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Keep Goals Not expectations

Posted in Opinion by Adele Todd on December 3, 2008

Any fool can paint a picture, but it takes a wise person to be able to sell it. – Samuel Butler

The international speculation about the value of contemporary art now, has been riveting to read. From the pages of Art News to Art Tactic, the news is at most, mixed. One of the clear issues made, is that art has taken a bit longer to reflect the economic downturn because of the ‘global market’ phenomenon of super rich in places like India, China and Russia. These have been people who have bought into the art market in a big way. However it is now believed that the same market began to go soft as early as November 2007.

The real concern for many writers on art selling has been, what does this mean for the young and up and coming artist? One writer, Anders Petterson writing for the Art Newspaper recalled the mid nineteen-nineties when the heavyweights then, David Salle, Sandro Chia, Francesco Clemente and Julien Schnabel’s works were affected greatly. He said that these artists’ works took fifteen years for the market to right itself to the values they should be today. However with inflation, these works may still not be at their true value.
The good thing is that these ‘star’ artists are still very much around, still making interesting works and proving that they are in their profession for the long haul.

Also, in a bit of irony, do artists ever really get the value of their work? Not everyone has the where with all to repeat works the way Jeff Koons has. Most artists remain soberly skeptical to inflated prices I think, and for those who are not, it may be a cut and run attitude. Both ends of the spectrum exist together. There are a few points that I would like to add to all of the speculations. Art is no different from any other attractive commodity. For many, the desire factor will always be high. It has always been easy to be wowed by the sale of Van Gogh, or even by a Chris Ofili. The artists at the very top are not a huge group, and artists coming out of China and India have indeed been extremely exciting. These people are not going to pack up and quit the profession. Certainly adjustments in costs will have to occur. Certainly many people may find that their personal stock has gone down somewhat. It is so easy to think of all of the art buying frenzy seen over the last few years, in the same vain as the dot.com bubble. However, the art market is still very viable.

I agree with many that at difficult times, the most important tactics come from art proving itself. This means more validation as to why something costs what it costs. This is why I have been writing for some time on the value of work in our own little market place. Art as investment is not meant to be a lose, lose situation. This year we saw the unprecedented decline of many speculated commodities. The world seemed to have forgotten that what goes up does come down.

In the last downturn I remember my art teachers at school being really annoyed by the number of bad bronze sculpture being made. At that time the value of bronze was guaranteed. The fact that this is a global issue shall encourage debate about value and purpose for the buyer. For the artist, it shall motivate from the inside more so than from the perceived tastes of the super rich.

Mankind does this binge, purge all the time. We are all just a bit shell shocked because the ride felt so wild, from the hedge fund multi-millionaires to the bloated auctioning of the works of Damien Hirst. The funny thing is that even if it takes several decades to see this kind of spending again, the world shall spend again. In local palance, we say, “Yuh cyah eat de money.” But you certainly can spend more wisely.

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