Monday, August 02, 2004

Gallery closing

I am told that the Elizabeth Roberts Gallery will be closing in the near future as Miss Roberts is getting married and moving away.

Congratulations to Elizabeth and we hope that the building (which previously housed the Anton Gallery for many years) remains in use as a gallery space.

"Great Expectations" and the need to Create Value in one's artwork.

By (and printed here with the permission of) Malik Lloyd, Publisher of the Find Art Information Bank.

Attending a recent seminar, "Starting Your Own Art Collection" at the Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum and watching the film version of Charles Dickens' classic novel "Great Expectations" served as the impetus for this editorial. They got me thinking how the latest buzzword of "creating value" actually translates to an artist.

Serious collectors are spending inconceivable amounts of money on art. In 2003, the late Jean-Michel Basquiat's painting Profit I sold for a hefty $5 million at auction, placing him in an elite cadre of contemporary artists. While it is commonplace for Impressionist paintings to command tens of millions in today's market, the irony is most people did not think that they were worth the canvas on which they were painted during their day. It begs the larger question, how is value determined? In addition, who determines it? Artists? Collectors? How do art critics and curators fit into the equation?

As artists, we must ask ourselves a series of introspective questions: How does creating value affect me? Will the value of my artwork increase over time? How can I make this a reality? Is adding value to my artwork even something worth considering or will it take care of itself? Is adding value to one's artwork and marketing one's artwork one in the same? Does having wonderful artwork ensures you of having value applied to it?

How does an everyday artist create value, which may translate to how can an artist professionally establish themselves with a view to sell their work in today's marketplace?

In true Hollywood fashion, the movie "Great Expectations" shows Ethan Hawke as, an artist named, Finn, being rescued from his life as a fisherman with the promise of an exhibit in an exclusive New York gallery. Robert DeNiro's character, Luftig, is a criminal and thus, Finn's unlikely benefactor, has arranged an exhibition; rented an apartment to serve as his studio; has provided him with a new image-improving wardrobe; and paid for the show's marketing. To top it off, Luftig then purchases all the artwork in the show. Luftig's actions have led to creating value for Finn for he has raised his artistic profile and created a demand for his work. The concluding scene reveals that Finn has built upon this early success and has become an acclaimed artist.

Since most artists are not actors in a Hollywood movie, this notion of creating value is trickier. During the seminar, the speaker emphasized that an artist creates value by developing what the seminar speaker identified as a "solid " career path. The good news is all artists can do this by doing what comes naturally, e.g. becoming formally educated; receiving awards; participating in juried and museum shows; receiving commissions and making actual sales; and ultimately, having gallery representation.

The latter is key because it aids in documenting sales and many of the aforementioned components. Of course, the more prominent or exclusive the gallery, the better. For most artists, discipline, hard work, and time, lots of time, are the ingredients of creating a solid career path and therefore, value. Unfortunately, the expenditure of time and effort does not guarantee successful results. Some artists have raised the value of the their artwork more expeditiously both through their own direct efforts and being the fortunate object of art collectors' desires.

At the seminar's end, the speaker proposed his own Hollywood scenario of how art collectors can create value for a particular artist regardless of the solidness of his/her career path. He simply stated, "If everyone present [at the seminar] purchased a particular artist's work, the value of his/her work would most likely rise."

This very scenario sheds light on the role of individuals, in particular collectors, no matter how serious, can affect an artist's commercial success. Orson Wells once said "people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." Yet, these same "people" could very well determine the value of our artwork. Far be it for me to "say," but perhaps people, price and value share a more intimate relationship than we ever imagined.

Malik M. Lloyd