i’ve had some interesting discussions lately about worth, value and selling in relation to art. and i haven’t really come to any conclusions, but i thought i’d subject you all to a sketch of some ideas and stuff about it and see what came of it. it’s going to be a bit all over the place, and no clear conclusion. you’ve been warned, so proceed at your own risk.
So, it all started when i woke up one morning last week with a very clear thought in my head: i want to sell the coffin. (the large piece in the abracadaver show). now, i’m OK about promoting my work – it could be better, but it could be much, much worse. but the whole selling of artwork is a whole other mine field that i don’t really know how to traverse. starting with the question of ‘do i even want to traverse it?’.
i still haven’t worked out exactly where i fit in the whole spectrum of touting my work, but i’ve certainly been focusing a little more on it than ever before – so that i can find a niche for me and my way of selling work, or finding the kinds of people who may or may not be into buying it.
and it has also been a good opportunity to keep asking myself how important it is to make money from it – to make sure that the integrity of the work is with the work, and not its price tag or who is/isn’t buying; continuing to clarify the line between artist and agent.
i’ve had quite a few conversations about it of late – trying to get to the bottom of my relationship between art and money, and i’ve come across some important gems of info/insight:
1. Turns out agents are important. whether this is a friend, gallery director, a blog or your mum – having someone detached from the process of the work, to be able to speak about the work as a product of value is a huge help. i guess, given that word-of-mouth and advocates works for all other kinds of selling, little surprise that it applies to art as well.
2. Confidence is key. over the last 2 years, my levels of surety about my work have risen dramatically. don’t get me wrong, i still have a whole lot of doubts about its purpose, quality, relation to the rest of the world, etc; but i seem to have more pride in what i do and definitely a sense of clarity about where i see myself with it and its relationship to other art being made. even taking away the bonus of selling the work, being able to communicate about the work with confidence is catching and those who don’t automatically ‘geddit’ are able to. and maybe this extends to having the work accessible – either conceptually, aesthetically or financially. Nothing loses a deal like undermining yourself.
3. Abaf has some helpful information. How’s about that! I think this is a pretty recent thing, really, and I’m not sure if i’ll be able to use all of it this time around, but it was great to read some useful tips on approaching public collectors, more information about the Australian Cultural Fund and a reminder that selling art isn’t selling out (unless of course you’re selling out).
4. Making art is the easy bit. Finding money from my art is hard work and takes almost more creative thinking from me than my original ideas. I need to be a bit savvy about the kinds of opportunities I follow, the way i present my work, the words I use and the people I target. And, like making artwork, i need to know when to step away.
5. People who know people know people. This sounds ridiculously obvious, but in the research and probing i’ve done over the last couple of weeks, the most ‘success’ i’ve had has been about following the lead of who and what I already know. Those people may not be interested in buying/funding/collecting, but they know people, who know people. And actually talking to people really helps too. Being quite upfront about it – ‘putting it out there’ has been a challenge, but has begun to show some interesting responses.
I’ll wrap all of that up with reminding myself and others that i’m certainly not writing this with any ‘authority’ – but hey, this is a blog, right, so you all know that :D. But i figure that i don’t get to talk about money and art enough – it’s certainly a touchy/taboo subject with many artists, so if any kind of feedback starts to happen here, then, well and good.
UPDATE: Billy Apple broaches this subject perfectly in his exhibition in Rotterdam that i sent NH to. pics here.