What Is Art Marketing

What Is Art Marketing? | The Ultimate Guide to Art Marketing

What Is Art Marketing? How to Use It and Why It is Important.

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At its basic level, marketing, including art marketing, is a systematized process of creating awareness and interest for a company, product, or service that leads to a desire to engage buyers to own its goods, use its services, or all of the above. Businesses use marketing to communicate their offerings, promote their brands, identify new prospects, and strengthen bonds with their target audience and existing customers.

In the art world, art marketing creates a continuum of reactions from potential buyers. Visual art marketing practices, primarily through advertising, promotion, social media, backstories, and word-of-mouth, and builds awareness for artists’ work. Awareness is the first step by potential buyers toward cultivating a genuine interest in artists and their work. Ultimately, some prospects develop an attraction that creates a desire to own the artwork. Through the effective use of various marketing methods, successful art marketers keep awareness, interest, and desire high until the opportunity for a sale ensues.

Art Marketing Is a Process.

While there are times when a buyer passes through the awareness, interest, desire, and buying action continuum spontaneously, such as at an art fair, it is more typical for most sales to take time and repeat exposure to the artwork under consideration. Because original art and luxury priced limited edition prints carry higher prices in the thousands up to millions, buyers consider them expensive discretionary purchases that require more time for buying decisions. The steady drip of marketing messages delivered through multiple channels is how top marketers maintain contact and build influence that results in sales to prospective buyers.

Marketing can be complicated and sophisticated, requiring knowledge and education. Most large companies require advanced degrees for entry-level marketing positions. Fortunately, for artists, an MBA in marketing is not necessary. They can learn how to use practical art marketing techniques on their own. More than an MBA, what artists need is the desire to be successful, the willingness to work out of their comfort zone, and the commitment to deploy their resources to select art marketing methods steadily.

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Art marketing success starts with identifying goals, strengths, and resources. The next step is to create a plan that uses testing and refining to improve their methods continuously. There are always more ways to market art than most artists can use at once. Artists must have both a familiarity with their marketing options and clarity on which they will use. Understanding what works for each artist is different and unique will help them develop a marketing plan that incorporates the tools and techniques most likely to return the desired results.

Awareness Is the Primary First Driver When Asking How to Market Art?

Thriving artists succeed by developing a systematic process of getting their art seen and sold. The truth about art, or any product for that matter, is that no one will buy it unless people know about it. Imagine if Apple created the iPad but failed to let anyone know it was available. They would have a near-revolutionary product with no sales. To prosper, you must sell art, and to do that, you must get your work seen.

Whose Job Is It to Get Eyeballs on the Work of Artists?

A common frustration visual artists deal with is knowing that their art will sell well if only enough people could see it. While probably not intentional, the problem is nevertheless self-induced. The good news is when applied correctly, art marketing makes it fixable.

One way or another, it is the artist’s responsibility to gain awareness for their work. Some – few to be realistic – artists work with publishers, galleries, licensors, or agents to do their marketing for them exclusively.

At the outset, it must be understood that everything comes back to art business goals and desires. What does the artist want and need from their career? Can they achieve their objective by handing over full control of distribution, including building awareness and sales from a following of interested potential buyers? Is the tradeoff worth handing off the responsibility for marketing to a third party?

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While each artist must answer these questions themselves, I will offer my perspective. From more than 30 years in the art business, I’ve found relatively few artists who fulfill their goals when they are not involved in marketing their work. The exception is when the artist works with a trusted family member or close friend who has marketing skills, is willing to do the job, and has the time to perform it. Such situations nearly always occur through good fortune. That’s because the marketing person usually does not require an income and will work for the good of the business and shares in the results.

It’s my experience that those artists who take responsibility for marketing find the time to do the work. They may not enjoy it and even resent the time away from the studio. Still, they don’t let personal feelings interfere with their larger goals of benefiting from having their artwork seen and sold regularly.

Balancing Marketing, Creative Time, and Goals.

If the artist’s goals are attainable and genuinely what the artist wants, then success on their terms is possible. It requires a plan and steady actions on executing it. Breaking big goals into smaller tasks based on timelines to complete the task gives structure to the project. Three things working together are necessary. They are discipline, desire, and details. When the discipline to do the work is consistent, the desire to achieve the outcome is high, and the details of how to reach and surpass goals are documented and understood, then nearly anything is possible.

5 Steps to Sell and Market Art the Way You Work.

5 Steps to Sell & Market Art the Way You Work x300

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  1. Setting reasonable, achievable goals.
  2. Understanding what must be done to reach the goals.
  3. Breaking the goals into small chunks ensuring none are overwhelming.
  4. Organizing and calendaring the tasks into daily actions.
  5. Applying the discipline to complete tasks on time.

Click the infographic to download a full-size, printable PDF.

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The Importance of Acting Now.

Family members of deceased artists seeking help to sell the artist’s work posthumously are a perfect but sad example of how not being seen and having no recognition is disastrous to artists and their heirs. Unfortunately, after an artist is deceased is the wrong time to try to promote their work. The artist is gone, and there is no indication of future pieces. Galleries, dealers, and collectors are highly unlikely to want to take a chance on an unknown deceased artist. If an artist’s work is vital and relevant, the time to give it the respect of adequately marketing it as part of having a fulfilling art career and legacy is now.

The Value of an Online Portfolio.

Creating a comprehensive online art portfolio is essential for artists. It often is the first thing your targeted prospect will see. No matter if an artist wishes to get into a gallery, school, museum, art fair, seeks a grant, wants in an art competition, or sells to a collector directly, their portfolio sets the stage to help make the crucial first impression a good one.

Curating Your Content Is Essential.

There are limits to anyone’s attention span. Whether in a spontaneous moment or a planned meeting, valuing time for the person viewing the portfolio is smart and respectful.

While using your online art portfolio is useful to show your work in situations where you are not present, it’s a good practice to have a downloaded version on your iPad or tablet. Keep it with you whenever you can; you never know who you will encounter someone who is a potential buyer or referrer of your work. Artists must be selective in deciding which pieces to include in a portfolio. It is counterproductive to overwhelm viewers with too many choices. Focus on those pieces that are most representative of the artist’s newest and most excellent work.

Websites for Artists.

Only established artists who have a network of dealers, galleries, and patrons have the luxury of not having a website and using social media to promote themselves and their work. The “out of sight, out of mind” adage applies here. Ask any gallery owner. These days, it is common practice for prospective buyers to use their smartphones while in the gallery to learn more about an artist. If nothing is found, the odds of selling artwork to them reduces significantly.

Learning how to market art is an essential part of building a flourishing art business. A vital component for all artists is developing a website that presents their art professionally in the best possible way. In nearly all cases, the website should be ecommerce enabled to sell art from the site directly.

Must Include Items for Artist’s Websites.

About –

Put your Artist Bio on your About page. People buy the artist as much as the art, in most cases. When they know exciting tidbits about the artist, it pulls them closer. The information is something they will use to talk up the artist to people who notice artwork on display. In other words, the artist’s bio and backstory serve as word-of-mouth advertising for artists when they aren’t there. A high-quality, professional photo is strongly recommended. Casual snapshots don’t convey the proper attitude or demand the same respect as a professional-grade portrait. You only have one chance to make an impression.

Artist Statement –

Include your artist statement on sub-navigation under the About page or a link of its own. An artist’s statement explains how the artist works and tells the art’s meaning to the artist. A superb book that offers practical advice and examples is Art-Write: The Writing Guide for Visual Artists by Vicki Krohn Amorose. Having a well-crafted artist statement and bio is often required to submit grants, competitions, art fairs, and galleries.

As with the Artist Statement, having a sub-navigation or standalone section on the artist website for Testimonials and Publicity is advisable when applicable. Altogether, these components work to build an artist’s reputation and establish a noticeable brand for the artist.

Contact –

Make it easy to reach the artist. The more ease to make contact, the more likely a person of interest will reach out to the artist. A contact page displaying only a form without a phone number or email address sends a message that being in touch is not important to the artist. If the artist does not have a business address, then at the least include the city, state, and country. Little points are subtle ways to send a message to buyers and influencers.

Social Media and Networking for Artists.

Creating a social media presence, learning to talk about one’s art, and finding comfortable ways to meet and communicate with collectors and influencers are also essential skills that fall under the marketing art umbrella.

Today, the most well-known and successful artists maintain a presence on at a minimum on Facebook and Instagram. Many branch out to Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, and newer platforms such as Snapchat and Tik Tok. Few, if any, have robust activity on all those platforms. It is neither realistic nor pragmatic for artist-entrepreneurs to attempt to have an active presence on each of them. Establishing a spot on each is a solid suggestion. When claiming a place on a social media platform, always take the minimum steps of fully completing all fields that request information about the user.

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Why Artists Must Work at Building a Brand.

Branding is more than iconic names and symbols like Coke and the Nike swoosh. It extends to the smallest units of retail sales, including solo artrepreneurs. A brand is what people say about artists when they aren’t there. By working on the brand, the artist retains the most control of the perceptions about them. In a void, where there is no branding effort, others will determine the artist’s brand, good and bad.

There are many benefits to artists who build a personal brand:

  • Increased sales.
  • Easier sales because both the know and like parts of the Know, Like, and Trust hurdles are not an issue.
  • Higher prices for the artwork of a known, established artist.
  • Greater awareness for the artwork and the artist
  • Improved chances of gaining access to juried shows, grants, and schools, etc.
  • More opportunities for free publicity.
  • Rising demand for the art and popularity of the artist.

Artists are the brand. It is your name on your art, and it is your brand that drives recognition, prices, and sales. The one thing you need to know is anyone can do branding.

Deciding to start branding is your first step toward getting help on what to do and how to do it. The increased exposure and awareness for your art is a tangible benefit. And it all leads up to easier, faster, and more sales of your art.

The truth of the matter is artists with a better brand do better in the business of art. If making the most of your art career is essential to you, then taking steps to power up your personal brand needs is crucial to your efforts.

Your Personal Brand Powers Decisions.

In the real world, the merit of your art for art’s sake is not enough. People, patrons, critics, gallerists, jurists, and curators don’t judge on skill alone. With art, there is a subjective aspect to gaining awareness, acceptance, and sales. Your brand influences choices influencers and buyers make about your art and are integral to a thriving art career.

Branding for Artists.

Yes, logo, color schemes, and font choices are part of an artist’s visual branding, but it goes deeper. Having a “Why Statement,” which can be part of an Artist’s Statement, is quite helpful. It not only gives consumers a fuller understanding of what the artist’s outward goals are; it also is a touchstone that guides artists to make the best decisions for themselves in building their business.

Personal branding helps build your reputation as an artist and as a human. It also adds to your authority and authenticity as both. The more different ways artists can establish themselves beyond the impressions their art makes on the world, the greater their odds of achieving their goals as an artist become.

You can see it and sense that all the components of art marketing work together. They each chip away at helping the artist establish themselves in the minds of people who matter to their career. As docents, gallerists, journalists, curators, collectors, patrons, benefactors, and casual fans notice strong similarities in those components that relate to the artist, the brand builds in ways that positively affect their opinions and decisions about the artist.

Artists don’t create success in a vacuum. It takes those in positions of power to make decisions about their career. Powerful people must be motivated to do something with their power when it comes to getting into a school or a gallery, gaining access to grants or juried shows, or getting traffic to an artist’s websites; other people’s opinions matter. Your brand influences how they perceive both your art and you as the artist and person. For these reasons, it’s impossible to ignore the importance of working on branding as a critical part of establishing an effective art marketing plan.

Personal Storytelling for Artists.

The following is an excerpt from another post on Art Marketing News:

How Artists Can Use Storytelling and Why It Works

These two words sum up the power of storytelling and explain why it works—human interest.

There are two more words in the form of a question that the best communicators use. So what?

As soon as you veer off the path into dry facts, you’re done, finished, over and out. Plain facts, especially those taken out of context, are boring. You instinctively know you can’t bore people into giving you their attention, much less buy some art from you. Do yourself a solid and resolve to do your best to quit bad habits that include finding reasons to avoid telling your Story.

Your stories create conversations about you and your art when you aren’t there. They are the best source of interesting tidbits your fans, patrons, journalists, and others use to describe your work in the most effective form of advertising ever created, which is marketing art by word-of-mouth. Storytelling for artists is so useful and important I created an entire course on it, Personal Storytelling for Artists and Creatives.

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An Art Career without Marketing Is a Pleasant Hobby.

Innumerable living artists create compelling artwork but find their work is not selling for the simple reason it is not being seen. Without art marketing to create awareness, there is no interest, and consequently, no sales. If your art career goal is to make a living from selling your work, whether full or part-time, you need to use effective marketing methods and efficient selling skills.

To be transparent and fair, there is no shame in deciding to be a serious hobbyist. It is not a slam against your talent, creativity, skill, or ambition. In every endeavor of the creative arts, you can find artists who choose not to pursue the life of a professional artist. It’s common for incredibly talented artists to work in an ancillary field. For example, a virtuoso guitar player may work in a musical instrument store or give private lessons and pick up occasional gigs. There are countless reasons why this is a better choice for them. It might be they don’t want to deal with the business side, and the marketing hustle professional artists face daily.

Marketing is Not Selling.

Sales only occur after art marketing has done its job to create attention, interest, and desire to own the work. You instinctively know you cannot build a career on spontaneous art sales. Nearly all art, particularly originals, requires repeated exposure to prospective buyers before attention, interest, and desire can lead to a purchase. Social media continues to grow in importance to develop awareness and interest for fine artists. As such, it is not to be dismissed lightly or at all.

Desire alone is often not enough to persuade a customer to buy art. Uncovering and responding to objections, presenting alternatives, providing reassurance, merely asking for the order, and other factors are instrumental in creating art sales. Your art marketing may lead them to the gallery or studio, but the interaction that takes place after that is where selling skills come front and center.

Art Marketing Matters.

Some artists hold the mistaken belief that marketing their work somehow devalues it. The attitude that creativity and quality cannot exist simultaneously with economic success is a myth that persists within the art community. It hinders the progress of many artists operating as small business owners. Even when there is a benevolent attitude toward marketing, the fear of or ambivalence toward performing necessary tasks such as marketing often holds business owners back.

It Is Never Too Late to Get Started.

It does not matter where art marketing operations are at present. The path to success begins by putting significant, enlightened effort into making plans to market one’s art. Goals and objectives put artists on their way to a more fulfilling art career. Successful art marketers commit to continuing and improving their long-term efforts to raise awareness for their work and themselves.

Where Can Artists Market Their Work?

There are many distribution channels artists can use to get their work to market, including these options:

  • Create direct patronage where a network of patrons purchases artworks from the artist directly and repeatedly.
  • Galleries where gallerists sell the artists’ work for them. An artist may experience direct patronage through a gallery. However, rarely do they gain access to buyers of their work from galleries.
  • Contract to license original art to be reproduced and sold by art print publishers. Reproductions are sold as open edition posters or limited-edition prints, which may be digital reproductions (aka giclees), serigraphs, four-or-six-color offset lithography, and other formats.
  • Contract with licensors or licensing agents to reproduce an artist’s work for various uses, from stationery to linens, housewares, and more.
  • Studio visits and studio events are an excellent method of competing with commercial art galleries on many levels.

Auction Houses Selling Fine Art.

Another type of art marketing was carried out on the major auction blocks at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and other fine art auction houses in New York, London, Hong Kong, East Asia, and other major art regions. They sell art worth millions of dollars to wealthy individuals, often through brokers. The contemporary art market dominates this scene, primarily selling works by living artists like Jeff Koons and relatively recently deceased artists, such as Andy Warhol.

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Contemporary Art Embraces Graffiti Art and Branding.

Some of the artists who enjoyed the most remarkable growth in auction house interest and sales since 2005 include KAWS, Mr. Brainwash, and Banksy. Many of the top 50 artists, as ranked by Artnet in this period, were born in the last half of the 20th Century. It is difficult to imagine that the dealers and collectors of the 1980s who were engaged in acquiring Van Goghs could have foreseen how street art would become a market mover powered by the rise in appeal of younger artists in the 21st Century.

Changes in the American art market and the global art market mirrored those in culture and society. The most monied collectors who bought the top of the market sought artworks representing diverse genres that held substantial price premiums. That left the next level of affluent buyers to pursue the next best pieces available.

Since the paintings and sculptures of living artists, such as Damien Hirst, and recently deceased, as with Robert Indiana, were in greater abundance than Van Gogh and Picasso’s classic works, they grew in desirability. From the late 1990s well into the next century, there was a steady global growth in wealthy individuals. Their longing to show their sophistication and refined tastes drove demand to own artworks. To this class of buyers, contemporary art was more obtainable and offered other advantages over older art.

Take a Lesson from the Contemporary Art Market.

Artists who worry over selling out via art marketing can take lessons from the contemporary art market. Global brands are eager to align with visual artists. Their interests are further inspired by mass culture events and the increasing influence and fascination with celebrities. Contemporary fine artists found themselves working branding and licensing deals with Louis Vuitton, Absolut Vodka, Nike apparel, and footwear. One can see fine artists in Vogue magazine, music videos from Jay Z, and deals with liquor distillers, and countless other opportunities. All this visibility increased the value of contemporary art, which helped museums take advantage of the evolution of interest in newer artworks.

Booming Growth of Fine Art Fairs.

Of course, the growing interest in the contemporary art market helped high-end galleries and fueled fine art fairs’ rise and importance. While in the 1990s, art biennials and triennials were the hot trends, fine art fairs have replaced them as the most significant art trend in the 21st Century. Art fairs became a phenomenon, with the most important of them scattered around the globe. These are widely and arguably considered the top tier art fairs in the global market:

  • Art Basel, Basel, Switzerland
  • Frieze Art Fair, London
  • Art Basel, Miami Beach, Florida
  • TEFAF Maastricht, the Netherlands
  • ARCO, Madrid
  • India Art Fair, New Delhi
  • The Armory Show, New York
  • Art Dubai
  • Scope Art Show, New York, Basel, Hamptons, London, Miami

Since high-end international galleries are the primary exhibitors at fine art fairs such as Art Basel, they benefited and rose in prominence along with them. This excerpt from Artnet sheds valuable insight:

“The attention contemporary art gets today is what we were always hoping for,” says Thaddaeus Ropac, whose five international galleries grew from a single location in Salzburg opened in 1983. “It was once a small group of followers we were happy with whatever number of visitors we got; we were happy about any small sale. But expectations today are on a totally different level.” This trend toward the new is unmistakable in the data. For instance, of the 150 artists with the greatest increase in interested users since 2005, only one does not qualify as either postwar (which covers artists born between 1911 and 1944) or contemporary (artists born after 1945): the abstract color theorist Josef Albers (1888–1976). And he ranks seventy-third.

From gallery dinners and studio visits to art-fair parties and biennials, the social incentives also heavily favored the contemporary, particularly as the amount of money flooding into the art business made these events more lavish and exclusive. This revenue boost translated into bigger budgets, greater ambition, and more robust marketing for successful galleries and artists.

Unpacking how and why sales gravitated toward the new lays bare some of the most fundamental changes in the art world since the late ’80s. One of the biggest is the breakdown of the traditional border between auction houses and galleries. This development, which is arguably still in its early stages, has done much to transform the art business into a mature industry able to exploit the growing opportunities that lie before it.”

Now Is Not the Time to Let Overwhelm Set In.

Understandably, reading a lengthy overview of art marketing such as this one might be at once enlightening, inspiring, and intimidating. If, by reading this, you feel overwhelmed by all the aspects of how to market art mentioned in this article, don’t feel alone. Your reaction is normal. It is human nature to feel disheartened when the enormity of the tasks at hand seem impossible to get into one’s grasp and under control.

You may take some small solace in knowing others recognize and relate to your feelings both about marketing art in general and the worry about how to establish, organize and execute a plan to fulfill one’s goals. Nevertheless, you instinctively comprehend that a big part of your anxiety is knowing that getting things done falls to you.

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Self-awareness Is a Most Valuable Gift to Give Yourself.

Self-awareness is a great reward even when the reality it presents is painful to accept. In the case of visual artists attempting to figure out the best course of action to get their work to market to meet their desired outcome, having self-awareness is crucial. It will assist you in knowing how to gauge situations with a fair degree of accuracy. When you research the work and careers of artists you admire, your self-awareness will feedback realistic perceptions to tell you if your artwork, work ethic, and ambition are sufficient to allow you to compete with them.

That’s not to say you may have doubts about your talent, suffer from the impostor syndrome, or have other real or imagined drawbacks that will keep you from reaching your goals. Life is uncertain nearly always. Weird things happen. Artists with average talent and underperformer attitudes overachieve, while super talented overachievers repeatedly shoot past easy targets of opportunity. Such situations are outliers, which is to say they are meaningless to you.

Unfortunately, because they are outliers, they are more likely to have their stories known more widely, making them harder to avoid. Top marketers learn to ignore the news around outliers. They focus on what they need to do and how to accomplish their priority items. The more singular their approach to managing their main concerns, the greater their odds of reaching their goals fast.

Art Marketing Done Your Way.

Putting uncommon situations aside, a self-aware, realistic evaluation of your goals and available resources, skills, and ambition is the key to success in your quest to art marketing success based on your needs and done your way. Essentially, when you know what you want and believe you can achieve it by overcoming your doubts, continually improving your skills, and faithfully executing a well-devised plan, you put yourself on the path to success as you define it.

 Only You Are the Boss of You.

You became an artist because you are independent and don’t like others telling you what to do. With that in mind, you should not let others identify what success means to you. The answer is too personal to allow anyone other than you to decide.

Art Marketing Success Comes about from Reduction.

Frequently, the best things come from reduction. A delicate sauce, a charming piece of visual art, an elegant musical interlude each gain their allure, relevance, and desirability because of what is left out. The exquisite essence from each example creates a compelling allusion of how the result derives from the slightest hint of its origins. It’s not what you see, taste, or hear, but the sublime remnants of what you don’t that create such magic.

Think of reduction as an analogy for art marketing done on your terms. You are only one person. You can’t go in a kitchen – no matter how well it is equipped and supplied – and prepare a five-star meal by yourself on time. But you can create the most delectable sauce reduced from a perfect blend of high-quality original ingredients.

The advisable and straightforward course of action is to know yourself, know what you genuinely want from your creativity and skills at making art, and learn what tools and knowledge you need to help you cook up a career you like. From there, you need to know what pan and burner at what temperature, what prepared ingredients to add in what order, and how much time to create a fabulous, mouth-watering sauce that will delight the most demanding palate.

Art Marketing Success Done Step-by-Step.

In the case of art marketing, think of goals, resources, tools, and techniques. While it’s always true, there is too much to do, and too little time to do it, you can cast such worry aside. There is a better way. That is to take one step at a time using common sense based on a realistic plan that will lead to one small gain and then another.

No artists are the same. Some will want to learn about email marketing. Although it is highly advisable for all to learn the basics of email marketing quickly, others will jump to use social media platforms, get into galleries, or something else first. Doing something is more important than waiting to figure out what to do.

When the goals and tasks are reduced to doable daily actions, artists give themselves the best chance to succeed and achieve their greatest ambitions.  The Art Marketing Toolkit is built to help you, no matter if you are brand new, well-established, young or old, the principles, ideas, and skills you learn will help you reach your goals and sell your work for as long as you wish to get your art to market. You do it a step at a time.

Goals Drive Decisions that Lead to Actions and Determine Art Business Performance

The way to enjoy the greatest, long-term success starts with having realistic goals and reducing the things to be done to their essence. The next step is to work on completing the most valuable tasks first. The art marketing strategy for success is incremental.

You learn one bit of useful knowledge and master one practical marketing skill in a repetitive pattern acquiring new knowledge and skills on a manageable timeline. Then you combine your knowledge and skills to take consistent small steps that lead to little victories. Piling up those victories is how you create milestone accomplishments that lead to reaching your desired outcome.

You choose the adventure and the outcome you want. We’re here to inform and encourage you all along the way. Join today. Making sure you are happy you are satisfied with the artist masterclass, selling art online, and marketing art your way is our goal.

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