Curious about the inner workings of the art world? From help with pricing and finding work-life balance to getting your creative message across. Making the art world a more transparent place for emerging artists.
Rather than taking everything we do overly seriously, I believe we should have fun with what we do first, because we can still get an important message across even if we’re having a blast — something my former self could never agree with.
Borrowed from the late Zig Ziglar, the title may ring true to anyone, not only artists and creators. But unlike accountants, bricklayers or welders, the scope of what our craft can be is immense and it’s much easier for us to get carried away into the unknown.
Regardless of how proficient a writer, painter, or sculptor becomes, no matter how much knowledge they gather up over the years, it will probably never really feel enough. The feeling of having to, but not exactly knowing how to be just a bit better, will stay and gnaw on the soul forever. And that’s fine.
We all have probably encountered this scenario in our lives: After months of nothing you finally get an opportunity to work with a business or individual that needs some creative work done and after the first coffee you both really get each others vibe, but when you pop the big question of monetary compensation, they look at you like you just butchered the collaboration with a knife.
They say good art captivates you, but great art can transform your life. But like with any sales pitch, the real question is: how much is the premium of going from good to great really going to cost me?!
The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord is a wonderful and angry book that speaks about how our society has diverged from the authentic human experience of life into an artificial spectacle of neon colours, action movies and weird romantic novels about glittery vampires and the glorification of sexual deviance amongst the ultra rich.
“Study Finds Artists Become Famous through Their Friends, Not the Originality of Their Work” is the title of an interesting article, published on Artsy a few days ago. While a bit of an overstatement, it has a lot of truth to it.
Be it as a person, a society, a business or a local community; art gives us the tools to express ourselves and to connect, create common identity and express our power. And if we see it as such, it gives us a much easier time understanding why the majority of people don’t collect art or just don’t give art the same importance in their lives as we do. They just don’t feel the need for it.
Unlike our average commodities, art’s value isn’t judged by the materials used, neither by the labour it took to create it, because a quickly made blotchy cheap-paint-on-rubbish-canvas Rothko painting will be much more expensive to buy than a Koons Balloon Dog, that actually took months and thousands of man hours to create and is made out of premium, long lasting materials.
Art is obviously subjective and its prices even more so, but the big question is: If Pollock’s work can be more than 10 times as expensive as a Titian, does that mean it’s also 10x better? And if so, better at what?
We shouldn’t just be painting pictures on canvases and Fabriano paper, we should be painting mental images onto the minds of our followers and soon-to-be-followers. Only then can we ever succeed in expanding our reach to the people who really care and genuinely like our work.
Regardless of whether you wish to get signed by a gallery or attack the market directly via online stores and social media, don’t think too much about how your work looks compared to all the other similar creators, focus instead on your message and personal story.
The art market is a volatile place for investors, and these are the people gallerists cater to, so there are certain check boxes your work has to tick in order for them to decide to sign and represent you and your work.
Taking the time to create a great artist statement will help you clarify your wording, so you can give a short and captivating presentation anytime you find yourself in front of an interested buyer, are giving an interview or just get asked by a random person at a party somewhere about what you do.
As art is subjective, we can never really take full control over how a viewer of our show or a customer who bought one of our pieces will understand the work’s narrative. A description of the work might help, but some actually prefer to make up their own mind about what a particular art piece means to them on a strictly personal level, rather than listening to the artist describe what it should mean. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that in my opinion.
As humans, we couldn’t have been more proud of the lineage of artistic mastery that our planet had created over the years, and we had every reason for it. From the Ancient Greeks to Giotto and Titian, then Caravaggio, Monet, Van Gogh and Picasso … all geniuses in the craft, that shaped how we perceive reality itself. But then came Duchamp.
There is a force, that governs how we go about our lives; Meal deal or a nice salad? Wake up at 5:00 or snooze until 10:00. Get yet another outfit or just stay content with the clothes we have? Go to work, building your dreams or help build the dreams of someone else?
Unlike the still common belief that making great art will attract people who might like and even buy it, the reality for most of us is the exact opposite. You can create the most beautiful piece of art, but if you are unable to get it “out there”, your chances for an exhibition or sale — even just a retweet — are slim to none.
Even just talking about a particular piece of art differently can alter its value; consider if you described a meticulously carved wood sculpture in an enthusiastic and powerful way, created a professional presentation environment in your studio and really pointed out all the incredible traits of the materials you used — their history, origin and connection with nature. Now compare it to just telling an interested collector, that it was made out of a tree.
“The Most and Least Wanted Paintings” was a project done between 1995 and 97 by the artists Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid. Their premiss was simple: Go out and ask a bunch of art consumers and non-consumers what they like. Take a large sample of their aesthetic preferences — colour, style, size, motif etc. — and make an average assessment of what the most (and least) popular works of art are and why. Then, make such art to be sold back to the masses and buy a yacht (allegedly).
Many companies that produce some form of tangible goods, usually tend to diversify their offering into segments: entry level, core package and premium.
I believe we artists should take note and try to implement such strategies into our own business. If for example you only make large portraits that take you a really long time to make, you probably also charge a good amount of money for them.
I have finally found the time to watch the new arty horror movie Velvet Buzzsaw. The trailer, like the whole movie, really intrigued me in the first half — until badly executed demonic powers started killing people — from there it kinda went downhill …
We’re all living on the web now. We talk through texts, we speak to each other via phone and we follow our friends and enemies on Instagram, so we know what holiday locations to pick next. The state of the contemporary man and woman is always connected, always plugged into the ether that is the collective consciousness of man.
No sane business owner has ever said: “Let’s sell this doohickey here at a 10% loss and make absolutely no calculations as to how much we need to make to stay afloat with our rent payment and other expenses.” But artists on the web debate whether or not to charge 2€ or 3€ an hour in places where the minimal hourly rate is about 10€.
From urinals to canned pop and machines that produce it, the idea of what can be called art has been stretched in the last decade to more than just the style a painting is made in or how a sculpture is chiselled. But the ever present question, apart from "Why?” is: “Where is the line?”
While browsing the web yesterday I came across a Twitter post from whoever manages the The Art Market Twitter account, sharing an article on Artsy about new art and design fair in Brooklyn called Object & Thing, and the thing that stuck out like a fat splinter in my pinky was the language they used …
It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of Nike, a student at the Academy or jobless and receiving welfare — a day only has 24 hours. If then, you want to make something out of your life, time management is imperative.
A few months ago Christie’s held the first-ever auction of art created by artificial intelligence. A work of art made by a computer algorithm called GAN (Generative Adversarial Network) titled Portrait of Edmond Belamy, sold for roughly 380,000 EUR! Needless to say, the sale sparked a controversy among critics.
While it’s wonderful to enjoy our process and to like talking to other artists and art lovers about philosophy and the meaning of life, it’s really the simple questions that may get overlooked sometimes.
Here’s a shocker I realised today: YouTube has been around for almost two decades! And websites like Blogger and Facebook even more than that, so social media and its power to potentially reach millions of people has been around the block for quite some time now, but with all mediums, there slowly but steadily come changes to the way people consume their content.
I had an interesting conversation on Facebook the other day about the struggle we artists tend to go through because of the nature of our work.
Nothing to do with having to be sad and crazy to make art (a dumb myth if I ever heard one), but about the divide between the upper echelon of art consumption that is the auction market and the low end of our world, the regular Joes and Jolenes, that are selling their art on Etsy or Saatchi Art.
Lately I have been listening to and reading a bunch of books on time management, work ethics and just all-around self-fulfilment and motivational literature and a thought crossed my mind yesterday, while thinking about us artists and the work we do.
The spectator is the one who decides what a particular piece of art is all about. Depending on how much we’re educated, what kind of an emotional state we’re in and if we just want to cock around a gallery, trying to persuade fellow gallery visitors that we invented art history itself, the meaning of a particular art piece — the same art piece — will change drastically.
We use art to find similar souls amongst the masses of people; those who understand beauty and aesthetics in the way we do, those that are sensitive to similar impulses, that laugh at the same jokes and cry to the same saddening tunes. But many of us misunderstand how our soul-searching actually happens, when art is involved.
We continue this series of podcasts revolving around the question: “What makes something art?” with a small dissection of what the phenomenon of art actually is. And as we learned in the previous one, it all comes down to these three: the Artist, the Artwork and the Viewer.
Just as everybody felt that Duchamp’s wall toilet conundrum was almost flushed out of the art world’s system, cleansed by Richard Long’s walking escapades, Ed Ruscha's thorough documentation of the Sunset Strip and others, here came Andy and presented the next big shocker: The Brillo Box.
After yesterday’s podcast we have come to the conclusion that a mere word or image does not have any intrinsic meaning accompanying it. As weird and illogical as this might seem, we must never forget that every time we look at a painting or hear a word, we might forget about the most important part of the equation — us.
Continuing yesterday’s podcast post about communication, I would like to focus on a crucial point that I see might well be one of the greatest misunderstandings of communication in art — syntax does not equal semantics.
The way communication happens is actually amazing because of the weird and maybe illogical nature of how information “travels”. While we may imagine invisible vibrations traveling through space from one’s mouth to another one’s ears and carrying bits of thought, the interesting fact is that it actually doesn’t work that way and that thoughts can’t really travel. At least not in the way we’d expect them to.
Every small tribe has their own language, and the variations between Classical Academic Painter English, Conceptual Feminist English and Modernist Abstract Expressionist English are so abundant and so distinct, that one could easily presume that neither of them would really get what the other is talking about. They might hear the words, and they might even understand their intentions, but their true aspirations, the basic emotions that guide them on their path are extremely hard to understand.
Colourful ties, fancy watches and flashy rings. Or maybe a new Apple computer, giant Wacom Cintiq tablet and a nice new mirrorless Nikon Z7. Whatever the means, the end goal is always the same; if we look the part and talk the talk we’ll be walking the walk. But I do agree with Gary Vaynerchuk, when he speaks about faking it until we make it. He blatantly says, that the only people we will fool by dressing up and pretending to be the tough guy or gal in any business, is other fakers.
We creatives are curious by nature, which makes us lifetime learners; constantly trying out new things and always expanding our skillset. Everyday we find something new, some spot of life where we haven’t ventured before and usually the first thought that comes to my mind, when in such a place, is how can I understand this or that? How can I conquer this newly found interest and grow?
I remember when I first started to draw the human body; it didn’t really start with a full nude or portrait or any body part for that matter, it started with boxes and a long stick, so that I could get the hang of perspective and of simple shapes. Then we built our way up to ovals and vases and flowers and in the end my professor at that time brought a large schematic plaster head, that was made up of only flat surfaces. And we drew for months to get to that head, so this was no weekend trip to becoming Rembrandt!
Art can be beautiful. It can be ugly or just plain disgusting. The variety of emotions that artists can produce with a few brushstrokes is astounding. But do we actually look at our work from such a perspective or can our emotions sometimes get sidetracked (or even more often) by the concepts and ideas that our works should communicate?
One of the more underlying issues of open calls is the sheer amount of artists, who can now apply to such open calls and with such a supply, naturally the demand becomes more picky, meaning the specifics of each open call don’t just stop at “only painting submissions” or “we only accept video and new media works” but can be as narrow as “only blockchain-based figural video works, not longer than 2 min will be accepted”.
What if we wanted to play basketball in the NBA, but decided that, because of financial constraints or other reasons, we just won’t be looking for any other players for our team and just going at it solo. So we’ll just go play a few games, try to score a few points, maybe even win a game (maybe we just get lucky or maybe we’re just that good at it) and after we get some money from sponsors or brand deals, we’ll then go and get some new teammates, that we can afford. Is this a reasonable approach? But why do we think that the same plan will work in other games, like the game of being an artist in 2019?
The best portraitist will know you better than you know yourself and show that self in the painting she is producing, the best photographer will show the true character of whoever he is portraying and so will the musician and the actor. But while empathy is indispensable when connecting with others, when do we know we have overstepped the line and subconsciously assimilated some small, unnoticeable part of the person we were connecting with. As the famous quote from the bible goes: “love your enemies”. But what if you end up in love with them?
Because you could be making the most wonderful umbrellas the world has ever seen, but if you decide sell them in the Atacama dessert, you might just start believing that no-one needs and umbrella, while the guy in front of Notre Dame sells hundreds of cheap chines-made ones to tourists, the second it starts to rain in Paris.
Aristotle wrote: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” While educated can mean many things, it is in essence meant as a tool (albeit a mental one). But while we can try to understand the issues of extremists without accepting them as our own beliefs, is having knowledge (or mental skill) really enough? Or is “knowing” without having had experienced what people with such ideologies believe and do just another misunderstanding of how the human condition really works?
If Martin Luther King had Snapchat, do you think he would be taking selfies with his new Air Jordans rather than fighting for his cause? But what if YouTube channel Unbox Therapy’s Lewis George or “Lew” didn’t have YouTube? Would he still be spreading his love and passion for opening boxes?
Sooner or later some new technology is invented and becomes available to the masses, usually being either easier, quicker, cleaner, more efficient, cheaper than what we had before. And while I love the fact that I don’t have to learn typesetting or screen printing to be able to print 100 copies of a text document, each of these technological advances pushes up the baseline and definition of commodities in our society.
From linen canvases to plaster and genes, the share amount of mediums available to artists today is historically speaking at its very peak. While some prefer analog ways of expressing themselves, others like to work digitally. But have you ever considered commercials as a viable medium for your work?
Many of us may be familiar wit the book Steal Like an Artist by written by Austin Kleon. In this book he describes how countless famous artists have been “stealing” other artists styles, ideas and just about anything else that they deemed valuable and used everything in their own work. But apart from a marketer’s standpoint, should this really be called stealing?
Communication has stopped being the exchange of emotion and has stagnated to merely an exchange of information. You don’t need to go outside to know the weather is bad, you don’t need to go to Rome to see the Pantheon and we have long been able to have social contacts with others without ever meeting them in person, but with Instant Video at the tip of your fingers, it really became more of a natural extension of our being and less a pigeon that might or might not arrive.
What many of us present as an artist statement (I was guilty of this for a long while) is usually exactly the opposite of what it should be; we focus on intellectually sounding words and sentences like this: “As wavering phenomena become rediscovered through subversive personal practices, the observer is left with an awareness of the boundaries of our era.”, rather than actually trying to communicate clearly.
They say there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. I think something similar applies to making art too. Let’s say I decide to make a new conceptual piece; I take my time, carefully constructing my concept, picking the right materials and motif and get one of the best galleries I can to showcase my new work. And after months of labouring away in the studio, nobody gets it!
In 1976, artist and critic Brian O’Doherty published his essay “Inside the White Cube”, that not only created lots of buzz in the art world, but gave this popular mode of displaying work in museums and commercial galleries a catchy new name.
It sounds grand to be overly productive, to wake up at 5:00 in the morning and work till 23:00 at night, but the issue with most people I know who adhere to such a strong work ethic, isn’t commitment and it absolutely isn’t motivation, but health.
Today, it isn’t as much about one work, or even one exhibition — what matters in the long run is the totality of our production and most importantly the regularity of our production. Rather than focusing on the importance of each piece we make, I find it more crucial to step back and observe it in the context of everything we have ever done.
Rather than waiting for destiny, I am a fan of action, but the problem with a lot of us is, we are constantly searching for that one piece of information that will change our lives. Now, what if I shared with you today exactly that information? Would you be willing to really give it a try and see the transformative powers of finally having the right mental and physical tools to conquer your dreams?
People will always bicker and whine, but at the same time, there will always be those of us, who show up and do the work. And now, through the powers of social media and those small metal and glass devices in our pockets and bags, we can become our own gallery representatives, our own brands and do so while on our daily commute. How fantastic is that?!
Where I come from, we haven’t really seen any upward movement from the private art market since the 90s (not even when almost everywhere else art sales boomed) and as a result there is now not only a high percentage of underpaid artists but an overpopulation of badly executed conceptual ideas.
Knowing does not equal doing, but feeling almost always leads to action. Because emotions are actions, physical states of our bodies (you can’t really feel sad while running a marathon) and while using facts to persuade someone may or may not be an efficient way of communication, if instead we use emotions, we have an incredibly higher chance of getting our point across. And who better to know the fine art of communicating emotions than us creatives?
About 20 years ago almost nobody had a website, let alone a personal web portfolio of his or her work, but with WordPress and Squarespace came the era of portfolio Websites. While having one is much cheaper now than it was years ago, we now have Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and of course Facebook that are “completely free”, so the real question is, do we still need personal websites for our art?
We have been making art since the time we were living in caves, so the act of artistic creation is older than civilisation itself. Regardless of whether you’re writing articles, books, poetry or painting or sculpting, you may find that, after showing your art to the public, many people will see influences in your work that you didn’t even know existed.
We are the creators of narratives, it is our job to produce stories and to communicate those stories to others. Be it feelings of pleasure, anger, excitement, or a well intended warning, a good creator knows how to produce art that speaks to those for whom the message was intended. But no creator will ever be able to create something for everybody, at least not anymore.
All success stories, regardless if in the field of fine art, business or invention, are usually paved with failure — and not just with the occasional small mishap or two, many come in the form of a constant stream of defeat. Edison (even though a contemptible man) knew what it meant to be in the vanguard of innovation. He made more than one thousand unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb, but when a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
The art market can be divided into roughly 5 segments:
1.) The direct market 2.) The primary beta market, 3.) The primary alpha market, 4.) The secondary alpha market and 5.) The auction market.
Today we will be looking at the last three: the primary and secondary alpha market and the auction market.
The art market can be divided into roughly 5 segments:
1.) The direct market, 2.) The primary beta market, 3.) The primary alpha market, 4.) The secondary alpha market and and 5.) The auction market.
Today we will be looking at the first two: the direct market and the primary beta market, so watch out for the next podcast, as this is a two-parter!
You’ll hear people tell you about different techniques on how to price your work, but usually these are artists, who mostly do one thing and what works for a classical portrait painter doesn’t necessarily fit someone working with photo / video works. You can’t really charge by the square cm or inch for video, and charging by the minute quite frankly questions the whole concept of what it means to make art opposed to craft. So in the hopes of giving advice that could help as many of you as possible, lets talk pricing!
If your not happy with the idea, that its hard to sell paintings, it’s not being an artist that bothers you, it’s the act of painting and selling paintings, that you have a problem with. You have artists in banking and marketing, because it’s not important what you create, it is the act of creation and the joy and pleasure that it brings. Maybe it’s time to stop pondering about why and to start figuring out how. And mind you, this is not the motivational why; it’s impossibly important to know why we do what we do, but the universal why. The one you don’t have to like, only understand.