The Web Highway or the High Street way? Spike muses over selling Art

painters Tubes magazine-article

‘Spike’ where do artists sell their paintings?

A year or two ago I read an art exhibition review which was pretty damming, not only to the exhibition in question, but also to the artist who made it. This wasn’t an anti-post modernist twentieth century rant, nor was it an intellectual twenty first century tirade of what Art should be or indeed what it actually is. Not at all, this review was more like the angry comments one sometimes reads after an essay about Contemporary Art. You know, those rants at some arts columnist who infuriates everyone with his almost myopic intellectualism that uses sentences filled with nine letter and twelve letter words that were lifted from a thesaurus the night before. To be honest, at first I laughed and then I was taken aback at the ferocity of the attack and then I felt really pissed off….

…the newspaper reviewer started off with, “that he found the exhibition so boring, that he could hardly find anything [to write about]. So, what was this horrendous exhibition he was so incensed about? – Artists vomit ‘installed’ on the floor of a gallery perhaps? Or maybe a live performance of an artist asleep?  Maybe digital prints of someone else iPhone selfies? Or even a person standing and staring into space for an hour or two naked in the middle of a gallery whistling out of tune? Nope…  none of those, it was a visual art exhibition showing paintings hung on a wall. Paintings, the most ubiquitous of all art was what this supercilious art critic railed against. He announced that painting (as an art form) was dead if not buried. So what if the artist had mounted an on-line exhibition instead of a bricks and mortar gallery exhibition? Would he have had to encountered such negativity and venom against the artist and the work? I don’t think so. On-line etiquette is far too well enforced, as far as commenting (read criticising) art is concerned. If you do critic any art on line – well, you know what happens guys…you get a bad case of the International Troll Gang gunning for you, social media is vicious towards critics. It’s sort of reversed in real life.

Do you Sell on line?
Showing paintings on line, seems to be the main stream for the dissemination of an artists work. Even though real life exhibitions are still relevant for many artists, an on line presence is essential (if only for street cred). Perhaps this particular critic didn’t realise that the “painting is a dead art” conversation has faded away as fast as padded shoulders did in the middle 1980’s. There has been a major change in attitude to painting in the last decade or so. In part, this may be entirely due to the need for the high street galleries to survive the financial crisis, the one that started in earnest way back in 2008. High street galleries need to sell ‘stuff’ and earn a profit – And paintings sell much quicker than ‘cool’ installations that rely on high brow art academics to authenticate the cultural importance of something that most people wouldn’t actually install in their homes (even if they don’t say so publicly).  And the institutions are happy to underscore the ‘Art’ as a thank you for the generous support (financial donation) made by the mega white cubed gallery brigade, whose artist is the latest exhibition in the museum. ”

William Shakespeare - There is something rotten in Denmark - article in painters TUBES magazine
“there’s something rotten in Denmark, me thinks.”

Yet, the installation art marketplace is tiny compared to what the two dimensional art market is and I think the galleries have woken up to that as a fact – so now painting is the ‘thing’ again. Today the sheer size of the visual art market (because of the internet and the web) has outgrown all that ‘arty farty stuff’ by leaps and bounds – certainly as far as turnover is concerned. So the www has become the place to set up your stall. Major funded on-line art galleries and some not so well funded independent artists, all have a go at selling direct to art collectors and art lovers.  Many of these artists and the one man art galleries start-ups fail quickly- some have a sort of:- ‘in the third year we will make money plan’.  Most, in reality, loose much more money than they bargained for and are wrapped up prematurely by the investors that backed the idea in the first place.  It’s not a case of chasing huge profits for many galleries though, on the contrary, it’s survival we are talking about here. Many on-line galleries are simply losing too much money, year in and year out. Consumers are going direct to source these days, via instagram.

“there is no money in Art…
…a very wise man once said to me (back in1990). He may have been right but for the wrong reason. Should Art really be treated as a commodity and be sold as such? – ‘Stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap is not an effective strategy for art, unless of course your selling from a production line of ‘copy’ paintings, you know, technically good, but utterly soulless. The high street galleries are having some degree of success especially the well positioned bricks and mortar establishments. They really do use the web effectively. Many sell-out their latest exhibition on-line, even before they hold the opening night. A night which also serves a vital purpose for the prospective client to actually see the Artwork for real – then the deal is invariably clinched on the spot. Sounds good, but nothing has changed for the artist who hasn’t the right connections or a million+ followers on Instagram, he or she still don’t even get a foot through the door let alone a painting to sell.

But – and it’s a big but…
….will authentic original art win out in the end? Or will the major on-line galleries self appointed art selectors continue to advance those artists that fit the preferred ‘style’ of the month and advise their visitors of the artists who are the ‘ones to watch’ (read invest in) – thus employing the ‘stack em high sell em cheap (at first), then up the ‘anti’ later strategy – all with an ‘additional discount to buy’ of course, which the Artist who created the work in the first place has to ‘agree’ to accepting the higher percent they take off the top line. Will High street galleries continue to be flooded by the hopeful newbie or the forsaken mature painters ? To be honest they really don’t stand a chance of being let over the gallery threshold as a exhibited artist.  High Street galleries have more than they can handle on the books already – so they tell me. And then of course we have the the on-line educators come experts (anyone can be an art expert if they say they are, all you need in a minor degree in sociology).  They tell us – “How-to Sell Your Art On-Line” does this unquantified  advise make any difference –  or is that bull shit too? Only Time will tell.  Real artists have to keep painting and have to wait and see with their eyes wide open to all the possibilities – or maybe  and better still – perhaps artists should create their own ‘marketplace and stick two fingers up to the lot of them.

SPIKE is an independent art critic painters TUBES magazine and does not neccessarily represent the opinions of painters TUBES magazine

  ©Spike 2018- 2019

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abstract painting the formal and the free…

The danger of ‘Art on Web’, if there is one, is there is possibly too much Art to look at. And perhaps too many twee images…

painters TUBES magazine Abstract Formal and Free

Abstract Formal and Free

a new beginning for abstract painting in the twenty first century?

By the turn of the century there was a significant uneasy feeling among creatives, it was because the conceptual, come installation art form, had dominated contemporary art for decades [in Europe], it had reached the point where it had become ‘institutionally-approved art.’ – and therefore only represented the Art Establishments opinion of contemporary art and no-one or little else. The conventional medium [painting] had not only been ignored unfairly, but often ridiculed by many academics as a serious medium to create a new contemporary art form.

This was more apparent in Europe than it was in the USA. Which had, in the main, accepted and had retained ‘painting’ on the curriculum of universities and art academies. This wasn’t the case in Europe, especially the UK, where slowly but surely ‘painting’ was removed not only from Universities curriculums but also actively eradicated by discouraging students of including painting in their portfolios for year ending assessments (some made a threat of immediate failure if they did so). Talent, skill, colour understanding and artistic authenticity became a thing of the past and all these later day basic elements and knowledge for art creation was declared ‘obsolete’ in favour of a Post Modernistic approach to art where plagiarism was not only allowed but expected of the student.

Not every one agreed with the post-modernism dogma, and many Artists, in general, became tired of restricting themselves to the non-physical involvement of art creation, mixed with the re-making of someones else’s original idea from the recent past and where the actual process of the creation was secondary, or unimportant. Disillusioned with the philosophy of post modernism and conceptualism, where only the ‘idea’ of a work of Art was the thing that was worthy of consideration, traditional painting became more and more attractive to Artists once again. This was despite the uneven handed approach to painting in the Art Education system. Painting flourished, especially with the underground artists, mostly dogged painters from the 1980’s, also the graffiti artists and with help of small exhibitions by the commercial galleries on some high streets and in provisional towns, painting began to prove that it was very much alive and had not ‘died off’ as it was predicted it would in the later stages of the Twentieth century.

The catalyst for paintings resurrection may have come from a movement that became known (in Europe) as the ‘Transavantgarde.’ Achille Bonito Oliva, an Italian critic overseen the new, or more appropriate, renewed an art philosophy that rejected the left wing [political] thinking in art and its corresponding artistic psychoanalysis. They returned to encouraging the use of traditional materials and the creation of Art imbued with not only talent but the invention of new image communication forms or symbolic signs. They gained an international audience in 1982 with an exhibition that was mounted in Rome.

The leading Transavantgarde artists included Chia, Cucchi and Clemente with Baselitz and Keifer in Germany, who are often thrown into the mix of the artists in this re-engagement with painting. What was also significant, was that a few artists in the USA seemed closer to the European Transavantgarde mind set than they did to the ‘pop’ or the ‘hyper-realists’ practitioners (for example, Julian Schnabel).

This goes to illustrate how the Art in the public view (media coverage), the one sanctioned and approved by art institutions, can be misleading, with the implication that Art is binary or lineal. Most artists know that Art is and always has been, dynamic and multifaceted.

We are only in the 17th year of a new century, but these last seventeen years are proving to be milestones in painting development, albeit not to the same extent that Cubism changed how artists think about how they could create a work of art.

The neo-expressionism of the Transavantgarde of the 1980’s led to more and more figurative interest in art creation. And in certain ways figurative abstract painting has asserted itself as the popular choice of many artists. Today figurative abstraction appears at the forefront of recent painting. It can take the form of abstracted human forms, landscape, emotional or personal experiences. The resulting artworks all carry something ‘real’ as the key element in the work of the artist. Art for Art ‘s sake, or Art as the object itself is no longer the main concern.

Picasso once said that… “there is no such thing as abstract painting, everything comes from something..”

What is apparent today is that the visual art playing field has widened and levelled itself to be inclusive rather than exclusive, as it was once was not so long ago.

Realism, semi-realism, abstraction in all it’s forms, gestural, expression, geometric formal, and informal and combination abstraction (objectivity mixed with non-objectivity), photographic/painting montages, video, digital art and graffiti, all have an active role to play in the kaleidoscope of todays visual art world. The whole history of art and art ism’s seems to have merged into an array of visually stimulating and exciting art forms, but only new in the sense that they are created in the ‘here and now’ and reflect that ‘here and now’ – it’s perhaps a more short sighted view of culture that is held today than it was in the middle of the twentieth century.

surpassing reality…

everything in painting has been done already, so why bother to paint at all?

painters Tubes magazine
Gabriel Grun – a classical contemporary painter
“everything in painting has been done already, so why bother to paint at all.”

It is probably the ‘realist’ paintings of today that is easy to critic.  After all they’d say, what is the point of copying something in front of you, when we now have the digital camera? – To a large extent I can and do agree with that statement. What I think they missed is the point of the process of painting, one that changes the reality and why that entails a complex relationship that a painter has to develop along with the work. And not only from spending a great deal of time working on it per sé- but creating something that didn’t exist before. To understand that process fully one has to actually paint, not talk about, not write about, and certainly not curate, to gain a total understanding of why painters still paint, by hand and not by computer or instruct other people to do it for them. These  new artists of the late 20th century were impatient and young, they had no time to hone a skill or tap into a natural talent, let alone develop one or need a natural talent whatsoever, what was the point when the new Art Marketing machine would triumph over Art, they said, and they were right.

 “talent is not enough..” …was another banner held high by the supporting tribe of over valued culture writers at the time. The new young artists all succeeded, they all became rich beyond their dreams. They had titles and honours poured over them. They have since then, been elected into positions that were once held by Artists who, perhaps unlike them, actually deserved the accolades bestowed upon them. This was the art world environment that appalled me as a 47-year-old painter of over 20 years [in 1998] when I was given the task of seeking out other real-artists to participate in a special exhibition called Heart 2 Art . It was a project commission from the International Support Group in Sweden and the Swedish Government Estonian Trust Fund. The show was in benefit for the survivors and the families of them that perished in the Estonia Ferry disaster of 1994. It was the most important and difficult exhibition that I had ever agreed to be the lead Artist, designer and curator of. I was given the lead by the Anglo-Swedish Art Group W.O.R.K (Waxholm Organisation [for the] Reformerandet av Konst).

It was at this time and in this frame of mind that I discovered a painter in far away [from Sweden] Argentina called Gabriel Grun. He became one of 27 Artists selected from nine countries that was finally exhibited in the Heart 2 Art exhibition in 2002 in Stockholm. The show was an eclectic mix of mediums of visual art that was to demonstrate the altered realities of humankind. And Gabriel’s work was a part of the show that visualised the link with the past and a new-vision how that link can be interpreted for the future.  As the years have passed since 2002,  Gabriel has been recognised in Argentina as one of their finest ‘fine artists.’ His dedication to filling the gaps that he feels have been left by the renaissance artists has, to my mind, been an impressive voyage. Yet, beyond that he has also ‘tuned’ himself from the stubborn art student who walked away from a modern art establishments curriculum in Buenos Aires, to a husband and father and a more mature artist who has perfected his craft.

“the idea behind my work is to pick the thread of the long line of visual narrative I love and cherish and give body to certain paintings I perceive somehow to be missing, to constitute gaps that are to be filled, that Rafael or Van Der Weyden just did not have time to do.”

….. I still keep in touch with Gabriel, and recently he told me that after a year or two or working on illustrating a book he is about to embark on a new series of paintings…I have to say I am excited to see what they will be…

©read the full article written by Denis Taylor on Linkedin under painters TUBES magazine

©2015 – 2019 painters Tubes magazine all rights reserved

 

painters TUBES magazine
one of Gabriel Grun’s early paintings that featured in the Heart 2 Art exhibition in Stockholm 2002 -collection of Denis Taylor/painters Tubes magazine

pay for space is it worth it?

The on-line ‘competitions, to my mind, are simply a money gathering exercise, full stop.

 ‘Spike’ the resident critic of painters Tubes magazine take a stab at the vanity galler painters Tubes magazine , art critic, Spike, talks about pay for galleries (vanity)ies and the ‘pay for’ to enter competitions and art fairs.
 

Vanity  and pay for exhibition spaces or Galleries, are they worth it?

 

 

 

” So, what is an alternative to the favoured High Street galleries for the artists who cannot break the cycle of rejection, (however reluctant that may be, from a Galleries viewpoint). The so called ‘Vanity’ galleries have been around for decades and over the last two decades they have sprouted up everywhere, in one form or another. It is rarely they that are bothered or (overly) concerned about the quality of the artists work, the ones who wish to pay them for their space.

This type of gallery is in the business of renting ‘the space only,’ usually in a well located high street shop, for a profit. They use a branded banner on the outside and send out invitations of ‘applications,’  usually from commercially acquired mass emailing lists of artists, ones that are gleaned from, you guessed it, Social Media platforms. Some advertise directly on mass media or other social media with attractive wording that will entice the Artist to go one step further and start a conversation with their ‘curator’ (read Salesman). It’s only when you actually read the ‘deal’ that you discover that it will cost a ‘shit-load’ of your own money, that you begin to temper the ego and dreams of exhibiting in a gallery with that of your own financial reality.

Those who are brave and drown out the ‘money’ objection, one being screamed at them for all corners, convince themselves that they will ‘break even’ financially – if only given the chance to show their work, but usually they have either, miscalculated the cost, or are unaware of what it takes to ensure a reasonably successful ‘selling’ exhibition. Or they simply cannot get past the artistic  ‘blue-sky’ thinking syndrome. Not so long a go I did a cost analysis of exhibiting in a ‘pay-for-space’  gallery. This was based on an out of City centre location, (in the UK) with reasonably accurate costs for space, marketing, transportation and so on. The final figure came out at a cost for a 5 to 6 day solo exhibition of around £3500 ($4,800). Major City centre space was nearer double that price, when I looked further into it. That’s a lot of painting to sell, based on the market average price for a half decent sized canvas for an unknown painter, at the lower (attractive) ‘stip-end’ market price level of around £350 each (circa $500), So is it worth it? Just for friends and family to rub ones ego and confirm you are a good artist?

How about selling on the web and creating a virtual reality exhibitions on your own website?

Sure, but I would suggest for that to be really successful, (i.e. selling on a regular basis for a consistent period of time) the artist will need a very good e-commerce enabled website (i.e. one that is not cheap to acquire and maintain) – And spend a great deal of time making strategic posts on social media – Or hire someone to do that specific task, and with a regular advertising budget. In this case I would suggest an annual budget for Marketing and PR of in excess £3000 per annum, for doing it all yourself, or £5000 to £8,000 annually, to hand this ‘job’ over to a professional full time SEO and art marketeer to do it for you. Who will no doubt, not give you any guarantee of a return for your money.

painters Tubes magazine - what do you benefit from by entering art competitions?
cartoon by ©ARNY- Sweden

How about entering Art Competitions to gain recognition?

Why not, if you can live with the rejection element, nine out of ten times of entering the ones that, according to their pre-publicity, ‘give You the chance of lifetime’ to be internationally famous. Let’s be honest here, it’s a bit of lottery. The important thing to remember is, who does the judging – Usually there is an academic, a curator, another well known person who knows (not a lot) about art and the winner from the previous years competition. So the winning entries are somewhat vacuous in their preferences because of their own bias to one form of art or another. There again, if you actually ‘Win’ or come second or third, what does it bring you? – Well if it’s a National Competition’ then about 15 minutes of fame and a commission from the sponsors of the Competition, and loads of Facebook likes and messages of congratulations (ego gratification again). Plus, maybe 3 minutes on a You Tube video interview or a feature in your local newspaper.  The rest of the smaller comp’s are really a bit like Vanity Galleries, except they don’t make as much money out of the ‘customer’.  It can cost around £30 to enter three paintings to an ‘average’ competition – And if you are short listed you have to physically take your paintings to a central point – for ‘further judging’ and then schlep them back again (when rejected), which can cost you up to ‘whatever’-  depending how far away you live form the nominated place of ‘drop-off’. The on-line ‘competitions, to my mind, are simply a money gathering exercise, full stop. And, again only in my opinion, are really not worth bothering with – unless they are free to enter of course.

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