Welcome Visitor

ArtSpecifier's mission is to link artists, designers, architects, art professionals and art lovers worldwide.

Recent Interview with Founder Joyce Creiger with The Clark Hulings Institute

Comment     Print

Pairing Art with Buyers--CHF

Interviews Joyce Creiger

Joyce Creiger is an art-world polymath. As a leading art consultant, she's placed work in all kinds of environments, from commercial spaces and hospitality businesses, to healthcare facilities and government centers. A former gallery owner herself, Joyce currently owns an art-rental business, as well as an art-marketingcompany that's teaming up with a huge online retailer (more on this below). As if all of that were not enough, she also produces a local cable TV show in Boston and is an artist herself. In this Q&A with CHF Editorial Director Sofia Perez, Joyce talks about the changes she's witnessed over more than four decades in the industry, and describes the process of matching artwork to client.

You have worn many different professional hats in the art world. Give us a brief overview of your current work.

My art-consulting firm, Creiger Group Art Services, was one of the very first (if not the first) art-consulting firms in the country. We've been around for more than 45 years, so I've been doing this for a long time. A number of years ago, I formed a company called Boston Art Rentals. We own 3,000 works of art that we rent to stagers, corporations, and others. INFORMED About ten years ago, I started a marketing company called ArtSpecifier, a members-only website that accepts no more than 100 artists at any given time. We help promote their websites, through newsletters (usually two per month), and scrolling images on our site that feature ten different artists each week. We also have a blog and a Facebook page that go along with it. Most recently, ArtSpecifier has partnered with Wayfair's high-end division, called Perigold, which is just about a year old. It's geared toward high-net-worth individuals who have two homes, which are often in areas that don't have easy access to galleries. The company is hoping these folks will shop online, and we're going to be providing them with original works from our ArtSpecifier members. I also run a local cable TV show called Art Link, which features interviews with ArtSpecifier members and others, including architects, designers, and stagers--anybody that's involved in actually making or using art. Those interviews are featured on the ArtSpecifier website, as well as on our YouTube channel. Finally, I have my own studio and do a lot of commission work for clients. I've been doing that for what seems like a hundred years.

As an art consultant, you're kind of a matchmaker. Are your clients clear about the kind of art they like, or do you have to help them figure it out?

Let's take an example. Recently, we were approached by a development company that was taking down an escalator outside, in what was a very prominent space in Boston. They also needed artwork for four of their lobbies, so it involved tackling two different projects. For the lobby areas, we talked first about buying, but then they decided that they wanted to rent the art, so we gave them many different options. Eventually, they bought artwork for each of the different lobbies, and we helped them develop their budget, sourced the individual pieces, and installed them. Then we had to make recommendations for the exterior piece, which ended up being a metal sculpture by Shelley Perriott, who's an ArtSpecifier member. She developed an amazing piece that will sit on a pedestal in a plaza, lit from below. The client didn't have a huge budget--it was around $25,000, including the lighting. We've worked on projects as far away as Saudi Arabia, where we did a hospital. We had to work with the Saudi government, which meant dealing with their parameters about what they do and don't use in artworks. You can't have anything that is representational, so we had to be very careful. In fact, before we went on the trip, we went to a consultant to learn how I had to work in that country, particularly as a woman. So, each case is different. It's a lot of handholding, a lot of giving the client information, and then helping them make decisions.

If a potential client tells you they want a large scale bronze sculpture, for example, are you going out and looking for new artists, or only pulling from your ArtSpecifier member pool?

The former. In fact, Shelley was not a member

when we started working together. I'm always in

search of new artists. I'm cruising Facebook,

looking at Instagram and Linkedin, and

searching out in the world, at galleries. I am

looking for new artists every single day. When I

found Shelley's work, I fell in love with it, and we

developed a wonderful relationship, so she

decided to become a member.

ArtSpecifier is very different than most websites

where artists are promoted or where their work

is sold. We don't sell anything on there. That's

why I formed the relationship with Perigold

because it gives these artists a platform to sell

their work, whereas with ArtSpecifier, we just

market their work and coach them. I work with

them one on one if they need it. If they want help

putting together an RFP for a project, they call

me. That's different from most platforms--like

Fine Art America or any of the other websites.

Do you commission works, or are you looking for

pieces that are completed and that you've

already seen (in person or through social


All of the above. If an artist has an available

piece that works for a particular space, I would

definitely go there first. If they don't, and there's

a specific area where we're looking for a piece

and we can't find an existing one, then we might

commission it.

Recently, I worked on a hotel, and almost

everything in it is commissioned because it's

very unique to the specific location, and they

want artists from a specific area. I'm also doing

a senior-living project, which has some

commissioned art, and a lot of the work that I'm

sourcing is from what's already available.

We did the Luxor in Las Vegas. When they

came to us, they said, "We need artwork that

looks like it just got dug up from King Tut's

tomb." We had to do research with an

Egyptologist, but we created 40 objects that

were specific to what was dug up in King Tut's


That's probably what's kept me in this business

for 45 years. Each project is new and exciting,

and it gives me a chance to be creative and

come up with solutions that I didn't have to

create for a prior project. It's constant stimulation

and the enjoyment of putting together something


When a client is commissioning something, it

sounds like communication is a big priority.

To ensure that there's never a problem, we

always do in-progress photographs. That way

the end-user gets to see things as they

progress. If the work is different from what they

had anticipated, we can catch that early on.

Everything is spelled out in the contract--the

size of the piece, the colors, where it's going to

go, what kind of lighting there is, what the base

is going to look like--and the client approves it

every step of the way. I have never done a

project where anybody has ever been unhappy

because I pay a lot of attention to detail. That's


As someone in the position of finding new work,

you really get an overhead view of the market.

What are some of the big trends you're seeing?

To answer that question, I have to give you a

little history. I've always thought of myself as a

bit of a visionary. I'm not the perfect

middleperson--I'm a great starter and a terrific

ender, which is why I've always had assistants

that I've trained who work with me on the middle

piece of it. I like the excitement of finding the

client, of bringing them the artist, and I love to

seal it up.

"The biggest mistake artists

make is trying to be all things to

all people."

I've come up with things that have failed in the

past. Back in 1985, I started the first interactive

laser-video-disk art catalog. This was before the

Internet. I took Sony's hardware--which was

used to train fighter pilots to fly planes on a

computer--and married it with the Library of

Congress' software. We developed a way of

finding information on a disk, and there were 12

galleries across the country that used our

standalone system. Artists could put their

images on the disk, and people could go on the

computer and say, "I want to find a painting of

an ocean in California under $10,000." Which is

what you can do today in a few keystrokes


Ultimately, the business failed because it was

done with analog technology before digital

technology moved to the forefront, and my

investor pulled out. Although it failed, it was a big

learning experience for me. In 1990, I did the

first digital show in my gallery on Newbury

Street, where I was highly criticized by all of my

colleagues because I was showing work that

was created on a computer. People thought that

was a travesty. "How could you have a gallery

on Newbury Street, and not show paintings and

sculpture and original works of art?" But I had

people in the show like Jonathan Borofsky and

David Hockney. They were experimenting with

the computer and digital images. The show ran

for two months, and we showed 40 different


Today, I'm getting calls from people who want to

recreate that show because it was so pivotal.

What I'm saying is that when Perigold came to

me, I had colleagues who said, "Are you out of

your mind? You are going to go to a company

that advertises on TV and sells furniture, and

you're going to put original art there?" My

response? Wake up! The Internet is where

hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art is

being sold.

So to answer your question, I believe that the

Internet is going to be the game-changer for

artists. They have an opportunity. They can

have their own website and do their own

marketing to bring their work to the forefront--

gathering their own audience and their own

collectors. An artist who doesn't have a massive

online presence today and is just waiting for

their gallery to make a living is crazy.

Artists need more than one way to earn money

from their art.

Yes, I urge every artist to develop multiple

streams of income. I've never believed in

counting on one source. If you lose that one

client, you're screwed. You have to think about

how to generate money from sales of your

artwork, from licensing, from selling other things

on your website, and on and on. Maybe you're

promoting other artists--whatever it is. It's nice

when I get a check from ArtSpecifier, and

another check from the Creiger Group, and a

third check from the rental business. All of that

helps to support me and support what I do.

And artists shouldn't be afraid to do giclée prints

and hand-embellished giclées. You can do an

original piece that's beautiful, and sell it at topof-

the-line prices, but also have an ancillary

product line where you can make additional

money. A lot of my artists say to me, "I don't

want to do digital prints because it's going to

devalue my work." No, it's not. It's going to

increase the value of your original work. And it's

going to give you additional income, from being

able to sell something at a little bit lower price so

that you have a wider audience appreciating

your work.

What does an artist need to know before

approaching an art consultant like you?

I think the biggest mistake artists make is trying

to be all things to all people. It's very hard to do

that. You've got to run a business like others do.

No one does every aspect of it. They farm things

out, use interns, hire assistants. There's no

reason an artist has to spend time priming a

canvas. Anybody can do that. You get people to

help you so that you can maximize your time

and your talent.

If they want to run a business, they have to run it

like a business. Get an accountant or a

bookkeeper. Have a system for keeping track of

the artwork. And the single most important thing

they need to do is sign their work. Do you know

how many times I've gotten a phone call from an

auction house asking me, "Can you look at this

painting and tell me who did it?" There's no

signature on the front or the back, so how would

you know?

When you're creating your website, please put

your phone number on there. Nothing is more

frustrating for an art consultant or designer than

having to fill out a form and wait for a response.

They're working on a project, and want an

answer instantly. If they can't call the artist and

reach them, they get frustrated, and they often

don't bother to pursue it. It's that one on one that

matters. That designer has got a deadline. She's

got four projects going, and she's got to meet

her client tonight. She wants an answer. And if

she can't reach the artist, she'll move on to the

next one.

When you started ArtSpecifier, it was the first

online platform to link artists with designers and

consultants. How has that work evolved?

Right now, there are so many platforms that

flood the market. I keep it really small. I can

manage 100 artists, not 10,000. With the latter

number, you'd have to just throw them up there

and see what sticks. Artists need to be focused

on what they want to accomplish and go for a

platform that can help them achieve that.

I partnered with Perigold because I felt that the

artists on my site needed more. We were

marketing their work, but they needed the ability

to sell it, too. We were driving business to their

website but they didn't necessarily know where

that business was coming from, because there

was no direct link. We just put their name and

image out there, and anybody could find them

through Google. As a member of ArtSpecifier,

they now sign a contract with us, provide us with

a certificate of insurance so that there's a liability

policy, and then they can be added to Perigold,

where I can track their sales. Everything gets

shipped to me so that I can make sure it's in

good shape, and then Perigold picks up the

artwork from me and ships it to the client.

On ArtSpecifier, you not only connect people,

but you also present exhibitions and projects.

Tell us about how you foster a creative


I will often meet with ArtSpecifier members, and

we'll bounce off different ideas. I had lunch with

one of my artist friends a couple of days ago,

and I've kind of nurtured him. He's a

photographer, and he's also been doing video

and portraits. When we talked, he told me that

what he really wants is for his fine-art

photography to be recognized. He wants to be in

a gallery and get more recognition for his work,

rather than just doing a one-off project.

I suggested that he drop some of the other

things and really focus on the fine-art

photography. Right now, he feels so much better

about his career than he has in the past. He

feels more satisfaction and sees more progress.

He's been getting accepted into exhibitions. So

it's that one-on-one consultation with them,

feeling out what they want in their gut and trying

to help them achieve that.

Ultimately, it's all about listening. If you sit down

and ask a question, and you listen to the answer

without injecting your thoughts or directing the

conversation, you get to hear what's really on

someone's mind. And when you can mirror that

back and tell them what they've just said, all of a

sudden it's an "a-ha moment."

Tell us about your art-rental business. Are you

renting out reproductions, originals, or both?

All of the above. I've been buying art since I was

16, and when I had my gallery, I always bought

one or two pieces from every show. That was

my commitment to the artist. So the 3,000 works

I rent out are a combination of pieces that I've

bought and work that I've traded for. Sometimes

an ArtSpecifier member will say to me, "Look, I

want to be on your site so badly, but I don't have

the money," so I offer to trade. "Let me pick a

piece of art and whatever the value is, I'll give

you that many years as a member."

"You shouldn't hold yourself up

as so exclusive that you'll only

show your art in a major gallery,

because galleries aren't doing

very much business anymore."

I also work with companies who have artwork

and want new art, but they don't know what to

do with the art they already have, so I say, "Give

that to me, and I'll credit you X amount of dollars

towards the new work." I've amassed this huge

inventory of everything from sculpture and

drawings, to prints and giclées. Other people

who were going out of business have called me

up to say, "You know I have 25 pieces. I'll give

them to you for $500," and I'd buy them.

Since I've acquired all of this art, it's just easy for

me to rent it. A client will call--a stager, for

example--and say, "Can you come on

Thursday? I'm staging a house, and I need

about 20 pieces for it." I charge them $35 a

month for each piece that's smaller than 40

inches. If it's larger, the price runs anywhere

from $50 to $100, depending on how big it is.

For me, it's not so much about the value of the

work as it is about how easy it is to handle it and

get it where it needs to go. If I have to include a

big piece, that means I have to rent a van so it's

going to cost them more money.

Because I only charge $35, I only use work I

own. (If I were to split that with an artist, it

wouldn't be worth it for either of us.) But if an

artist wants to rent their own artwork, they can

use that same formula.

There are also companies that do rentals and

that will put up a little plaque for the artist, to give

them some play. For artists, the advantage of

renting might be that they could ultimately get a

sale from it. We do often sell work from our

rental program to homeowners if, for example,

they are buying the home. They walk in and see

how beautiful the piece looks, and they'll call up

to say, "You had artwork in here, and now it's

gone, but we loved the pieces that were in the

living room and bedroom. Can we buy them?" Of

course, the answer is always yes. Why not?

An artist might even get a new commission from

the exposure of having their art in that space.

It certainly can't hurt. I'm a firm believer in

putting art where people will see it. I did a show

of my own artwork in Chico's--you know, the

store in the mall. I sold work from that. I believe

in getting it out there wherever you can. If a

restaurant wants you to put up your artwork, you

can make a sale. You never know.

Most recently, I was in a little coffee shop, and

there was artwork on display that I really liked. I

asked the owner whose artwork it was. His

reply? "It's my husband's." So I called up the

husband and after 20 minutes of conversation, I

ended up renting him my studio because I was

leaving that space to move to a new studio. He

never thought he needed a studio--he was

working out of his bedroom--and now he is the

happiest guy, because he has his own

workspace. And why? Because he hung his

artwork up in his husband's coffee shop. You

shouldn't hold yourself up as so exclusive that

you'll only show your art in a major gallery,

because galleries aren't doing very much

business anymore.

So much of your work is curation. How do you

differentiate what you do from the stream of art

content on Twitter and Instagram?

When I first started ArtSpecifier, I turned away at

least 30% of the artists who applied because I

held it to a very high standard. There needed to

be a lot of third-party validation, and I wanted to

make sure that their resumes were really good. I

was looking at credentials more than I was really

looking at the art--and I can tell you now that I

was wrong.

It was my assistant Cathy who called me on it.

"You're making a mistake," she said. When I

asked her what she meant, she replied, "That

piece of art is really pretty, and people would

love to buy it. Why are you not including it?" My

response was that there's nothing unique about

it; the artist hasn't done anything different than

anybody else. "Yes, but what she's done has

been done really well. It's really beautiful and

people will want that in their home." So I


Little by little, I found myself being less critical,

and trying to open myself up more to what the

public might want, as opposed to what an art

historian might feel was acceptable. That was

hard for me, because I come from the

background of being a curator, where I want to

see a unique use of the medium, and am looking

for art that I would've shown in my gallery. But

with the Internet, and a buying public as vast as

it is, I realized that I needed to appeal to a

broader audience, so I found myself accepting

more artists on ArtSpecifier. I felt that I had a

responsibility to show a broader spectrum of

work, so I went a bit more commercial.

Sounds like you're letting the market decide. If

someone wants to buy it, why not?

Exactly. And now with the partnership with

Perigold, I'm happy I did that, because they're

going to be looking for all kinds of work. I still

have people on ArtSpecifier who are doing very

unique things--we have one couple that's doing

amazing videos that belong in the Venice

Biennale--and next to it you might find a person

who does still lifes that the Bienniale would

never take, but it might end up in a museum

somewhere because it's beautifully done.

How does being an artist yourself--and one

who's run a gallery--shape what you're doing


When you run a gallery, your obligation is to

your group of artists. You have to find them

work, and you're responsible for their income.

They've signed an exclusive with you, so you

have to make sure they make a living. If you're

an art consultant, it's very different. Your client--

the buyer--is your responsibility. It's the client

that hires you and expects you to bring them the

best of what's out there to meets their needs,

both artistically and budget-wise. Your

responsibility is very different in each case.

In running ArtSpecifier, I feel like I have two

responsibilities: 1) to bring the best artists I can

to the people who are coming to our site looking

for them, and 2) to feature the artists and give

them the best possible promotion.

I've always advocated for artists, whether I was

running a gallery, negotiating for a big-box store,

or putting their work on ArtSpecifier, because I'm

an artist at heart. I understand where they're

coming from.

About Sofia Perez

A journalist and writer/editor with more than 25

years of experience, Sofia Perez has written for

nearly every type of media and genre--from print

and web publications, to TV, nonprofit

advocacy, and fiction--and understands

firsthand how important it is for creative

professionals to learn basic business skills if they are to support their

artistic endeavors.

• CHF Responds to The New York Times - June

2, 2019

• The Key Role of Artists in Transforming Our

Communities--W.C. Richardson - May 6,


• DC Area Artists Get Down to Business - April 5,


• Pairing Art with Buyers--CHF Interviews Joyce

Creiger - April 12, 2019

• A Weekend of Art-Business Education and

Inspiration - March 26, 2019

• Creating and Disseminating Public Art

Internationally, in Real Time--CHF

Interviews Nina Colosi - March 25, 2019

• Tighten Your Sales Strategy and Refuse to

Compromise - March 20, 2019

• Determining Where You Belong in the Art

Industry--Donna Lee Nyzio - April 9, 2019

• The #1 Reason Artists Should Visit the DC

Area This Month - March 1, 2019

• CHF Gets South Florida Talking Art Business -

February 18, 2019


The browser you are using is outdated!

You may not be getting all you can out of your browsing experience
and may be open to security risks!

Consider upgrading to the latest version of your browser or choose on below: