One of the talking points from the previously mentioned discussion panel at the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair was about how heavily an artist’s biography determines the amount of financial success they can reasonably expect. It wasn’t a surprise to hear how the quality of education an artist pursues has a huge impact on the monetary value of the work they produce. The way that information is applied, however, can paint a limited picture on the quality of the artist. Another aspect on the topic of the artist’s bio centered on the consistency of her gallery representation. An early career artist who enjoys a partnership with an extremely limited number of galleries is at a greater advantage in maintaining her career as a producing artist when compared to an early career artist who is showing her work in a multitude of galleries. This doesn’t mean that these factors need to be strong in order to have a fulfilling art career, but understanding these factors goes a long way in understanding the disparity among asking prices when comparing works of art.
If I understand what was being explained correctly, the panel highlighted how many collectors buy more from what they hear rather than what they see. If an artist has an association with a renown art school, that artist’s work is more qualified to be a good investment. I can understand how that is justified. If an artist has the opportunity and funding to earn a degree from a highly recognized and respected art school, she certainly has the right to leverage that information in establishing a higher perceived value for her work. This situation can place the artist who is not formally trained at a disadvantage even though she could very well have just as much knowledge and understanding as the graduate. A degree doesn’t necessarily validate how creative an artist is. A sculpture being sold at an outdoor art festival may have just as high craftsmanship as a sculpture being sold in a high end gallery. However, the art festival piece could offer a far more poignant commentary, yet be justified to only ever ask for a price that is a tenth of the price the gallery piece is selling for. I know this isn’t any big revelation. But the “why” behind the disparity of pricing artwork is an answer that has never been explained to me.
The second big element is the legacy of the artist, particularly in regards to the artist’s history with gallery and/or art show representation. Up until this past weekend, I thought that being on a legitimate gallery wall could only help build my artist resume. However, the gallery representation an early career artist chooses to align herself with can greatly impact the perceived value of her work.
The term “consistency” was often bandied about during this portion of the discussion. And what the Art Collectors are looking for is an artist who has established a solid legacy with a limited number of galleries. The pedigree of the gallery factors largely into the pedigree of the artist’s work. What was more specifically suggested was that if an artist’s work has been hung on a large number of gallery walls, this indicated an inconsistency in the artist’s proficiency that would drive down the investment of her work. (Ouch!) In the same way, the type and theme of the curated shows an artist participates in can also damage the overall perceived quality of her work. An artist can have a strong political opinion, but it will likely cost her. So the message I was hearing was that the amount of selectivity an artist chooses to apply to the representation of her work would greatly effect the perceived value of her work. That makes sense.
At the very least, I have a clearer understanding on what factors create the struggle for an artist to become successful. Well, some of the factors. Nothing can trump the need for an artist to actually BE creative AND proficient in order to be successful. More on that topic in a later blog entry though, let’s get back to the panel discussion…
My initial impression was that this situation would have made a great follow-up novel for Joseph Heller. However, Calista reminded me that this panel discussion was aimed at understanding the mindset of the Art Collector, in contrast to someone who simply collects art. My passion is in creating, and using that creativity to comment on my observations of the world. I should avoid trapping myself by becoming too preoccupied with who is buying my work. That’s not to say I shouldn’t be mindful of who my audience is. My artwork is for anyone who ultimately enjoys art and appreciates creativity.
This peek under the hood of the art world reminded me of an old book series I loved reading when I was in grade school, Choose Your Own Adventure. I can choose to get my work in as many galleries as possible, but accept that the value of my work will be effected by that decision. All that really matters is that my creativity remains strong, that through my creativity I produce strong art work, and that the work resonates with a bigger audience.