Artists have practice in survival on minimal rations and
little income. Many make little or no income from art, but with pluck and luck
can make a side-job support their own work efforts. Peanut-butter and impasto paint
are both common artist’s materials. Peanuts in—paints out.
Some people must be paid to do a stitch of work, while artists gladly pay for the privilege of working. That is the first paradox. The second paradox is that what the larger economy values (not necessarily art), has now become massively devalued and everyone else’s shirts are in tatters, the hair shirts worn by artists are still as itchy, and covered with wet clay and paint.
While Christies and other Auction houses, and the galleries report declining art sales, this does not much affect most living artists whose art is rarely shown, and infrequently offered at high-end auctions.
Now, as the economic slump closes factories and stores, causing bankruptcies and foreclosures, artists work right on into the night, their studio lights burning brightly.
Many people who disliked their jobs have now lost them along with their income and security. Artists still have their artwork and love to do it. They are used to not having security and they don’t have it now. Yet, we are not all in the same boat. Artists keep on working, creating the inherent value of discovery and invention. They open our senses to what was previously unnoticed, sometimes make ‘beautiful’ objects or images, and in the process they re-create our ideas of the beautiful; and they remain busy.
They are working to create something of real value to themselves. How could art be “real value”? If I replace the word ‘real’ with ‘long-enduring’ does that help? New breakthrough artworks become the great art treasures of tomorrow and their value may last for generations, if not for centuries. Notice the word ‘may last’—this is not risk-free investment. No investment is risk-free, as today’s headlines demonstrate. It is up to the collector/art buyer to perform their own due-diligence; to know the current art world, and to go it one better based on their personal aesthetic choices, to invest in the un-noticed or undervalued artists, find the significant, the rare, and to buy and to exhibit these works, and thereby create a niche for their growing collection.
Most of the time, the works of living artists are affordable, because artists must meet a ‘price-point’ that smaller art collectors can bear. Now during the economic slump these artworks are relative bargains, available to the more prosperous collectors who have not lost their taste for art that they still love, even though they no longer can afford the work of great masters.
This is their time to pounce. Great art collections were acquired this way, when relatively wealthy collectors, art patrons, galleries, and private buyers have invested in art while others counted only their losses. Their investments in art were often relatively so small in comparison with their own larger economic losses (along with the losses of others), that the downside risk was negligible while the upside possibilities were great.
Many of those investments appreciated wildly over decades and are the reasons that we visit now museums. Museums, these days more so than banks, continue to retain works of real value.
Now is the time for smart people to visit their local artists, before the quick old foxes wake the lazy dogs.
*(Full disclosure, I, the writer, am a sculptor.)