Last night on BBC’s iPlayer, I watched an episode of The Apprentice in which Lord Sugar dispatched two teams with the task to

  •  curate 2 artists’ artworks for a one-day exhibit
  •  propose an artist and artwork(s) to a corporate sponsor
  •  set up and manage the exhibit
  •  represent and sell the artworks

Two teams attempt to pitch graffiti artists for ad campaigns, Renault and Beefeater Gin

Renault – managed by Tom’s team
Representing artists:  Copyright and James Jessop

Copyright, 'Lady of the Lake', 2009, silk screen with hand finishing. Image courtesy
Copyright, ‘Lady of the Lake’, 2009, silk screen with hand finishing. Image courtesy

Beefeater Gin – managed by Gabriela’s team
Representing artists:  Pure Evil and Nathan Bowen

Both teams managed to sell artworks by their artists, however, the points I want to highlight, which I took away from the show (which I’d never seen before). It was quite a learning opportunity in a business sense, I must say…

Tom’s team didn’t get the artist they wanted (Pure Evil) because this artist chose Gabriela’s team to represent him — because her team was enthusiastic about the work, interested in the artist/his work, and Pure Evil felt they would better represent him.  Tom’s team came off as uninterested, unenthusiastic and also a bit arrogant (in that Tom spent more time trying to prove how much he knew about street art, rather than spending time asking the artist about his work).

Lesson learned:  when with the artist, focus on HIM and HIS work. S/he is the product after all.

Pure Evil, 'Print Phillip's Nightmare', silk screen print on paper. Image courtesy
Pure Evil, ‘Print Phillip’s Nightmare’, silk screen print on paper. Image courtesy

When working with the corporate client:  Gabriella didn’t ask them what their budget was, or other requirements. She felt that with art, that more or less, money would be no object for a fantastic piece. (Wrong!)

Lesson learned:  always ALWAYS get requirements for a commissioned piece, and especially a corporate piece. Tom’s team did this from the start with Renault.Lesson learned:  art ALWAYS has a budget, and do your research.

Because Gabriella didn’t know the budget and requirements of the corporate client, she picked the wrong artist completely. She picked a £500-a-print artist, when their budget was £10,000.  Also, the corporate client had already seen Nathan Bowen’s work, and didn’t like his work for their brand.

Lesson learned:  do your research.

Street art characters around London, by Nathan Bowen. Image courtesy Duncan C and Flickr
Street art characters around London, by Nathan Bowen. Image courtesy Duncan C and Flickr

At the exhibit, Gabriella’s team didn’t treat their corporate client properly; they weren’t greeted at the door, or given attention, and maybe more importantly, they are a gin company and when offered a drink, they requested a gin and tonic. And the guy LAUGHED and said, “I wish”, and offered them wine. Also the gallery team didn’t even show them around or say good bye. Maybe they had no idea they were talking to VIPs or a potential corporate sponsor.  They didn’t buy anything.

Lesson learned:  look after your VIPs and corporate clients and cater to them specifically.

Tom’s team (Tom specifically) took a risk by choosing to represent James Jessop – his work would be difficult to sell because of both its size and content.  This risk didn’t pay off in the end but no fault to Tom for trying.  His mistake was not having a “plan B” when his favourite artist went with the other guys.

Lesson learned:  from a business point of view, always have a contingency plan in case the first one doesn’t work out.

Having never seen this programme before, I didn’t know what to expect. Nonetheless, there were quite a few good bits of advice to learn from it (as an artist or as a business person in general).

Artist James Jessop poses with his work in Selfridge's Art Stars. Image courtesy
Artist James Jessop poses with his work in Selfridge’s Art Stars. Image courtesy

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