Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why DON"T people buy art?

It's not easy selling art quilts, is it?
 At least I've not found it so....I thought at first that people don't buy fiber art because they think it's more difficult to clean - or will gather more dust....of course neither is true.  Think of a "dream catcher"  - nothing catches more dust than one of those!  And how often have you laundered a calendar or a poster?

Having visited several different homes recently - new acquaintances, I think people simply don't buy art at all.   Perhaps  the odd poster, or dust ( sorry, dream) catcher...but not real art.  Even the tallest walls are depressingly empty, around the windows might be fancy drapes with succulent valances, on the floor, beautiful Chinese or Persian rugs, quartz in the kitchen and the most luxuriant fittings in the bathroom...but no art.   Why not?

Why don't people buy art?

Like everything else there are probably lots of reasons but some of the chief ones I've come across are:

1. Money:  Real art (i.e. not a reproduction) is seen as being too expensive.  And quilts certainly are expensive - the amount of time it takes to make one, if truly reflected in the price, would make them monumentally expensive.  Nearly as much as a tv, or a computer, or a year's supply of phone cell coverage or a few month's worth of eating out.    And we know how much more important THEY are!

2.   Supply and Demand: There are a lot of objects and services out there competing for money.   There are all those expensive electronics to buy and then their service plans, and the extra insurance we all need these days (though sometimes I REALLY wonder about that!).  There are a LOT of things we can spend out money on!

3.  Hidden value: Few see the value of owning art.  You never  see people comparing the paintings or wall textiles they've bought.  At a social event, frequently everyone is whipping out their smart phones (very smart most of them because they make people feel instantly better about themselves for owning one!), or their iPads, trooping out to look at the new car ...and I'm sure in some places, their artillery! but rarely do you hear "oh you must come and see this wonderful art quilt I just bought".
Have you ever seen a tv program about owning art?  And yet look at how often all those other products are seen in adverts:  the cars, the computers, the clothes, the fancy houses, even the recreational drugs to be taken in the bathtub!  Society as a whole doesn't value art probably, in part, because big business isn't out there advertising it!

4.  Fear of looking foolish, uncertainty:   It's easier too to judge the cost of a car - if it's bigger and faster and shinier then we know it's worth more.  Hard to judge that with art work.  People are unsure of the value of a piece of art - whatever medium.  They worry that others might think they've spent too much, that they've been taken for a ride (and not in a big, fast, shiny car!)  The average perception of the value of something called a quilt is based on Walmart prices...craft fair prices.  
They're worried that they're making a mistake, they don't know whether or not they'll still love the piece in a year's time...  If you think about it, it does take quite a lot of guts to drop a grand on something that you're unsure of.  That's a lot of money for most of us to justify spending.  And most art quilts cost even more than that:  in a show like Quilt National, I bet there are very very few pieces that are not well over a grand.

5.  Lack of knowledge: most people have absolutely no idea how much a piece of art can enrich a room, how it can simply make you feel good to look at it.  When we make our art quilts we feel very good!  We've pulled it off, we've got our idea out reality.  That's a great feeling for us.  But will it make others feel good to look at it, will it enrich Their lives as well as ours in having made it?
Is that so...and can we convince them that it is so?

6. Unconsciousness of the continuity that owning art work gives you.  this is especially true for those of us who have moved a lot in our lives...every time we've moved the first things I have unpacked and hung are the paintings and hangings; immediately our surroundings become home.   The dearness of the familiar composition is something that's hard to convey unless you've done this.

Alas, knowing why doesn't really help the cause....every art quilter I know has a cupboard full of the beautiful creations, all rolled up.....

how do you feel?  

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!   Elizabeth


Melanie McNeil said...

Thanks as always for a thoughtful post. My home has a variety of art on the walls, and not a bit of it is pablum produced by the thousands. Quilts, pottery, paintings, limited edition prints... Some of it is inherited, some made by me, some purchased directly from artists.

Art... anything original ... all the points you made hold true. I've written about selling quilts and the value vs. price problem. If I make an original bed quilt, will you pay me upwards of $2500? Most people would not. If I make dozens of something UNoriginal, will you pay me $1000 for one? I wouldn't either.

In the history of quilting in the US, there were always cheaper ways to cover a bed than with a beautiful quilt. That hasn't changed.

KittyAnn said...

Good points all! I find the subject is perused on other blogs I follow. I think the word *quilt*, in the general public's mindset, is too closely tied to the idea that it is something that should be on a bed, not a wall - therefore it would not be considered *art*. Now if you took the same piece and called it *fiber art* or the like, it might garner a bit more attention. Also, if you are not raised from a young child to appreciate *art*, if you are not exposed to your parents purchasing *art*, then you will not be likely to purchase it yourself as an adult. I was raised by depression era parents who would have never dreamed of spending a dime on *real* art, even when they had the money, it just wasn't something *practical* to spend money on in their way of thinking. And there is now the trend called 'minimalism' or 'living spare', getting rid of the excess, or not buying it in the first place. I've noticed the trend in magazines, showing rooms so bare, no *art* to speak of on the walls. I have moved a lot in the last 40 of my 60 yrs and do know how a familiar object can bring warmth to a new space. In my younger years I painted quite a bit, watercolor and the occasional pastel piece. I peddled these up and down the east coast when the arts/craft shows were HUGE, not the junk they are now with booths full of imported goods. I found, my smaller less expensive pieces would be snapped up fast, sometimes two or three to one buyer, even though the total cost was roughly similar to one of the larger pieces. It is the mindset of the public pure and simple. When I take retirement in three years I am thinking of setting up a small online store for my art, it'll be interesting to see how I fare!

Jinnie said...

I can identify with money being the reason for not buying art. Over 20 years ago we were on holiday in Cornwall and walked into a gallery in Truro showing the paintings of a young artist, who has since become quite well known. We fell in love with them and my future husband said "I like this one best. I'll buy it." It cost him half of what I received in wages each month. I was absolutely astounded, and so was the gallery owner as two scruffy ramblers didn't appear to be her usual clientele!. It would never have occurred to me to buy it, even though I loved it, not just because of the price but also because buying art was, for me, something that only the rich did. It is still on our wall along with several other paintings that we've picked along the way.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Great stories and comments...and - re the art fairs - the more of them there are not only the quality goes down - as they're digger deeper (as it were) into the pile of artists, but also the supply goes up.
Now imagine it if only Really Good art were available for sale!!!
of course, I know WHO would decide...but ...just imagine!!

Deborah C. Stearns said...

Interesting post. I find it surprising that your acquaintances don't have art in their homes -- most of the people I know do have and display art, although it may not be expensive art (reproductions, etc.), depending on their income. It's pretty unusual for me to visit someone who has no art displayed (I remember one case). I wonder if there are statistics on national art-buying trends -- I'd be interested to see how common it is to have (or not have) art in one's home.

I would put in a couple of other points. Ani mentions that smaller, less expensive pieces were more likely to sell, and I think that part of that is the price point (less expensive), but part of that is also the smaller size. For those who have small homes or apartments, a large piece of art can be hard to place. Many of my walls are filled with bookcases, windows, doors, etc., so there are relatively few places to display large art. And for those who move often, large pieces of art are challenging to move and find space for in each new dwelling. So smaller pieces may be more approachable both in terms of price and in terms of display opportunities.

The other point I'll make is that it can be hard to buy art as a gift. When I go to art fairs, I am often looking for gifts, and I can buy handwoven scarves, handmade jewelry, beautifully turned wooden bowls, or ceramic vases as gifts (made by artists, but often categorized as fine craft). But when it comes to paintings or other wall art, that is so personal and taste is so varied, that I hesitate to purchase it as a gift. I know too many cases of people receiving art as a gift and hating the choice that I am wary of gifting Art. So that limits how much people can buy art, as well -- it makes it an item of personal "luxury", one that may be put off until the necessities are already covered. (I know, I know -- many people consider art a necessity, and other items may be considered luxuries, but for those who need money for food, rent, furniture, children's clothing, etc., you can see how art might be lower on the list.)

Melanie McNeil said...

As to smaller/less expensive items being more marketable, I'm sure that's true. And for those whose motivation, as a maker, is to sell, it is very good advice to create items that are more marketable.

For me as a "traditional" quilter (read that "not an 'art' quilter") (geeez I hate the labels...) that would mean making placemats, table toppers, and baby quilts. Those are the quilts that sell most easily. They are small, they are relatively cheap, they have fewer constraints for taste.

I would rather NOT quilt than spend my time making placemats, table toppers, and baby quilts, and trying to sell them at craft shows or online, making the same things over and over and over, to minimize marketing time. I can think of A LOT of things I'd rather do than that. I am not motivated by selling. I am motivated by making beautiful, one-of-a-kind quilts.

thanks again

Elizabeth Barton said...

I have found, like you Deborah, that many people go shopping to look for a gift and feel more comfortable buying a mug or a scarf than wall art - but if you think about it, as a recipient it's much harder to have to wear a scarf you dislike than to hang a small quilt you don't care for in the guest room!!

Heather said...

I think in part it's because all of these other items (electronics, cars, even furniture) are now DESIGNED to be disposable and constantly upgraded. Whereas a piece of art can be a lifetime commitment. Kind of like dating various people vs. deciding to marry one person, lol.

Debbie said...

I grew up in a home that was covered in art (still live like that) and many of my favorite pieces (glass, sculpture, painting, etc) were purchased directly from the artists at fairs. Some when on to be famous, many, not so much. but the stories live on. Some of our favorite activities revolved around art-rearranging parties, necessitated following a new purchase. I've outgrown some of the pieces, but find it hard to let go of some of them because I still know the artist. I choose more selectively now, as things are much more expensive, and its nearing time to downsize. I do know that each piece was really handmade, by someone who put their own story into each piece, and I'm glad to be a keeper of the story for a while. As to why people don't buy art... so many reasons. I'm sure money is one choice, and sadly, I believe that people have forgotten that "good art doesn't need to match your sofa!" Looking forward to working with you soon... I'll be in a class with you in October :)

Elsie Montgomery said...

Elizabeth, this is an interesting post. I'm partly through reading a book called, "Who's Afraid of Modern Art" by Daniel A. Siedell. While not about quilts, some of his ideas fit with this topic. Some of what he says is off my grid, but it has given me a surprising look at one side the art scene, one that repulses me. Like anything else, "art" can and often does become something the artist never intended, a market with strategies and manipulations somewhat like the dark side of the publishing world. What I like about the comments here is that people still buy direct from the artist because they love the work. Siedell would say that it spoke to them and they were listening. A good result of reading this is that I am listening more and analyzing less!

Rebecca said...

Personally, I have a fear of "art blindness"...failing to truly see what is in front of you every day.

This post did make me reflect on two influences: art in the home growing up, and art in restaurants. I know "restaurant art" brings to mind poor quality, mass-produced "things," but a fine restaurant in town had for years paintings that seemed almost quilt-influenced: there was abstract patterning over bands of them. Another (Mexican) restaurant had a paint detail that I loved: it was a sponge-dabbed floral vine around doors, windows, etc. That let me see how abstraction to create specific imagery could be very effective.

The art in the home growing up was there before me, and didn't change. OMG, I just remembered that my grandmother was a painter, and we had at least one of her paintings. How could I forget that?

Janet W said...

My husband and I buy a piece of art each year to celebrate our anniversary. We love looking for that special piece throughout the year. It is not all wall art. We have ceramics, glass, sculpture. We rotate our art so we don't get tired of it. At least three times a year we open the guest room closet and choose which pieces to switch. We never spend more than $500, often much less and we pay for it with the earnings from our own sales...mine from art quilts and his from woodturning.

reensstitcher said...

I found this a very interesting post and I identify closely with other people's comments. In fact, it started me thinking about how I came to 'collect' art' so rather than comment here I am writing a post myself. It is not going up tonight because I am having a few problems taking photos of framed pictures but I blog under the name Reensstitcher so it should be easy to find. Thank you for a very interesting post.

Anonymous said...

well, yes, all those reasons. But also think of how much less wall space many new open-concept homes have. And what you might like in the kitchen, you might not want to see in the living room. And it seems current fashion is for less things sitting about and on the walls in general.

In my house, what wall space there is is mostly claimed by the "but we have to put these up" family photos. I'd love to put up a huge colorful modern art piece over the fireplace, but that space is taken by a 80's wildlife print. My tastes have changed, but DH has the attitude of "we paid $$ for it!" (the framing was 3x the actual print cost).

Note to those moving or just repainting - if you don't want the old stuff on the new walls, HIDE IT WELL. Or you may come home and find it's been hung up for you, where you didn't want it and to move it will require patching and painting the walls :-( .