I am often asked by many students for advice. Many of them want to know how to make a living as an artist or a student that may be considering going into art full-time wants to know what they should do. My recommendation is to head to business school for a couple of years and learn computer skills to the max. There are many artist that are sophomoric at best that I see making a great living because of their knowledge of marketing.
This has always been the Achille’s heel of many artists. We live in the creative side of the brain, not the analytical or mathematical side, and we pay the price dearly. This is also true of many musicians and almost anyone trying to make a living in the arts.
I remember way back to the times when you walk into a gallery with three or four of your paintings and strike a deal with the gallery owner. This deal would typically be a 70/30 split, 70% for the artist and 30% for the gallery. Those days are long gone though! Believe it or not, I’ve seen 40% even 50% and some New York galleries up to 90% in commissions. But today is a different day…Now the American artist is facing a revolution if you will.
Well, believe it or not, a great number of galleries today will purchase paintings from China, South America, and Eastern Europe. They do it for as low as $100 and bring them back to the United States. They then sell them for $1,000 or more.
Of course, they do so with the very little chance of the collector ever finding out who the artist truly is. The reputation has been left a mystery and determining whether or not this is a wise investment is very difficult. These paintings are seldom signed, and most likely the products of sweatshops that create art by the yard. It’s the truth of the matter and it needs to be said, so I’m letting it be known.
Now, if you’re an artist that happens to show in one of these galleries you might be in a tough spot. If there’s a decorator or a collector looking for something and your painting is on the wall for a 50% split right next to it a painting from China (which brings the gallery 90% gross), which painting do you think they’re more likely to push?
This is much to the chagrin of the American artist trying to make a living. Being able to buy art online through thousands of different sites, a lot of decorators and collectors make the decision to purchase online rather than go through a gallery at what they believe is a better price.
Having been a gallery owner for 40 years, I know that side of it, but I’m also an artist that has been making a living as such for a very long time. This is one of the difficulties of being an artist in 2017.
How do I know???
My good friend is an art wholesaler travels the world buying paintings and bringing them to the United States. He sells them to different commercial galleries. Now, he also is faced with galleries going around him and directly to dealers from China, Russia, and Eastern Europe. They sell the paintings at somewhat of a “wholesale” price directly to the galleries.
So as you can see, it’s a vicious cycle and unless one knows how to massage the Internet, use it to its max, then it’s easy to get left in the dust. It’s a given that an artist must reinvent themselves just to stay ahead of the fray, and feel like we are growing. However, the correlation between how to find an artist, idnetifying how much talent an artist has, and how successful financially one is, are like comparing apples and oranges. One has very little to do with the other unfortunately.
If you’re looking to take on the full-time role of a living artist making a good living in 2017, then make sure your Internet and business knowledge is up to snuff!