Friday, June 1, 2007


By Joel Ferraris

Good artists make good art galleries...good art galleries mean good artists. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? And good art means good price!!!

Will artists survive without art galleries? Of course art galleries will not survive without artists, especially the good ones!!! And no amount of commercial packaging and hype could hide the shallowness of the idea behind a piece of art.

Galleries are usually trying to establish their own niche in the art scene or the art world. This has lead to some sort of specialization to be different from the rest. The world city like Hong Kong proved to be one market for art from different artists of various nationalities wherein each gallery specializes in works from, say, Vietnam or the Asia Pacific region.

Having made marketing art their business, art galleries are working hard to see to it that the products they sell will be beneficial to the existence and staying power of their business. Certainly galleries have bills to pay just like any business ventures... and to survive they of course have to select artists with good reputation and/or whose works have selling power.

It is good thing that some galleries teach young artists about business professionalism...and some inspire them to be innovative in their art-making. However, on the other hand, it is a bad practice if art galleries begin to teach artists what is saleable art or not. It's even worse if these galleries, caught in financial quagmire, dictate and persuade artists to do what is saleable or not. When these things happen the thing we popularly call "artistic creativity" will be replaced by "market or business creativity".

When money comes first in the mind of the artist his artistic talent will surely suffer. When market value comes first before the aesthetic value foolish things happen. Would-be gallery owners, who have neither experience nor knowledge about art and aesthetics, will force young talents to paint what is saleable like, say, the skyline of Singapore!!!

A true artist does not intend to worship money but of course money is needed for survival. But a wise artist will make use of all the possibilities his talent could offer to make money but at the same time to make good art. If the quest for what is respectable and beautiful is not hampered by the love for riches, then good art will continue to be born.

To support the birth of good art, artists should be humble enough to do "commercial art". This is justifiably in line with their craft and they will surely excel in it and earn from it handsomely. But for some galleries this is a no-no!!! You cannot paint portraits or paint flowers or landscapes and seascapes if you are doing "serious art" if doing art other than this "art on a pedestal" is not serious at all.

Someone once said that anything that involves money is commercial. Therefore any kind of art being sold for a certain amount is commercial. Some galleries may look respectable because of their location and the capital involved...but their products could be ridiculously rubbish when speaking about really respectable art.

Some art galleries that we perceive as expensive might actually be selling even sterile art (ones that do not evolve at all) or expensive ( but deceptively fake) art. There was an article about this in South China Morning Post (in Hong Kong) several years ago that may have rocked the wealthy from their seats...reminding them about the thousands of dollars they have wasted on fake art from "reputable galleries" while their credibility is threatened.

So, my fellow artists, where are you going? Of course van Gogh and Gauguin also wanted money to survive just like us. But they continued doing the desires of their hearts and had been true to their calling. But of course, just like any idols, art must not be worshipped. Art is just a tool to convey something...maybe a vital make life good and glorify the Sole Giver of this talent. For if art will only cause to ruin lives, then we better continue making money and forget about those things of beauty.

Pollock reached the apex of fame...but why was he not happy? There is more to life than just fame and fortune in art. There's life itself that needs to be lived according to the will of the Supreme Creator.

Come to think of it...what is art for after all? And if you ask about direction... let's stop emulating the mistakes that the masters of old have committed. Let's stop reproducing old master's work because doing so gives one a feeling as if ideas in art has come to an end. Let's rather encourage originality, innovation and new ideas because all these add credibility to an artwork's high value and not those with dubious outward packaging but lacking in substance and integrity.

When artists nurture their art seriously they will be protecting the art galleries and their art collectors as well. To some artists this is no problem but for those who are financially struggling the closure of art an art gallery representing them is a big blow to their future.

To me artists must stand firm and confident and be ready to move alone to discover new possibilities for their career, with or without art galleries. When a partner art gallery cease to exist this is by no means an end to an artist's career. Artists should therefore concentrate in making good art, at their own pace, and not by the dictates of the market because for any good art produced a corresponding buyer or art collector is waiting to get the right value for his/her money.

Although art galleries work to represent and package artists, this partnership could sometimes become a restricting box designed to suit and please an art market which, in fact, still needs to be educated for newer, more innovative and original works of art to replace old, monotonous styles.


Sheree Rensel said...

Oh Joel. I could write a book about my feelings about all this. I won't because nobody would buy it. I have learned that if you say things nobody wants to hear, you will not be popular. I have huge problems with telling the truth. YIKES!!
Sometimes I feel like we are playing "Let's Pretend". What I mean by this is that there are thousands and thousands of artists who call themselves artists but don't support themselves with their art at all. Oh yes, there are those who swear they do. However upon investigation, I have found they live very meager lives. Money is always tight and luxuries are out of the question. It is either that way OR they have some other (person) support.
The gallery/artist/client relationship is a very complicated matter. I have experienced this. I don't like being in that relationship triad. I have felt uncomfortable being told what the client wants. I have been uncomfortable being told what and how to paint. I have been uncomfortable in many ways. Yet, I realize the art biz is a BUSINESS. Thinking in terms of being free to create for art sake is not economically feasible for anybody concerned. This is why I said in my "success" blog post, fame is an unlikely outcome for me. Nothing in life is free. We all know that. Working within the gallery system has its pros and cons. If you work with galleries you might get paid, but you also have to make payments back to them (literally and figuratively). I really wish I could succumb to the demands of such a relationship. However, I have not seemed to thrive when I have had that in my past.
I realize gallerists have to take care of their needs, as do art collectors. In fact, I know for sure they buy who they are told or "think" they should buy. Nobody is working freely in the whole arrangement. I am still trying to figure out where I fit into the equation. Like I said, I feel like I am playing "Let's pretend". Without some external validation, I feel like I am an artist in my own mind only these days. Maybe I am. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Grandier said...

I've read your essay, and there is again this tone that you're not generally accepting the fact that a gallery-artist relationship is necessary. Sir, I read your article but I can't help but feel that there are certain points that you agree on, but again disagree at the same time. I now wonder if you have any example in mind that will accentuate your point. Because there was a lot of bases covered that made most of your statements confusing.