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Art and current economics by Robert Genn

Art and current economics
by Robert Genn

After my last letter where I advocated the outsourcing of art sales to galleries, many readers legitimately asked how to do just that. Vast changes are currently taking place in both economics and demographics. When I first started painting 50 years ago, there were fewer accomplished artists and less expendable cash to buy art. Today there are far more artists and a peculiar disconnect in the buying of art.

Basketball star and former US Senator Bill Bradley in his recent book We Can All Do Better notes that our world now has both a surplus of labour and a surplus of capital. Jobs and money shift eastward in the name of power shopping, fossil fuel consumption, outsourcing, investment and debt. North American artists, particularly, are affected by this. It's safe to say that art thrives best in prosperity on home shores.

Currently, in my estimation, four percent of Western populations are making art while only two percent are collecting it. While many pockets of healthy collectorship remain, and some countries remain strong, many artists are experiencing tough times. In the meantime, we have exciting (or obscene) new highs in world auction prices.

Commenting on the 120 million bucks recently paid for a rendition of The Scream by Edvard Munch, the financial journalist and commentator Felix Salmon said that the phenomenon is all about speculation and "rich men comparing the size of their genitals."

So what's an artist to do in this environment? First, artists need to get better at what they do--on the creative front, the production front and the distribution front. Second, the oft-disregarded connection between art and investment is here to stay. Artists who want to be around for the long haul need to maintain creative integrity, dealer price and territory protection, and annual price increases. Third, artists need to realize that any group, any country, indeed, any brotherhood and sisterhood can reinvent itself. Vital are the oft-neglected arts of cooperation and consensus. When artists learn the skills of working together with complementary talents and a spirit of enterprise and mutual well-being, all things are possible. As Bill Bradley says, "We can all do better."

Best regards,


PS: "Respect your fellow human beings, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship, explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal and help one another achieve it." (Bill Bradley)

Esoterica: The days of submitting slides to galleries are history. Providing the work is of a suitable standard, artists need a simple, unpretentious and un-shopping-carted website with at least eight of their current works. Target dealers and galleries need to be made aware of your site and directed to it. It's fast and efficient for dealers to go there--they almost always do--and they can tell in 10 seconds whether they are the slightest bit interested. A stand-alone website is best, but a page in our own Premium Listings is sufficient. Your own personality and lots of apples in your applecart help when galleries ask you to come by and say hello.


Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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