Artist’s Journal: NUMBER 65
PLEASE NOTE: This manifesto is in three parts divided over three posts, this one, Artist’s Journal: NUMBER 65 and Artist’s Journal: NUMBER 66 and 67
Does Art Make Money or, Does the Price Make it Art? “Everybody wants to get on the Van Gogh boat. There’s no trip so horrible that someone won’t take it. The idea of the unrecognized genius slaving away in a garret is a deliciously foolish one. We must credit the life of Vincent Van Gogh for really sending this myth into orbit.”
That was an excerpt from Rene Ricard’s Art Forum (December 1981) essay The Radiant Child. It continues, “I mean, how many pictures did he sell, one? He couldn’t give them away. He has to be the most modern artist, but everybody hated him. He was so ashamed of his life that the rest of our history will be contribution to Van Gogh’s neglect.”
I love that essay. I’ve quoted it many times. But I guess it also thrills me that Rene Ricard was a South Coast resident. I’ve always wondered if he got his perspective on art here.
Art is the artist’s perspiration. It’s the result of the process of solving conceptual or visual problems. The process becomes, in some cases, more important than the final product. Art is work. Work is process.
The perspiration of this work is the product. The product is the art. And, art is a commodity – something that is bought and sold; something or someone that is useful or valued.
Art as with any other commodity, is a good or service. Its wide availability typically leads to smaller profit margins and diminishes the importance of factors (as brand name) other than price. Art is a commodity subject to ready exchange or exploitation within a market.
Artists are also a commodity of the art industry. Ricard reflected on it. “We are no longer collecting art we are buying individuals… When the work tops a certain mark and the collectors begin their wholesale unloading of your old work in direct competition with your new work you’re in trouble with no protection. Every time one of your old paintings is bought one of your new paintings isn’t…”
He pondered, “What is it about art anyway that we give it so much importance? Artists are respected by the poor because what they do is an honest way to get out of the slum using one’s sheer self as the medium. The money earned, proof, pure and simple, of the value of that individual, the artist.”
The art industry is composed of businesses and individuals who buy and sell art. It’s really no different than the sex industry. Don’t say no – it is! Regardless of the circumstance, the price paid or the actual point or intent of the purchase. Paying for either is the exchange of one value for another. So then, does the more you pay indicate higher value or greater social acceptance?
This manifesto of sorts grew from a conversation my friend and fellow artist Luis Villanueva had. We came to the conclusion that art should be treated as nothing more than a commodity; regardless if it’s spelled with a capital A or not.
We were discussing what may be the unintentional exploitation of local artists. We were wondering how much art is actually being sold locally. And, we wondered if anyone knew what the local creative economy represents in actual dollars? No – neither Luis nor I are presenting a conspiracy theory.
What we are doing, however, is bringing to light what has been allowed to become an acceptable notion that it is okay to ask artists to give their work away for the greater good. And, if art needs grant funding, why should it be expected to be given away?
Markets in general are regulated by supply and demand; it is a fundamental concept of economics. In the creative economy, the supply is created by artists. Therefore, it is not the art that is important, it is the artist. E. H. Gombrich, the art historian said, “There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists.”
If perception is reality, then the perception of sorting artists into artists spelled with a capital A who produce Art and those uncapitalized (yes, a pun) who produce just art must be altered or, at best, reinvestigated. From our discussion, Luis and I seem to have developed a manifesto that centers on three points.
Stay tuned for Artist’s Journal: NUMBER 66
Posted on: 28/06/2015, by : Ron Fortier