Frank To: Artists can learn from past to form business plan

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A COMPLAINT prevalent within today’s artistic community, particularly among artists struggling to sell their work, is to blame the recession.

I have been on the receiving end of some criticism from artists for engaging directly with the business and financial communities. But by doing so, I’m taking an old business strategy and incorporating it into today’s world.

The House of Medici, the political dynasty that founded the Medici Bank, also fostered and inspired the birth of the Italian Renaissance.

The Medici were responsible for the majority of Florentine art during their reign, including Botticello and Michelangelo, who produced work for a number of Medici, such as Lorenzo the Magnificent (who also served as patron to Leonardo da Vinci).

The business model I adopt is essentially the same used by the illustrious artists sponsored by the Medici. During the Renaissance, there were no shops or galleries within which artists could exhibit and sell their work. Rather, they had to learn the arts of marketing and promotion to develop a reputation and credibility to attract attention.

The business plan I’ve been developing over recent years is based on this model of artists supporting themselves and seeking to build a reputation in the hope of accessing the best galleries, exhibitions and clients.

And just as the giants of the renaissance had the Medici Bank on their side, my latest exhibition is supported by RBS.

Similarly, just as the Renaissance artists painted murals across the walls and ceilings of chapels and churches to tell their story, I have adopted the same concept, though applied to the digital age.

I am currently telling the story of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the subject of my latest exhibition, on the social media platform KILTR where I upload images on a daily basis.

As this has proved successful in generating interest in the exhibition, perhaps it’s time for more artists to go back to the future to re-learn the art of business and the business of art.

• Frank To is a Glasgow-based fine artist. His latest exhibition is at The Leith Gallery till 27 April.