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The 2017 War … of Art

The War … of Art

6 Part Art Series … by Maurice Cardinal … Part 3

Just like the music industry twenty years ago, the visual art middle is being squeezed and overshadowed by both ends. The middle represents artists who produce work, but who don’t actively promote or sell. They hang on to implausible hope that prospective buyers will somehow stumble upon their work. This group represents the bulk of the industry and is made up mostly of part-timers – some highly skilled and creative as artists, but not as marketers. On the right side of the spectrum squeezing out the middle are high end galleries and elite artists, plus, hedge fund investors who artificially inflate prices so they can flip for profit. This bubble is rapidly inflating, and it could very well burst in 2017.

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On the liberal left is a growing group of emerging artists who use social media to disrupt the system. Every artist should be operating and communicating in this sphere, but so far it is primarily younger emerging artists.

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The once strong liberal arts community of artists, galleries, and collectors, a group that embraces avant-garde and even political rancor is being scooped and upstaged by individual artists who know how to use social media to bypass galleries.

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Progressive artists go straight to buyers and collectors using “disruptive” techniques. It’s a time-tested strategy that has radically changed a number of industries like music, books, newspapers, and also financial services, retail, and technology sectors.

It’s the first time artists have had such “direct” access and power, but in order to capitalize on this rapidly growing phenomenon they also need at least rudimentary writing and promotion skills.

The good news is that this style of promotion is still so new artists can be highly experimental and make mistakes and few will notice or care because everyone else is also still trying to figure it out.

Artist run studio-galleries fit into these laterally radiating global hubs very nicely and have become increasingly popular as society cocoons in social media worlds. We are not as face-to-face friendly as we used to be. We now often live and work in digital silos connected to more silos. As traditional contemporary galleries shape-shift, reinvent, and even close, galleries owned and operated by artists gain higher visibility.

The goal for studio-gallery artists is usually to be able to maintain control over their artistic freedom while maintaining economic viability. These Instagram art stars usually have no grand illusions of competing with blue chip galleries that have far superior marketing and promotion expertise and fat budgets to woo collectors at expensive dinner parties, but they do know how to use social media effectively.

The secret for artist run studio-galleries is to find an affordable location in an area that values culture. Studio galleries are natural meeting places for artists and their collectors.

In urban areas it’s easy to drop in to see recent works, and sometimes even to view pieces currently in production. It can also become a hotspot for local and visiting artists to hang out and trade information.

Chris MacClure (IAD Founder) and his wife and partner Marilyn Hurst have owned studio galleries in White Rock BC and Cabos San Lucas (The Golden Cactus ) and learned decades ago about the importance of being at the center of the art community in your region. Younger artists have expanded and pushed their local region towards a global platform using social media like Instagram and Twitter.

There are literally tens of thousands of artist-run galleries like this around the world, with some of the most experimental in Europe – Berlin to name one city in particular. Artsy published a great article recently featuring artists like Carrick Bell and Michael Rocco Ruglio-Misurell of Horse and Pony Fine Arts; and also Christian Siekmeier of Exile; Barbara Wolff and Katharina Stoever of Peles Empire ; and Rachel Alliston of Decad.

The Horse and Pony Fine Arts web presence is simple and complex at the same time. Simple in design, but rich in “easily” accessible content.   They also incorporate a few video pieces, which is absolutely mandatory in this era if you really want to separate yourself from the crowd.

Artists will soon have no choice but to produce a video depicting their art, style, and most importantly their personal selves – the human spirit behind the concept. If you don’t want to play in the video arena, you will inevitably get pushed to the back of the line. A well produced video can be an influential reflection of a bricks and mortar gallery delivering all the relevant information, provenance, and aesthetic impact necessary to entice a buyer to a purchase decision. When you do it properly, and it is an art, it makes it easy for collectors to learn about you and your art.

Wealthy collectors use the internet just like you. Donald Trump has one of the most popular Twitter accounts today @realDonaldTrump  and is a prime example of a society subset that has embraced social media.

If the wealthy are there, artists need to be there too, just like the artists below …

Artist Videos

A Day in the Life of Artist Lori McNee

Marc Doiron Time Lapse

Eric Fischl

Vladimir Volegov Time Lapse

Amadea Baily


Read Part 4 … 

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

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The 2017 War … of Art

The 2017 War … of Art

6 Part Art Series … by Maurice Cardinal – Part 4

My business partner, Chris MacClure, painter and Founder of International Artist Day reminded me that the perceived value of an art piece is directly proportional to where the prospective buyer sees it hanging.

It sounds shallow, and makes many artists boil with contempt, but the reality is that in many respects, the elite have strong influence over the art world just as they do the wine world. Wine promoters, gallerists, and curators all manufacture sophisticated campaigns designed to artificially inflate value of their respective products. Fake it till you make it!

Art value is not real, it’s perceived, and it’s exactly why hedge art fund investors do so well. They pay homage to P.T. Barnum’sThere’s a sucker born every minute” mantra, which is also known today as a #Trumpism.

It is hypocritical for galleries at this late date to complain about hedge-fund art investment fraud and global scandal when it is contemporary galleries too that built and still stubbornly promote this dynamic, albeit on a much smaller scale. Blue chip galleries raised the bar for everyone, which means all buyers now have well defined expectations of what makes art great, whether it sells for one, or one billion dollars.

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In the 80’s I was an executive on an elite team  that sold superstar artists to Donald Trump for his Atlantic City showroom casinos.

Consequently, and this is my personal opinion not that of the IAD, I know firsthand that even an egotistical  blowhard like Trump can be wooed and fooled. The bigger the ego, the easier it is to do. We loved Trump because he overpaid for everything.

Promoters like Trump, and that’s what he is  – a promoter like boxing impresario Don King, operate on perceived, not real value. If you convince buyers who also think like this your art is worth what you’re asking, and you design the sales proposition properly, it’s possible to entice them.

It is the exact same psychology galleries use, and
a strategy Hollywood agents perfected decades ago.

The music business operates on the “You’re only as good as your last hit” mantra, which basically means, “Yeah you reached the coveted #1 position last week, but what do you have for me today that is just like yesterday, but different? Not too different, just a little different from why I liked you in the first place, and not too esoteric, just enough to stimulate the imagination of people who aren’t artists, you know, the buyers who quit dreaming when they settled into their complacent keep up with the Jones’ lifestyles.

Artists have to always remember that buyers often live vicariously through you. They want to be you, but they literally cannot stomach the risk. Consequently, it follows that if you as an artist don’t take a risk, what is it then that you bring to a buyer’s table? Perfect technical ability maybe, like Robert Bateman? Ah, of course, the mainstay of the conservative set who are looking for something to match their walls and staid lifestyles. It’s a mainstream style he helped develop, and he’s done a lot of good for the industry, ecology, and his wildlife charities, but if you’re an artist good luck competing in an oversaturated market he owns that is also full of similar copycat artists who don’t invest the time. If you want to compete for this audience you need to take the same risk Batman takes by being highly detailed, invest huge amounts of time in each image, and deliver something a little different, but the same on each canvass. Any time you invest that heavily in yourself, whether it is time in front of the canvass, setting a photo scene, or raising your visibility through promotion, you take huge risk, because all we have of real value is precious time.

A smart artist today, one who actually wants to be able to support themselves so they can create full time and invest all that time painting in each hair, has to know where the market is going so they can identify the special conditions each genre and style requires. You can’t just show up like back in the day. That luxury is long gone because now everyone is an artist, and some of the part-timers are better than the lifers, which dilutes the professional art market and confuses buyers.

Malaysia mass produces living room art for fifty bucks a canvas that looks so good that sometimes even the pros can’t tell the difference. Social media has pulled the Wizard of Oz’s curtain aside so we can now all see the machinations and manipulations. Galleries and curators don’t like the reveal, but transparency is progress, so some of the progressive galleries are now scrambling to more seriously integrate themselves into the social media community where they can promote their products as they also figure out how to protect their sales secrets.

The reality is that galleries and artists who understand
this concept are already picking low hanging fruit.

Times change. You need to change too.

One of the personal problems way too many artists have is that they produce work to match the drapes instead of producing a piece buyers want to proudly display and talk about. Too many artists play Walmart safe, and then wonder why their work doesn’t sell. Or they create something so esoteric only a small portion of buyers appreciate it, which is fine if you can sell it for $100K, but finding buyers who will repeatedly invest that much in a piece that makes sense to only a tiny psychographic will be a never ending challenge.

If you want to be saleable you have to walk that
fine line between innovation and the comfort zone.

Today, artists are proposing to launch a cultural strike and not work the day Donald Trump is inaugurated. Really? That’s it? I’m beginning to believe what I read about millennials. In my day artists would be plastering the town with protest posters and organizing rallies. Some would even be getting shot. It’s not like we don’t have a lack of things to protest today, but unfortunately not enough artists are taking  the risk to lead the march.

I absolutely understand why U.S. citizens feel a need to do something to protect art and culture, but it’s their strategy I question. Passive aggressive action will not phase someone like Trump. Knowing him and his narcissistic type, in his mind he will consider it a victory because he negatively impacted the boycotters’ revenue stream, and that ultimately, is his goal. He will feel like he won, and his followers will agree.

I do like however what some of the museums are doing. They too agree something has to be done, so many, like The Whitney Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts are offering free or pay what you want admissions and doing it in celebration of the First Amendment and free speech. Plus, some are hosting special events themed for the day to bring visibility to the cause. Hopefully artists everywhere will congregate in U.S. art centers and galleries and voice their opinions that day too. We’ll see. ArtNews published a great article with more details.

What about it smaller galleries, what are you doing to mark Trump’s inauguration? Not just hiding out and avoiding issues that negatively impact your livelihood I hope.

The Baltimore Sun is a calling artists out for being too wishy-washy re Trump.

Artists like Meryl Streep have the right idea …

Another challenge artists face today is diversification of the art industry.

Just like the music business, the visual art world
has been fractured into a variety of genres.

Thankfully though, for each genre there is a matching buyer.

Back in the day it used to be easy to choose a musical style. For example you could pick classical, rock, pop, country, blues, and a few more, but today the options are endless with styles like acid-jazz-funk-fusion-kiddy-pop. The same goes for the visual world. It’s even possible today to purchase, for relatively large and surprising sums, digital art, which is made up entirely of pixels and delivered, avec provenance, on a hard drive. Art in this style can sell for upwards of $30,000. The trick is to find a buyer, but again, thanks to social media it’s relatively easy to identify and network within this community.

Artist Joshua Citarella knows how to disrupt the gallery system, and he does it tongue in cheek in a wildly unique and experimental way. His online art store on Etsy sold fifty-four pieces in 2015, and although none of the sales are groundbreaking from a traditional gallery perspective, it indicates once more that buyers will purchase art online, and even more importantly, because all except one of the purchases were made by people within Joshua’s network, it means collectors also support this new system. When artists like it, and collectors like it, galleries had better like it too and rethink their process.

Think Niche! Niche! Niche in 2017!


Read Part 5 … 

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

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The Path of an Artist

The art world is confusing for most folks, including artists.

written by  … Marilyn Hurst

The information age has a hidden downside – the tendency to categorize, label or define to such a great degree often leaves little room for maneuverability and flexibility.

Paradoxically, immediate access to the internet brings many variables to ideas. Theories and long held beliefs are often quickly thrown into the foray without much research or fact checking. We need to be more flexible and adaptable if we are to stay on top of our game.

The “artist” label has as many definitions as there are those who pontificate them.

Academia, museum curators, art dealers, auction houses, art critics and gallery owners all differ in their ideas of art and artists, so how does one navigate their way around when each has its own set of rules, principles, and philosophies?

The truth is that whatever you decide will never be a right or a wrong decision. However, if you can’t follow your heart, you will eventually become lost. If your “heart” wants you to paint doe-eyed cats, well – don’t expect much of a career in fine arts, but you could have a good commercial career. A certain amount of experience and wisdom borrowed from a mentor is a good place to start.

Even if you’ve gained skill in your craft and a modicum of excellence, you still need to pay the bills to keep going, and this is where artists need to get truly innovative. Quite often artists don’t want to think about the “S” word – sales, as if it were something sordid.

One thing is certain though, if you can’t pay your way – you’ll lose your way!

Art groups are a good introduction to shows, exhibitions, and camaraderie, which are all important because the feedback from fellow artists and their humor and stories gives you confidence to keep going in the direction your work is taking you.

Successful emerging artists do what it takes to cultivate a following for their work. The reality is that you need devoted art buyers and investors to sustain your career over the long run. It’s not a good idea to label or judge another artist, their work, or even yours for that matter. The public will decide what is valid and will often support you if you are humble. It’s also important to realize art is a lifetime learning process, and the harder you work the better you get. It’s exciting for art collectors to see growth and expansion, and to know you have courage to continue despite the hard effort required to make art a profession.

In the beginning it’s probably best to not too strongly classify your style. The artistic soul evolves and you will inevitably explore many different genres over the years before settling into a personal “look.”

For confirmation of that ideology, just look to Picasso.

Marilyn Hurst