The 2017 War … of Art
6 Part Art Series … by Maurice Cardinal … Part 6
Galleries, both blue chip and contemporary, are struggling to maintain control, and literally don’t know exactly, what to do–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.
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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.
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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.’”
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, Amazon.com, 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 currently 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.
WikiArt.org 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 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 an option to 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?