Earlier today, I was following a thread on Facebook, it was about a Gallery owner who was expressing herself on the importance of respecting the rules and regulations, the better practices of dealings between Art Galleries and artists. She went on to say how she felt it was vital to encourage respect towards artists when it came to paying them the value of their work and how artists often enough, get caught up in giving their art away in exchange for exposure or by exhibiting their art for free.
I agree with her, and find it refreshing to read about this very important symbiosis which can and should exist between the dealer and the artist. Both parties should follow the rules and work to the benefit of each other. She was correct in stating that we artists often post our art work on social media in the hopes of being seen and making sells, sadly, we mostly just end up adding to the quality of those social media outlets without much more for ourselves. Artists are usually on the losing end in these matters, rarely getting paid for displaying their art, in fact they rarely think of demanding payment in exchange for improving the look and quality of events. What I am learning, yes even after most of a lifetime being an artist, is that a good part of the blame belongs firmly on artists who accept bad deals like showing ones art for exposure or selling at bargain, or not demanding payment in exchange for improving some event. I have been one of those artists who, for a number of reasons, thought it always best to go with the flow in terms of exhibiting my art in events when I often had to pay for shipping, packaging and so on. I happen to be a paintress who doesn’t create pieces that will appeal to the masses and it’s perfectly good with me as I don’t paint for fame or glory or to get rich ( mind you, it’s not that I’ve anything against any of those objectives ), I paint because that’s what I do, it’s who I am.
I have lived a life of working at other jobs in order to paint, and it has been difficult to say the least but I would not, not for an instant, trade that in for a life of not being myself as an artist. It’s a fact that we live in a society run and controlled by money and power, everything has a cost, food, shelter, transportation, clothing, etc, and it really strikes me that it makes no sense whatsoever to expect hard working visual artists to give away their work in the hope of exposure ( what does that even taste like ). It’s insulting and demeaning. Of all professions, visual art is the only one to my knowledge that is expected to be free. Not that I haven’t been fortunate enough to make some sells, and for this, I am always very thankful, but lets be clear, each and every time I have accepted to exhibit my paintings somewhere, it profited those events and rarely me. I cannot begin to count my loss in terms of actual costs which all of my sells to date could never hope to cover. Exposure doesn’t feed and it doesn’t equal fame or getting more noticed.
Equating exposure to hard currency is a false equivalence, sure it can at it’s best, be a good thing overall but nowadays, it seems to be the only offer out there for visual artists and that’s not good at all. As a visual artist, the only way I have of making some sort of living from my art is through showing my art, and that is exposure so it’s more about the type and quality of said exposure. This doesn’t mean that I would never consider donating a piece for a charity I happen to support, just that I am now more keenly aware that certain kinds of exposure just aren’t worth the trouble.
Art galleries, art dealers and agents sell art for a living, they tend to pick and chose artists whose work gives them the best opportunities to make sells. They look for art that appeals to collectors and other buyers. I have yet to fully understand how to give them what they want as I paint what I find interesting and that is rarely what seems to sell. Maybe I’m not doing a good job at selling them my vision.
I’m not great at portfolios, statement and bios though I do try to do all these things. I don’t know what makes people buy art, I don’t know how to convince people that my art is worth owning, all I know with any measure of certainty is that I paint well and create what I am impassioned about.
I think visual artists should be paid an exhibition fee, not the other way around.