Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Selling a Work of Art for its Real Price

Fight for capital is tedious and painful but fighting against capitalism is romantic and dangerous. Revolutions also need some sort of financial investment. Unfortunate thing these days is that the very revolutionaries, who are called dissenters or terrorists depending on the side that you prefer to take and see/read them, are funded by the capitalists because disruption and war always give opportunity for disaster capitalism to flourish. A photograph that shows the ghost towns in Syria where now the ISIS rules the roost, with dilapidated structures and perforated walls definitely help the building contractors of the capital market salivate seeing rich prospects of developing properties. So it is sure that nothing can function in this world without capital. Imagination could, but then when not translated into reality any daring imagination would not fly beyond the walls of day dreams. Artists are imaginative people who dream of a world where people live in love and peace, creating beauty and celebrate the force of life incessantly. Boring it may sound as we are too used to conflicts and contradictions, yet such a scenario is good for the longevity of life and happiness but the problem is art too needs capital to flourish. Artists are those double headed people who lives a life criticality in which they find themselves travelling in two different boats, if not vehicles one heading towards a forest for guerrillas and the other speeding towards a city of glass buildings that reflect fast moving stock exchange tickers.

Artists make capital for their lives by selling their works. However they try, there is not escape from this fact. The way a labourer sells his labour or ability to work, the artists also sell their ability to ‘work’. The ability that they have need not necessarily be converted into labour always; that is the only difference between a labourer and an artist. If an artist does not want to sell but only wants to work for the sake of creating art works this dilemma is never a problem as faced by a professional artist who totally depends on his work to perpetuate not only his art but also his life. That means, a professional artist is one who dies out (of his work) when he does not generate money out his works and reinvest it in the perpetuation of his artistic abilities along with his materialistic life. A professional artist makes his capital, which is creative and materialistic at once. But that is not automatically transformed into wealth. Wealth creators are those people who ‘sell’ the works of art and get capital back for the artists. Wealth creators work on the idea of profit making so the creative capital that they give back for the artist is a minute part of the wealth that they create. The amount of money that an artist makes out of the sales of his works really does not become a way to create wealth unless and until he not only reinvests it in his art and life but also in other avenues where the money could be multiplied and turned into profit, adding up to the mode of wealth creation. That means, if a rich artist is not indulging in other business practices, he cannot be called a person who generates wealth. He just makes money, that too some money.

If one looks at the gallerists, museum owners, dealers, auctioneers, collectors, investors and so on, one could see that their investment in art is a little part of their total profit. The ways in which they create wealth is not solely out of buying or selling art. Art is always a part of their money dealings. So if anyone nourishes this hope or idea that the art investors are art lovers then there would be some amount of disillusionment at some point when they come to know about truth. The art investors, including the gallerists are like the famous husbands or wives in a family. When they are within the family, they are husbands and wives. But just outside of the family, they are successful corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, business people, banking heads, bankers, lawyers, chartered accountants, developers, jewellers, contractors, exporters, industrialists, shipping agents, transporters and what not. They are never one role players. The artists see only one side of these people and definitely they do not generate their wealth from that one side. Like they do in the family or feel inside it, they are just emotionally happy and secure in those avenues. But the important thing in the art dealing is that the artists remain the same people in and out of the family, doing their work and expecting someone to buy it. What will happen if the investors no longer find it lucrative or they feel that the art is not giving enough worth symbolically for the real money that they spend on them? Are the professional artists going to die out due to the lack of patronage?

How long the artists would expect the wheelers and dealers of the art scene to make money for them and in turn create wealth for themselves? It would be a never ending wait if the cultural scenario of the world is going to be like as we see it today where the rich and powerful art patrons move more towards the political and ideological right therefore find the radical and left leaning thoughts and expressions of the artists more or less degenerated, defunct or rather too romantic to be real hence fashionable. The flair and success of the contemporary art all over the world was mainly because of the kind of art generated within the temporary genre of contemporary art was less romantic and less nostalgic. Those works of art were/are overtly of here and now and most of the subject matters were comfortably familiar and liberally different. They worked upon this ‘difference’ and felt that they were buying something radical but non-explosive. Contemporary art shocked but did not disturb. It worked along the lines of ambiguities evoking some sort of disguised eroticism and titillating the buyer and the possessor for longer duration of time within the given temporality. Contemporary art was spectacular and made everyone drop their jaws in awe not in terms of epiphanies and apotheosis, instead of their sheer size, volume and abject strangeness. Rest of the art, that looked for evoking critique and intended to criticise, meaningful to the extent of the artists’ life blood and had the traits of romanticism, dream and nostalgia was condemned to suffer along with the producers of it. Though such producers were less in number, those who suffered, underwent it intensely. And still they do.

There is a great reverse exodus to this arena of meaningful art. The right leaning of the capitalist world has made the artists to declare their positions, politically and socio-culturally. But the problem is that the wealth creators are not going to look at this kind of art for the fear that any shift towards the middle or off the middle or to the left and more dangerously to the extreme left would cause great dent in their business interests therefore cause the drying up of their abilities to create wealth. The only way left before the artists today is to under sell. When the artists were making money by selling their works and letting their dealers create wealth for themselves, they were not really looking at the kind of prices they were commanding and the logic of their pricing. Most of them today know for sure that the prices were hugely unrealistic therefore unsustainable. The reality has finally dawned upon them. Except those senior artists who can command the prices as they wish the rest of the artists should undersell; that means all of them should sell their works for a very marginal profit. A work of art that had been sold for a lakh could now be sold for thirty thousand. This could cut the middlemen from the scene. If artists could sell their works for 1000, 2000.3000, 4000, that progression, and make the fellow citizen feel that art is an integral part of their lives and by buying a piece of art, one partakes in the grand cultural history of one’s own country. If demand increases, proportionately increase the price. One day, the profiteers would come back to the market and make wealth out of the same wares. But then one need not worry because artists are those people who could make money but never could generate wealth for their reinvestment is never on other money making project but in their lives and art. Are you ready to undersell your works? Or to put in other words, can you sell your works in such a price so that the buyer never feels smaller in front of you? It is possible. People have done it. Just try.

(all images from web. only for illustrative purpose)

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