How to sell your art? “RECORD OF AN ARTIST’S EXPERIMENT” by Charles Campbell from the 50’s(ish)

My Mom recently passed away and she saved almost everything…which I secretly love.  She went on a trip in the 50’s (I think) to New Orleans and I have a brochure from a restaurant nearby where Charles had his booth so I’m assuming she met him.  Here is a link to his work on an auction site since he actually had a good degree of success. The brochure is hysterical and kind of sad at the same time.  For all of you fellow artists out there, this one’s for you!

Copyright owned by artist- for information only.

“It is no experiment for an artist to display his work on the sidewalks of the New Orleans French Quarter.  By now it has become a tradition . . . But there are kinds of artists and kinds of pictures, and varied ways and means of displaying and selling.  Within those variations exits the possibility of experiment.

This sheet concerns one such attempt.

Unlike most painters who do direct selling on the streets, Charles Campbell is a thoroughly trained serious artist whose work has been exhibited in most of the large museums of the country-as can be seen by the Background Data listed on the opposite page.

In New Orleans his stand is at 513 Royal Street, near Antoine’s Restaurant (I have this brochure). . . As a salesman, Campbell has no competition–he is without doubt the worst salesman in the United States.  Is is this fact which gives his experiment a twofold aspect, the first of which is the selling of pictures on their merit, without the aid of gimmicks, posturing or pressure of any kind–no beret,no beard,no trick costume, no arty talk and no crude publicity blowups based on everything except the artist’s merit as an artist .. . Such sales-gimmicks are always effective selling technique with a certain type of buyer, but Campbell’s aim, beyond the selling of pictures, has been to combat the popular concept of the artist as a mixture of fraud and clown, and help restore him in the eyes of the more intelligent public as a man like other men, possessing human dignity and functioning as a productive member of society . . . If statistics were possible in the matter it is doubtful if they would show any loss of sales by Campbell’s refusal to be a clown–for those who respond to carnival tactics would not be his customers under any circumstances.  There seems always to be a direct correlation between the product, the sales technique and the buyer.

In his popular street scenes Campbell attempts to give the atmosphere an feeling of the Vieux Carre rather than simply to record buildings in a literal fashion, or portray them  with the sticky realism that echoes the colored postcard . . . His clowns are crisp pastel paintings executed with humor and imagination that make a refreshing change from the hard commercial clown prints, printed by the thousands and seen everywhere . . . The same can be said when he does a Jazz band in a session, or draws a cat–something beside the literal fact is added.

But it is in the second aspect of Campbell’s experiment that the unique quality is more obvious–the display of his serious creative work, which he hangs daily alongside his more popular type paintings . . . Museum officials, gallery owners and artist friends assured him at the start of his experiment that works of museum-exhibit calibre (sic) could not be sold on the street–that even potential buyers had to have the reassurance of gallery or museum prestige to support their selection before buying.  But in his three years on the streets Campbell has disproved this rather conclusively.

It goes without saying that the street scenes do outsell the serious work,particularly since the average visitor to the French Quarter is in a holiday mood and usually wants no more than a visual memento of his excursion. But during Campbell’s years on the streets his serious work has had a reception that definitely contradicts the theory that people do have the courage of their artist convictions . . .More and more people whose minds are open to fresh experience have become increasingly aware of the merit in progressive or “modern” art, and react favorably when the work is sincere in intention, genuinely creative, and base on fine design, good color and sound drawing where drawing is called for.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that for several years Campbell has successfully made available on the streets of New Orleans paintings of a quality too rarely seen anywhere–by a creative artist of professional stature.  Some of those who have bought his works are, it is true, shrewd “investment” buyers with an eye to the future, but most of the painting have been purchased with genuine appreciation by persons of real discrimination . . .

NOTE: So many purchasers of Campbell paintings have expressed surprise at finding his type of work on the streets, and have asked about his background, that this sheet has been prepared in response to those inquiries . . . For those interested in seeing more of Cambell’s work, a large selection of paintings and drawings is available at 615 Chartres Street–Apt. 3.

P. S. Be sure to see Campbell’s NOTE to the public at 513 Royal.”

Then it goes on to list his BACKGROUND DATA which includes Training, Exhibitions (many of which are major museums including the MET) and Purchase (again with a couple of major museums at this time).

What cracks me up about this is, that it’s a complete sales job in a used car kind of way.  He does this while stating he is a man of the people.  “no beret, no beard, no trick costume, no arty talk and no crude publicity blowups based on everything except the artist’s merit as an artist”  SUCH a great visual of how I hope artists were selling their work at that time.  I’m just an amazingly talented artist, who happens to be bad at selling, telling you how great I am.  Too funny!

UPDATE: 9/18/14 – I was going through all of my Mom’s wedding photos (yes still, it’s hard because it makes me emotional so I have to do it in shifts) and found out that this was from my Mom & Dad’s honeymoon.  She had a description of everything in her journal about the wedding and visiting my Uncle in New Orleans.  Makes it sweeter!

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