There are a number of scam art opportunities that show up, usually in your inbox, that you need to be aware of. Some of these “opportunities” have definitely got me before. Here are 5 art scams that you can often find in your email inbox that you want to be on the lookout for. I also included (but altered) clips from the emails I have received so you know what to look out for. I also included links to two additional blog posts to help you identify scams when you see them.
The goal of this post is to help you keep your hard-earned art money in your pocket! Think before you give someone your credit card for these 5 opportunities below.
1. European Biennials Emails – My inbox always seems to have a special invitation to exhibit my artwork in Europe. The catch with these is that they always cost money to exhibit. It must be a good scam to get Americans who are interested in building an international exhibit history to pay to exhibit there. Here is part of an approach email, note the bold lettering and key phrases, like “really important” and “high visibility.”
Dear Artist, you are officially invited to take part to the international exhibition: (Insert Fancy Title) The location of the event is really important: (Insert Important Location in Rome). Rome has always been the most artistically important city in the world, to exhibit in Rome means to have an high visibility. It will be an international exhibition in which will take part artists from all over the world.
2. RAW – Are we all sick and tired of these emails yet? I definitely was roped into the RAW shows early on and did a small handful of them. Until none of it paid off, literally! I made one sale, because really – who goes to a nightclub for an art show? If you are unsure whether or not to be a RAW artist, this email will help you answer your questions. Now it has been a few years since I have done one of these shows, but the concept is pay to exhibit (Around $200 for tickets, not including your travel, general operating, and additional exhibit costs).
3. Pay-to-Publish Art Books – These books often have catchy titles, “International Contemporary Artists” or something like that. It’s often an email where it seems like they want to feature you! At the bottom of the email, they will often tell you how much it costs to be published with special offers for different sized images, full-page spreads, etc. Here is what the approach emails look like, funny how I never applied for this opportunity but careful consideration was taken of my work.
Having given consideration to your artwork it is the editorial team’s great pleasure to invite you to apply to have your work included in the (Title of Generic Art Book Name Here).
Not all art books are scams, I have been published in a pay-to-publish art book (scam) and was actually featured in a great art book where I had a great 4-page spread with my artist statement. Be sure to ask the right questions and do a bit of sleuthing with publications.
4. Sale Scams – These are those emails that pop up in your inbox that appear like a collector is interesting in purchasing a piece. There are a huge number of red flags with these emails. I wrote an entire blog post all about this specific scam. There are patterns that these scammers follow that can help let you know that they are trying to steal your art and your money.
Greetings, My name is (Insert Scammer Name)….. I actually observed my wife has been viewing your website on my laptop and i guess she likes your piece of work, I’m also impressed and amazed to have seen your various works too,You are doing a great job. I would like to receive further information about your piece of work and what inspires you.. Kindly confirm the availability for immediate sales..
Thanks and best regards..
5. Boost and social networking services – New fans, boosts, more likes, and increased engagement. Social media and engagement is the hot commodity. I’m sure all of us have at some point paid Facebook for a boost or tried sponsoring an ad on Instagram. And while it may help bump up those numbers, you are actually paying for likes. These “people” are not actually interested in who you are or what you do. Avoid these even if they do seem tempting, and stick to building organic engagement. Besides the temptation to click the boost button, scammers (or companies) will reach out to help your social media. Here is an example of an approach email:
I came across your Instagram profile (Your Username Here), and I think you have great photos and content. I see that you currently have around 800 followers on Instagram, and I wanted to reach out to you to see if you might be interested in being a featured user on my social media platform that’s now launching this month. As a featured user, new audiences from around the world will be able to discover your photos and connect with you.