ARTIST STATEMENT REPAIR SERVICES

6 Jan

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If you’re an artist from NE England or SE Scotland who needs to write about your work and would like to do it better, please join me at one of the workshops I’m running this February for a-n the artists information company and Berwick Visual Arts. Read more about these workshops on my site, or book directly with Eventbrite here:

Writing about your practice at Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham: Thursday 4 February 2016 from 09:30 to 15:00

Writing about your practice at The Maltings Theatre and Cinema, Berwick-upon-Tweed: Friday 5 February 2016 from 10:00 to 16:00

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MULTIPLE SLASHES ARE SOUGHT AFTER

2 Feb

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I can’t believe they’re talking about this shit with a straight face” of the week goes to a recent article on Artsy (aforementioned) on ‘The Secrets of Art Pricing‘. If they’re meant to be secret, should you really be telling us? Never mind.

Submarkets for individual artists, and markets within different periods for those artists, require their own brand of unique pricing lore. Case in point is the oeuvre of Lucio Fontana, who began puncturing the surface of paper or canvas in the late 1940s, developing the idea over the next two decades. “At different times, different colors are more or less popular,” wrote Melanie Gerlis, Art Market Editor at The Art Newspaper, in her 2014 book Art as an Investment?, referring to Fontana. According to Fontana specialist Luigi Mazzoleni, founding director of Mazzoleni London, “regarding the slashes,” the most popular colors on the market are white and red. Various other factors also come into play. He added, “The quality of the cut is very important as this gives a different rhythm and effect to the canvas. The quantity of cut is also important. A single cut is very minimalist and therefore very sought after, but multiple slashes are also sought after on the international market.”

“Unique pricing lore”? Are you a wizard? As for Mr Mazzoleni, a single kick up the arse is very minimalist, but I think with the way he’s talking he is really seeking multiple kicks up the arse with a pointed shoe. Anyway, just in case you were in any doubt, the content, beauty, emotion, craft and artistry of your art are not important at all. It’s all about being red or white, and the slashes.

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“GLORIFIED SHOPPING MALLS”

27 Jan

Some magnificent verbal kamikaze quotes from Australian gallerist Evan Hughes, on the occasion of closing down the business founded by his father and then run by himself.

Top Sydney gallerist launches blistering attack on the art world

PRODUCT FOR DICKHEADS

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“… It was almost as if we were given permission to declare that the art world had been taken over by dickheads. Too much of the commercial art trade has become about the selling of product and the accumulation of capital, much to the confusion and disillusionment of young artists. “

REALISTIC PORTRAITURE

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A commission for Malcolm Turnbull, Australian prime minister: “In the 1990s, when Malcolm was still a merchant banker, the Turnbull family commissioned one of my father’s artists, Lewis Miller, to paint a portrait of Malcolm. Unhappy with the work, Turnbull confronted my father at a function and exclaimed: “That artist of yours is no good; he’s made me look like a big, fat, greedy cunt”, to which my father replied, “He is a realist painter, you know”. “

WWAVD?

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“I suddenly asked myself: “Would Vollard be doing art fairs and Artsy?” Maybe he would; we didn’t want to.” He’s referring to the French art dealer Ambroise Vollard, who supported many artists when they needed it most. As for Artsy… mmm… yeah…

GLORIFIED SHOPPING MALLS

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“…It was just depressing to realise that the art trade is now centred on glorified shopping malls run by quasi-property developers (art fairs) and tacky mail-order firms (internet enterprises).”

HAPPENING EVERYWHERE

25 Jan

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About five years ago when I and a few colleagues started talking about the (mostly really shitty) economics and realpolitik of being an artist who isn’t one of yer Damien Hirsts, Tracey Emins or Turner Prize winner– and aren’t we all glad not to be?– everybody else’s reaction was what the who now? You want to talk about money? Why? Don’t artists just do it for the sake of art? Then hundreds of artists, arts professionals and art lovers turned up to the public discussions we organised on the subject. Now everybody’s talking about it everywhere, all the time, from Facebook groups like Stop Working For Free to art blogs like Hyperallergic. Books are written about it, although none of them are as good as mine. There are campaigns like W.A.G.E. in New York and the UK’s Paying Artists. The more the better because it’s still not enough. Nobody talks about it much in the mainstream newspapers and art magazines, obviously, or at the director and senior curator or top 100 artist level because they all have comfy upper middle class (often much higher than upper middle class) salaries to protect so they want it kept down low. Either that or they simply haven’t noticed how hard it is now for artists to get paid or even to get a foot in the door to begin with.

Last week I became aware of another two voices adding to what must soon be a critical mass of resistance to the fucked up status quo for people who work in the arts.

Iceland’s SÍM (Association of Icelandic Artists) has launched We Pay Visual Artists. Obviously their site is mostly in Icelandic, but their interesting and well-argued videos are all subtitled. a-n’s Jack Hutchinson did a report on it in English.

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The actors’ union Equity also have a campaign called Professionally Made Professionally Paid, which if nothing else is an excellent slogan. They have three useful documents available to download, containing pragmatic advice for the payers and the hopefully getting paid, alongside more general context that is useful for any creative worker in any medium.

I particularly enjoyed their unapologetic and detailed calling out of You Me Bum Bum Train, who get a rocket up the arse arse because despite broadsheet cultural critics who seem to love the theatrical result of performers working their poor thespian bum bums off for no pay… (quote):

“You Me Bum Bum Train engage exclusively volunteers to do what should be paid professional work in the main. They refuse to engage with the Union in any meaningful way and have a business model dependent on the use of volunteer labour (which is largely highly skilled, being sought from the ranks of paid professionals). Only via established theatres with whom we have an industrial relationship have we managed to have any contact with the company.”

This is a very succinct condensation of the persistent and diffuse problems faced by many artists– and I mean artists in the widest sense of the word including actors, performance artists, writers, visual artists, and so on. Paid individuals, profit making companies or publicly funded projects expecting to get professional quality work for nothing, and very often getting away with it. Years of training and/or honing your craft not only taken for granted but also just taken as if they have a right to it. Paid work abolished in favour of unpaid work that only a comfortably off person can commit to. Also this theatre company’s name is really bloody stupid and has always irked me, but that’s mostly unrelated.

SEVERE CORRECTION

20 Jan

… of the art market. What were you thinking of, you dirty wee puppy? I’ll deal with you later. No, according to a University of Luxembourg study, the international art market is in a “mania phase” and the bubble is going to pop any time soon, leading to a “severe correction”. Countdown starting right now to an art exhibition called either Severe Correction or Mania Phase.

The contemporary art market has been a very bad, bad, dirty, disobedient and thoughtless pig.

The “zombie formalist” artists (i.e. makers of art as an asset class, devoid of narrative, representation, politics, ideology, etc.) and their handlers are partly to blame, but as the gentleman who created the term rightly says, and as I have also said in a various ways over the past few years about a hundred bloody times: “Since the entire market is entirely irrational, it can’t be rationally interpreted.”

Nonetheless, it’s in the nature of financial bubbles that any talk of the bubble bursting often brings about the very same pop feared by beneficiaries of the bubble, which probably wouldn’t happen if nobody was talking about the bubble bursting… and so forth until your head bursts too.

The Guardian article also contains this nugget:

“Levin said the bubble was inflating in part due to the prevalence of high-end money laundering being done through art, and how the two have come to affect one another. Buy art in one country and pop it in the private jet, the theory goes, and by morning you’ve moved $100m between tax jurisdictions.”

Again, QED. Exactly what I’ve said on this blog and at various talks and conferences on numerous occasions, sometimes to self-righteous splutters of indignation or shocked disbelief. On this blog we know some people who might “pop” art between tax jurisdictions or run art galleries to launder their dirty money, don’t we readers?

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Won’t we all be sad though when artistically worthless art owned by super rich people becomes monetarily worthless too?

NOBLESSE OBLIGE

19 Jan

 

Chatterton 1856 by Henry Wallis 1830-1916

“Unfortunately we have no budget to pay fees or expenses.”

a-n the artists information company have just published their draft recommendations and guidance on the payments and fees that should be due from publicly funded galleries to artists. FYI I’ve worked on the Paying Artists campaign and I work for a-n sometimes. I also think artists based in the UK should have their own look at it, so I won’t offer too much commentary except to pull out:

NOBODY IS ASKING FOR MUCH

Despite stiff resistance from an insignificant and usually bonkers minority of the public and a significant minority of people who work for public arts organisations, all of whom are baffled or bitter (or both) that an artist should get paid anything… the suggested fees for artists are far from outrageous and usually amount to no more than a few thousand or even a few hundred pounds. Bear in mind that it’s rare for most artists to have more than one show per year in a publicly funded gallery in the UK. Although many public galleries do pay properly, some still don’t even clear the very low bar for pay set by these guidelines. Some don’t bother trying. And if a gallery in receipt of public funds can’t even budget to pay the equivalent of one artist’s salary for a year across all their shows– the bare minimum this guidance suggests– then they need to take a good look at their finances in general, and so should their funders.

Indeed their funders are beginning to do so, because apparently they’re exasperated too. After all, mentioning no names, it’s not unknown for very large flagship Arts Council-funded organisations *cough English National Opera… cough… Firstsite* to mismanage their finances and general governance so severely that they lose millions and have to be removed from ACE’s national regular funding portfolio with a warning they’ll be cut off permanently if they don’t sort themselves out. Nobody, including the Arts Council, wants to hear five or six figure-funded places whining about being pushed into the red if they paid artists a bit more for their work.

Even in the absence of more funding, many gallery directors or senior curators (for example) could take a pay cut they’d hardly notice to make a significant difference to the incomes of numerous artists. Obviously this is rarely a popular suggestion, or indeed a suggestion at all, when the grown ups are attending their endless round of conferences, art fair collateral events and talking head panels that no artist or self-employed arts worker could afford to attend even if they were invited, which they aren’t.

INTANGIBLE BENEFITS SHOULD STILL ACTUALLY BE BENEFITS

“Activity that is part of the gallery’s day to day work should not be treated as an in kind benefit (e.g. marketing and publicity around exhibitions.)” In other words, you don’t get to act magnanimous by offering something that you’d do anyway. So many arts organisations and venues really need to take this on board, not just in the publicly funded sector but also across all of the arts. Genuinely valuable intangible benefits do exist, but doing the job you get paid a salary to do is not an onerous burden or a favour you’re doing for your contractors, customers or audience. “We offer desk space and marketing support” is very often one short step away from the heinous “We offer exposure”, because if you employ someone to do marketing or administration then the workload they incur in the course of their jobs includes dealing with artists and other freelancers working for the organisation. And anyway, if marketing and exposure and whatnot are really worth so much money, in a contest between exposure and just having the money we’d prefer the cash in a brown envelope, please.

Funnily enough, some in the arts rely upon more or less the same dodge of intangible benefits that are so intangible they don’t really exist; i.e. that thousands of artists will do for nothing what they should be getting paid for, thereby piddling away their own bargaining power and that of artists collectively.

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