|The Red Boat 30" x 40" oil on stretched canvas $1700 Canadian dollars +shipping|
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A comment overheard at a gallery recently made me think about the contribution that artists make to the economy, something which seems to be overlooked. The comment was about pricing for a painting and the person said something to the effect of "That artist must be making a fortune. And funded by government money too."
For individuals who are not artists, it may seem that the artist pockets all the money paid for a painting in a gallery. However, there is a significant investment in time and money before a painting can end up on a gallery wall which eats into the final amount that the artist ends up with. Industry springs up around artists, but artists are often the lowest paid and those who are asked the most for discounts, deals and donations.
Artists contribute to the business community, such as art supply producers and sellers, framing businesses, marketing materials such as business cards and posters, book sellers for all those "how-to" books, website hosts, media industry for interviews for newspapers and magazines and to the tourism industry in communities, producing local images, prints, greeting cards, t-shirt designs, etc.
Without grants, artists may not have the resources available to explore new work and create new art. Investment by government into the art industry is vital for healthy communities and growth of the culture and heritage. Like the behind the scenes work and dollar investment that goes into a painting before it ever hits a public wall, a grant doesn't pay for trivial things. It is essential to create, innovate and exist sometimes without undue hardship that affect these things.
But still artists have to fight for a place to be seen in the world and have their work recognized and yes, sold. It is a business, after all. Of course art must be of a high enough quality to feed these industries and meet public need. With the deluge of "artists" who have discovered the internet, the market is flooded with images and it takes a strong soul with lots of time to weed out the doe eyed children painted on velvet and find quality art.
But before it ever reaches public display there is a cost and a risk to the artist. Investment in tools and supplies, training, practice and inspiration all go into the production. Then framing. Professional quality framing is required, no off the shelf frames for most reputable gallery representation and of course that comes with a price tag. Transportation may be required if pieces are large. Insurance if stored in a studio or home.
Gallery commissions take a portion of the sales costs, anywhere from 30% to 50% of the price on the gallery wall. And they do their work when representing an artist, from holding paintings to insuring, marketing, sales and shipping if required.
So with the upfront costs incurred, commission fees and the hope that the right person comes through the door and loves your piece enough to purchase it, you can see that it is far from all profit for the artist. This is why artists diversify into teaching, writing, design, prints and second jobs as the industry can be fickle and expensive.
However, I still love what I do and wouldn't change it.