onto shared experience.

Gary Yeh is founder of new art media company, ArtDrunk. He had been ranked 10 Art Influencer by Artnet in 2018 and his Instagram account @artdrunk has over 94.4k followers. Image provided by Gary Yeh.

Gary Yeh is the founder of new art media company, ArtDrunk. He had been ranked 10 Art Influencers by Artnet in 2018 and his Instagram account @artdrunk has over 94.4k followers. Image provided by Gary Yeh.

Q : What are your thoughts on the impact of technological development (ex. Big data, A.I., etc.) to art market?

It is difficult to crack into new audience markets as AI routing and filtering impacts so visible content. Audiences tend to be directed to an assumed content interest, based on past views and associated likes from people viewing similar content. As art often appeals because it can represent something that the viewer has not considered previously and is different from usual viewing, it is difficult to navigate how to interrupt the AI filters. A digital strategy has to consider how to engage PR through influencers that will ‘trick’ the algorithms by introducing content into unexpected feeds/audiences. There is more transparent ‘provenance’ of artwork and new digital certificates for art, such as through Verisart, make it easier for consumers to challenge a dealer’s role.

Q : How do you find that such algorithmic analysis that appeal to audiences and consumers will affect the overall art ecosystem? What kind of influence does technological development have on promoters and artists?

Digital media analytics has allowed a sophisticated reporting and exposure to how ‘word of mouth’ recommendations happen and spotlight other successful methods of distribution that can be a surprise. Every technological development sharpens the information about consumers’ behaviour. And as it is instigated through a very democratic process, it is more effective than sending people with questionnaires into crowds.

Q : There has been a long history of academic research to strengthen global competitiveness of Korean contemporary art. There is an absolute shortage of publications, journals and channels in English. What policy and institutional support do you think are required for the Korean government to overcome this?

Financially-supported invitations and exchange opportunities for English-speaking scholars, journalists, bloggers, social media influencers and art historians to come to Korea is the most effective approach to achieve both: 1. creation of content within Korea and 2. distribution of Korean art scene across existing international channels, publication and platforms. Establishing an exchange programme with international Councils and Embassies (British Council, Arts Council England, Canadian Arts Council, American Embassies) where the invited authors apply in a simple form to have guided visits (and self-guided tour agendas) for a grant/fee in exchange for a publication of a news story will incentivize content creation and distribution.

Supported travel grants and fees for galleries to be represented in the existing international art market fairs (such as Art Basel, Armory Art Show and Frieze); contemporary arts events during art fair weeks; contribution to talks programmes for major fairs, festivals, and biennales will put the subjects and images of the Korean arts scene in the discourse. Support of galleries showing Korean artists at the international events will reach collectors.

There needs to be concurrently supporting Korean higher education that will teach art history and contemporary critique in English, which will develop writers within the country. Supported travel grants to English-speaking international arts events for these writers will supply the context of writing articles and generating livestreams for an international audience.

Q : Art fairs are overflowing, from affordable art fairs with limited price ranges to photo-centric fairs. Nevertheless, various attempts are being made to create a new kind of art market. What kind of art fairs do you think Korea needs?

Korea may consider a multi-arts platform, such as an international arts festival with a fair. A model such as Manchester International Arts Festival that would also aligns and builds a small arts fair, as a component of a festival, will help to develop the visitorship and curiosity. The K-pop band BTS has begun an interesting trend of partnering with high-end artists internationally to create interventions alongside their concerts, thus amplifying their presence. Since K-pop has such an extraordinary impact internationally, there is an opportunity to further explore this attraction of international music and Korean artists in combination, so that new audiences, influencers and writers begin to investigate a more complex Korean arts scene. Fine art, music, public art, and virtual platforms can create a new development approach for arts audiences and market to generate a bigger moment that grabs attention. Art Basel Cities has found that, in order to attract collectors to invest in a trip to a new place, there need to be ancillary events, activity and opportunities to make the trip an excursion and it must speak to the authenticity and distinctiveness as place to appeal to cultural explorers.

Q : How much are you familiar with Korean art history? Which Korean artists do you know, and from what route and point in time were you able to find out about them?

I am most familiar with contemporary artists from exhibitions in NYC, Los Angeles, London and international fairs and festivals, such as the Venice Biennale. As an American, living in NYC and Los Angeles, there was more display and exchange relating to emigrated Korean artists and local community whom may have immigrated from Korea over generations. These artists include: Do Ho Suh, Lee Bul, Jung Lee, Il Lee, JeeYung Lee, Cody Choi, Moon Kyungwon, as much of their work is both specific to their background but also universal in ‘story-telling.’ Also, several western performance artists have been interested in the traditional dance forms.

Lee Bul, 〈Willing To Be Vulnerable - Metalized Balloon V3〉, 2015/2019. Installation view, Encounters sector Art Basel Hong Kong 2019, Hong Kong, 2019. Nylon taffeta cloth, polyester with aluminum foil, fan, electronic wiring, polycarbonate mirror, 230 x 1000 x 230 cm. Photo courtesy: Studio Lee Bul and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.

Lee Bul, 〈Willing To Be Vulnerable - Metalized Balloon V3〉, 2015/2019. Installation view, Encounters sector Art Basel Hong Kong 2019, Hong Kong, 2019. Nylon taffeta cloth, polyester with aluminum foil, fan, electronic wiring, polycarbonate mirror, 230 x 1000 x 230 cm. Photo courtesy: Studio Lee Bul and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.

As a former cultural institutional leader and producer, I tend to find out about Korean artists and art history through the making of an art piece or a presentation. The content of the artwork tends to be the best entrance into learning about other cultures, and those contents that possess a link of familiarity and universal human conditions and narratives are more effective rather than trying to digest ‘Korean art history’ as a whole and separate approach.

Q : What role do you think your current work plays in terms of the overall art ecosystem? And with what areas do you find collaboration important?

My current work crosses cultural strategies for places (developments, districts and entire cities); cultural infrastructure advice (strategies for cultural production and consumption; cultural institutional development consultation and sourcing new homes for these organisations); arts commissioning of sculptural and digital art work; programmes for public space installation and performance; advising for international arts exchange and presentation. I also consider how culture is sustainable and resilient within a greater context of place identity and related marketing. As I have produced every art form except feature film, I understand how art is made and presented. This enables me to form unexpected and strong partnerships and collaborations.

As an American, I have never assumed that subsidy would fund the arts, so my thirty years of professional experience has been seeking new collaborations to form greater ambitions. The collaborative approach is positive for finances, promotion, audience multipliers, and for attracting the press so they can cover the success of the several viewpoints at once. In a time when cities are expecting cross-over with businesses, and governments and consumers are expecting cross-over in retail, F&B, and working spaces, my collaborative experience has gained significant value.

Q : Various programs for securing new collectors are evolving in different ways. What aspects of Korean contemporary art should be strengthened in order to appeal to global collectors? What has changed in the criteria for collectors that they find most important?

Global presence of Korean artists among international platforms will raise the international collectors’ appeal. It is necessary to understand the collectors’ peer groups, habits of collectors (what else do they do when purchasing), their roles in collecting for homes, businesses or for public places. Some of the more experimental, young, start-up wealthy may want the status of ‘serious’ works and the more conservative company leaders may look for the ‘edge’ to communicate their appeal. Home pieces are conversation points. Some collectors begin to consider themselves curators or curatorial partners with museums and cultural institutions.

What is the narrative that collectors will tell with their works? How can there be multiple narratives so that collectors are making their own discoveries and connections? Video and digital has not developed a strong market for collectors; this work is great for creating events around art fairs – and thus is good to attract attention, fill museums, create a live experience and memory. That memory may translate into two-dimensional works that can be sold to collectors. For example, Marina Abramovic earns her money from the C-prints related to her performance art pieces. Supporting the multi-genre approach of artists will engage collectors and offer alternative mediums to collect. Most often, people collect memories or investment.

Related Articles

How to Win Global Art Market by Daehyung Lee
How to Win Global Art Market - An Interview with Carsten Recksik
How to Win Global Art Market - An Interview with Jane Morris
How to Win Global Art Market - An Interview with Louise Hamlin
How to Win Global Art Market - An Interview with James Green
How to Win Global Art Market - An Interview with Jagdip Jagpal
How to Win Global Art Market - An Interview with David Field
How to Win Global Art Market – An Interview with Jess Ringham

Sherry Dobbin

Fluid-thinker and cultural advocate who fosters new approaches of how arts intersect with our daily lives. She excels at cultivating public-private partnerships, supporting inter-disciplinary innovation; predicting new business models and cultural trends, while always committed to quality and relevance for all practitioners and audiences. London-based. American-born. Times Square-tested. Internationally distributed.
As Partner at Futurecity (UK), with Founder Mark Davy, she focuses on the management and organisational development of the global placemaking and arts commissioning agency. She has oversight of the entire portfolio and direct involvement in projects with strong cultural focus, and brokers sustainable partnerships cross-sectors and between public-private-civic agencies. Her strategic work considers new models and measurements, thought leadership in property and cultural sectors, governance and delivery plans and the Public Art projects cover permanent sculptural works, programming, and cultural infrastructure. Current projects cover four continents and clients include developments, districts, consortium, BIDs and cities. She was Founder and Director of Times Square Arts; Creative Director for Times Square Alliance; Director of Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center; Director of GreenHeart Partnership and has produced art work in every form across four continents.

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