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

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.

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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 ARTsala. 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. Connect with Jason on Facebook

24 Comments

  1. Not art related, but I work for a media company that just sponsored one of the presidential candidates. Within a week they lost millions of dollars in advertising, hundreds of subscribers and even received death threats, which meant increasing security. No matter what your business, it’s best to not bring up anything that could be controversial.

  2. I have removed all political posts from my fb site but it’s difficult to control what friends post. I have 2 fb accts – one personal and one for art. I have a painter friend who is passionate about her politics and the struggles many people go through. We talk about the need for her to keep it out of her discussions. I did tell her she might look for shows or galleries that cater to political art.

    1. Wise Kathy. And to be clear, I’m not saying that the art itself has to be politically or socially neutral, but even then I would avoid getting into sensitive topics when showing the work to collectors – let the art speak for itself.

  3. My personal Facebook page, limited to friends and family, has very little in the way of the three “taboo” discussions. My Facebook art page: ZERO.
    Those are best kept to people you know rather well…close friends and family….not co-workers, business acquaintances or with people you have first casually met.
    I know of one of my artist acquaintances who’s continued political rants are a total turn-off. He utterly despises the other candidates. I don’t even like his art that well anymore (that is how politics can “color” one’s receptiveness to an artist’s work). If I were in the market for buying art, I would look elsewhere, such is the unpleasant association with his work.
    If one must “toot their opinion horn” do so very, very quietly, or in the company of trusted friends and family.
    If one wishes to make a political or social statement with their art, look for a venue or platform to share it with…..and not with the “man (or woman) off the street”.

  4. I’d love to see other people’s ways of redirecting the conversation back to the art, in case the prospect brings up one of these taboo topics. Anyone?

  5. Many of my artist associates have “un-friended” me even though I carefully avoid political discussions . I had the opportunity to ask one if them why. She said that because I was a veteran and made most of my living in business – I was probably opposite in my political views and she could not deal with that. Boy am I glad she un-friended me!!

  6. When your art is all about mysticism and exposing misguided but commonly held modes of thought, avoiding taboos would be an art in itself. I find it tough to deal with the business side of art if it involves sterilizing my art. Sacrificing many years to study the kind of subjects I’ve studied, for me focusing on retinal art would be like artistic suicide.

  7. I have bit my tongue so much as to be painful. I know my arguments will not change anyone’s mind. I know my perspective conflicts with half the population. And the most important lesson here is, it has zero to do with art sales. If you want to debate politics go to another website. Join a political party, group, PAC, organization … but leave art out of it. Art doesn’t care, nor should it ….
    Transcend the commentary. You are an artist and unless your work deals directly with cultural or political trends ignore it. Politics is constant … art endures.
    Equally, delving into religion is to dive into one’s soul … leave that to preachers. It is intensely personal and I feel I have no right to tread on such sacred ground.
    Sports … if there is any one thing to have fun with sports is it. Companionable banter is great fun and competition between cities is fine. If it becomes too serious, stop. Bottom line, it’s just a game.
    Your art is the elevated subject. Nothing else matters.

  8. I will never avoid those topic, if that becoming to personal matter. I will allow myself to do it. I am not a well know Artist yet, but I will still doing it no matter what other people’s opinion. And yes, we have to let Art speak for it self. For some reason, these day we make art for living and not even care about the real meaning of it. That’s the reason why “well knon Artist” will have to be “death” before they became “famous”. For security reason? We all going to be die one day anyway.

  9. Thank you so much for these insights. I often find it challenging to “draw the line”. So far I have kept sports, religion and politics out of my business. I learned this as survival 101 working in design teams for over 25 years. Jason, excellent advice and thanks for the reminder especially in this election frenzy.

  10. Thank you, Jason, for sharing this! As artists, we’re pretty passionate people and yet I totally understand how any mention of these taboo subjects becomes an uncomfortable distraction from my work. I do have a question- Do we keep all mention of religion out of our artist statements? As a Christian, it is an undertone in my work. I know its good not to dwell on my faith but is it best not to mention it at all?

    1. I would reiterate my reply from above – let the work speak for itself in this regard. If you make the religion explicit, you may limit the breadth of the appeal of your work. By not talking about it you would allow people to see the work for the underlying principles like charity, love, and beauty that transcend any particular religion and are universal.

  11. I totally agree about the first two, but sports? Nah, I am a Yankees fan, there is nothing better than a bit of banter with an arch rival Red Sox fan. Especially since it is love of the game which is at the core of fandom. If anything I have only had this develop bonds with clients through the years as baseball is an easy thing to talk to break the ice. When the Red Sox finally won the world series in 2004, one of my gallery owners called me the next day to gloat.

    1. It’s not that you can’t talk about sports ever, it’s just that you don’t want to talk about it when you are in the midst of showing and talking about your work. After the client has made the purchase, or when you meet in a social setting, then you can talk about sports. I would still hesitate on politics and religion, but there may be clients who become close personal friends with whom you can discuss those subjects outside of a sales setting.

      1. Jason, You are absolutely right about discussing those three topics with clients. If you want to talk about sports teams and you know that the person isn’the emotionally wrapped up in a particular team, then maybe go ahead. But politics or religion should be off the table. Those are subjects that you can’t even discuss with friends unless you’re both in the same camp. It also just detracts from the discussion about your art.

  12. Sports caught me by surprise, and I’m glad to know that it’s a dangerous area. I am so much a non-sports person that I probably wouldn’t bring it up anyway, but still it’s good to know that other people are passionate about their teams. I would not have guessed that it’s a touchy area. Surely this saves me from making perhaps an unfunny joke (unfunny to the hearer). As to politics and religion, Momma always said to leave those things out of conversation. There’s times and seasons — especially there’s times for sharing your faith — but sales time is clearly not the right occasion.

    As for politics, all I can say is that its avoidance can make your life so much lighter and happier.

  13. Jason, do you have any recommendations for redirecting the conversation if the potential client brings it up? When I worked in cubicle land it was easy to “have to get back to work” but when your “work” involves talking to that client it’s not so easy.

    1. The first tactic is not to have it come up in the first place, so I try to keep the conversation moving in other directions. If, for example, a client starts to express opinions that are contrary to mine (or, even if they are in line with mine) I listen politely for a few moments and then lightly deflect: “it’s certainly complicated” or something similar. I then try to move the conversation back in the direction of the art. I just don’t give the conversation anywhere to go. I don’t express disagreement or agreement with the points the client might be making. I’ve also found that by physically moving to another part of the gallery to look at another work of art I get to reset the conversation.

      Whatever you do, and no matter how outrageous an opinion is, don’t feed the fire by expressing your own opinion on the topic. As I said in the video, an art encounter just isn’t the time to engage in a debate.

  14. Once again, excellent advice Jason, especially the warning about what we post on social media. I have never run into a controversial sports conversation (perhaps that is not as important to me as a woman?) but I learned early on that politics and religion are taboo subjects anywhere if one is to keep the peace with family and friends. I wonder how artists who use their art to make social and political statements handle this?

  15. I am late to listening to this article but it is so timely. Last night was a presidential debate. I have a personal Facebook page and am in the process of setting up one for just art. About half of my “friends” on FB are artists. They are very passionate about their political views, even changing parties back and forth but still voicing a fierceness to their causes with the changes. I let them discuss and simply scroll by. My views may be different or undecided so I don’t feel the need to engage for the sake of argument. Recently, their temperament has increased not just by ridiculing those that don’t agree with them but also using the term “hate” in their context towards those that may not share their opinion. It got to where I am afraid to post anything on my own wall. How do I make the transition when I release my art page to avoid having this kind of conversation there? I know most of them will follow me but I don’t want this type of banter on my business page. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle these kinds of posts? I finally made a post that I was looking forward to moving beyond this election when we can get back to discussing and sharing art. Even that started a firestorm suggesting I was negligent in not fighting for “my cause” (even though they don’t know what it is). Frankly, it is getting depressing and I am about fed up with being the nice guy. Trying to move forward through this all.

  16. Again, don’t care what people think. I usually avoid politics cause it irritates my stomach ulcer. But generally speaking, I do as I like and say as I please. I’m not in this for $ I’m in it for love. What you see is what you get with me.

  17. I see way to many artists get on the Facebook Profile they are using to sell their art and get into politics and religion, especially politics. I have seen way too many go “off the chain” on people who believe differently on these pages. I know that they are consequently alienating half their customer base. What I did a long time ago is set one FB simply friends and family and only let those that are close personal friends and family have access to that profile and what I post.
    I have a separate FB. I moved all my art “friends” to that page by “unfriending” on the one and “friending” them on the other. The only thing I put on the business FB is my art, art tips, other artists that impress me, and business tips that I find that are effective.

  18. Thank you for this!

    I find, even amongst close friends and family, there are very few people who can engage in a political or religious debate constructively (I’m not much into sports, except martial arts, so I can’t speak for sports). However, while I actively avoid politics and sports when discussing my art, I cannot avoid talking about religion since some of my work is religious based. If a collector is wanting more information about a piece, I feel that I must go into detail, however I focus all of it on the story being told in the art and, if appropriate, the research I have done prior to creating the piece. I rarely give any personal information regarding religion unless, again, it directly relates to the piece. This way the art does most of the ‘talking’. If someone does not like the religious aspect, I have other pieces they can look at that focus on folklore or history, or a simple design, and hopefully they will find something they like in that area. So far it has worked well for me, but I am still relatively new to putting my work out there into the art world. 🙂

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