How to grow your visual art business using social media

Adenrele Sonariwo Gallerist & Curator, Rele Art Gallery

“To offer first-rate art for public consumption and nurture the creators of the art, bringing the world to their work, exposing a larger, global audience to African contemporary art.” That is the mission that drives her. Adenrele Sonariwo is Curator of Rele Art Gallery, a space she describes as ‘an unprecedented, unconventional, contemporary art space that marries two symbiotic purposes.’ As Social Media Week Lagos celebrates the women in technology, we bring to you this award winning and certified game changer in the arts.

Why did you decide to open a gallery?
Opening a gallery was born out of my passion for the arts, the desire to create an impact, and to add my quota to the development of the art industry here in Nigeria. Having been in the space for about five years before I opened the gallery, the previous years’ activities I embarked on such as pop-up art exhibitions, were means to test the market and a spring broad to accomplish the Rele mission which is to trigger a new found appreciation, followership and engagement with the arts – visual arts to be specific.

How did social media help you transit from working art salons and installations, into forming a gallery?
Social media is a very efficient tool to promote a business that is visual. I starting using social media from the very beginning, even before I opened the gallery. I used it to document the visual arts projects I was working on, the artists, their artworks, and other information that I found useful and interesting enough to share publicly. It was a seamless progression when the gallery opened, because I had used social media to take my audience through the journey of starting a gallery.

Traditionally artists approach galleries with informational packets and portfolios, however this has changed due to the internet. How do you find most of the artists that you represent?
There is no one way to find an artist. We still get the occasional artists that come in with their portfolios, some send us emails, we get recommendations from established artists and we also discover artists via social media as well.

How would you say the internet has influenced the gallery scene and what changes do you think we will see in the coming years?
The internet has granted access for art to travel and to be appreciated globally, and I believe we will see more of that over the coming years.

While social media is becoming increasingly important in every business’ marketing channel, brands need to pick channels based on their specific needs. What channel(s) do you think artists and gallery owners need to focus on and why?
Depending on the gallery’s programs, social media focus will vary. We, for instance, focus on Instagram because of the frequency of our exhibitions and the ability to reach a wide audience through the platform.

Are there any challenges you’ve faced marketing your business on social and how did you overcome them?
We run a brick and mortar business, so there is always for us the challenge of not wanting to give everything away on social media before people actually come into the gallery to view an exhibition. We’ve been able to manage and balance it out properly by spreading out the way we share, such that it lasts the life of an exhibition. There is also the question of if technology is diluting the creative industry, that is a topic we are hosting during our SMW Lagos panel discussion on Friday. We hope to get some insights and answers during the session.

What are the major mistakes you see young artists make when marketing themselves?
Lack of focus and inconsistency.

In your opinion, what is the main importance of social media for building a brand?
Social media, if used right, is an added measure for increasing brand equity.

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