Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Value of Art: not necessarily WYSIWYG!

Does work have to be good to sell?
Does price reflect quality?

We all know the great popularity of Kinkade type of paintings and Hallmark card type of paintings – they sell well, better than any other kind probably, and command decent prices too. Do we have equivalents in the art quilt world? I think so.

Some years ago I was in a very prestigious gallery that sells fiber and there were two pieces by two top quiltmakers. One was priced at $80,000 and the other (actually larger) at $18,000. These two artists are at the top of their game and the one with the much lower price is definitely not producing weaker work than the other. I asked the gallery owner why there was such a price difference. He replied the higher price was because he had exclusive rights of sale (rarity), and he felt the selling history and celebrity of the higher priced artist was greater.
Note: he did not say the work was better.

The same is true in the painting world of course – as a book called “I bought Andy Warhol” reveals – all the scheming and dealing that goes on with paintings being treated more like oil futures than works of art.

Robert Genn states that he is sorry to record that art does not have to be “good” to sell well.

What does sell well in the main art world is “perceived rarity, consistency of style, widely-based demand, celebrity hype and shock value”. Lets consider these “attributes” as they relate to art quilts.

In the sale of art quilts, demand and the familiarity of the name play a strong part. I have seen very small pieces – throw away pieces – selling for high prices because the maker is well known, while more interesting developed pieces by lesser known folk might never even get a second glance.

Consistency of style is a positive attribute when it results from a person working hard, making many pieces, trying to develop and portray a strong and individual vision. But it can also be negative – when we see yet another small variation on a very well known theme. A two edged sword: develop your own true recognizable voice, but don’t keep singing the same song!! (you remember, I love mixed metaphors!)

Shock value? I feel I have seen some work that challenges existing ideas of what the content of a quilt might be....but so often this is done in a cavalier rather than a genuine way. The content is made to be noticeable for its own sake, rather than the shock being a definite part of the total message.

Rarity? The gallery directors can achieve this by signing artists to exclusive contracts as noted above. But for t he most of us, no one is yet at the point where their production is lagging and the value of the art work climbing – I’m glad of the former, if not the latter!!

Onward and upward!

And if you have been…………………………………………..thanks for reading.


No comments: