Art World Norms Must Change

The Art World is full of contradictions and tends to be more schizophrenic than it is healthy. Collectors, artists, and curators are all varied in their theories of art versus non-art. These differences of opinion aren’t the problem, even though those differences are what bases the value of a piece of work. The problem is that artists and collectors are both, in their own right, not being as rewarded as they should be. Galleries aren’t doing their job. It’s time to re-think things. It’s time to evolve.

The problem is that people are pretentious, including the artists. Yes, art is an avenue toward higher culture, a method of communication in the realm of intuition, and art is a means to advance society—even to tell the story of current society for historical purposes. Yes, art is meant to be appreciated by people in museums, but not just there—more importantly, in average homes, where you can live with art, have rapport with the work, and love it. Art in our homes becomes a part of our life, develops a life of its own, and influences almost everybody that sees it.

Art is all this and more, but let’s be real. Art is also a commodity. Artists might feel such a strong desired to create that they would rather die than not paint, but they deserve so much more. Why settle for nothing? I don’t blame artists for not wanting to play the gallery game—as archaic as it can be. Artists should be free to concentrate on their work. But let’s not get down on artists for wanting a roof over their head too. Art is not above money. I would say that art is equal with a certain amount of money, that which it is worth. Or what the artist is willing to sell it for. Or what a person is willing to buy it for. Artists deserve this at the very least.

Some people are of the opinion that you have to be poor to create true avant-garde work. Others think the only art worth buying comes from NYC. Some people think that work sold at an art fair is worthless, and would only buy from artists who have an MFA and are represented by an established gallery. Some people would only buy art that is expensive.

In reality, the only fair thing to judge a work of art on is the work itself. Any other circumstance that art is judged on is pretentious. I dislike most investment art. All people care about there is how much the work has recently gone for at auction, or what comparable works have brought at auction. They think this is what gives the art value. The terms “investment quality” and “non-investment quality” have the connotation that one is better than the other, but that is not necessarily true. In order to buy investment quality art you would have to drop at least $30,000, some say. But an honest curator or dealer will tell you that it is not necessarily higher quality artwork than non-investment quality art. In fact, there is some investment quality art that is crap. But the crap was created by a blue-chip artist, has an auction history, and so-called verifiable prices.

The better route is to buy art for personal purposes. Be selfish about it. It is a different type of investment—an investment into your own interests, today’s culture, the arts community, and the future. Nobody knows for sure who the so-called important artists are, we can only make educated guesses and trust our eyes and minds as to which artists are reasonable choices for those that will be historically important now and in the future. And does that really matter? We won’t care when we are dead. Everybody looks back at examples like Van Gogh and is sick to their stomach that great artists had to suffer in poverty and sacrifice their well being, sometimes their lives, in order to create the investment quality art that we now revere. Yet we are continually repeating our mistakes and working artists are still suffering. The sad thing about this state of affairs is that the art world has much more money and resources today than in the days of Van Gogh, or ever before. Additionally, most people have respect for artists and regard art as a serious profession deserving of getting paid a fair amount of money. And there are a lot of artists out there making a living. Yet the stereotype of “starving artist” remains.

So what is wrong with the art world and the art market? Tentative buyers coupled with artists not concerned with making money and thus not promoting their art. That’s just an example. One thing is for sure, artists need to stop being so finicky about making money. I don’t understand why it’s so accepted that artists have to be uninterested in money to make high art. It’s not saying that your work is dictated by money. Just that you don’t have to slave and starve in your studio. Help galleries help you. Embrace the system, or create a new one. Demand change. There is no other market in the world like the art market. It can be a place of hypocrisy, elitism, unfairness, stereotypes, and subtleties. Yet the art market contains the catalysts to make artist’s visions reality. Artists can either hate the market and ignore it, thereby usually only hurting themselves, or they can work with it and reap at least a modest profit which they so deserve. It’s time to change the stereotypes—the norms of the art world. There is no criteria for becoming an artist. You either are one, or you are not.

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