Art and the Dollar Store a Market Reality

Posted on April 15, 2010


Dollar Stores are essentially Galleries of Failed Global Market Products. Cheap Knock Offs of successful products or Bizarre innovations and inventions of products that the market just didn’t get. Sometimes though you find a Treasure in the hidden acres of consumer trash. When you stubble upon this treasure, often it is a well made well thought out product that the broader market just didn’t recognize as a worthy product. That is exactly what the Art Market and Art School is like today. At least that is what I’ve been thinking.

This morning I read this article that should have be titled The Art of Keeping Oneself Fed AFTER Art School.

The Art of Keeping Oneself Fed in Art School

By Maura Judkis

Posted April 15, 2010

Maura Judkis touches on the fundamental challenge of a life in the arts, How do you make art and earn a living? She offers some insights on how Artists do and can make a living in the real world today. After Graduate school GET A JOB doing something that will provide a steady paycheck. She is right, even if you don’t now think so. Most likely you will soon reach a point in your life as an artist that demands you get a job or a sign that say’s will work for food.

If you are a graduate of one of the worlds Art Schools and are now a working professional you already know this. If you are just starting out as a new student or still in school you will know this sooner or later.

Yes it is true that there are lots of jobs in the arts, but not for you as an individual Fine Artist. Your art may be like the treasure hidden in the acres of trash at the dollar store. Your challenge is to get the Market to recognize the value of your work. I could go on and talk about how the general public doesn’t understand art or who the art market pays attention too, but I am thinking about us the Artists. I am thinking about what happened to us during our education and development from student to professional artist. I am thinking we got a dollar store education from the best of the best schools and we didn’t notice we were being groomed for failure. Oh yeah we were suspicious at times along the way, we wondered about the value of our ideas our work every time one of our ideas that was outside the box, the lesson plan was rejected. We wondered every time we made something that wondered off the path, took a different direction than the repetitive lesson and were redirected.  Soon punished by grades we conformed to making art in the box.

At some point in your academic career you put together a portfolio of your best work or did you.

I will bet if you go dig deep in the closet and pull out some of your Failed art school projects, the ones that didn’t make the grade you will find some of your best ideas and your the best artwork you made in school. Imagine for a moment if Damien Hirst, back in the day before he was Damien Hirst showed up in class with a dissected pig in a tank of formaldehyde; what the reaction of his Art Professor would have been. Damien the Biology building is on the westside of campus. How about Jeff Koons that turned, well dollar store items into fine art. Today these ideas are I am sure widely received and praised in art class.

We are taught art through historical repetition not through innovation and invention.

If you are now a master of art, walk into any art school any where and you will immediately see hanging in the hallway validation to my point. Drawing One ad nauseam. Yes there is a point to teaching the fundamental elements of technique and design. However we teach art form a historical point of view and that is how art is validated and sold. We pay attention to what is said to be great art through the wisdom of the historian. While we pay little attention to new ideas and innovation. It is no wonder Art School failed to prepare us for success in the real world.

To make my point we are still debating photography as a valid art medium. We are still debating the What is Art Really concept.

We are stuck working in centuries old media. Further we expect our audience to conform to our expectations of what is acceptable as art and by and large we infected our audience with the ideas taught to us by Dinosaurs. This approach does work in the art markets, like the New Picasso Exhibition at the MET. No doubt Picasso is great and this approach will work for you in a hundred years or so, if you are lucky.

What made Picasso successful?

His Audience. He knew his audience and he knew where and how to reach them. He used one of the contemporary medium’s of the time and he showed his work where his audience expected to find it, in Specifically targeted  Salon’s or Art Galleries. Back then people the audience went out to the salons to find new, innovative, inventive ideas. So Picasso knew his audience and he knew where to find them and he knew what medium to use to engage his audience. He also knew the audience was interested in new ideas and experimentation, collage. Yes collage was quite the radical medium at the turn of the last century. As was Cubism and Abstraction.

As the Twentieth Century unfolded so did new technologies.

As technology changed the world it inherently changed our audience. It changed how our audience receives and evaluates innovative and inventive ideas. At the same time we as artists try to keep up with these changes through the innovative use of accepted materials and mediums. We dismiss the innovations in technology as unworthy of our talents and creative abilities. However our audience has embraced a whole new world of information and technology as we debate what is art, really. The foundation of our debate is found in our historical repetitive training. Training we paid for in Art School. In large part that training prepared us to accept a profession a system designed to fail when measured against professions designed for success.

What is the Solution to this design failure?

Get out your exact-o-knife and cut some windows in your box. It is in todays lingo MARKETING. Know your product, know your audience and knew where and how to find or reach your customer. Regardless of your innovation or invention in your beloved medium you have a customer base an audience. If you are experimenting with multi-media or paint and canvas you have to know where your audience is. Paint to Pixels it is the same problem. I have heard and said myself countless times people don’t understand my art work or what I am doing or trying to do. One thing I have learned over the last thirty years is, there is an audience for everything, you have to find it or you can wait and hope it finds you.

Damien Hirst didn’t take his Shark to the local gift gallery. He went to Saatchi then to Brooklyn Art Museum.

Say what you like about Hirst but he is an art marketing genius, make no mistake about it. Believe me that Art Professor you had that was so critical of outside the box art and art marketing wishes he or she were half as smart as Damien Hirst.

You however are as smart if you allow yourself some freedom to really think, observe and act upon your ideas.

You can embrace technology the markets and your audience.

So stop telling yourself failure is expected. Ask yourself honestly what your real goals are as an art maker. Then refine your ideas and identify your audience. Then use every means at your deposal to reach that audience (The internet, websites, social networks, Twitter, Facebook, Flicker, Brick and Mortar Galleries, What ever it takes) and you just might reinvent your BOX.

You just might invent Success for yourself.

Yes Yes Yes Making Money is Important to your Success as an Artist, You have to Eat, Live and Work Somewhere. That costs money. You also have to pay back those student loans!

Major Picasso exhibit to open at NYC’s Met museum