Tag archive for » market «

The Artistic Balancing Act

Sunday, 2. September 2012 22:51

On a recent episode of Project Runway, Michael Kors commented that fashion is always “about balancing art and commerce.” He went on to tell the emotional Elena Silvnyak, “this is your shining moment that you found the balance.”  Nina Garcia followed up with idea that successful design is “not about stifling creativity,” but about “being creative and taking chances” and balancing that with customer appeal. (This last phrase is my wording, not hers.)

Substitute “audience appeal” for “customer appeal” and the same statements could be made about not only about any of the performing arts, but about virtually any art. Certainly film must appeal to an audience if it is to be financially successful. Live theatre too has to fit within the range of audience acceptance, which, as any theatre practitioner will tell you, is contextual. Dance is the same way, as is music.

The same concept applies to visual and plastic arts as well. There are endless stories of paintings, photographs, and sculptures that received critical acclaim and did not please their immediate audiences. The photography of Robert Mapplethorpe jumps to mind, as does the David Wojnarowicz’s video “A Fire in My Belly.”

And, of course, much that is written, whether it is words or music, does not find an immediate audience beyond critics and a tiny group aficionados, sometimes for less than artistic reasons—consider the publication history of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Some of the art that was not initially well-received, or was prevented from being received at all by authoritarian intervention, has had to wait for years for general acceptance. Some has never received it, at least in certain localities, particularly if the subject matter is religious or sexual. For example, Nagisa Ôshima’s film, In the Realm of the Senses, released in 1976 and considered by some to be a cinematic masterpiece, still cannot be shown completely uncensored in Japan.

The fact that some art is not immediately accepted by a general audience certainly does not mean that that the work is not good, merely that it has not (yet) found its audience. The question for the artist is not about the quality of the work, but whether he/she has been able to balance creativity and the appeal of the work to a purchasing audience. Being ahead of your time may produce some masterpieces, and certainly some controversy, but often it won’t pay the bills. So the problem for the practicing artist—at least for the majority of his/her work—is to find that balance that Michael Kors mentioned, the equilibrium between artistic vision and audience appeal.

And finding that balance is difficult, regardless of your art. If you move too far in one direction, you find yourself pandering to the audience instead of really creating. You quit making art and start making artless commodities. Your work becomes all about chasing the dollar, or yen, or euro and not about all of those things that you used to think art was really about. For musicians, and maybe for others, it’s often called “selling out.”

If you move too far in the other direction, you lose your audience, and you may run afoul of censors, whether official or unofficial. You make things that may or may not garner critical acclaim, that appeal to a tiny segment of arts-appreciating community, but you move so far beyond the majority of members of that community that you find yourself unrewarded financially.

If you are compelled to say things with your art that will prevent that art from being appreciated by a paying audience—and many artists are—by all means do so, but with a full understanding of what you are doing. If, however, you want to say what you have to say and get paid for it, your dilemma is exactly the same one that Elena Silvnyak and every other artist with a strong point of view or a clear artistic vision faces—how to find that place where everything balances, where one can follow one’s vision and create, yet at the same time incorporate that creation into a form that an audience—and it certainly does not have to be a huge one— can understand, appreciate, and pay for. It may not be easy, or even doable, but it’s worth your time to investigate the possibilities.

Category:Audience, Communication, Creativity, Presentation | Comments (3) | Autor:

Art Should Matter

Monday, 13. August 2012 0:25

Hazel Dooney began a recent blog posting entitled “Art Matters,” with a quote by Robert Hughes: “The new job of art is to sit on the wall and get more expensive.” Dooney goes on to detail what she perceives to be the relationship between art and society today, and she finds much wrong. She starts with the commodification of art, mentions branding and celebrity, and notes the lack of funding for “public and institutional galleries.” Dooney wants art to matter—to the public. She says that we “have to regain a public fascination for it, maybe even an awe of it.”

Though certainly no expert in art history, I cannot think of a time when the public had a fascination or awe for art. Patrons of the arts, regardless of the period, have always been different from the public—more monied, more refined in their tastes, more exacting in their demands. When art attempts to appeal to the public, it becomes what Dooney decries: “just another form of easy-to-consume entertainment.”

It has always been so. Shakespeare, perhaps the most revered playwright in the English language, whose work is held up as example of written and dramatic art, was writing for that public. He was offering a commercial entertainment that had to compete with the bear-baiting entertainment just down the street. Because we, like Shakespeare, live in a material society, much of what we see and hear is that which makes money, and technically, it is some of the best work available. It may not be profound, but it is certainly of high quality. When a product has to compete, quality is often one of the results.

Public art, Dooney says, has been replaced by advertising. It’s true; when public art is not entertainment, it’s advertising. (Sometimes it’s both.) Again, this is historically what has happened age after age. Some of the best art we know of was created in the service of those who were able to afford it and supported whatever cause or interest was important to those patrons. Whether we call that cause advertising or propaganda or religion or politics is immaterial.  Much of the work, which we today consider “fine,” was created to satisfy some ulterior purpose, not just for display and contemplation.

“For art to matter again,” Dooney says, “it has to be seen everywhere, every day.” She goes on to note that “many [artists] are trying to make their work more accessible – more apparent – to those who care about it.” She continues, “street artists are probably the ones who best understand this.” I would add that advertisers and producers of commercial “art” products also understand this very well.

Unfortunately, unless you are one of those street artists, the easiest way to make your work accessible is to participate in the commodification of art. You sell your work as best you can. If you become collectable, then you can participate in the investment commodification of art to which Hughes was referring. Selling out? Maybe. But, no matter how profound your work, if it is not accessible in some way, it’s not going to impact anyone. (Note: this does not mean making your work appeal to everyone; see “Making Your Art Accessible Is Making a Mistake.”)

And Dooney understands this. And while her work may not appeal to everyone, she has worked for years to make it accessible to virtually anyone who has a computer and internet access. (This is discussed at length in her blog.)

And she is right; there is much wrong with the art world, but then there is much wrong with the world in general, and much of what is wrong with the art world is a reflection of that larger theatre in which it operates. And unless we manage to change the system, or somehow circumvent it, it is within this system that we in the arts must work.

Category:Communication, Presentation | Comment (0) | Autor:

Arts and Money, Another Perspective

Monday, 2. July 2012 1:26

Several weeks ago Lightsey Darst wrote a three-part essay called “The Poorest Art: Dance and Money,” which details just how poorly supported dance is in the US, and explores some of what that means. Anyone who has worked in the performing arts knows how hard dancers work and how short their professional lives can be—much like a professional athlete without the perks and the money.

Then just recently, I heard that a regional art center near me was closing its doors because they could no longer afford the rent. Shortly after hearing this rumor, I received an email from the curator explaining that the board of directors had “made a decision to move forward with a new vision” and that they were “right-sizing” the organization. While I recognized this as spin, I was very happy to see that they decided continue to bring art to the community, albeit in a very different format.

These events seemed to bring into focus the sad state of arts support in parts of the US. But then the same month, I participated in a group show that set a record for sales. Then I was reminded there were other records being set by arts auction houses in the past year, and, although I have discussed the high-end art/money interconnection before, more pieces are selling than just the works of recognized “masters.” Jocelyn Noveck, an AP writer, has reported that in some places ballet has hit a high point in pop culture and shows are selling out.

So which is it? Are the arts in terrible shape, completely unsupported by the public or are arts seeing a resurgence, with a great deal of financial support? The answer is, of course, both. Sometimes, you can see both phenomena in the same place, like New York professional theatre. AP writer, Mark Kennedy reports that “God is having a tough month on Broadway – ‘Godspell’ is closing, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is on life support and now comes word that ‘Sister Act’ is going to theatrical heaven. [sic]” Yet, at the same time, Book of the Mormon is still selling 102.63% capacity  in the same environment (although I’ve never been quite sure how they do that).

It just depends on where you look. Not having statistics, it is difficult to determine if the overall financial support for the arts is up or down, or just moving around. An article by Lucas Kavner in The Huffington Post reports that the “fourth edition of ‘Arts & Economic Properity’ reveals that the [arts] industry generated $135.2 billion of economic activity,” which causes Robert L. Lynch, CEO of Americans for the Arts, to conclude that “the arts remain ‘open for business.’ People are clearly still going to arts events.”

It seems that at the same time that contemporary society devalues one art or one company or one gallery or one artist, it embraces another. And while I sympathize with the dancers in Darst’s articles, I have the same sympathy for any artist who feels devalued because society is moving in a direction different from where he/she stands, or popular culture is interested in something else at this particular moment in time. No matter what the ideal might be, the fact is that the arts in the US in the twenty-first century exist in a market economy, subject to the same fluctuations and forces as any market economy. We need to remember that it’s not personal; it’s just the way the market is moving at this particular moment in time. We are just caught in whatever trend is occurring this decade or year or month. And in the long run that may be a good thing, not necessarily for the individual, but for art in general. That arts organization near me may thrive in its newly “right-sized” form and have far more impact that it would have done in its earlier incarnation.

Most of us did not get into the arts for money, and while money is certainly desirable, some of us will stay in the arts whether or not we are paid well. We have to.

And artists are, for the most part, supportive of each other, and I certainly would not change that. We must continue that support each other. Like the artist I mentioned two weeks ago, if we cannot sell our own art, then let’s sell somebody’s—let’s just be sure that somebody’s art gets sold.

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Want Art? The Gallery Will Come to You

Monday, 2. January 2012 0:19

Not long ago, Jason Wilson sent me a link to an article on The Bygone Bureau that proclaimed 2011 as “the year the art world went online.” The writer of the article, Kyle Chayka, noted a number of online art world activities that occurred during the year, including a couple of very high profile ones.

One of the projects noted in the Chayka article was the online VIP Art Fair, founded by James Cohan. The Fair hosted its first interactive art show in January, 2011, and plans a second show , which will represent over 2000 artists from 115 “carefully selected” galleries worldwide, for February 3-8, 2012. This event brings together galleries and collectors from all over the globe and allows the collector to see many works of art and have conversations with the dealers without leaving home.

The second project is Art.sy, which is backed by Larry Gagosian, Dasha Zhukova and others. The website, currently in “private beta,” is essentially a search engine of fine art from over 250 galleries and museums in over 40 different countries which “will analyze users’ taste in art and show them other works and artists that they might like.”

Not only can you buy physical art pieces through the internet buy you can now buy signed, authenticated, limited edition digital art by some very famous artists. In addition to works by Shephard Fairey, Isaac Julien, and others, you can purchase an original Damien Hirst for $12.00. Prices range from £5 to £500 and increase as editions sell out. There are even plans for a secondary market—handled by the same site, of course.

While these projects involve the most famous artists and the most prestigious galleries, there is art for the rest of us online. A number of artists, of course, maintain their own websites; on some of these, the art is displayed and the viewer directed to gallery representation for sales, and on others, the work can be purchased online. Then there are the online galleries that are not as new or exclusive as those discussed above. For example, both Zatista and 20×200 sell only original and limited edition art. Other sites, such as Art Gallery Worldwide, sell originals and open edition prints. Others sell only prints, although some deal in limited editions. Then there are the print-on-demand sites, which reproduce digital images in a number of media, ranging from “art prints” to tee shirts.

And we have not yet touched on the educational use of digital media in the art world. For example, there are a number of initiatives by museums to allow patrons to use their smartphones or computers to get more information about the artwork. There are already virtual tours of museums available online through various portals. The Google Art Project provides virtual access to 17 museums and expects to add many more. Gagosian Gallery has published an iPad app which is essentially a free digital version of a quarterly art magazine; there are also a number of other apps which provide art reference, generally for no monetary investment.

There are some of us, however, who have reservations about the digital rendering of visual art. The digitization of art is on the increase , even though color calibration is known only to artists who used digital production methods. From an educational and a sales point of view, digitization of physical art or original digital art itself makes a great deal of sense. Still, because of the differences between color rendition on various devices, you never know whether you are looking at what the artist intended or not. Because of economic and marketing requirements, art digitization is no longer optional; still, I wonder, aside from sales potential, what artists think about having their work represented in such an uncontrollable way.


Category:Audience, Education, Marketing, Technology | Comments (1) | Autor:

‘Tis the Season…

Monday, 21. November 2011 1:01

At least in Houston, ‘tis the season for art crawls and art markets. Art crawls are a little different from fairs, for those of you who have not experienced one. At an art crawl the artists use existing studio/gallery space and the audience wanders from one studio to another. An art market is more like an art fair, in that artists bring their work to tables inside some building and patrons gather there to look or shop.

Over the weekend, I managed to view all of the tables at WHAM, the Winter Holiday Art Market, and a number of galleries in the Houston Art Crawl. The price range of available art was enormous, varying from just a few dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. So, in that regard, there was something for everyone, provided the price and your taste matched.

This was only time that I had been to the art crawl alone and the first time I had visited WHAM, although it’s been around for six years. Going to these events alone gives you a different perspective on the whole experience, and some new ideas occurred to me.

The first thing that became apparent to me was how social these occasions are. I think when you go to one of these things with friends, you form your own social group and then revolve around that cluster. When you go alone, you’re more objective and unconnected. I ran into people that I knew and saw people that I had seen at such events in the past, the “arts people of Houston.”  And I noticed that a number of people did not seem to be there to see the art so much as to socialize with each other, and the crawl provided them with a convenient environment.

In addition to providing a social venue, the art crawl and art market do provide a way for the buyer and the artist to come together. They provide a way to allow the art-interested public to become familiar with the work of artists. And they allow the artists to get their work in front of many potential buyers and interact with those buyers in whatever way they think will benefit their sales.

The degree of artist-patron interaction varied a great deal—from the single artist sitting alone, seemingly paying no attention to the crowd, to couples who were enthusiastic and overly engaging with patrons. Regardless of their approaches, none of the artists I observed seemed to be participating in the direct selling I have seen at art fairs, but seemed rather to be seeking exposure—allowing patrons to become familiar with them and their work. Such indirect methods seemed to be resulting in sales only of smaller, less expensive pieces. This is confirmed on WHAM’s website.  It causes one to wonder if this indirect methodology, which is advised by many art sales experts, really pays off. You cannot exhibit at either arts event without expense.  And even if you were able to look at an artist’s overall sales figures, I’m not sure that you could determine whether or not occasions such as these really contributed to artist income in any significant way.

You may notice that I’ve been talking about the market and not the art. Probably because it is a market, and because it is a market, potential buyers look at the work exhibited as commodities. It is seldom that you see someone actually stop and contemplate a piece as an actual work of art demanding such absorption and attention. The cynical might say, “Maybe none of the art deserved it.” I thought otherwise. But then in this situation, there is no guidance for the buyer, no gallery operator advising on the potential worth of an object. The buyer has nothing to guide him/her except his/her own taste and budget. That, unfortunately, can turn patrons into bargain-hunters looking for decoration or hand-made gifts instead of art-appreciators, and that, I think, is a little sad.

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Artist or Artisan?

Sunday, 6. November 2011 23:32

Over the last couple of weeks, I have had occasion to reread two of my favorite plays, The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.  Between readings, I sometimes forget just how good these plays are. Both are complex multi-layered pieces that take full advantage of the unique properties of the live stage situation, albeit in very different ways. What is also very apparent is that these two pieces of theatrical art were penned by writers who were at the top of their game, in terms of both art and craft. The men who wrote these two plays are not just artisans; they are artists.

In an article called “No, Not Everybody’s an Artist (Despite what they may think)” and the follow-up article, “C’est La Vie,” John Stillmunks tries to get at the difference between artists and artisans, pointing out that having a good idea or a new product or a marketing angle does not make someone an artist.  In his first article, Stillmunks says that real art touches the heart and soul of the viewer. In the follow-up, he goes further, saying that “an artist takes something out of his or her heart and soul and places it on that page, canvas, song, or whatever.” For him it’s not about technique, but the notion that the artist takes the “camera, brush, voice or pen to an entirely different level…a unique place.” This is not something that just anyone can do, and Stillmunks is convinced that it cannot be taught.

Stillmunks, a painter, points out that the current art market is just that, a market. There are juried shows and submission requirements and things that just don’t interest a number of real artists. Real artists are about making the art, regardless of the medium, and often regardless of the potential market.

Of the many who have tried to write like Tennessee Williams or Edward Albee, either in terms of style or material, most simply don’t measure up. They may have the technique, the technical knowledge, the skills. What they do not have is the willingness or the ability to put themselves into their work. No matter what medium is involved, that takes guts; sometimes it seems that it takes obsession or worse. Some artists talk about the need to put themselves into the work. This is not merely self-expression; there is a readiness, perhaps a necessity, to put the most personal parts of the inner self on display.

Once that will exists, the rest follows. There is only one of each person and if that person is truly putting him/herself into the work, the artist will do whatever he/she has to do to get the work “right.” The result may not be pretty; it may even be painful, but it will be honest. It will be unique and authentic, and more important, it will speak to people—and not just to their minds, but to their hearts and souls. Art, real art, moves people.

With the current state of the arts market, it seems that many who make things have become more artisans and vendors than artists. There is nothing wrong with creating artifacts that will sell, nor is there anything wrong with selling reproductions of your work. But I have to agree with Stillmunks: technique and sales acumen are not what make people artists.

Artists are those whose work we look at over and over again. I reread plays by Williams and Albee and a few others. We look at certain paintings and photographs and sculptures repeatedly. We watch familiar ballets and listen again to musical masterpieces. The work of artists enriches us, and so we return to it—because even if it’s not pretty, it’s very often beautiful.

Category:Creativity, Originality, Theatre | Comments (2) | Autor:

Make It Fresh and New and Wonderful

Sunday, 18. September 2011 23:51

Last week in talking to an actress who was about to do a very important audition, I offhandedly advised her to make her work “fresh and new and wonderful.”  Many auditions are anything but fresh and new and wonderful; many are stale and tired and recycled. Auditors know within the first fifteen seconds that this will not be the audition that they had hoped to see, and will move on to someone else.

While auditioning is a very strange and difficult activity for both the actor and the auditor and somewhat removed from the actual art and craft of creating characters and making shows, it occurs to me that the same advice can apply to both of those endeavors as well. As a matter of fact, the same advice can apply to any artistic endeavor. Art should be fresh and new and wonderful, whether it is acting, directing, painting, photography, design, dance, writing, or film.

Too often we who create simply repeat what has worked for us in the past, with some occasional minor variations that make this piece just a little different. There are a variety of reasons for this: we have too much to do; we are comfortable with the thing that we continue to do; we are lazy. There are two other reasons that stand out as the most-cited in this regard. One is the idea that it worked before so it should again. This we see constantly in American movies, where success often leads to repetition and reproduction. The second is branding. While touted as a good thing, branding can often stifle creativity because we believe that if we vary too much from what we have done before we will confuse our brand in the eyes of the market.

A quick look at Apple should dispel this notion. Apple manages with each new product to produce something that is new and fresh and wonderful. Not every iteration of every  product is radically different from the one that has gone before, but there is enough of a change that many will perceive the new version as new and fresh and wonderful indeed, and the company will make that much more money.

We can manage our art the same way. Our brand does not have to be based on producing exactly the same thing all the time. It is probably well if there are significant stylistic similarities and perhaps other similarities as well, but beyond that, I am convinced that our art will thrive only if we manage to produce things that are fresh and new and wonderful in the eyes of our audience. Otherwise, our audience responds much as the auditor at a hack audition. He/she may sit silently disappointed until the audition time is expired, or, more likely, cut off the offending actor. Life is too short to listen to bad auditions, and life is far too short to put up with mediocre art, which echoes prior mediocre art, which, in turn, may echo a good idea, but an old one. By being sure that each new work is original and fresh, we can not only solidify but expand our brands.

After all this discussion, I have decided to take my own advice for once (something which many of us find difficult). I have resolved to examine each new project I undertake to be sure that I am meeting the test of making it new and fresh and wonderful. You may want to do the same.



Category:Audience, Creativity, Originality, Theatre | Comment (0) | Autor:

Go All the Way!

Sunday, 24. July 2011 23:28

The other day, a former student asked how to get a headshot and a resume back-to-back on the same piece of paper. I said, “Get them printed that way” She said, “That takes money.” Yes, I thought, but it’s your career you’re talking about. I can certainly understand the desire to be as frugal as possible, but when it’s your art on the line, maybe it’s time spend a little bit, make a sacrifice or two.

At the other end of the spectrum, a friend of mine is in the process spending all her savings, leaving friends and family, and moving 1200 miles to get into the graduate program of her dreams. When we discussed it, she said, “I’m afraid if I don’t do it now, I never will.”

In the arts, perhaps more than in other areas, it becomes about putting yourself out there. There is huge risk—particularly because your self and your art are so bound together. It’s almost impossible to put your art out there, whether it’s acting or directing or painting or sculpture or photography or writing, without risking damage to your own psyche.

Yet if you don’t do it, you remain the “undiscovered artist” who creates exclusively for him/herself, which can be, in its own way, satisfying, but which ignores the possibility of reaching an audience. And while I believe that the artistic process is important, finding an audience for your art may be equally important. And that requires exposure; it requires being willing to allow your ego to get bruised, being willing to be rejected, being willing to make sacrifices.

Nothing in the arts seems to be accomplished easily. There is almost always pain of one type or another. The question becomes, are you willing to endure that? Are you willing to risk what is necessary, give up what is necessary, devote the time, energy, and concentration that are necessary to make your art and get it to an audience?

Charles Bukowski offers the following advice in Factotum :

If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.

Part of the payoff is the feeling of exhilaration that you experience from putting it on the line.  As Sacha Lamont puts it in her blog, “Subwhite Cube:”

Remember those moments when you have felt truly and totally alive. When you felt an electric current in your veins. Remember the point of no return. Remember embarking on a trip at dawn, a heroic feeling that suffuse you with a warm glow of anticipation. You start moving and it is a bliss; you cover the ground and it feels like a road is accepting your movement, inviting it, loving it.

The rest of the payoff is, of course, successfully making your art and getting it out there. Is the risk worth it? Only you can decide. You are the one who determines how far you are willing to go to have your voice heard. But if you do have something to say, something to show, something to communicate, then by all means say it, and say it loudly! Go all the way!

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The Seductiveness of White Walls: On Gallery Representation

Monday, 18. July 2011 0:34

One of the advantages of living in a major metropolitan area is the opportunity for viewing art. There are museums, street shows, galleries. Recently I experienced what was essentially an “open gallery day.” A friend and I managed to get to just over 20 galleries in a single day, and we were not rushing through them. Admittedly some were tiny, but others were not. And not only was the range of art extreme, but the galleries themselves were very different in nature.

The range was from the very posh with classical music playing softly in the background to the tiny brick and corrugated metal walled section of an old warehouse building, and everything in between. Although most featured the ubiquitous white wall, the arrangements were very different from each other, as were features such as windows, lighting, personality of staff, methods of display. Even the labels on the art were different.

The only thing that the 20+ galleries had in common were red dots by sold pieces, and even these were different space to space.

Some galleries were retail spaces that had been converted into art spaces with a very clean, new look. Some conversions traded on the antiquity of the buildings in which they were housed. Some were obviously built as galleries. Of those, some offered a very restrained interior personality; others were pretentious “art spaces.”

Seeing so many different spaces in one day caused me to wonder about how the nature of the gallery impacted the sales of art, since the gallery and its adjacent pieces functioned as a “wrapper” for the art on sale. Obviously the art presented was what was important, but given equivalent work, did I want to buy art from the gallery with classical music, bartender, varied choices of hors d’oeuvres, or did I want to buy from the pour-it-yourself-red-wine-only-accompanied-by-indie-rock gallery?

More to the point, which gallery did I want to sell my art work? Certainly the more sophisticated gallery might command higher prices, but that did not necessarily mean that they would sell more art.

Some artists, Hazel Dooney being foremost among them, would advise artists to avoid the gallery system entirely and sell their art directly to patrons. Some of the smaller galleries we visited were artists doing just that. Most of the galleries, however, were not artist galleries, but representatives taking a significant percentage of the sales price for the effort of displaying and doing the sales pitch.

Except for that percentage part, the appeal is very seductive. It is very easy to imagine one’s work hanging on a wall on a flawless white wall while music plays softly in the background and patrons sip wine and listen to a professional, persuasive salesperson—while you are in your studio creating more, doing the work that you really want to do.

The part that’s left out, of course, is that it is just as difficult to obtain competent gallery representation as it is to sell art directly. The difference is that you have to sell at a different level—and then depend on your representative to retail your work to the actual collector.

The truth is the gallery influences what the patron thinks of the art, just as a boutique influences what you think of a particular piece of clothing. Who do you want representing you? So the question is not just representation, but which representation, and what that will that do for your art sales.

When you walk in the door, sometimes before you walk in the door, you are forming an opinion of the place and, by extension, the art contained therein. And while it’s easy to envision your work hanging in this or that gallery, you must choose carefully. After all, it’s your livelihood we’re talking about here.


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Arts Awards – Really About Excellence?

Sunday, 19. June 2011 23:59

In a conversation about the Tony Awards this week, someone said, “I expected you would blog about it.” It had never occurred to me to write about the Tonys. It’s not that I don’t care about Broadway, it’s just that I don’t have much to say about them. I do not see much New York theatre, so I can’t really comment on the comparative quality of the shows. I didn’t watch the awards live, so I can’t comment on the show itself, except those portions I watched on You Tube.

What I can comment on is the idea of awards in the arts. How can you be against recognition of excellence—if that’s what the awards are? And there are some: the Pulitzer Prize comes to mind. As does the Booker Prize, and, of course, the Nobel Prize. But then there are those awards that come with nationally televised presentations and lots of advertising: the Tonys and certainly the Academy Awards.

Unfortunately these sorts of awards are subject to heavy campaigning in the media. This, of course, has to do with the privilege of being able to put “Winner of x number of some kind of award” in the advertising for the play or the movie in question. So the awards become something other than recognition of excellence.

Now I am not naïve enough to presume that no politics enter into deciding the awards in other arts, but it seems to me that they are less subject to advertising and activism. At least the jockeying for prizes, if there is such, is much better concealed from the public.

What I object to about such awards is not that they are used for financial gain. Film and theatre are, after all, produced in order to make money. Hopefully there is some art along the way, but the ultimate goal is financial, and awards help producers reach that goal. What I do object to is that heavily publicized awards seem to turn their respective arts into contests; that is what art is not.

The result of the most recent contest is that The Book of the Mormon and War Horse have become more marketable commodities. However winning multiple Tony Awards did not cause them to become suddenly more accessible as works of art. The upside is that more people now know about the productions, and potentially more people will see them. The downside is that the publicity will attract detractors and uninformed criticism, some of which will be the result of attendance by those who are not ready for the art of these two shows.

The role of the audience in any theatrical production (or any art) is not completely passive. You have to bring something to it, if you are to fully enjoy it. And often the more you can bring, the richer will be your experience.

Art is not easy. It seems that the better the art is, the more that is required from the viewer, and the less appeal to a mass audience it has. Many artists work very hard to make their meanings clear. Some artists, on the other hand, work very hard at making meanings obscure and allusions oblique. Neither approach guarantees the intended audience will appreciate that meaning or its expression. Neither does the winning of awards.

It may be elitist, but it is true that to be able to access to the very best art, one must have some education and background. This is hardly the case with mass-marketable commodities, which is what the highly publicized awards attempt to create.

Unfortunately for those trying to commoditize it, art is difficult. And worth it.

Category:Quality, Theatre | Comments (2) | Autor: