The man in the grey suit in the corner

Two recent art events, one I participated in as a contributing artist, the other I helped facilitate and stage,
have me considering the perspective of numbers.

One was Jo Frederics “Animal Holocaust’ exhibition at RQAS Gold Coast. The art was over twelve months
in the making and very much with a purpose of highlighting the issues associated with animal welfare,
factory farming and a sustainable planet.

The other was the inaugural ‘Queensland Figurative Prize’ held at RQAS Brisbane and was purposed at
initiating a platform for Queenslands’ many skilled artists to display their talents in portraiture and I guess an
attempt to give Brisbane a ‘high end’ art prize a la the Archibald or the Moran.

Jo, with her partner Graeme Stevenson (TV 4 Me’s Put Some Colour In Your Life presenter) drummed up a mass
of publicity – Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast major press, a host of local papers and a storm of social media coverage.
The event was opened by Phillip Wollen a philanthropist of international renown and a major draw in his own right.

The Qld Figurative was heavily promoted within the arts community, local press (Brisbane) and of course the
Gallery’s mailing list and internet presence. It was opened by local B.C.C councillor Peter Matic, part sponsor of
the $10,000.00 first prize money.

Jo’s opening night, 40+ major works on show and a wealth of drawings priced from $200.00 up to $6000.00,
catered to the purpose – vegetarian food, wine that contributed to Green Peace funds and Phillips’ key note
speech. Between 300 and 400 people turned up, the majority of whom weren’t artists but
supporters of the exhibitions cause.

Qld Figuratives’ opening night, 100+ paintings on show from some of Queenslands’ notable and respected
artists, David Hinchliffe, Ian Smith, Patrick Jones, Mel Brigg etc. etc., ranging in price from $350.00 up
to $20,000.00. The key note speech was by Councillor Peter Matic and the event was also attended by
somewhere between 300-400 people mostly however from the arts community and the artists contributing.

Both events can be considered successful, well staged, well attended, fine art work and of course noise.
Both events cost not an inconsiderable amount of money to materialise. Both events ran for a similar time
period and received reasonable patronage post opening night, Jo’s event even made a major TV networks
news broadcast.

However the man in the grey suit standing in the corner auditing the numbers didn’t look happy, and these
figures are my best evaluation and shouldn’t be taken as final or official. The income from art sales at these
events I guesstimate at approximately, for Jo’s – a couple of major works and a number of drawings probably
netting about $5000 – $6000.00, for the Qld Figurative, based on my observation of red dots, 2 – 3 works sold
netting possibly $2000 – $3000. In both cases well below the actual costs of staging without the un-costed efforts
of volunteers and friends. Of course the value of intangibles isn’t included, public awareness, credibility and any
future cause and effect elements that may evolve.

So how from a ‘was it worth it’ perspective do we evaluate such events, do we say “they happened” and “people
know now” and therefor they were a success or do we say the finances don’t add up and therefore calling the
events a success is dubious and are therefore economically foolish. As an artist (or a least a person who invests
time and money in materials etc and produces art work) is it enough to be satiated in the non material outcomes
or should we be more hard nosed about economics when evaluating, after all we have to eat and the money
needs to come from somewhere to ensure creative and sustainable continuance. Comments!