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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independent art specialist magazine- designed and produced and published in Sweden by artists and photographers - Printed and distributed in the UK to a global audience