Tuesday, May 31, 2011
ART VERSUS COMMERCIALISM
I have heard it said that artists are not good at business. Examples can be cited to both support and refute this statement. Throughout history, many artists have died penniless; while others, such as Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, became rich. Unless independently wealthy, at some point in their career, an artist must make the choice whether to create art to satisfy their inner muse, or to concentrate on making art that will sell.
One of the most successful artists turned businessman of our time is Thomas Kinkade. Not only are prints of his work sold, but the images he has created have been used extensively on other merchandise such as calendars, puzzles, greeting cards and CDs. Kinkade is reported to have earned $53 million for his artistic work from 1997 to May 2005. Kinkade's success has not been without a price. He is looked down upon by the fine art community for the extent to which he has commercialized his art. Kinkade's work is not an outlet for self expression, but a commodity.
Art versus commercialism is something I have struggled with since I first started making jewelry a number of years ago. Not being one to follow the crowd, or trends for that matter, I began by making things I liked. I figured that if I liked what I made, others would, too. Some did, but not enough for me to feel successful. The few times I tried to make things I thought would sell, my muse fled, screaming.
A lot of artists blame their lack of sales on people they believe undercut their business by pricing too low, or by producing low-end merchandise. They are not considered professionals, but hobbyists. There is no denying that the "hobbyists" do have an impact on other businesses, but the fact is, there will always be such people. One may complain, but if nothing can be done to change the situation, it is a waste of energy.
Some artists have the good fortune to create what they love and make a good living. I personally know two artists who have been able to do this; Cecilia Miguez, a sculptress, and Gerald Brommer, a painter. The aforementioned may not be household names, but their work has been shown in prominent galleries and is much sought after. It gives me hope to know that it is possible to feed one's muse as well as one's bank account. Now, if only I could figure out how.