Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Art in Hard Times

From Robert Genn, the eternal "optimistic artist", comes this column of encouragement. Now if only we artists can get the investors to realize that investing in art is smart AND healthy for your pocketbook. I recently started looking for a job to supplement my income from art and print sales, which has dropped to almost nothing. I could start giving the art away, as one gentleman apparently thought I should be doing when yesterday he offered me $85 for a painting listed at $150 (and even then I was charging about half what most artists charge). It was hard to say "no", because that money could buy groceries for the week, but I think we need to value the work ourselves in order for others to value it too.
Art in hard times

October 7, 2008
Dear Nora,

During the past couple of weeks this inbox has been overflowing with emails from artists concerned about the economy. "Things have been bad for a while--now they are going to get worse," they say. "What can artists do?"

I'd like to thank those who put their trust in me to make a few recommendations. In actual practice most parts of the world have been through a relatively prolonged period of happy times. With loose money lying around, as there has been, irrational exuberance has prevailed and even sub-prime art has passed both critical and commercial muster.

Now with bank credit drying up, home values heading south and the stock market tanking, the decorative art market will suffer along with the general economy. On the other hand, it's been my experience that in times of recession, collector and investment art can continue to thrive.

Just as unpleasant regulations had to be brought into economies rife with greed and profligacy, artists, who have no creditable regulating body, must bring in more self-regulation. This may involve longer hours, better work habits, better processes and more attention to quality. This also ties in to fair dealing and realistic but progressive pricing to go with the better art. My guess is that many borderline galleries will go under during the next while--just as many inadequate or unprepared artists will look once more to other employment.

Many years ago I had a solo show on the evening after a significant stock market crash. Fearing the worst, I showed up late only to find that the show had sold out. Fact is, when times are good people throw money at art, but when times are bad they turn to art as a possible life-enhancing investment. Funnily, it was a bunch of stock brokers who took home most of the art from that show. Funnily, I thought, people must need art more than other stuff.

Recessions are blessings. Historically, recessions and depressions have been times when "important" work gets made. Realistically, our financial outlay for equipment and art materials (unless your medium is gold) is relatively minor. In hard times artists need to get themselves as debt free as possible and invest in the joy of their vision.

Best regards,


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