Does anyone read some of the Australian art magazines doing the rounds? I buy them from time to time to see what the private galleries are advertising and, check out what’s happening in the local art world. Now if I was Robert Hughes I’d probably use words like ‘shallow or uninspiring or elitist’, but I’m not and I’m not so judgemental so I’ll just say that the type of art they are promoting can be curious to say the least. Additionally they do have some articles that are worth reading and commentary on the ‘Art Market’ generally.
However what it also tends to do, for me at least, is highlight what I can only describe as the chasm or disconnect between the various strata of the art producing community. The strata have always been there, you know – the hobby artists, the artists that make most of their income from art classes and workshops, then the small percentage that make the majority of their income from art sales, generally through the major galleries. The list can of course be refined and expanded further, check out a survey that Katherine Tyrrell did in the UK for her blog, that tried to work out percentages of the various income groups. Inevitably most of us (art producers) tend to fall into the lower strata grouping wherein the income we derive from art sales provides no where near enough to live on or possibly even cover the cost of our indulgence.
The ‘Art Market’ though is big business, Art Collector (Dec 2014) reported that sales at this years Melbourne Art Fair alone topped $8 million. It sounds grand but considering there were 70 Galleries there and most of the galleries would have several artists on their roster the individual average income per gallery or per artist after costs would hardly be enough to buy a new car. But $8 million is a lot of money for a fair that only runs for four days and the annual art sales value for Australia runs to $100’s of millions of dollars. So there are very serious buyers of art out there who buy for various reasons and purposes from investments to collecting to interior decorating, and we have to ask ourselves, as artists, what is the best way of connecting with them. On this subject there is a plethora of advice, tips, courses etc., available to read and work out strategy and business plans and percentages based on our abilities, time, resources, skills and yes possibly some degree of willingness to sell our souls in the name of continuing to do something we love. So I’m not going to go there.
What I want to do is suggest that an on line arts community such as that which ‘Visual Emporium’ is aiming to establish and build is worth supporting and participating in as part of your marketing plan. The idea of course is not new, Red Bubble, Deviant Art, Put Some Colour In Your Life and a host of other sites and online collectives or galleries are out there, all with their particular pro’s and con’s and relevance’s that should be explored and evaluated against your expectations either as an art producer or buyer. If Visual Emporium gets it right it should provide a platform that is somewhere between the wholly personal service of a physical Gallery and the totally impersonal service of most online Galleries for both the perspectives of artists and art buyers.
So if you’re an artist consider your goals in terms of both your artistic output and your willingness to contribute a little more than just putting up another online gallery page by building on the co-operative collective marketing aims of ‘VE’, or if you’re an art buyer please join in and consider contributing both as someone with the ability to make a judgement on the art market, i.e., in terms of what you invest in, but also in terms of commentary on the art that is presented on the site (it makes more sense to lead than be led).
Why? Above I wrote about the size of the art business in respect of it’s monetary value, but it is also large in terms of the number of contributing artists and other persons involved in the business via galleries, publications and auction houses etc., that turn a dollar either directly or indirectly because of art sales. On both sides the question of hype, bullshit and the need to work their prickly fingers into the mix of establishing art markets and trends – so much so that the word ‘quality’ seems to have become irrelevant at times. Robert Hughes acerbic criticisms of the art establishment could be seen as being just as relevant today as it was nearly 25 years ago;
“A few years ago a popular neo-Marxist argument held that finesse of taste and connoisseurship were only masks for market activity, genteel ways in which a ravenous commercialism could spin euphemisms about itself. Anyone who believed that should look at the art market today.
It is now run almost entirely by finance manipulators, fashion victims, and rich ignoramuses. The collector as connoisseur has been squeezed out of it. Connoisseurship is an impediment to its progress—mere dust on the road down which the inflationary march proceeds. Under the market’s malignant sway, genuine expertise will soon be entirely redundant: the market’s object is to erase all values that might impede anything at all from becoming a “masterpiece.”
So it’s time to again start considering those ‘values’ as they apply to ‘art’ and by who and why they are established.
As a final note the following is from Art Collectors modern lexicon of the art world by Andrew Frost.
In recent years the practice of painting has come under scrutiny as various practitioners and art theorists who have questioned the condition of painting to explore the possibility of painting in the expanded field and the status of painting in the age of photography and the internet – a field of inquiry loosely termed ‘post painting’. The logic of post painting argues that anything that is specific to traditional notions of painting such as colour, form, texture or subject could also conceivably be explored via media such as video, sculpture or installation and might include large piles of sand, water vapour and aerosols and a performance involving an artist not deliberately painting.
Since the practice of post painting seeks to problematize the act and interpretation of traditional painting, it might also include the application of paint on to a surface such as paper, canvas or plaster, which might then be hung in a gallery. While questioning painting, post painting also relies on an understanding that to understand a post painting – you’ll know it when you don’t see it.