Tag Archives: selling


16 May

Fahrenheit 451 TV_5003_00003A: Cyril Cusack


My books Career Suicide: Ten Years as a Free Range Artist and Uncanny Valley have been around for a while and selling well in a variety of formats, but they are now available to buy electronically in a good proportion of the entire world. The parts of the world that have internet access, anyway. The ePub versions are all DRM-less, reasonably priced and available directly from Lulu, or from Amazon, or from the Apple, Kindle, NOOK and Kobo stores on your device. The barbarically archaic and decadent printed paperback and hardback versions are available from Lulu, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Ingram.




2 Oct

20-kirk-douglasVVGLobbyCardThe first lesson is that during the late 1880s Vincent was more or less ignored by everyone in the art world except his brother Theo, and there was absolutely no prospect of any exhibition for Vincent’s work. In spite of this, he set himself the firm and no-excuses goal of making fifty paintings “worthy of exhibition” anyway. In the process he painted some of the works that are regarded as among his best. If I had £1 for every time an artist or a student told me they didn’t have time to make any work, I could probably just live from the proceeds of people saying they don’t have time to be artists. If it’s important to you, MAKE TIME.

The second lesson relates to the damage commerce does to art and artists. It comes from a letter to Theo about the July 1889 sale of a painting by Millet for the (then) huge sum of over 500,000 francs. The painting was from the 1850s and Millet was long dead.

“And the high prices one hears of, that are paid for works of painters who are dead and who never received such payment in their lifetimes– it is like selling tulips, and is a disadvantage to living painters, not an advantage. And, like this business of selling tulips, it will pass.”

He was probably referring here not only to the present but also to his home country’s 17th century tulipomania, a financial bubble driven by speculators in tulip bulbs. Like all bubble economies it soon crashed and led many people to financial ruin, including a great many innocents who had nothing to do with the speculators and their dodgy deals. Sound familiar? In another letter– with his trademark mixture of vulnerability, sadness, ferocious self-belief and idealism– he wrote:

“And yet, and yet there are certain pictures I have painted that will be liked one day. But all the brouhaha about high prices paid recently for Millets etc. serves to make the situation worse, in my opinion.”

Below you can see Millet’s Angelus, the kitsch, sentimental, dingy load of crap that went for over half a million francs. No wonder Vincent despaired sometimes. He killed himself in the summer of 1890. A letter found in his pocket strongly implies that in his usual unbalanced, melodramatic way he’d hoped to vindicate Theo’s faith in him by becoming one of those dead artists who never saw a franc while they were alive but lived on through their work. He was right, but Theo never reaped the benefits either. Heartbroken, he only outlived his brother by about six months and it was left to Theo’s widow Jo to make sure Vincent and his work were not forgotten. The art market ruined him even though it wouldn’t touch him with a bargepole. Again, there are artists around right now about whom I’d say the same thing.

Jean-François_Millet_AngelusOther lessons we can learn from Vincent include “don’t eat paint”, “don’t slice off your earlobe and give it to a local prostitute”, and don’t kill yourself to increase the value of your art, but hopefully most of you don’t need to be reminded of that.


18 Sep

The Unbelievable Pressure Artists Are Under to Just Completely Make Some Stuff Up

A long but worthwhile read by Jen Graves (scroll down for the link), starting with an account of a woman who decided to reinvent herself as an Outsider Artist because that’s where the market was going, lied right to the author’s face about her past, then got nasty when she was found out… and still does pretty good business.

There’s also confirmation– somehow both shocking and entirely unsurprising– that you can just make up an exhibition history and hardly anyone will bother checking to see if it’s true. Graves mentions an artist who claimed to have showed at the Whitney on the basis of having work in the building for two hours. In my experience this is an extremely common type of artist lie, i.e. major and serial omission, where all you’re meant to take in is “major art museum”, not the details which would reveal that the artist might have been there for something but it wasn’t really an exhibition or any kind of official engagement at all. Another artist just flat out lied about being in the collection of MoMA New York when they’re not. Above all, Graves gives a very cogent account of how and why an artist’s real or claimed biography ended up sometimes meaning more to the art world than the work those artists make.

Wealth and comfort can be problems for artists. Some commit their low-level fraud by hiding that they have a trust fund or they’re married to money. Ruthie V. is a painter who recently moved out of a raggedy trailer in the unincorporated wilds of Bow, in Skagit County, to live with her new fiancé in Shoreline. While her happiness just went way up, her biography just got seriously downgraded.

“People love the trailer in Bow,” she said. “It’s a romantic story. Everybody my whole life has encouraged me to be an artist, and they know it’s a financially difficult thing to do. But they love it. They love that I’m living the dream, they love watching me blossom, they love sharing it with me. But nobody’s paying for it. It’s really complicated to have people living vicariously through you. It’s like, you’re really happy that I’m an artist, but I have no running water, and I just lost my house again, and I’m exhausted because the rats kept me up all night chewing the wires.”

I think Graves is being a bit kind when she writes that “some commit their low-level fraud by hiding that they have a trust fund or they’re married to money”. One of the most demoralising conclusions I’ve come to over the past few years is that many or possibly even most “successful” (whatever that means) younger artists hide the fact that they have a trust fund or they’re married to money, and they couldn’t have a career or be free to be artists or run their “artist led space” without that nest egg or that well-paid partner. Maybe I was naive to have ever thought any different. Several artists like this are well known to me personally; I’m sure there are many others I don’t know about because they’ve done a better job of keeping it under their quirky tweed hats.

Read the whole article here: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/the-lies-of-the-artists/Content?oid=17706036

“Check out my street art and viral vid website, redwindmill.co.ck."

Toulouse-Lautrec, just in case anybody thought the trustafarian artist was a new thing. See also Trustafarians of the Belle Époque.


9 Sep

12702WThe Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam sells lots of bourgeois knick-knacks and posh toys, as all art museums do nowadays. Exit through the gift shop and all that. Along the lines of the previously mentioned Edvard Munch Screaming Hello Kitty, here’s the (quote) “authentic Miffy as a painter! Has she painted the ‘Night Watch’ maybe?”

Yes. I’m sure she has. If anybody needs me I’ll be in the museum painting over some priceless Rembrandt selfies to reflect this astounding new information.


Update: Giant version of Miffy as an artist in the Rijksmuseum shop, photographed with my own fair hand. Or with a camera that was in my fair hand, to be pedantic. I don’t think this oversized Miffy artist was for sale.

MiffyArtistRijksI was very disappointed that they didn’t have any of their Rembrandt-shaped candles in stock, because I always wanted to set Rembrandt’s head alight. I did visit his house, though. Pretty swanky for a rabbit’s abode. Though now it’s just down the road from a fairly unglamorous Albert Heijn supermarket.

I’d like there to be a candle version of me. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.



22 Aug



Thanks to several informants (who didn’t know about any of the other people who simultaneously tipped me off) I’ve become aware that my dear old friends, the vanity artist farmers Debut Contemporary, have been trawling for fat new wallets. Market Project is currently on hiatus and not being updated, but you can read my original article about Debut Contemporary there, plus hundreds of comments including damning– and in a few cases, somewhat heartbreaking if not harrowing– testimony from former clients of theirs. You can also read sock puppet comments from their cronies, and see documentation of failed attempts by these cronies to secretly defame me and my colleagues for criticising them.

I’ll get to Debut Con’s hilarious “information catalogue” for artists anon, but firstly here’s what was spammed out to the artists in question. I’ve removed the rash of links that were provided, so anybody who’s tempted to visit them thinks twice before doing so. At least twice, preferably more than twice.


My name is Laura Ellis. I work for Debut Contemporary art gallery in Notting Hill* and I would like to offer you the opportunity to apply to the Debut Contemporary professional development programme as our select committee has shortlisted you. I saw your work on the Art Slant online catalogue and was very impressed.

NOTES: You mean this Art Slant, the one that indiscrimately slurps up the names, exhibition lists, biographies and work of artists without their knowledge, instruction or consent… then has the cheek to ask artists to “claim” all these things, which are already theirs? The site at which no link is provided for an artist to tell Art Slant that they should get you the hell off the site because you don’t take kindly to the spurious implication that you support their site and business by choosing to be on there? The catalogue of artists that includes critical darlings like Ryan Gander (claim your profile, Ryan!) who I daresay wouldn’t think it’s very cool that Art Slant is potentially damaging their credibility and the value of their work? The Art Slant that’s so indiscriminate in its scraping of information and profile building that firmly and definitively deceased artists like Mark Rothko are being asked to “claim their profile”? Joseph Beuys, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock, Man Ray: you name an artist who’s pushing up the daisies and they’ve been Art Slanted.

Or to put it as succinctly as one person who wrote to me: “God knows what the point of it is and WHO THE FUCK uses it to find artists?” Apart from Debut Contemporary, obviously.

There are twenty artists with the surname Gentry on the site, but I’m not. DEVASTATED EMOTICON/HASHTAG DEVASTATED.

* Sample of a recent tweet by Laura: “listened to @BBCR1 this morning about Ibiza! So I went in to my unpaid internship, quit and got on the next plane! lol jks im on the tube.” I’m sure Samir and Zoe were pleased to hear how much you love your unpaid internship, Laura. Is your bipolar Twitter saga of joy and angst over cocking up an Excel spreadsheet the reason they’ve recently been advertising for a new intern?

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