The art world is a magical place full of complex conversations about unmade beds, buttered-up chairs and urinals, but nobody seems to want to talk about how it actually works. I want to change that.
So, welcome to Surviving Art, a safe place where trigger words like job security and pension fund are strictly forbidden.
But what isn’t, is making sense of the art market; how to price your work, approach galleries and get exhibitions, as well as tips and strategies on how to sell your art directly to collectors and get your creative message across.
A few days ago I had the great pleasure to interview Amy Whitaker (she has an MBA from Yale and an MFA in Painting from Slade University — an incredible mix!).She is also an associate professor at NYU and the author of two very interesting books: Museum Legs and Art Thinking. Our conversations and her writing got me thinking about my own exploration of both worlds and the ever-present question of economics in art.
Amy speaks of two inherently different but incredibly interconnected ways of thinking and experiencing the world. The first kind she calls Art Thinking; this is the process of letting go, of giving ones mind the time and space to wander, explore, and get excited about the world and the question I want to ask today is:
How can one create their own system that incorporates both? Or better yet: How can we find already created ones, that we can reappropriate and reuse to fit our own needs?
LINK TO HER TWO BOOKS (Both are incredibly interesting for artist, that would like to nurture their business side and I highly recommend reading them both!):
Museum Legs: https://amzn.to/2XBUZEm
Art Thinking: https://amzn.to/2YRpHGt
A wonderful quote of which the author eludes me even after 5 min of thorough Google searching goes like this: “Life is a game. You can be a player or a toy.”
And the question I’d like to pose today is: How does making your own rules, and sometimes even completely rejecting the already established ones, that our environment proposes, impact our perspective on life and place in society?
When we think about creativity and inspiration, we might picture an image of a spirit, a muse, that comes forth from the heavens and touches us in funny places at the most random of times imaginable.
But these moments aren’t random, and there really is no extraterrestrial or divine power fondling our brains. It’s all an illusion, a misunderstanding of causality and how our perception and thinking work.
While the idea of inspiration coming from outside of us isn’t that far from the truth — the building blocks of any idea are build, similarly to dreams, from our encounters with reality — it’s not the outside that needs to come into alignment for us to get a “great” idea.
It’s our insides.
Link to the book I mention: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
To be frank, all comments on either the meaning or purpose of anything are irrelevant in the grander scheme of things, because all are but a form of ideology, a kind of software that runs in our minds if you will, and contrary to common belief that humans are nothing more than complex Turing machines, no programs are actually alike.
What I believe my purpose is, could not be further from what you or your friends might think your goals in life should be; while we might all resemble each other in the ways we operate — we may wish to expand, to satiate our insatiable curiosity about life, to play and consume and of course gain as much power as we can (or believe is appropriate to have) — each and everyone of us has a distinct means of operating in the world.
What I’d like to focus on today is the distinction between form and function or between self-actualisation and power appropriation.
Countless figures throughout history have tried to explain this incredibly complex question: What is art? And more importantly, what isn’t art?
But still the institutions have no real answer, no common ground upon which they could define a normative of what defines art. Brut art is a problem, so are other outsider artists, and home schooled creatives that defy or just never become part of the institutional system.
It’s the carpenters that put more than the usual love and attention to detail in building their “consumer objects”. It’s the iPhones and iPads and other designer products that always walk the thin line between art and function.
Then you have others that do not agree with the institutional idea that one needs to even be part of the system to be considered an artist. You only need to have ideas and communicate them with the world via your production.
And in the philosophy of aesthetics — the field that studies this question ontologically — there is even more confusion.
LINKS TO THE ARTICLES MENTIONED:
The first one is by Thomas Nagel, titled What It Is Like To Be A Bat.
The next story, written by Frank Jackson is titled What Mary Didn’t Know.
Titled The Chinese Room, this wonderful tale of speaking Asian walls stirred the lines of cognitive scientists when first presented in 1980 by John Searle.
People have two intrinsic desires; to know themselves and to find a place in their environment. We constantly search for better ways, a clearer image of who we are and continuously try to place that projection of ourselves into society and our environment at large.
But a lot of us make a grave mistake when conducting our search. A mistake we might not even recognise, but that defines and ultimately controls our inability to find our true way in life.
They say we are born as empty slates, pure white canvases onto which life leaves its marks and in the end produces a singular, unique imprint of colours, shapes and forms. While this may or may not be true, today I would like to think about the process itself.
Also, I would like to inform all of you, that the daily blog will go through a few changes:
The coming episodes will now be much longer, and published only once a week (Tuesday at 16:00 CET), with random episodes thrown in from time to time (like interviews, talks and other non-periodicals).
Art is emotional and as such its value is determined absolutely subjectively. The big question though is how, because even though ambivalent, subjectivity can still give us a lot of various starting points to calculate value from.
It’s all about perceived value though — not that the actual value of materials in a work or the hours we spend aren’t important, but the tag word for this topic is perceived. Because let’s face it, unless your art is made out of pure gold, the materials should matter a lot less than the story that’s behind it.
I have struggled with this question for years. Not only with figuring out the value that I can provide to society, but the value I have for myself. But, even though you can find blueprints of how to build an atomic bomb online, answers to the question: “How do I fit in with society?” remained elusive, almost non-existent.
The problem wasn’t that no answers to this question were out there though, it was that I did not know where to look.
A lot of us may think that artists are the only ones in the art world that are struggling with the changes, happening via social media platforms, online sales platforms and other PR, marketing and advertising related content, that now have to be made in addition to the work we do in our studio, but it’s actually a global phenomena.
Jasper Johns’ first show at the Castelli gallery was an enormous success for the artist and started off his career in an unprecedented way. But they exact method used by Leo Castelli (one of the biggest galleries to have ever walked the streets of New York) was remarkable and incredibly simple at the same time.
I have been noticing a lot of my peers creating exclusively museum sized artworks and/or installations, but most of them are failing to ever sell a piece they make. And sure, large works do have their place — a lot of my work is on the larger side because, to be honest, making it smaller would diminish its narrative powers. But the reality is, almost nobody has enough room to really hang or exhibit such a piece in their home and making such large works can be detrimental to our ability to sell.
One of my early mentors in the arts once told me a story about her artist friend that used to come by her studio and show a lot of interest in her work. He actually showed a lot of interest for every one of the local artist’s works and was a regular visitor to their studios too. Just a friendly nosy guy.
It was a nice chat and after their conversation ended he left as he did many times before. She continued with her paintings, giving absolutely zero thought to the whole thing. Little did she know, what was about to unfold. I can tell you though, it wasn’t going to be pretty.
First it came for the hotel businesses, then the taxi drivers and food delivery services, the radio stations and telecommunication providers. It’s coming for all of us in the arts too. But there’s a good thing about the transition that is yet to come, that especially pertains to us artists.
The wonderful news is that it’s not coming for us — it’s the galleries that will feel it the most. In fact, a lot of us will actually be much better off. But we will have to adapt everything we do in order to really take advantage of the coming shift.
To tie together the previous two blogs, I want to discuss what is in my opinion the highest and most complex function that art has in human society — the artificial creation of the experience of the sublime.
Various sources state, that about 10% of people worldwide are either not part of any religion or agnostic, and a big chunk of these people are full-blown atheists. But, while these numbers are about as precise as if the statisticians had gotten them from a local ultimate pub trivia night; the one thing that is absolutely for certain is that whatever the actual number of non-religious people is world-wide, it’s definitely growing.
Religions have defined cultures and people since the beginning of time; man time, not time time — unless you ask a theologian. They will tell you that both are pretty much the same and that ancient man rode dinosaurs and made babies the same way sponges do; asexually through budding. This is when a small piece of sponge is broken off but is still able to survive and grow into another sponge, and surprisingly this fact is able to explain the genesis story quite effectively if you really think about it.
Jokes aside though, today’s blunder is focused on the essential functions of religion — especially its ability to placate the basic fear, that all of us humans carry inside ourselves, but rarely speak of. The fear of death.
Contrary to common belief, art is not a material thing. There are no traits that an object has to posses to be deemed a work of art. But, that doesn’t mean that art does not need to be embodied in an object.
At its core, art is an experience. And like all human experiences, it’s created through perspectives — so the idea that 100 people will see 100 different things in the same work of art, probably doesn’t come as a shocker to any one of us.
This is not a social commentary folks, so for anyone expecting a rant on all the junk that gets sold off as artistic masterpieces; I’m sorry to disappoint you, this is not the point of today’s blog. But that’s not to say I don’t have a book’s worth of it, waiting patiently to be distributed over time on various social channels, preferably in text-based format on any platform that rhymes with bitter.
To get to today’s point though, enormous amounts of texts have been written on the topic of art, especially the question of: “What makes something become art?”
Link to the book: “The Concept and Phenomenon of Art”. Enjoy.
The tag word today is ideology; every piece of art has its own story and thus its own bit of ideology infused into it. And the main question for all of us artists is: “How can we either become part of an already established ideology, or even how to make our own?”
The point of this is quite straightforward and based upon an interesting phenomenon that pertains to objects in general, but especially artistic object in particular. So, before we venture into the how, let’s try to explore the why fist:
The kind of art we produce has an enormous effect on the end customer we attract; pretty flower paintings will attract people that like flowers.
But this does not translate directly; some of them are much fonder of pretty flowers and may be specific about which kind of flower is deemed pretty and which isn’t. And even when getting the type, colour, and other factors right, only a few of those people might actually want their pretty flowers to be presented via paintings (the more specific our work, the less of a target group we are aiming at effectively).
There are a few companies that really know what they’re doing — even if we don’t agree with their products, their models of how to sell said products are the best in the world — and we artists can really learn a lot from studying them.
I guess most of us don’t become artists, but end up artists. What I mean by this is that as the kids that grow up in an engineer household, filled with technical models, equations and maths, can end up loving physics as much — if not more — than their parents, they ultimately have no control over the fact that they were born into such an environment. No-one does.
We could’ve just as easily been born a carpenter’s son or a lawyer’s daughter — or even not at all for that matter — the chances of us being who we are because of where we started out are almost ineffable in the grander scheme of things.
The internet, especially social media, have given us an incredible tool — we can now potentially reach anyone in the world. If before you had to go through all the gatekeepers of the art world, now you can do everything yourself and have full control over every aspect of your art, including profits.
But it does come with a price and it’s probably not what most of us think it is, when confronted with the myriad of things we have to set-up to get our art business started.
There is a wonderful analogy used at the beginning of the book The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, where the author describes any entrepreneur as a company of three strongly distinct individuals: the entrepreneur, the operator/manager and the technician/craftsperson.
When we start to offer our skills and services to others, we inevitably become all three, but one of the biggest problems for a lot of us artists (pretty much the majority, really), is that we love the craft and enjoy it immensely, but have no clue or even desire to do the business part and management of our small business.
Just like Ferrari and Honda don’t use the same pricing model for their products, we artists have to differentiate between two distinct ways to approach our prices. Depending on whether we aim to have a go at the gallery system or sell our art directly, we need to adjust our behaviour to fit either one of the markets demands.
Today I want to talk about the gallery model and the way I believe any one of us should think about our prices, if indeed we are going all in and focusing on becoming part of the fine art market.
Being an artist is a full-time job and then some; creativity doesn’t just come on its own and setting up a routine for us to be able to create day in and day out takes a lot of effort. And so does marketing and taking pictures and writing applications for open calls and all the other stuff we do.
But there may be an aspect of our job that a lot of us never think about, because it’s more boring than a weekend of watching paint dry, but alas, it is incredibly important in the long run, so today I want to talk about archival work and cataloging.
As tastes in art are incredibly subjective, the value of any particular piece can seem like it has been decided upon on a whim. But while this may even be true for many a piece of art being sold today, there are many factors that can be defined and influence the value and as such, the price of our art.
Knowing who to sell to and what their needs are is crucial; too many artists struggle with not knowing who their target group is or what they want. While we might think that portraits are for everybody (I mean, the majority of people I know have a face and therefore can be potential customers), the reality actually is much more complex, when demand is taken into consideration.
But before we think about how much people might like our work, we need to find out who they are first. Regardless of what we produce, the question is always the same: Who is it for and why do they need it?
And the easiest way is to compare art to drill bits — yep, we obviously know what we are doing here.
Up until this point, we have been discussing pricing as a one-sided equation of how much I as an artist need to get, to pay for whatever my lifestyle or other financial requirements are. But sales are never just a one-sided discussion — a deal always has to have two sides.
And while of course it’s imperative to find a good place to set-up our side of the equation (meaning we don’t sell our work for bread crumbs, and are consistent in our pricing structure), there is an equally important part that a lot of us may not give too much thought to, but is imperative that we understand.
We’ve talked about setting our prices by the hour and calculating them via size and base fees, and now it’s time to tie it all together and talk about project based pricing.
What I mean by this is the way we present our prices to our customers; the easiest and most straightforward way is to just add all of our expenses, base fees and pricing model of choice and end up with some rounded-up number, but a bit of tweaking can make our prices a lot more understandable and transparent to our customers.
Cars can sometimes be confusingly used to extend ones, well, let’s call it perception of self to be kind. Art on the other hand, cannot only provide us with a symbolic extension — sometimes it’s even made in the literal shape of one. But today’s podcast is not so much about sizing-up as it is about putting a price tag on it, so brace yourselves, because we’re going to explore the pricing-by-size model of art evaluation.
In yesterday’s podcast, I discussed the importance of calculating ones base expenses and all-around financial needs on a yearly basis, and today we’re going to look at one of the most popular but potentially most problematic ways of determining how much our art is actually worth.
This model has a lot going for it — especially for anyone starting out — as it is the easiest to use in order to determine how we’re going to make the minimum amount we need to make, for our business and personal life to flourish and even eventually come to the point, where art becomes our full-time profession. But it has a lot of problems, too!
Story is Everything is a booklet I prepared for United Art Space and in this podcast, Michelle and I discuss the importance of storytelling, narrative and context in art. And, if you like to get to know more about Michelle's project United Art Space, here are the links: United Art Space Website, United Art Space Facebook, United Art Space Instagram. Enjoy!
From the three ways one could determine the value of our work, the hourly-based pricing model is probably the most popular one, as most other jobs we might have had (or still have) determine the value of our work on the merit of how much time we spend there.
But before we jump the gun, there is an important base question that needs to be answered beforehand: How much do we actually need? And I don’t mean how much we would like to make to buy a new phone or go on two more holidays per year — the emphasis is on need, not want.
The first painting I actually sold was done at a live-painting performance; me and my friend were part of an awards ceremony in high-school and had a live-stream of us painting and creating clay sculptures that was projected in the hall, where the ceremony was taking place.
It was a 100x120 cm colourful canvas with pop-art style pigs painted upside down, and the word “Klabase” (meaning sausage in a rural Slovenian dialect) written in giant bold letters across the whole canvas — you can probably tell I was on a rigorous intellectual path back then.
I got the big news: A wealthy collector — appearing out of the blue, coming all the way from northern Germany — was interested in my work. He and his personal gallerist came to our Academy to take a look around and the news of their arrival spread throughout the whole school; he was interested to buy!
But do you want to know what happened?
Throughout history, artists have created an ineffable amount of value for humanity, but there will always be a wonderful irony around our value creation.
We can make incredible, breathtaking works of pure genius that have the ability to comfort even the most melancholic of souls. But when we need to discuss the value of said wonders, usually the only real miracle is if we’re able to find a number that doesn’t make us starve to death in the long run.
Pricing our art — especially at the beginning — can be a daunting task and while numerous factors have to be taken into consideration, there is one that doesn’t get talked about that much. The problem is though, it’s one of the most important ones!
Regardless whether you’re aiming to take your art directly to the market and sell on Etsy, SaatchiArt or on your website, or if you wish to go the longer path of getting a gallery to represent your work, a solid base price for your work is imperative.
With the commoditisation of paintings, sculptures and other wall furniture that one can buy on Etsy, a question pops up: Are we artists or artisans?
I think our main concern as creatives should be to first have a nice little talk with ourselves over some coffee and maybe a bagel if you don’t care about your carb intake and figure out the basics of what our craft is all about.
During a conversation I had with a friend of mine about a show I got invited to in the summer, she mentioned ROI and how her goal was to produce the most effective show with the least amount of capital. And while the last 15 years or so have been predicated on me making as much as possible for as little as I could afford, something clicked and it really got me thinking.
As far as my hippy side is concerned: Art is a miracle, that has allowed the human experience to grow well above its immediate physical needs and given us the ability to build this magnificent wonder that we call society.
But the value of art is also something that, since the invention of money around 500 billion years ago (give or take), has become increasingly important and evermore so in today’s capitalist society.
Today I want to share how I approach my gallery hunting; what helped me in the past and what didn’t and what I do, when focusing on getting representation. Do keep in mind that everybody has a different way of doing it — and while there are tried and tested methods that usually work, not everything ever does.
The goal is simple: get signed by a gallery.
Yesterday I wrote about tactics — cold calling — and the effects such an approach might produce, but today it’s all about strategy. But there is a lot of confusion going around about differentiating tactics and strategy and to start off today’s blunder, I would like to address this issue myself.
Sun Tzu (the great Chinese general) described the difference in his ever-more popular book The Art of War like this: “All men can see the tactics I use to conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which great victory is evolved.”
I’ve talked a lot about the particularities of what a good application should look like and how to find galleries that resonate with your work, and now I want to get really tactical and try to make a roadmap of things to consider, when searching for representation.
The only true tactic that ever worked for me in the beginning and has allowed me to periodically get invited to collaborate with curators and exhibit my work was that I started applying to any open-call that I could find online and that fit my work.
A great website that has worked for me was CuratorSpace — focusing primarily on the UK.
You created a professional portfolio of your work and have a nice, well-prepared CV to compliment it in your application. But what now?! Before going into anything tactical, I want to talk perspective.
Similar to a CV, the portfolio of works is an important document to have as a creative; not only does it make your life easier when applying to open calls, but allows for an incredible amount of introspection and reflection on your personal brand, your preferences and just what you and your art are all about!
You can also download my portfolio of work from around 2016 on this link to as an example if you’d like.
An interesting article popped-up a few days ago on Artnet, stating that predominantly red or blue monochrome artworks sell for considerably higher prices than all the other colour of the rainbow. And, while quite an interesting read, it did get me thinking about who exactly would be able to benefit from such information?
Link to Sara Thornton’s brilliantly written book about the art world.
*Affiliate link (thanks for supporting the channel).
Yesterday I tried to break down the artist CV and all its features, but I just couldn’t stop feeling like I needed to address video too! So in today’s blog I would like to focus on video as a more informal, but incredibly powerful tool, to propagate your art and creative message.
A well prepared CV is the corner stone of any application, but unlike financial advisors, marketeers and other professionals, artists can’t really do much with the standard form that so many others use — aka. we usually aren’t employed anywhere and McDonalds doesn’t really count.
You can also download my CV here, if you’d like to see how what I yap about looks in real life.
Yesterday’s blog dabbled a bit in talking about things to keep in mind when searching for gallery representation and after a lot of feedback from all of you reading my blunders I decided to expand on it and provide a more in-depth look into what tactics could land you your first gallery gig. So expect this week’s blogs to be focused solely on this topic.
The amount of CVs and portfolios the average gallery receives on a daily basis is immense, so having a good tactic when trying to approach one is imperative.
Even though we live in the digital age, the more or less most important factor to take into consideration when trying to get signed is where your targeted gallery is located. Because even though you could theoretically email your portfolio to any place in the world, the majority of gallerists appreciate artists that are in close proximity to where their institution operates and this is because of several factors.
Today’s mother’s day in Slovenia and while unrelated to art it got me thinking about our ability to do what we do.
Without a mom, we obviously wouldn’t be able to exist, but there is a bigger, more universal provider that also has an enormous part to play in our ability to work in the creative field. Without the enormous advances in our society — both technological and social — our ability to live off selling anything on Etsy (even the existence of Etsy itself) would’ve been impossible to imagine.
I feel there is a misunderstanding in the art world, that may or may not be a reality for you, depending on where you are and how strong your local art market is. But in Slovenia and many other countries, it is very much an enormous issue.
A lot of the artists I know do not get the real function of a gallery or agent. Their beliefs are that such people are financial vultures; praying on the poor unsuspecting artists who are trying to produce great work and butchering their creative passion with turning something sacred into a commodity item on sale.
The number of people producing art has never been higher and with everybody including your aunt trying to sell their work and get exhibited, only the best actually manage to do so in the end.
But the issue with art is that beauty is incredibly subjective and there are more concepts and ideas than there are beliefs in the world, so defining the best people in the art business is incomparably harder to do than finding the winners of any sports competition.
If in 2007 blogs were all the rage and almost anybody that was somebody online had one, today it’s podcasts. And with platforms like Anchor.fm offering free hosting and distribution, there really are no more excuses from getting on the bandwagon yourself!
Today, everybody has a webpage; from the free options at Wordpress, Wix or other web providers to the more sophisticated self-hosted options that I would encourage anyone with a free account to have a look into.
But it’s not having a website that is important, because it’s like having a nice new set of expensive brushes and colours; owning them doesn’t make you produce a painting and showing them to your friends wont get you far either.
You have to use them, and the same goes for your webpage.
Even though mailing lists seem like a thing of the past, they are still an irreplaceable building block of any creative business. Regardless of whether you’re writing daily blogs like me, or if you use your mailing list to sell or notify people about your work and exhibitions — if you’re a creative, you should start building your list.
Posting a lot on your media platform of choice and doing so on a regular basis is a must if you wish to propagate your message and your art into the world and don’t have cash to burn for Facebook or Instagram ads, but it takes a lot of time and becomes incredibly tedious to do after a while!
After spending months or days (or minutes — for all of you speed painters out there), it’s finally time to decide how to present your work! And the big question is: Should you invest in buying a nice frame to put around your work and make it “more presentable” or should you just leave it as it is?
Regardless if you paint, sculpt, make experimental video installations or are a political performance artist, the main goal for all of us is to express ourselves.
But while we may be really good at making art, presenting it is an entirely different skill to have and in today’s video I want to talk about how to spread your creative message to your followers and fans!
They say you have to love what you do, because you will be doing it for the rest of your life, but my question really is, if this is a sustainable way of looking at creation and life in general, or just a generalisation that might work for many, but fail to help the rest?
Yesterday evening I attended an exhibition opening titled “Happiness for you and your family”. It was a show about the problems of immigration and deportation and tried to showcase the issues of inequality among people in our region.
While the cause is surely a valiant one, the whole execution of the message was far from it and the issue lays not with the message, but the context in which it was presented — the gallery.
If you’re just starting out, being part of an artist group is a wonderful place to be for many reasons. A group of likeminded or diverse individuals that practice a similar craft can be a powerhouse of creation, because of the mutual support and combined knowledge of all of its members.
But apart from the obvious creation of a think tank, where ideas can flourish much more easily than if we are going at it alone, a group can give us an incredible edge over the competition when promoting our work.
While each person is different in almost innumerable ways, we all follow the same basic modes of operation and have the same needs, so knowing these needs and understanding them on a deep level doesn’t just make us immensely better artists, but also incredibly proficient spectators.
And to excel in art, one has to be both.
To experience art is to have a conversation with it and with ourselves in a safe place, where we can really immerse ourselves into the depths of our soul, only to come back a bit stronger, a bit more content and without fear of such a venture taking a long-lasting toll on our mental or physical wellbeing.
We all have probably experienced that “click”, a moment when things suddenly fall into place and the big picture finally becomes clear. These “clicks” tend to happen randomly and it may seem like no real method is behind the convoluted internal workings of the mind — but as with everything in life, our cognition does follow a certain mode of operation.
A few days ago the Frieze Magazine’s Twitter profile posted this thought: “Art world addicted to unpaid work, survey finds.” with a link to their article. Packed with gems like this: “working for long hours was regarded as a test of commitment, such that working contracted hours is perceived as not wanting to go the extra mile”, the short text made me think.
Is there really no better way of testing people’s dedication and love for their work than making them work after-hours for free?
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.