Thoughts on Art #1




It’s often puzzling just how much to charge for a work of art.  What’s the price?  Only the artist has some idea of the “price paid” in creating the work. 


First, there’s the amount of time spent in creating the work.  This is balanced with the artist’s own sense of how successful the work is. 


Second, there’s the accrued amount of “wood-shedding” and study.  Some people have done 5 or 10,000 drawings by the time they’re 30.  Others never do that many.  The total amount of time studying art, artists, techniques and history is important.  This can be done in school, after school, totally “self-taught” or in any other combination. 


It gets so intense that the devotion and the work involved can be immense.  It can even be as large as that of those who study to be doctors or lawyers.  Yet the serious, fully committed artist can expect no similar financial compensation.  Yet it can be a factor in how one decides how to price their work. 


Third, there are the “strange sciences” of art-world games and word-of-mouth market values.  How these “voodoo economics” function is a mystery to many of us.  Much has to do with what your biggest sale ever has been and whether it is big enough to attract attention.  Sometimes, this may have something to do with the quality of the art.  Other times, it is totally unrelated.  One may have to die to get their work to really sell.  Sometimes, even that doesn’t work. 


Fourth, is some sense of “general regard.”  If your work is appreciated by your peers, that helps.  One sign of this is to make trades with others.  Then there’s seeing who comes to your exhibits. Is it artists or the press or the public-at-large?   Or is it some of all three?  Do you ever get any real reviews, write-ups or profiles? 


All of these things can be factors in how to price your work.  If you price it too high, it will rarely sell.  If you price it to sell, as cheap as you can go, it may not sell either.  Selling isn’t everything.  Yet, if being an artist is your only job, you need to make money.   If it’s your second job, you still need to sell sometimes.  It’s a puzzle.


To me, doing a large body of new work for a gallery show is always quite a task.  It’s a marathon.  It’s a juggling act.  If you try to keep the quality “first rate” it can be a real struggle.  Focus, concentration, skills, sacrifices, determination and energy all play their parts.  It’s similar to other artistic pursuits. 


If you make a movie, record an album of music or write a book it seems more permanent in ways.  An art show is a one time thing.  Someday, you might exhibit one or two of the same paintings again.  More likely, they’ll be on display at your home or go into storage.  Unless you have a formal retrospective, they always seem to want something new.  It’s as if someone gave a concert and says they’ll never play any of the same songs again.  Or as if someone put on a play and said it will never be staged again. 


Live performances are unique in their way.  A sustained gallery exhibit is totally unique, a melting snowflake, it will never be again.  Even if the art seems permanent, its display is as fleeting as a speech or a musical note.  I’m not saying that books, movies and films should be withdrawn after a single printing or run.  I’m just saying that a first rate art exhibit should get respect (and attendance) for being the rare flowers that they are.  This has never happened before.  This will certainly, certainly never happen again.



May 22, 2007

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