Sunday, September 9, 2007

Lively ART, Deadly SALES

Being ACTION oriented, I continue on my art journey to find clues to what I want to do and where I want to go now. I woke up this morning and started reading dozens of blogs and articles about the “art scene” and “art communities” all over the U.S. One article in the Burlington Free Press struck a chord. The title caught my eye:
“Art scene lively, but sales scant”
Even though Vermont isn't the hub of the art world, this could be the same headline for art scene articles just about anywhere. At least, that seems to be the impression I am getting through reading about art and art exhibitions. More often than not, artists are regretfully reporting meager (if any) sales.**
The Burlington article is simple and merely a concise report of the state of affairs in this area of Vermont. More interesting are the comments left behind by readers. This is important because these ideas reflect the mindset of art clients or more accurately, potential “customers” of fine art. Here are two examples:

“Where there is no vision, the people will perish. The art scene here is awesome. Most artists I know give generously to their communities, volunteer when needed, donate their wares to fundraisers and provide snacks and refreshments to art hoppers at their own expense. So much time and effort goes on behind the scenes to bring art to the public. Buying art is a statement, investing in local art is equal to investing into your community. Let's celebrate the poets, the musicians and the people in the world that do not cause war but enrich our lives and communities. Support your local art scene. The art is for sale all month long at the Art Hop, phone numbers are listed under each painting displayed. Hang a piece of original art in your home or office today; it will fill your environment with energy and joy.”
Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2007 9:40 am


“Flipinvt: The value of a good or service is defined as what a willing buyer will pay a willing seller. If this art doesn't sell it is worthless.

Since artists like to eat, if they can't sell their work they will want government subsidies. We all end up paying for crap nobody wants to buy.”
Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2007 8:50 am

I will be a cheerleader for neither of these commenters. My thoughts on this dilemma are somewhere in the middle of the road. The first comment is too promotional. It sounds like it was written by one of the gallery owners or the event marketing rep. The second is too ignorant. I can’t even envision the person who would write that. All I do know is his/her life is surely very uncreative, unimaginative, and extremely DULL. Such a pity.
So what is the answer to this art sales question? I have no idea!

art hop 9/07/07 - BURLINGTON, VT: Beth Paul of Essex Junction finds a quiet moment to reflect on the outdoor graffiti installation at the 15th Annual South End Art Hop on Friday evening.
(Photo Credit: Emily J. Nelson for The Free Press. Freelance)
Click pic to go to article

**NOTE: If you are an artist rolling in dough and you can’t keep up with the demands of your art patrons, you can call me a misinformed idiot. However, would you please email me! I would really like to know what IS SELLING these days. :-)


self taught artist said...

Interesting post sheree
I live in VT and did the previous two Art Hops in Burlington. I take my art seriously and was annoyed that it was a free for all...people showing torn pieces of paper tacked into the wall, selling it for $20 next to my limited ed. works that cost me more than $100 to make...
The juried show...why is it juried when all you do is pay the money and they take the work? Whats juried when all and ANYTHING getts in?
I think the reason art doesn't sell so well there is that EVERYONE is an artist in VT. I heard one out of every six people are artists. Everyone seems poor here too (except 2nd home buyers and they don't mingle with the rasta drinking dancing art hop people do they?)
I'm generalizing...but basically it feels incestuous here. It's like cousin art 1 and cousin art 2. We all go see each others work but who is going to buy it? We need non artists here!
New Yorkers...New Jerseyians...they come here looking for cheap watercolors. CT. and MA people seems to be taking the art seriously here but more from a gallery buying standpoint.
I think the art hop is more of a fun time, walking in the streets, drinking beer and gathering with friends. It's the same artists...the same thing...over and over.
I'm learning to appreciate it but no longer feel the need to partake in it for fear its the only way to sell or show art.
forgive me anyone if I sound superior and judgemental. I dont mean it that way. I'm all for anyone making art...

Sheree Rensel said...

I wasn't really commenting so much on Vermont as I was making a statement about art sales in general. I just happened to see that article and it happened to take place in Vermont.
I know nothing about the scene or event described in the article. However, you are correct in questioning the reasoning behind something called "juried" if you only have to pay to get in and everyone is welcome. That is not a juried show.

marc awodey MFA said...

first THANKS for noticing the burlington, vermont south end art hop. here's more background info-

the quote “Art scene lively, but sales scant” comes from the burlington free press- a Gannett cookie cutter format paper that does a terrible job of arts coverage - the best daily for arts coverage is the times argus. i'm art critic of the weekly SEVEN DAYS, and a contributor to art new england. i can state without hesitation there were plenty of sales this weekend, of solid contemporary art. vermont has a low population density - burlington is the state's biggest city, and it's population is only 40,000. about the same as bay city, or muskegon. but the hop had about 500 artists participating, in around 100 venues, showing literally thousands of works. being an old michigander myself (MFA cranbrook 1984) - i know there’s tulip festival, and cherry festival but this is REAL critically informed art. our proximity to NYC (6 hr drive), boston (4 hr) and montreal (1 1/2 hr) are very important to burlington's art scene.

regarding the 2007 juried show - of the 200 works submitted, 40 were selected. 3 received the top prizes. juror was Denise Markonish, a curator at the Massachusetts Museum of Modern Art here's my review of it of the juried show. the previous writer may not have realized is that everything submitted to the juried show becomes part of a GROUP SHOW, of which about 20% are selected by the juror to comprise the juried show. it's true the art hop has a tradition of displaying all works in proximity, with an often subtle demarcation between the juried in group and the rest (this year it was tape across the floor between them) but that's really because it maintains a fairly egalitarian approach to submissions. they'd rather find a way to show all submissions - even those not selected by the juror - with some respect, than to minimize anyone's efforts. is a $5 cheap art pieces hangs within 10 feet of a $5000 piece - they are saying diversity is good - viewers can decide what they think is the better piece, and why.

regarding sales - i’m really a painter who writes reviews just to earn a steady paycheck (nice work if you can get it! downside is no one reviews my stuff...) and my informed, yet subjective view is that in this area art sales have been steadily growing each year since the 1980s. i see a lot of red dots. today i visited a show in brandon, vermont - where several pieces in the over $5000 range had sold. we have many internationally known artists living up here - but even average unknowns pick off a few sales a year with some reasonable prices - and do so without compromising on their aesthetic. it’s important to have realistic expectations, and find a day job you can live with.

while i’m obviously an enthusiastic vermonter, i must add that EVERY place in america, now matter how small or isolated is capable of having a vibrant art scene. just go out and look for it, and tell other artists in your area about what’s going on. ask a local furniture store about showing art, put stuff up in restaurants - get together with five other local artists and create an open studio weekend. nobody’s going to buy your stuff if they can’t see it. even if it has to be an art scene of one, be proavtive about telling your community that art is important. "if you build it they will come..." i really believe that's true.

i also teach and sometimes and might ask a student “who’s your favorite artist?” i hear matisse, picasso, maybe basquiat, or frieda kahlo - and i say well they’re all great, “but your favorite artist needs to be you.”

AND OH YES - VISIT MARCAWODEY.COM darn it! (convenient payment plans available)

ars longa vita brevis!

Anonymous said...

I did not take in all the stuff about a certain location, but this idea of slow sales, this I can get.

We keep reading about a money-drenched Miami and other art fairs and I guess it's cooking in Chelsea... but otherwise, I think the rest of the country has really low prices for art, especially mid-career artists. You can buy something here for a few hundred bucks, no shit. That is, if you sell it at all.

I am not saying nobody sells. But it is definitely a completely different market to the one we read about.


Sheree Rensel said...

I am so glad to hear you know of thriving sales in your area. That is good to know. You were at Cranbrook in '84. Geesh, we might have crossed paths!! I was the gallery director of the coop Willis Gallery in downtown DEEE-troit during the 84-85 season. Did you ever make it down to the ghetto?? LOL
Your enthusiasm is refreshing. However, I can't help but think of the subjectivity of what you call and consider "a vibrant art community". I don't want to show my work in a furniture store or a restaurant. Maybe that is why I am complaining. I take responsibility for being so selective. My bad.
Good luck to you!!

Sheree Rensel said...

You understood my thread of thought. I wasn't talking about a specific place or show. I was just talking about art sales in general.
My head is spinning. I read about the art fairs and watch documentary footage about collectors. I realize this isn't my reality at all. I am not just "boo-hooing" alone either. I read dozens of blogs and ten times more artist websites. One of the commen threads is the lack of art sales right now. I don't know what is going on. This seems very strange. I am looking, watching, and trying to figure out our reality right now.