Young artists’ worth

Posted in Debate, Opinion by Adele Todd on May 5, 2008

Every year the university system spits out a few eager artists who endeavour to have a show. They create much of the same kind of work that already exists in the market place, flowers, scenery and occassionally, people within scenery. These artists generally sell their pieces between TT$3000 and TT$7000. Sometimes the shows do very well.

The low end figure has been that way for more than a decade. Art prices are not as inflated for the beginner as people may think. In fact the young and upcoming artist may make alot less than even they want to, and that may be a big part of why the second and third show may take several years to happen.

The cost of putting on a show is not cheap at all for the artist. There is the commission that can go as high as 40% on their work. There is the framing, the printing of a small catalogue, all are costs that the artist has to absorb.

When the artist experiences this, they are less inclined to want to produce works that stray off the beaten path. The gallery usually lets the artist know what their work can go for, but the artist also has the right to stand by their belief that they can get the figure that they think they deserve. Whether they will or not, is speculative.

Not all the work will sell at a show. Some works sell before and some sell after a show. Some work can be bartered for the cost of framing, and some can be bought on consignment. There are several ways to sell the work.

The work becomes a commodity.

The question is, how does this new work stack up against other work of similar technique and style?

The new artist literally joins a standing, and that standing is dependent on an artists experience and quality of work over time.

Of the artists working in acrylic for example, there is the top of the field, who work large and work by commission, selling locally, regionally and internationally. These artists are obviously deserving of the figures they command.

How does the young artist get from the first show to the commission? Also how do they get their work to sell when they have such constraints put upon them by the very institutions they respect?

At the end of the day, the artist is working for a living. It may seem romantic to the outsider, but what is made by an artist is a product. It has a value that may or may not appreciate in value. The artist has the unenviable task of giving birth to things that must live or die on the vine. There is a certain blindness in Trinidad and Tobago to the artists process and growth.

How can artists get any better, do any better? When they have very little to base their standards on when they go out into the world of selling?

In my next article, I shall take a closer look at this question. 



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