((Essay from: "Art In King Size Beds: A Collector's Journal."))
I think it's high time that someone spoke out about this.
There is such a strong perception out there that you have to be wealthy to collect art. Of course, being rich certainly helps and people who can barely put food on the table probably aren't thinking about their next art purchase.
The connection between wealth and art collecting is so tight that it may never be unraveled. That's such a shame because ultimately the entire "art world" suffers. The perception creates so many barriers. Living artists suffer because people who aren't rich, but who love art are often too intimidated to even walk into a gallery. Why look at things that only "rich people" can afford? It's like dangling a carrot stick in front of your own face. Consequently, many people don't even see artists' work, which in turn, doesn't sell. Some struggling galleries often charge high prices (which only the rich can afford) to pay expenses and of course, make money. The perception that only rich people can afford art creates a very small target audience. Everyone has to make money, galleries included.
It's such a sad cycle. What's sadder is that this is happening during a time when contemporary art is reaching higher heights. But guess what? In most cases, it's not the "Average Joe" who is buying art. However, if the "Average Joe" did buy art, even two paintings a year, that would send art sales through the roof. Artists and galleries wouldn't be able to keep up with the demand.
So, how can we get "Joe" to buy? Let's count the ways:
1. I think artists need to get better at promoting their own work. Let's face it folks, we're living in the age of self-promotion. If you don't get out there and promote your own product, who will? Galleries? Yes, but they can't sell everything all at once. Also, when you're showing your work, TRY to be warm and friendly. Dark and moody may apply while you're working the canvas, but not when you're trying to sway potential buyers.
2. I think artists also need to get better at putting prices on their work and be willing to negotiate a little. Most people are NOT going to spend even $500.00 on a painting, but perhaps they'll pay $250.00 for something else an artist may have. Artists can simultaneously create "high-end" works and more "affordable" works for people who love art, but aren't rich. Take a cue from designers like Todd Oldham. Again, let's face it, there are too many other things out there competing for "Average Joe's" money. Ipods, cell-phones, laptops and flat-screen televisions are mighty tempting!
3. The artworld needs to open up. It can be very insular and snobbish. This keeps MOST potential buyers away. The last thing someone wants is to be snubbed in a gallery after mustering up the courage to visit in the first place. Trust me on this one.
4. People can only buy what they SEE. Visual connection is the key element of desire. I can only want something if I've seen it first! We need to get art on display EVERYWHERE. Galleries, art fairs and websites can’t do it alone. People should be able to see the work of living artists not only in galleries, coffee shops and bookstores, but also in restaurants, hotels, airports, sports arenas, government buildings, hospitals, music halls, public cafeterias, train stations, MALLS ... places where captive audiences gather. Places where REAL people gather. I can only want something if I've seen it first. Then, people would say, "Hey, look at that! I must have it!"
Could this all work? Maybe, maybe not. Isn't it worth a try?
Whenever I tell people that I collect art, I usually get the same responses. “Oh, you must be rich!” Or, "How much money do you make?"
We've got to make changes. There's too much living art to be sold to far too many "Average Joes" who just need a little encouragement. Let's get creative.