Friday, January 20, 2012

Market Influence

I was thinking about influences.  And, I'm not talking about the influences of style and technique garnered from past and contemporary artists who we might admire and from whom we might simply be seeking inspiration.  No, I'm speaking more about market influences.  I'll ask rhetorically, "Do you adjust your process/style to the prevailing market, or do you exploit a niche that fits the process/style of the work you produce?".  I believe the answer to this question best defines the artist's creative integrity.  As an artist, you are either true to the market, or you are true to your own artistic integrity.

I know there are many bloggers who offer information and suggestions with the purpose of helping artists to be successful in today's art market.  Well, that ain't me!  However, I don't think their efforts are without merit.  Indeed, I follow some marketing suggestions because, yes, I DO want to sell my artwork.  But, there are some lines I won't cross.  The hardest line for me would be to compromise the integrity of my artwork to suit the market.  I don't feel alone in this.  I've heard the same sentiment expressed by many other artists.

In today's world of instant information it seems that insidious influences are forced upon us at every click.  What prompted this post was a forum post I recently read that put forth the premise that most art buyers don't like to purchase "square" paintings.  The consensus of the responders to the post was that the premise was simply not true - supported by their own anecdotal evidence of having been very successful at selling square format paintings.  My concern is how some artists allow their work to be influenced by such market idioms.  If you come to a point of evaluating the saleability of your artwork based on format, scale, color combinations, how it might look behind a couch, etc., the market may be exerting a negative influence on your creativity.

Art making is (or should be) a solitary endeavor.  Good art isn't produced by committees or think tanks or demanding gallery owners or curators.  It isn't (or shouldn't be) a factory process.  The most general and important movement in art making over the past century (plus) has been the selective rejection of the technical rules of academia.  Everything modern abstract art IS is based on the rejection of some or all of the rules.  So, in this spirit of individualism, why are so many modern artist willing to bend to the rules and influences of the "market"?   The simple answer may be that art has become a commodity.  There are few "art" collectors remaining.  The shift is to speculation and investment.  Most collectors buying high-end art these days aren't necessarily interested in the aesthetic quality of the artwork so much as they are in its increase in value after the purchase.  Art promotion is no longer about the quality of the artwork, but about the branding of the artist.

In selling a painting one assumption can be made - it is purchased to hang on a wall, or if the artist is of high enough caliber, maybe stored in a vault.  Should artists be concerned with anything more - that is, does it match the couch?


  1. Hi Steve

    I agree that artists should not have to be driven by what the market will bear in choosing what they produce. Creativity needs to remain unfettered, but artists have always had to respond somewhat to the needs of their collectors in order to maintain an income.

    I do disagree about art as a solitary endeavor. Art movements of the past and present have always included conversation and cross fertilization among artists including musicians, poets, writers, and visual artists.

    If you haven't seen Woody Allen's latest film, "Midnight in Paris", I highly recommend watching it. He does a great job portraying conversations of some of the bright lights in the artistic community of the past century.

  2. Carla, thank you for your insightful comments. I agree with much of what you say. You said, "...artists have always had to respond somewhat to the needs of their collectors in order to maintain an income." Many of my artists friends do commissions and I don't see anything wrong with that, but they prefer to work in a very personal uncompromising way. I don't know too many of these artists who actually prefer producing art as a service to the collector.

    In reference to "art as a solitary endeavor" - I was writing specifically about the visual arts. And, even more specifically about the visual artists' interaction with their materials - that is, the process of producing an artwork. I understand that artists don't live their lives in a vacuum. Humans are social animals and artists are no exception. Some artists may at times collaborate, but for most visual artists the process is a solitary endeavor.

    No, I haven't seen the movie - not a big fan of Woody Allen. I'll keep it in mind and watch the movie if the opportunity arises.

    Thanks again for your comments.


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