Friday, December 08, 2006

Money for Art... or Art for Money?

"Art is making more money than ever before. This year, a new world record was set for the most expensive painting of all time - and broken a few months later. There is a frenzy in the market that encompasses everything from contemporary art to looted Greek and Roman antiquities. Unexpected discoveries fuel the fantasy that you or I can participate in this greedy sport, that valuable masterpieces lie in attics or cupboards, waiting to be recognised... There are only two questions about art we all recognise. But is it art? And if it is, what's it worth?" The Guardian (UK) 12/07/06

On that note, here is a link for a recently released film called “Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?

The film is the true story of a woman that bought a Pollock painting at a thrift shop for $5. The title of the film comes from the statement she made to her Art professor friend when he said, “Wait a second, I believe this may be a Jackson Pollock.” The documentary follows her battle to sell it for $50 million; along the way turning down a $9 million offer and battling experts that doubt its legitimacy because a lack of provenance.

A couple days ago I posted a blog about a young artist turning $5k-15k per painting and his marketability at Miami Basel. Previously, I’ve mentioned the absurd auction prices for works by Klimt and Picasso (despite the fact that I am a huge fan of both artists); the dominance of “cowboy art” across the western United States, because it is an easy tourist sell; and I dare admit that I am hardly giving away my own paintings for free. So at what moment did art as a commodity bypass the concept of technical merit and original conception? Traditionalists may say it occurred at the turn of the last century with the rise of the industrial age and the Barons of Industry - that moment when technology “forced” realist painters to seek out new methods of self-expression. Art historians may claim it has always been this way. Michelangelo as well as other Renaissance artists painted biblical scenes because that was their market. Court painters under France’s Louis XIV, such as Adams Van der Meulen, created works about military conquest… because that was where the demand lay.

However, regardless of marketability, I still believe a great artist has to cut-off the yoke of fiscal influence when fighting through the creation process. Which is why my newest work (images to come) will shock some as my artistic direction again readjusts focus inward, away from the proven desires of gallery exhibits and my collector’s ambitions. Believe it or not, I don’t harbor a secret passion for career suicide. Sure, when I left Montana, my sales were topping the highest of my career (to that point) and I was garnering new collectors every couple weeks… it would have been fiscally sound for me to remain in place and ride-out the windfall; but I was ready to see something new and my process for making art was beginning to crave a change of influence. So here I find myself again, in a good place with strong gallery representation and a large body of work sitting in my comfortable studio. I spend most nights in an unending moment of waking dreams; only half-asleep while drifting to far away lands filled with abstracted symbols that I can only reinterpret with paint the following day. The work is beginning to drastically change again and I wonder how much longer I can remain without losing the following I’ve already built in this mountainous southern land. Change is good for my soul, whatever that may entail; and I realize that the moment I start to actively care about maintaining my momentum in sales or fitting within a genre of preconceived saleable work – I take the chance in interrupting my creative evolution. One missed step in the life-long process of making art could lead to a false outcome. Everything must be for the sake of the moment in the process; therefore everything can only be one thing… true. – DN

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