The 2017 War … of Art

The 2017 War … of Art

6 Part Art Series … by Maurice Cardinal … Part 6

Galleries, both blue chip and contemporary, are losing control of artists, and literally don’t know how to regain it, just like record companies didn’t know what to do in the early 90’s when independent musicians began to promote themselves online.


Galleries don’t know what to do because there is nothing they can do except get in the game at ground level like everyone else.

Artists now have the upper hand, for a while, except most don’t know it yet, other than early adopters.

. . . . . .

When an artist can reach a buyer directly, and vice verse, what value and role does a contemporary art gallery really play?

Other than in big cities, in order to survive, art galleries as we know them will have to adopt a brand new way to serve, and I mean really “serve” the artist and the buyer.

. . . . .

This line from an Artsy article sums it up nicely; “They [Gallerists] said, ‘I don’t want artists to have that information that changes my relationship with them. I like it the way it is.’”

I bet you do. Every record company executive sang exactly that same tune in the early 90’s, just before their jobs became redundant and most were fired en masse.

Record companies gave the boot to most of their mid-level executives, and within a decade almost all record stores were closed too.

The exact same thing happened to the book business when the disruptive granddaddy of them all,, came on the scene.

Independent record and book stores disappeared quickly.

Google has been working on an experimental Art related disruptive system that I’m sure is secretly making curators and galleries everywhere nervous, but as usual no one wants to address the ramifications too deeply hoping it will go away. Algorithms like this, not from Google necessarily, have already driven tens thousands of middle management executives in other industries out of business and the same will befall the art business in the next few years. It might even happen sooner because it makes access to information very easy, literally at a glance, to see what art is in the market, who has it, where it is, and why it’s important, or more importantly why it’s not. Transparency is at the core of disruptive marketing. We see it happen every day on Wiki this-and-that, and it’s about to turn the art industry inside out too. is another company also on a mission to,  as they claim; “cover the entire history of Art and provide a new form of interaction between contemporary artists and their audience.” Whether or not they can do it remains to be seen, but if they don’t you can guarantee someone will and it probably won’t come from key players in the art world,  because they’re too frantic trying to protect their hard earned markets. Instead, it will  more than likely be developed by a technology company. Here’s the tech company behind WikiArt … SocialTalents. I know, they look benign, but disruptive companies always do until it’s too late. Stealth is often a disruptive company’s modus operandi. They don’t necessarily know how to draw or paint, but they do know how to code an algorithm and launch an IPO.

So … where is the Visual Art market going?

Without doubt it is heading down the same road as the music industry.

In the 80’s musicians complained relentlessly and with good reason that the big five record companies were ripping them off and making a fortune off their backs. When the internet and MP3 came along it gave musicians power to reach consumers directly, which they did.

In a very short time no one was making money selling music in the manner the industry and musicians had come to expect. The big five panicked and began partnering with each other, and when that didn’t work, relative new player Sony zoomed in and reinvented the entire music business model with iTUNES.

The exact same thing is occurring in the visual arts industry
except we’re still waiting for a savior like Sony – that’s a joke, kind of …

Artists stuck in the middle are being squeezed out by galleries on one end, and by consumers who want a free ride on the other. The big three record companies left today are shadows of their former selves, while most professional working musicians now share more equitably in the overall revenue stream.

We no longer have such a long list of mega stars like we did back in the day, but the ones at the top like Adele, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Beyoncé, and Kanye West reign supreme and hyper-aggressively protect their turf.

Superstar turnover today is slower, but musicians in the middle who embraced social media and figured out how to develop database communities where they can sell their music and promote show tickets directly now have more of a flat playing field and a myriad of opportunities to generate revenue.

Overall, working musicians came out ahead just like visual artists will when the dust settles. It’s not an ideal market for artists, but it is better than the gallery oligopoly that shuts out most artists for the sake of the top few.

Early adopters always have the best advantage, so don’t wait.

Check out what artist Molly Sado is selling online … what’re you selling?

Read  the entire 2017 War … of Art series
Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5     Part 6


9 thoughts on “The 2017 War … of Art

  1. a friend just sent this to me wow i had no idea some of this shit was going on i have to get pout of my studiomore or go back and hide thanks someting to think about and to

    1. Thanks for taking time to comment Cameron.

      One of the challenges of being an artist is that we often sequester ourselves in our studios and lose touch with the outside. Creating in a vacuum is a necessary evil, but even Dracula comes out at night.

  2. It does appear to be a war, daunting and overwhelming for the gentler creative soul.

    How about we see this as a revolution leading to the evolution of a refreshed art world? I think we are entering an exciting era, standing on the precipice of “new” expressions while we explore and expand our creative awareness. At the same time with multi media we are able to connect, develop much needed relationships and learn from one another across global frontiers.
    I will take one step at a time, my feet anchored, while heart and vision guide me.

    1. Very astute Doris, it is a revolution of sorts. Thanks for your comment.

      The challenge most emerging artist have is that they create art in a peaceful vacuum, a studio, usually safe and under their control, but birthing it to the world is an exact opposite experience.

      The most difficult thing for every single artist is to be judged.

      It’s been my experience after having worked with a number of internationally successful artists, that the bigger the artist and their success, the harder it is for them to be judged. Artists often look accepting on the surface, but the bigger the artist the bigger the ego. That’s a fact. Most hide their secret hurt and inner rage, but some like Kanye West can’t contain their emotions.

      Artists want to be right at something just like the rest of the world.

      Ignoring your judges is a luxury that comes only with financial success.

      The more people you show your art to, the greater the risk of being rejected.

      Being ignored can wear thin on one’s resolve, but unless an artist takes this risk to expose their soul through their art no one will see it at a depth that matters.

      If one creates art as a process of therapy, which is more than a legitimate reason, one will feel success as an artist, but … if the expectation is to have your art seen and appreciated by an audience large enough that they will pay so you can continue to create more art, then unfortunately you will be disappointed each time you lose the battle to have your art purchased by others.

      If you create just for yourself, it’s mental health therapy.

      If you create it for public consumption, that’s art.

      Thanks to the internet, average people now know the difference and that just because you call yourself an artist, does not mean you create art.

      Creating art can be gentle, but selling it has always been more akin to war.

  3. Thanks for the great eye opening blog series. You have put into words so well the thoughts that have been on our minds for a few years. There is a lot of information for us to refer to going forward, and we consider this series as a call to action.

    On that note we are fond of an author Steven Pressfield who wrote:
    ‘Do the Work’
    ‘The War of Art’

    Also the great quotes of Seth Godin:
    “You can’t create art without tension.You can’t create change without the fear that it might not work. When that fear shows up, the answer isn’t how do I drown out the fear…..the answer is to welcome the fear and to dance with it.”

    Again, huge respect for this timely and well thought out series.

    Ron and Sherron Fairbairn

    1. Thanks for your kind words Ron and Sherron.

      Pressfield nailed it perfectly in his book, “The War of Art”

      Artists have a pathological fear of promoting themselves because they consider it boasting. Ironically, an irrational fear to self promote indicates how fragile your ego really is and how much you fear rejection. It telegraphs a lot to wealthy and intellectually sophisticated collectors who have the power to make an artist’s dreams come true.

      Intelligent art investors understand the psychology behind false humility, and it isn’t a quality they like in artists. Art buyers and collectors look for confidence, so if an artist doesn’t project it, they will skip right over you and go to the next talent. A collector’s rationale is that if you as an artist don’t have confidence in your work, why should they?

      Almost all art collectors claim they first buy what moves them aesthetically, but also as important is longevity of an artist’s career. If a collector doesn’t think you’re in it for the long haul, they will have little interest in investing in your work.

      If you want them to to pay the big bucks, you need to convince them you’re not a hobby artist, and that you’re worth the investment.

  4. Maurice,

    I want to thank you for such an in-depth and thoughtful series. While I am not a visual artist I am a writer and can see a lot of similarities in how the industries work and what is playing out. Publishers like to know a writer has a following and a means to sell their book before they commit to taking on their work. Writers have to be dedicated to the sales, which also means believing in their work and letting the audience know it is worth buying. There is a lot of self–promotion involved. As you say about collectors, publishers want to know you are in it for the long haul as well.

    For some writers, like visual artists, and also musicians before them, they have begun to by-pass the middleman and take matters into their own hands. The internet has become the perfect means by which to accomplish this. Case in point is kc dyer, who is known as an accomplished teen author, with half a dozen teen books to her credit. kc, yes small letters, in 2015 self-published her first book of adult fiction on Amazon. Within weeks, “Finding Fraser” had become an Amazon best seller, sitting at number one for three days. In 2016 Berkeley Publishers picked it up and re-issued the book. kc has said that the whole experience was a joyful one from start to finish. This to me is what the arts are about. kc’s experience is what artists strive for. To love what you are passionate about and to find success and joy in that experience is to have it all. Having said that I know kc personally and am aware of the dedication she has to her work and life as an artist. For anyone interested in her work,

    Art can change the world and help us all to lead happier more fulfilled lives. I believe that art as a therapy whether it is visual, musical, theatrical, poetic or story is an important aspect of an artist’s creative life. As artists, we all do work that is therapeutic at some point in our careers whether we know it or not. It is what we do with that, that makes the difference. We share our stories, our visions in unique ways that connect with people on a profound level.

    What is the difference of art for therapeutic and professional means? As a professional artist, we take this inner work and make it more defined. I do not mean the artist is using his/her therapeutic work as a selling point but that the therapeutic work helps the artist develop so they can sell. Whether it is getting past that point of being afraid of success or past that point of going deeper into what really interests, troubles, or thrills us, art can be an exceptional way to deepen our inner spaces.

    Again Maurice, thank you for this article and for making us aware of the important changes happening. Change can be hard and exciting, but it is dependent on how we approach it. You give us a lot to think about.

    Bonnie Nish MA, Arts Education
    Executive Director
    Pandora’s Collective Outreach Society
    Certified Expressive Arts Therapist

    1. Thanks very kindly for such a thoughtful comment Bonnie, and for introducing us to kc dyer. Many artists fail to see the similarities between different artistic genres, but the reality is that promotion rolls out in almost the same way regardless of the platform. kc is a perfect example of an artist who embraced change and benefitted from it immensely.

      We’d be thrilled if you’d consider writing a guest blog for us about the special challenges emerging writers have in our fast changing world, so please don’t hesitate to let me know.

      Thanks again, Maurice

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