Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rumblings in the Art World

I haven't really mentioned in this blog that I do art... sometimes ... like when someone guarantees they will pay me for it, as in "on commission". I don't do it very often, mostly for design clients or odd word-of-mouth deals. So I don't really think of myself as a professional artist even though I have been paid for the work. It has always been just a part-time gig, and most of my living has been from design work.

Still, I pay some attention to the happenings in the art world, and so the news of British artist, Damien Hirst's auction at Sotheby's in London sort of caught my eye. Like a frozen mackerel slapping me in the face.

I was sort of stunned by it on a number of levels. But I guess it just points out the obvious, that everything changes. Maybe it is connected with the whole digital, internet revolution from EBAY to Blogs.

Anyway I just was thinking about what bothered me about the sale.

1. I don't love his work, but that is certainly beside the point. If someone wants to put a pickled zebra in their family room, who am I to judge.

2. The raging lefty in me is stunned to see that kind of money spent (ok, invested - I was going to say wasted but that was again a value judgement on the art itself) that way and so publicly. I realize I shouldn't be suprised, after all, I work often for really rich people. And I know I'm picking on one instance, one example, and there are thousands of other ways that exhorbitant amounts of money are concentrated in the hands of just a very few people. But what does that say about our civilization when there is so much misery in the world that goes untreated? I understand that it is difficult to draw a line and say this is enough or that is too much, but is there no end to this black hole of social conscience?

3. Maybe he has issues with his gallery representation, but it still seems pretty smarmy. Galleries are useful (at least they spread the manure around a little bit). Granted if you have ever had your work turned down by a gallery (and I have) you can feel a little "well f*!#@^() y@!*^", and it is true that it seems that they take a large chunk, but try to get Sothby to auction off your work before you are famous. He didn't whip up a reputation just by the virtue of his incredible talent... sour grapes here. Some galleries took a chance to use the space that they rent and paid their employees to try and sell his work so he could eventually become well known enough to dump on them.

4. And the final line in a New York Times article was, "Mr. Dunphy said that while Mr. Hirst wasn’t at Sotheby’s, he was following the results via phone — while playing snooker."

Something tells me I just plain wouldn't like the guy.


Madame K said...

Secret: Nobody likes Damien Hirst.

On the otherhand, if I were him I'd do the same thing. Galleries are only useful to a point. When they no longer serve their purpose---why not go directly to the buyer and eliminate the middle man? or in his case, let the buyer come crawling to you!

If I ever get so famous that my name alone sells my work without my gallery having to so much as lift a finger to sell it or find new collectors----no way am I going to continue to pay them 50% of my profit (before taxes and expenses, mind you). That's just bad business.

And art IS a business. It's the luxury product business. "Haute Peinture" if you will. My paintings cost just slightly less than a Hermes bag.

*deep sigh*

Papadesdeux said...

I agree for the most part, although, once you have a name that sells itself, the commission rarely stays at 50%. That becomes more and more negotiable, the more your work begins to sell itself. I am sure that in Mr. Hirst's case, the negotiations broke down. I don't know of course, but one could surmise that perhaps he was such a greedy little twit that the galleries said, fine, sell it yourself.