Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pay Per View Art

The humidity just dropped ten percentage points in Central Florida, which means Fall must be on its way. It is still 90 degrees outside but people are reappearing on the streets, eager to shake off four months of air conditioned hibernation. Businesses here in Tampa Bay hold "come on in" sales and art galleries advertise their roster of fall exhibitions.

I recognize some of the well known artists but notice a number of newcomers to the local art scene, all eager to make a name for themselves and perhaps a few sales. If they stick around long enought, it is possible they might make a name and even sell some art. Making a living from their art will prove much more difficult.

Artist's expenses continue to rise and the cost for a substantial one person show can run to thousands of dollars. In spite of a slew of advance publicity, great galleries, and exciting art, the promise of art sales might never materialize. Most call-for-entry art exhibitions now charge a hefty entry fee, which is non-refundable. For those accepted, up front expenses must then be regained before any profit can be earned. People wonder why artists look so glum at outdoor shows. An artist can not survive for long when the trickle-down of cash flow never reaches them.

Part of the answer could be pay per view art. Art galleries and outdoor art shows would charge an entry fee to view the art. This is not a new idea. Most museums already charge entry fees as do some high-end galleries and cash-strapped outdoor shows. It could be pay at the door or in a contribution box, but the main difference would be that the artist has a share in the proceeds.

This kind of arrangement would guarantee better quality art works and more visitors willing to spend a few dollars to see great art. Art galleries have become expensive consignment shops and outdoor shows promise all kinds of entertainment for the family. None of that is promising for the artist. Pay per view art could make a difference.


Gary Brant said...

As a gallery owner, I sympathize with the current conditions under which both artists and gallerists are suffering.

However, I don't believe throwing gasoline on the fire is going to help put it out.

Right now, it is most important IMHO that we get folks interested in looking at art. Placing a tariff on their entry to a gallery is going to alienate the audience a local gallery would be trying to develop.

Gary Brant, Director
Galerie St. George - New York

Denis Gaston said...

Gary, Thanks for your comment.
You are probably right that some people would be alienated.
Getting people interested in art,however, ought to happen before they get to the gallery.
With a prior understanding of contemporary art, they would be more willing to visit and perhaps purchase.

Stuart Montgomery said...

Dennis, I love your blog but I’m not sure culture should be accessible on a pay as you go basis. Whenever an artist creates a new artwork they are making a generous contribution to our culture and to our national heritage. Creative expression must be made, the words must be spoken and the creative visions must be realized as works of art. The gift of creative expression is one of the most impressive gifts of all.

The costs imposed on artists to simply submit their work for consideration for an exhibition should be outlawed. That very idea of artist’s whose entries are rejected from an exhibition actually funding a percentage of the exhibition is cultural corruption. If people want to present art shows, street fairs or any kind of juried exhibition they should be required to pay the full costs required to stage the show.

Artists can do more than simply sell works. They can create their own patron initiatives. Artists can have boxes with slots for money and tasteful signs that read: If you like the art, support the artist, your contribution is appreciated. For artist’s Web sites and blogs PayPal can provide a “Make a Donation” button and PayPal will even provide the contributor with a receipt (and setting up a PayPal account is essentially free). Artists can also develop membership programs that grant members access to special events like lunch with the artist, studio parties, etc. Memberships could be purchased at several levels of participation which would make it easier for corporations and other cultural institutions to participate. Artists can incorporate, sell stock, attract venture capital and go public with an initial public offering. Museums can, galleries can, and artists can.

Artists make choices and can express themselves with nothing more than an idea (think Sol LeWitt). Dreams are free, visions are free and thinking big has never cost a penny.

Denis Gaston said...

Great ideas Stuart. Thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Hi Denis:

1. Enjoyed your comment on creativity and illness...

2. I totally agree with Stuart's comments ... particularly re submission fees for rejected shows!!