Art and Money
Is it possible to live off art? I cannot. Am I doing something wrong? I don't not think so. I am rather fit, also as an entrepreneur. But I do see art as an expression, as an intimate dialogue with myself, and refuse to obey the public's taste.
This situation is naturally frustrating, especially since in our society "success" is equivalent with "financial success". Of course there are artists, who are able to make a living off their activities, a fact that specially this year made me ask myself repeatedly if I am doing something wrong...
Art and Money I: Approaches
I am doing free art (1) - and therewith stand in the tradition of all those artists, who in the past took leave of their direct clients. Interesting enough that today many creep back into the warm niches of "usefulness" and work as (portrait-)painters, art teachers or - quite newly - develop mainstream-projects in order to receive public grants.
Art patronage and cultural sponsoring
Art patronage - be it private or public - is very seductive and it often starts with a call for entries to an exhibition: there is a given subject, a socially (or to the sponsor) interesting context, and one is invited to produce a work of art in response to the question.
Yes, I also should be able to do that. It is somehow similar to school when one wrote an essay full of theses one did not really support, however that proved to be the ones the teacher wanted to read. The student's gain: an excellent grade, the artist's: a sponsorship.
During school this system still worked for me, however now, as an artist, I am less and less capable to follow it. I became an artist because I wanted absolute freedom, the white piece of paper that I could form exactly to my vision - without any consideration of third party interests.
Very often in this kind of projects the organizational expense stands in no relation to the artistic action: while the art work is achieved in a few afternoons, applications, search for sponsors, program development require weeks and months. Am I the only one noting this discrepancy? Sometimes I almost believe... in the emperor's new dresses...
Nevertheless many a colleagues build their business on exactly that: writing grants. Nevertheless: who makes an exact calculation regarding the effort in writing a grant - and upon competition of the project a report - will find that he/she ends up with a salary far below minimum wages. This is why, for me at least, it is not alternative at all. Especially since I did not start out as an artist to busy myself with subjects that are "en vogue", however only peripherally of my interest.
Art and Money II: Rejections
"I would rather dislike to have to paint a painting for a customer, but rather should the customer buy my art."
(from a web forum)
An interesting question: which artist would continue to make his/her (artistic) statement, even if he/she risked punishment? Or let me put it differently: what has he/she actually to say - and how important is this statement for him/her?
I believe all of a sudden a lot of "art" would disappear. Nobody will risk his/her neck for hot air. The only test of truthfulness we have today (in the comparison to p. ex. the work ban because of "degeneracy" during the Nazi-regime) is: deprivation of praise and money. Maybe this is today's veracity audit: will someone remain with his/her (artistic) statement, also if he/she is ignored for that - possibly until death?
Art and Money III: Seeing Things More Clearly
Art is: to have something to say. Art is: to say something. I recall the discussion I once had in the cafeteria of the Art Students League: about what was the "problem" with a painting. To paint it, or rather: to sell it? - "To paint it!" was my answer - and my argumentation (1994): "For otherwise the only problem for a brain surgeon would be to find patients - and the job itself."
And yet another thing I understood in the meantime: if I develop my art independently and finance it without any external aid - and therefore create truly free art (1) - I cannot give out my paintings (as the only tangible expression of my art which for me by itself is immaterial) out to the public free of charge - or even worse: at my expense. I am an artist and not a cultural sponsor.
This is why, at the moment, I paint directly for the warehouse and/or for customers who rent or buy. Public exhibitions are fun, however usually require huge efforts and also cause high costs. Unfortunately it only rarely generates income (read more).