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.
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.