|oil on canvas 25"x34 2/3"|
I’m one of the least competent people I know about the’ business’ of art. I tend to think of art as a “calling,” a vow of poverty one takes when joining a religious order. I think that any artist who works with sales in mind is corrupted whether they realize it or not. Of course there are plenty of artists whose work has lots of sales appeal without even trying. They’re lucky; they don’t need to compromise. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.
The hardest part for me is that when I do find a buyer and they ask me how much I want for my work, I begin to stammer, don’t have a clue. Uh! What do you want to give me? That, cleverly, takes the onus of a business transaction off me. Most of the time, my prospective purchaser doesn’t fall for the ploy; he or she hands the ball right back to me. I need to give them a number.
|oil on canvas 26"x35 1/2"|
Another way I get around having to price paintings is to give them to my friends on “Long-term Loan,” Better over someone’s fireplace than in my attic, I always figure. So far, I haven’t done too well with that ploy; in fact, possession being 9/10s of the law, I rarely get the painting back. The borrowers move away (far away) or die (the heirs don’t know me from a hole in the wall.) One of my favorite paintings got taken out of an apartment when the property was repossessed for non-payment of rent. The “friend” who did this to me is perplexed as to why I am upset when he’s perfectly willing to borrow something else to replace it. No thanks
|oil on canvas 26"x36"|
And then there are people like me who don’t like to sell their work. It’s not that we can’t use the money (I certainly could).
My reasoning goes as follows:
As an unknown female (Strike 1) of advanced years (Strike 2), living in the suburbs (Strike 3), my work has very little value in the art market. In order for it to be worth anything, I need a “reputation” and I’m never going to get one if my best work is gone – sold or strayed. And don’t say I can always borrow it back for a show. Practically every time work leaves my house, it disappears for good. My artist son tells me Noguchi, the sculptor, used to hide anything he really liked and create a copy to sell. The buyer, never having seen the original, was happy with what he got. He told me this story during a discussion about my recent, more “saleable” work, poetic scenes from my daughter’s New York City windows. No raunchy women with their butts exposed, only rooftop water towers painted in lovely, muted colors against a cloud-filled sky. So far, everyone who has seen them wants to buy one. Maybe I should make prints on canvas. Everyone tells me giclee prints on canvas are now almost indistinguishable from the original.
|oil on canvas 25 1/2"x35 1/2"|
I envy artists who can treat their work as a standard business transaction (x number of hours labor, cost of materials etc and then factor in % profit.) The problem is, it doesn’t work for most artists. The price of a work of art has too many variables and that’s why we go to art dealers who know the market and how the game is played. There’s a saying in the art world that two people are needed to make a work of art: the person who creates it and the person who takes it away from him.
Most artists I know don’t need to sell their work to survive, though they are too serious and too competent to be considered hobbyists. They would like to make at least enough money to cover their expenses but you won’t find them homeless if they don’t. In a way, they are fortunate; they have the latitude to do what they want without worrying about buyers. On the other hand, I know artists (the proverbial garret dwellers) who survive below the poverty level. The problem is that even a garret nowadays costs a small fortune and it gets harder and harder to suffer for one’s art.