Continuing the flow of thought from my last post,’ View From the Other Side’, I wanted to take a look at the last view first to gain a greater understanding of the other views when I turn the attention to those in the next few weeks. Understanding the nature of the collector with all of their variations allows for a clearer understanding of what motivates activity on a given artist’s work.
In the art world there are absolutes that anyone can argue with and disagree with but when all is said and done remains absolute much like gravity. One of the main concepts is that the collector sits at the apex of importance if one is interested in pursuing an income producing artlife. We can argue the merits of making art on social, spiritual, and personal fulfillment but my focus here is how to possibly allow for a self perpetuating flow of resources to enable a continuum of creation. Logistics. How can it happen with longevity.
For an artist there is a reality that each piece created has a ‘price to be paid’. We have time invested, we have materials needed, and we have the cost of experience and education as absolutes in making art. To me the best case scenario is to not pay for these things out of mypocket but another’s, namely the collector, patron or whatever you would like to call them.
So the first issue is , how do I consistently connect with that buyer? In other words what is my means of building a base of support. Do I need a gallery? Can I connect on my own or just how do I connect to a resource flow? Second is what kind of collector am I actually looking for? They come in many flavors and variety and how do I know I am attracting productive interest and not just blowing wind.
I will speak from my own experience and I am sure it can be disagreed with and argued against but it remains my actual experience. I have dealt with corporate support, gallery representation, and direct transactions over my career. Each avenue ends at the collector. But each avenue has it’s own set of dynamics and challenges. The end means, the collector, provides the resources in all cases. The artist with a plan decides which collector propels opportunity and income for them.
I will review each avenue and describe what they offer and what they restrict. Remember that every decision will always have a tradeoff in general but we want to be in the game if that is something that we want from making art. ‘Corporate’ opportunity in regards to end buyer offers consistent flow but typically made on a commission basis or outright wholesale order. MANY artists do this quietly and secretly to create an income stream. It might manifest as working with art consultants that have site specific work or a retail space that has a ‘line’ of art objects that they promote and sell. Numbered editions or exclusively made items can fall into this category.
Self representation connects with another kind of collector and to me presents the most difficult issues to contend with. Unless you have started out deliberately self representing and maintained your price structure and have never operated out of desperation then this can work. But my experience has been when a collector approaches you directly expect to be hammered to death on all ends including price. Their expectations are for a ‘deal’.They may genuinely love your work. These collectors can sense desperation a mile away and acquire on distress. And I would ask, do any of us know artists who are ever in distress? Great resource for these collectors! All I would say is you better have the personality for this or the quality of your life will come into serious question.
Finally, gallery representation brings other opportunities as well as drawbacks. I would say this arena attracts the best collectors as they are built on long term relationships with gallery owners or representatives .If chosen wisely and carefully you can get many good years of activity and career building when things aligndrawback of this arrangement is there is typically a life to these relationships between artist and gallery. How long will it take for a given gallery’s clientele to own your work and the market then dwindles. Typically for the average artist I have seen this to be 3-5 years in general.
Then time to move on and moving on is a critical concept. This is a journey not a destination. Adapting, adjusting and reevaluating might be the most important thing an artist can do for themselves. Hang on to nothing when you ‘feel’ a change is needed. Do it quickly and don’t look back. Resilience and persistence is what keeps all artists alive. All participants are looking out for themselves and so should you. We all want to get out of our effort exactly what we want and feel good about.
There is also an arena of percent for art programs and grants etc. This is not an area I ever pursued consistently and I know many artists who live primarily off of these projects. It is valid when your particular kind of work is conducive to site specific opportunities. The collector in this regards is the public through the filter of a selecting committee and funding organizations.
This is a basic map of the collecting crowd and the next post will look closer at the differences of personality of this group and what motivates them on different levels. One thing to be aware of is that these drivers of commerce know their importance in the scheme of all activity within the artworld. It doesn’t matter if it is at your local arts organization or at Art Basel. The same principles apply and this will be looked at closer.