Friday, 13 April 2012

Don't talk about…

The period of time after an exhibition opens can be, for the artist, amongst the hardest. Here now the work of the previous months, or years, is out in public. The artist, feeling the pressure of having their work exposed, will doubtless be asking many questions. Does anyone understand the work? What are their responses to it? Will they share those responses? The biggest question, however, is likely to be 'will it sell?'

It always seems tacky to mention selling one's art. This is an unfortunate preconception, that seems to suggest that to make art to sell is somehow less worthy, that commerce pollutes the ideals of art. Sadly we do not live in a socialist utopia, where artists are maintained by the state as a necessary part and expression of life. Artists, unless they are very lucky, need to sell their work to live.

The patron who is buying art is doing more than taking home something that will hopefully enrich their life, they are buying the artist a future. Each piece an artist makes has been paid for long before a patron is likely to see it – the artist has already invested their time and money in the work. When a patron buys a piece, it allows the artist to continue making new work.

There is also a question of validity here because, for all of the positive responses the work in an exhibition can garner, be it from friends or in media reviews, it is very hard not to use sales as a measure of success. In many ways, this is quite a false measure, for who can tell why a patron does or does not buy art. For example, in the middle of a recession sales of everyone's art are certain to be lower than in more buoyant times. Does this therefore mean that all art made in a recession is less worthy? Patently, this is a foolish statement.

Nonetheless, sales remain an important gauge to an artist. A week after my work went on show, it is something that is hard for me not to ignore. It is ironic that at this time, when I should be sitting back, relaxed and enjoying the paintings that I have worked so hard to produce, I am instead almost more worried now than previously. I know this will pass.

The exhibition runs for just over two more weeks. If you are in Edinburgh, please drop by Union Gallery and have a look. For those further afield, you can see the work here.

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent and very honest piece of writing Stewart.