I’m Confidently Doubtful
Once upon a time, when I had my store, a lot of people referred to it as a gallery, and I suppose it was, in the looseiest, gooseiest sense of the word.
I thought it would be a cool idea to feature up and coming local artists, and display them alongside all of the vintage doodads.
In the beginning, every three or four months, I would send out postcards, and invite friends and clients to an art “opening” with decent wine, toothpick skewered cheese and super-groovy music (usually the artist’s playlist, so, yeah, way groovier than my snoozy Spotify mix.)
One particularly talented artist whose style was very similar to Jean Michel Basquiat came close to selling out his entire show one opening night, he had become that popular! I took a chance, because I saw something special in his work, and lo and behold, so did a shit-ton of other people!
Damn! What a thrill!
Still, when I had my meet and greet with the artists, prior to scheduling a show, each and every one had NO idea what to charge for their work. They had even less of a clue as to what their costs had been in time and materials. They stared at me like I was explaining Quantum String Theory when I inquired about their time expenditure.
“How much time did this piece take?” I’d ask. “And what is your time worth?”
They had no freakin’ idea!
They kept no receipts for framing, or paint, or clay, or brushes, and for them, time just disappeared as they worked…so that was that.
Really? Well! I soon determined that was the sign of a good artist—but a lousy business person.
Seems you can’t have both in the same body, except for Damien Hirst.
He is an example of someone with both mad business and marketing skills along with talent, and that has driven his prices well into the six figures.
Everyone else has a more right-brain mentality. “Don’t bother me with the real world. I just want to create, I don’t want to keep a spreadsheet.”
If you become too practical, you’ll cut off your connection to the Muse.
Now, I totally get it!
It seems it is virtually impossible to balance your checkbook and paint a masterpiece.
Maybe it’s that right-brain, left-brain thing.
It’s a lot like studying theory and technique. If you get TOO polished, all your individuality goes flying out the window. You keep the tools that work, and discard the rest.
It’s often the creations made from breaking the rules that resonate the most with people.
What I must admit I have a knack for is looking at something and determining its value. The more unique the better!
Art can be tough. It’s poorly subjective. Appreciation lies in the eye of beholder. Nevertheless, every artist I featured had been in other small galleries around town, and I always got them double or triple their previous prices. It was always hardest in the beginning and then once things sold, their “value” was established.
That’s what gallery owners do, they help establish a value.
Now that I’m no longer involved in my previous “field of expertise” I’m noticing that I have the exact same problem my oh, so talented artists did.
Determining your own value? Fuck. It’s haaaaard.
So, you can imagine my chagrin as I add my name to that long list.
Now I’m a WE.
WE don’t know how to set our value,
or WE have a number in mind, but don’t have the balls to ask for it.
WE stare blankly into space when asked what WE think our time is worth.
Damn, I used to know!! Without hesitation! I didn’t have a masters in Art History, or a Harvard business degree. I just knew what I liked, and if I liked it, I knew other people would too.
That’s it! It’s always the same! Value is set by what someone will give as an exchange for the “service” provided, and it’s based on how it makes them feel.
I’m getting warmer…