Some Thoughts, From PDX Contemporary Art

The Romantic Myth of the Starving Artist.

Artists more than any other group of professionals are resourceful. They make the most of their living spaces and eat amazingly well on their often limited budgets. Surely the artist’s studio is a place of magic. This magic place is also the work space of putting one foot in front of the other, a place of not just imagination, but of labor. I remember going to Milton Wilson’s unheated live/work space and eating baked potatoes with salsa for lunch. As always, Milton arranged the table beautifully with great style and provided lively conversation. Yes, it was the “Romantic artist’s studio”, but at what price to the artist does this come?  Most professional artists do not make enough money. They have the constant worry of not having enough money for rent, not having health insurance, delaying visits to the dentist, lack of materials with which to make their art, and so on.

Professional artists are just that. Their profession their livelihood is making art. Artists need to be paid for their time. When you buy a piece of art the price helps cover the artist’s expenses. These costs are often higher than the general public may realize: a tube of oil paint can be $30, a paint brush upwards of $50, a single sheet of paper is $10, professional photography of artwork is around $500, and studio rent ranges from $300-$1,500/mo.  Then there are the hidden costs,  the cost of education, making sure there  is a flexible schedule that allows for meeting with collectors, curators, or even other artists.  The largest hidden cost is time. Art takes a lot of time, to process and create.  Artists need an abundance of time to contemplate and complete if they are to produce meaningful work.

Storm Tharp painting in his studio.

Megan Murphy in her studio.

Why Visit an Art Fair?

With the recent Armory Show and VOLTA New York fairs closing this past weekend, it seems like a good time to look at the benefits of such events, both to the gallery and the individual. Art fairs give you an unrivaled chance to see so much art from many different galleries national and international in one setting. Most dealers display what they feel is some of their strongest work, and it is fun. Fairs, however, do not replace the more intimate experience of visiting individual galleries, where you can view art in an unhurried way, learn more about an artist, and get to know the gallerist on a personal level.

Why Does a Gallery Participate in an Art Fair ?

From a business standpoint, participating in an art fair is enormously expensive, in terms of both money and time. A gallery spends time submitting an application, and once (if)  accepted, there are expenses of shipping, travel, hotel, entertaining, meals, and extra lights and walls, all on top of the booth rental fee, which can range from $8,000- $40,000. Notwithstanding, an art fair provides an extraordinary opportunity to reach a wide audience of viewers, curators and collectors. The personal connections made during the run of the fair often result in repeat business, recommendations, museum interest, acclaim for the artists, relationships with other galleries, and rewarding friendships.

Report from VOLTA NY  2012

Elizabeth Dick helped out at our PDX Contemporary Art booth at VOLTA this year, where Adam Sorensen had a solo exhibiton. VOLTA is a small invitational art fair that started in Europe, and is now owned by The Armory. It is truly international and contemporary; a great way to see what is being made right now.

Adam Sorensen showing one of his oil on paper works to a visitor in the PDX booth.

Just the kind of pocket book an art dealer likes to see.

A phone snapshot of part of an installation at The Armory opening highlighting Nordic art. They were free. I wish I had taken one.

On the home front:

Be sure to visit the Portland2012 Biennial: a great way to see contemporary art and what is happening here and now in Portland (also, it’s free!).

-Jane Beebe
Owner/Director, PDX Contemporary Art

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Filed under PADA Out of Town, PDX Contemporary Art, Resources for Buyers

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