Thoughts on Blurred Lines Documentary
Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World goes inside the complex layers of the art economy's ecosystem, giving the viewer an (overly-simplified) peek into a world that is seemingly corrupt and has no rules or regulations. It includes interviews from major players in the artist, gallerist, museum, collector, and auction house spheres, and sparks necessary conversation about what the contemporary art world has become – a body that values work based-on celebrity and the price at which a piece sells, creating a false reading of art history. Frank Stella asked one of the documentary's interviewees if the New York Times had ever run a front page story about a piece of art without talking about the price – the answer is never.
It used to be an honor to buy something, or even see a piece of artwork; today, it is very hard to be a collector. An artist should not want a buyer who is purely buying on investment, yet often works are being flipped sometimes weeks after a sale for quadruple the price. Because of this, artists are driven to produce at an incredible rate, but very few manage to create enduring value. We've moved away from the heart and soul of what art is about.
The question is posed: Could we create a market with more working artists, than a market with elite artists who are very good at playing the game and pleasing collectors? Perhaps self-regulation or requiring art-business transactions to be publicly listed transactions (as it stands, a majority of auction houses, art dealerships, art fairs, etc. are private Limited Liability Companies or Partnerships) would be a start. However, the latter doesn't account for sales of personal property between individuals.
It's a big question, so I'd like to break it down to this: What can we do in our local art communities to help propel working artists forward, and ensure that their art is recognized and valued based on the talent, content, and individual behind a body of work?
Offer Room & Board
Ideally, an artist will have enough work to sustain multiple venues, but producing a large, strong body of work requires time. Blurred Lines says it straight – there are no poor people in this game. A working artist likely isn't able to pursue their art full time because they are doing just that – working. Consider offering a promising emerging artist room and board in order to allow them time and energy to create work and relationships in the art world.
Advise on the Business of Art
In the end, art is a business and organizing it as such will give an artist more time to create freely, instead of operating aimlessly when work begins to sell. If art appreciators and advocacy organizations with economic interest created panels, workshops, or a class series speaking directly to artists regarding the business of art, we may be able to help them secure opportunities they otherwise wouldn't have had.
Trade for Art
Artists, like any other individual or business interested in making sales, need to promote themselves. Maybe they don't have the skills or time necessary to make an aesthetically-pleasing website, or the graphic eye to design business cards, but if you believe their art and drive is exceptional, why not trade your expertise as a web designer/graphic designer/copy writer/photographer for a piece of work?
Regulating a market where every single item is different from the next and has its own sales history is a brain-exploding task. Let's start where we can, with what we have, in an effort to improve our own corners of the art world first.
If we don't support the arts, there is no reason to continue on.