… OF EVERY ADVERTISER IN THE OCTOBER 2011 EDITION OF ART REVIEW
(Originally written late 2011, obviously.)
For roughly every two advertisements promoting a UK art gallery in this magazine, there is one promoting a luxury clothing or jewellery brand. There are about 75 pages of advertising in this issue of Art Review, including 4 pages of advertiser directory listings. The magazine has 162 pages. It’s not until after page 100 that there are any UK advertisers from outside of London. The highest prestige positions and therefore the most expensive places for advertising are occupied by Cartier (inside front cover), Investec (inside back cover) and Louis Vuitton (outside back cover). There are no less than nine different art fairs advertised in this one issue of the magazine and taking place over October, November and early December 2011.
This is unrelated except for the fact that it’s the same magazine: There’s a grocer’s apostrophe typo ON THE COVER, a quote from Tacita Dean “I don’t wan’t [sic] to know what I’m doing.” Can anybody tell me which two words “wan’t” might be contracted from? “Want not”? So she does not want not to know what she’s doing? Oh well, it’s not like the cover is the first part of a magazine that everyone sees– oh, wait, that’s exactly what it is. Plus it so happens that I don’t want to know what Tacita Dean is doing either, so she and I are alike in that regard. I learned something from this magazine. Continue reading
When Ryan Stanier of The Other Art Fair wrote to me begging that I delete my posts about it because I was damaging his business, and later importuned me in person in the same regard, I said that I would not do that but I would correct any factually incorrect information I had provided. Unfortunately in my first article I’d understated the cost to artists of exhibiting in this show. Now a little bird has told me that the OAF’s prices have gone up again. See drop menu near bottom of the linked page, after all the artist statement and CV smokescreen stuff. Yeah, as if they accept or reject people solely on their artistic merit and charging them is an afterthought… 3m of wall space and “two spotlights” (woo!) now costs £745+VAT (Value Added Tax of 20% which is charged on most commercial products or services in the UK). It costs £1610+VAT for 7m of wall and four spotlights. For this kind of money those spotlights had better be some kind of King Kong searchlight bastards.
Perhaps, some might say, the upfront costs don’t matter so much and it’s a good investment if the artist gets to sell their work. Well, these artist-milking businesses actually rely on aspiring artists having this kind of woolly quasi-capitalist mindset and yet being too desperate– or frankly, sometimes, just too dim– to do the maths. They have their profit margins nicely worked out, of that I can assure you. If you’re an artist, do yourself a favour and start being realistic about your own costs, investments and profits too. You can see my calculations on the previous post if you’re interested, but it suffices here to say that Stanier himself claims that the “average artist” (ha ha, you said it Ryan) at the OAF makes £1200 over two fairs. Unfortunately (even leaving aside transportation, subsistence, plus the labour and materials involved in making the work to begin with) the stand costs alone leave an artist who makes sales of £1200 over two fairs still clearly at a significant financial loss. And another very pissed off little insider bird who feels rather foolish now tells me that they coughed up the money to exhibit at the OAF and they didn’t sell a single thing.
If you’re determined to work for nothing and show your work for nothing, then for the love of Baby Warhol and the Twelve YBAs, please, please at least stop lining the pockets of these shysters while you do so. Even in deep austerity Britain there are low-cost or no-cost alternatives, artist unions, studio groups and artist networks who will advise and support you without any kind of exploitative, cynical agenda. Invest your money in yourself. Help yourself and other artists by starting your own artist collective or gallery instead, and help to put the OAFs of this world out of business.
An example of the so-called “press” comments at the website of Parallax Art Fair, yet another in the seemingly endless parade of parasitic vanity venues for people who can’t really hack it but like to maintain the affectation that they’re artists:
“I have been an ‘artaholic’ all my life– first as an artist then tapestry designer, then gallery owner for 25 years– and this blew me over!! I am sending word to everyone I know would be interested. Keep it going—!” – Visitor, SW6″
Ah, Visitor SW6, that well known journal of record for the art world. Careful, that artahol will kill you in the end. You’ll start caching artahol around the house and behind all the tapestries, artahol before breakfast just to feel functional and stabilised. You’ll think that people don’t know about what you imagine is all a super secret artahol habit, but they do know. Perhaps it was the huge intake of artahol that made it so easy for her to be blown over. You know, like when Dean Martin said you’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on. Continue reading
Update, November 2012: With the next edition of the OAF coming up in a few weeks time, and despite several (unethical) private requests from Ryan Stanier of the OAF that I delete my last post about the OAF (read it here first if you haven’t already) or amend it so as to make unfavourable/critical parts of that previous article disappear into the Memory Hole because he claims I’m damaging his business– requests which only ceased when I expressly told him only to contact me here in public on this blog because I would no longer engage in back-channel communications of any kind– I did promise him I would correct anything I’d written that was factually incorrect.
Thanks to a reader who emailed me with new information, I’m therefore happy to issue the following correction: exhibiting at the OAF doesn’t cost £600, it costs £690+VAT (i.e. +£138=£828). Reference: http://www.theotherartfair.com/information-for-artists/why-apply. I unreservedly apologise for underestimating the cost to an artist of showing their work at the Other Art Fair. In light of this information, readers may like to reassess Ryan’s assertions (in the comments of my first OAF article) that the average exhibitor makes sales amounting to £1200 over the course of two OAF outings. I can help you by doing the maths right away: assuming the artist pays VAT and Ryan’s information is correct, then 2x£828=£1656-£1200=£456 LOSS over two OAFs. We can’t know if Ryan is using “average” in a strictly mathematically correct manner– probably not– but even if we take “average” in its general colloquial sense to mean “roughly in the middle of the gamut” this still means a significant number of exhibitors make less than £828, i.e. a much greater financial loss. Even the above average exhibitor needs to make sales of at least £1656 over two shows (or £828 in one) to break even or go into any profit at all. This is without even factoring in the costs to the artist of materials, the labour of making the work to begin with, plus shipping, travel, and subsistence (including a London hotel stay for some participants).
Not that the OAF is alone in operating on the assumption that all of these costs are things that can be and should be absorbed by the artist, (or by anybody, really, apart from themselves) because many private or public art galleries throughout Britain and the world, and many recipients of regular Arts Council England funding– up to and including major flagship institutions– operate, represent themselves and manage their budgets with exactly the same wilfully deceptive mathematics that outsource and hide the true costs and huge amount of free or underpaid labour that are essential to their continued existence. And most of these costs and labour are invariably shouldered by the very people who are already the least respected, most exploited and least remunerated: the artists, and the unpaid interns, and the unpaid interns who want to be artists. Continue reading
AMBIKA P3, LONDON, 10-13 MAY 2012
An unfortunate sign at the OAF. They threatened to call the police when I took it literally.
I’ve already seen quite a few comments about The Other Art Fair being ghastly, horrendous, tacky and whatnot. I’m not the most tolerant or broad churchy kind of art follower (see also: most of this blog) but I think this is a bit out of order. A lot of the work on show is not to my taste and some of it is absolutely bloody horrendous by the standards of almost any sentient being with eyes (other than the selectors, evidently), no doubt about that, but there is some good work here as well. Overall the general standard of craft or intellect was hardly worse or more uneven than anything at the supposedly commercial, fully professional and gallery-represented offerings at the London Art Fair. Some of the stuff at OAF I could easily envisage as leading to the artist being picked up by a commercial gallery, although bearing in mind some of the dodgy shit those places show this may not necessarily be a fulsome compliment.
But in any case I’m pretty confident in putting at least some of these reflex expressions of horror down to the all-too familiar and incessant background drone of snobbery and status anxiety that permeates the art world. How dare these artists represent themselves and bypass the gatekeepers?
I was told they’re each paying in the neighbourhood of £600 to be there; as I’ve said before, when the artist becomes the customer then they get to apply the old cliché that the customer is always right… even if that means portraits of tigers, softcore cheesecake or glossy sculptures of men with taps where their penises should be.
What we have here is the revelation of a strange underworld inhabited by outsider artists who, rather than expressing in paint their conviction that God, Jesus and the Twelve Apostles live in their head or drawing intricate utopias in Biro, instead ape the forms of the contemporary art market without ever evoking anyone or anything in particular. But they are nonetheless outsiders, and perhaps in some cases capital-O Outsiders. Outsiders with £600 going spare. Continue reading