Avoid Politics, Religion & Sports When Interacting with Potential Buyers | Xanadu Gallery’s Art Marketing Minute

In today’s politically charged environment, especially as we near another election, it’s almost impossible to avoid politics. In this Art Marketing Minute, we explore the importance of keeping your focus on your art when you are trying to sell.

Share Your Experience

Have you made the mistake of bringing up politics, religion or sports in your interactions with your clients? What was the result. What have you learned about directing the conversation away from these topics? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

14 Comments

  1. I don’t completely agree, given that much of my work is inspired by social and economic environments of our time. As well I make some art that quite obviously celebrates my cultural heritage (Judaism). This, I have never had a bad experience if those topics come up. Except sports. I have no interest in sports so if those come up I politely listen and mostly let it go into the universe.

    Clearly your advice is important, however, for artists whose work is more universally themed or directed. In those cases it definitely makes sense to not let emotionally charged topics intrude.

    Except for hate. Even if I was painting elegant landscapes, I would not abide racism, anti-semitism, or any other hate filled talk. There are some boundaries one must choose and live with.

    1. You raise an excellent point Patricia – if your work is social, political, or religious (or sports related, for that matter) in nature, there’s no way to avoid those topics in talking about your work. Artists have played important roles in creating social commentary and advocating for particular positions. That said, I would suggest that in those instances, the art is going to be strongest when it can speak for itself.

  2. I agree with you and Patricias comment. It is so tempting with what is happening to bring up politics but It can come back to bite you. On religion I am very active in my faith as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and produce art pertaining to the history of the Mormons (nickname) and many of my clients wait for new art work. I do not necessarily bring up my faith to those buyers not of my faith but many of them know and respect me and it is not a negative. However I agree that pushing religion on a buyer is not wise.

  3. I could not agree more. I never post anything on Facebook or Instagram or on my website that talks about religion, politics, or sports. Same holds true in my oral interactions directly with potential clients. I see people doing it all the time and I feel that it’s destructive. About a year ago I participated in a three-woman show. One of the women mentioned something that she might want to do that was political. I squashed that immediately. There is so much we can say in our art (and some people are political artists) but getting into those subjects keeps customers from focusing on our art and purchasing it. Thanks for this video. Makes so much sense.

  4. This is the nudge I needed to change my privacy settings on some of my Facebook posts. I never get political in my art page, blog, website, etc. but my private Facebook page is very political and lately I’ve allowed some of my posts to be public, as I’m very disturbed by certain events and want to reach more people.
    So, I’m in a bit of a quandary. I need to be myself, to express my truth, and not hide who I am because one day I might offend a potential client.
    But as I said, in dealing with clients and gallerists as well as in all my art marketing materials, I never get political, for all the reasons you state, Jason.
    Funny, though….. my two biggest clients as well as the galleries that have represented me are all on the same political page as me. So, when politics finally did safely enter the picture, it created a deeper bond.

  5. Some things I have been doing:
    In my bio I do mention very briefly that my work is motivated and guided by my faith life. I say this in very kind, respectful language. I don’t see how (or why) I would avoid talking about this fact in my bio. If a prospective client decides to reject me on that basis…oh well.
    In general, when talking about a particular piece of art, I don’t bring up any of these topics. If the customer brings it up, I listen to them talk, and try to discern the core values and motives underneath what they’re saying. Even if they’re on an entirely different page than me, I find I can usually connect with their deeper concerns, as these are pretty universal in the long run. I can then help them focus on the artwork again, and how it speaks to them about those concerns.
    Very rarely someone will insist on knowing my personal opinions about some particular issue, In which case they may find that we disagree. In that case, they will at least have had the experience of having been respected and listened to by someone they thought was their enemy. I will trade a sale for that any day.

  6. One of my previous occupations was a professional sales person. I sold radiology equipment & later health insurance for large groups. Sales 101, never bring up politics or religion. These are very polarizing subjects that folks have varied & strong unyielding opinions on. You never know who you are talking to and if you are there to discuss business why would you bring up a subject that would offend or aggravate your potential client? I would always scan their office & see what interested them, family, pets, work,. For art customers, ask if they are visiting or live locally, then go from there. People buy from people they like, & feel they have something in common with. Someone they can trust. If a potential customer brings up a inflammatory subject for you. Stay neutral, if you want a sale. I figure everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Its usually reflects where & when they grew up. I usually just nod my head in affirmation & re direct the subject as soon as possible. I was raised in the south and where I came from you just didn’t ever talk about it. It was considered a little rude since those subjects could cause arguments. I have friends to this day & have known them for 25yrs, still don’t know if they are democrat or republican and personally don’t care. I love them & we always have plenty to talk about other than religion or who you voted for. As for sports? I am not a big sport fan so if a potential customer comes in with a Dallas Cowboys tee shirt, I am open to hear about how he thinks the team will do this year, I never pretend that I am into sports & usually start with a disclaimer that I am no fan but let them know I am interested, which I usually am. Selling is selling no matter what the product is, its all about finding a natural connection and avoiding any subject that could be misinterpreted or offensive.

  7. Recently there was an artist I followed on Instagram who posted a political/religious statement that this artist favored. It was a political post on their artwork page. It instantly caused a lot of replies typical of the divisions we current experience in all media and life. Several made rebuttals saying they were no longer following the artist’s page. I too no longer follow this artist however I did not engage in the angry back and forth of the posts, I just left. This artist’s post affected how I viewed their work and I lost respect for an artist I’ve never even met. I do not own this artist’s work but I thought about what I would do if I did own one. My answer was I would not keep it, that’s how much the post affected me! In today’s environment I doubt anyone can afford to loose one admirer or client.

  8. At this point, with the state of our country, I will not be quiet about politics. Our democracy is FAR more important than hiding my beliefs in order to make a sale. Everyone must stand up and speak. These are dangerous and frightening times. Not a time for pollyanna pablum. Stand up everyone! Together we can bring decency and compassion back, and pull the country out of this mess. If my views are upsetting to anyone, I say please, please unfriend me, unfollow me or whatever. I’m not apologizing for speaking the truth.

  9. I agree as far as an actual discussion about buying a piece, but I can’t agree with the notion that we should be silent about our views everywhere else. Artists traditionally have always had a higher responsibility to use their voices to shed light on social issues, injustices, etc; we are society’s conscience, its soul. I personally cannot in good conscience silence my voice for the sake of financial gain, which is what that comes down to. Especially as a white American male, I feel I have a responsibility to use that voice. It is essential to speak out on issues that do not affect me personally, even though it would be all too easy to hide behind the excuse of lost income or harassment, when the needy and harassed are those I try to speak for. To draw an extreme example, fascist regimes take power when those that feel safe from persecution remain silent, until it’s too late, at which point we’re just as guilty as those who commit whatever atrocities and suffering may occur.

    1. Hi Benji – you and I are not disagreeing in the slightest – my video and comments are only about injecting politics or religion into the conversation when interacting with potential customers. I absolutely agree that we each have a responsibility to engage in civic discourse and to vote. My assertion is that there is a time and a place for that discourse, and I don’t believe it’s in a sales setting.

  10. Kristine and Benji, I have no idea who you are but I would buy and support your Art just based on your willingness to stand up and voice your truths. It is the brave that lead us and take risk beyond personal gain. Artists have a responsibility to evoke thoughts and emotional reactions. Whether it be a beautiful floral painting anchoring your color coordinated living space, the canvas portrait of your long lost pet, the bronze sculpture of an American cowboy herding cattle or Martin Luther King in a hoodie.
    There is great strength to me as an Artist that conservative Christian Family I love lives with a huge paint created by a Mixed race gay Artist. Me. True, there is a time a place for these taboo talking points, but repressing your expressions could be just damaging to your work. Then sales could reflect those choices.
    Thank for opening the conversation. I guess that’s why having your Art represented does make a difference. They understand the business of Art and the emotional assets of an Artist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *