Gallery reception last night and I was one of two featured artists showing their newest works. The other was a jeweler friend of mine. She normally draws a huge crowd and garners quite a few sales as her jewelry is very fetching and reasonably priced. But only a small handful of people showed up for free food and wine and those had to rush back to watch the debates. There is so much anxiety over the economy and nowhere more than in the art community.
Despite what some people may think when they view the price tag on a painting artists seldom get rich. Generally we would like to make a profit above the costs so we support ourselves or at least our addition to the process of creating.
That is getting harder. Galleries are failing daily. Those that are not are treading the deep waters by trimming back on advertising, taking a larger percentage from each sale, or charging the artist for "wall space." This, of course, changes it for the artist. Price higher so you still get what you need out of a painting when it has gone from 50/50 to 40/60 in the gallery's favor? Or go lower so you sell more? That could be the answer where you have to pay a certain amount each month for the wall space. This is running from $50 to $200 a month in a current sampling of galleries in my area. I certainly cannot afford the latter unless they can guarantee lots of sales. But in this unstable economy that is not the case.
There is no longer a middle class market. They are too involved making mortgage payments and putting gas in the cars. The well off seem to still have it to spend but they are being a whole lot more selective about what they do buy. Oddly they are going for the high priced art so lowering prices to sell more as suggested in the paragraph above may be self-defeating.
There are various counters to the bailout schemes being considered in congress this week. I have not crunched the numbers but one friend that did said if instead of bailing out the cheating fat cats we divided the money up among the legal adults in the US it would be a huge sum each. And likely people would pay off credit cards, mortgages paid ahead or paid off, new cars purchased, etc and wouldn't that benefit the economy and even the investment banks more?
So what would I do if the government gave me $40,000 or more? Pay my mortgage a year in advance, build my deck on my studio and have my house painted to raise its value in a declining market, put at least $10,000 in gold bonds, and $5000 where it could be reached easily for a crisis (not sure I trust banks yet so under my mattress?). If the government made it taxable unless you put a certain percentage in savings it would stabilize banks.
So what would you do with $40,000? I would hope some people would buy art. But this is probably just a very creative dream because the government always bails out the crooks and rich and never the regular people honestly trying to make a living. It is all trickle down and not trickle up. I would have thought we proved that theory wrong with S&L scandal, Erron, and now the investment banks.
But what do I know? I am just an artist trying to figure out the changing landscape.