Corporate Art – Part II (A Promising Career in Art Sales)

Initially the Corporate Art topic was intended to cover art works I’d actually done using found materials and stuff at work generally to spruce up the place. But procrastination beckoned, and now I’m getting back to it, but of course the digression must come first.

So today a little tangential story for yall. This falls more under the idea of “corporate art” I think loki probably suspected I was going to deal with when I mentioned the idea of these entries months ago.

From my experience, a more fitting title for this piece might have been:

The Road to Hell is Paved with Framed Classic Prints
And the Skulls of Salesmen Who Sell Them

But that seems a little on the long side so the original will have to suffice.

When I first came to Boston I interviewed with a company whose classified ad offered a job in art sales. I pictured a little gallery near Boston’s financial district or maybe a store in some mall. It seemed a little odd that the address was located in an industrial park just inside the city’s most distant belt-way. But I was new to the area. Who am I to judge these things?

Little did I know that “art sales” meant going door to door in all weather trying to unload framed prints of various depictions to uninterested business owners throughout the communities surrounding Boston.

I stopped in for an interview and spent that same freezing, rainy day in October of aught-two traveling door-to-door as a ride-along with one of their other salesmen. This bracing little jaunt taught me that I had neither the social persuasiveness and relentlessness of a self supporting door-to-door salesman, nor the ox-like constitution to endure hours on end hustling through the icy drizzle and muck during those miserable New England “not summer” months.

The people at this fine wandering art emporium apparently had a sort of pep-rally chant and cheer each morning before they set off on their daily sales attempts to the communities surrounding Boston. And from the way that a day on the sales road wore me down I can see why they’d need such a ritual. Not one given to animism myself (infact vehimently opposed to the practice), I still find myself almost hoping that those poor schmoes obtained some sort of sustaining vigor from whatever spirit they were invoking in there.

Likely the chanting and clapping were some innocuous moral booster. But it was difficult to tell from the vague strains of this rite I overheard as I sat in the next room taking a test they administered to determine if I had what it took to be an itinerant art salesman.

Now, in this test there were some questions I stretched the truth on. Things like:

Q: Do you have what it takes to go door-to-door art-salesman?

A: (Written by a man desperate to find a job in one of North America’s more expensive cities) I can and will fulfill the requirements of this job!

With others questions I tried a strategy of amusing lies:

Q: What special talents do you have which you feel could help with this job?

A: ??? I have secret powers which I am unable to discuss, but which I assure you will be quite insturmental in the sale of art. I will reveal however that I’m capable of unassisted flight.

Or something like that.

They actually hired me on the spot, though I quit before showing up for work with the claim that an actual art gallery I’d applied to had hired me (something I warned them in advance might happen). In truth I actually had no other job offers or even leads at the moment I called them, though later that day I did apply for and find employment through a lab-related temp-agency.

In looking back I have never once felt the slightest bit of regret for turning tail and running from that situation.

It’s possible, maybe even probable, that there are people in this world ideally suited to a job in traveling, unsolicited art sales. Unfortunately it’s not an occupation I can in good conscience recommend to anyone, so those who might posess an aptitude will have to find out about it through other channels.

About Peter

This guy lives in Boston MA with his beloved wife and two kids. You can get some idea of his likes and dislikes from posts on this website or elsewhere.

6 thoughts on “Corporate Art – Part II (A Promising Career in Art Sales)

  1. I laughed my ass off reading this and I’m priting this out and hanging it above my door.

    “The Road to Hell is Paved with Framed Classic Prints And the Skulls of Salesmen Who Sell Them”

    If your experience wasn’t the epitome of cooperate art, I’m not sure what is. I didn’t even know art was be sold door to door. Who on Earth would even buy such a thing? I think the morning pep-rally thing must come with the job territory. At mine there was a pep-rally too, led by this kid who dressed like an SGA president, listened to DJ Shadow and whose two sole exemplifiers were: “Sweet” and “Awesome”. I think I knew my time was drawing to close when at the end of my first hustling membership alone, he slapped my shoulder and said, “Give me some numbers!” Sales are sales, no matter the beat.

  2. From what I gleaned at the time the prints we sold were some sort of extra stock from large shipments to other companies. Before this I had no idea these things were sold this way either.

    A couple folks (secretaries mostly) bought them, but not many. Part of the idea was that sometimes you’d stumble across a chief executive type who’d buy up a whole bunch (or put in a big order) to furnish an entire building. This didn’t happen the day I was there, I doubt we broke even that day.

    From my experience, and apparently from yours too, this is an industry where folks are motivated by sheer excitement and the charisma of their leaders (sort of like a third world para-military group). I don’t think there was a member of the group I was with who was past their mid-twenties. And in spite of their slight manic edge they were all sort of cool and tried to make you feel like part of the group really fast.

  3. In a way, it doesn’t actually surprise me that an executive, could in theory, buy up a whole shipment art from a door-to-door art salesman and then furnish an entire building with them. I know hotel art isn’t corporate art, but – the door-to-door art salesman does seem like a fitting genesis for the decor of Best Westerns and miscellaneous Dentist’s offices across America.

  4. I was just doing some searching when I came across this. I spent a few years in the door to door art business! I got my start in St.Louis however I did spend a few months in Boston training people for a couple of new offices that had opened. One of the offices was in Woburn on Conn. Street and the other was in a town south of Boston called Raynom (not sure on spelling). I realize this was written in 05 but I’d love more info ie: the names of some of the people there, trainers make of car and location! Who knows I might have been the one who trained you!

  5. Its funny that you write as if you are above or to good for such a practice saying “poor schmoes.” I don’t understand why you had to lie about saying you had what it takes only to lie again later by saying you found a job somewhere else. Sounds kind of spineless to me. Why didn’t you just tell them you didn’t want the opportunity? Grow a pair and tell the truth.

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