canvas doesn't paint itself
art of charity
events in this town revolve around artists and galleries donating
work to help good causes and charities. The work is auctioned off,
the artists get exposure, the patrons get glamorous parties and
attention and everyone is happy. Right?
As an artist who participates from time to time, I scan the Portland
papers to see what kind of coverage ensues. And what I generally
read is how wonderful all these collectors are the people
who put up the money.
Yes, we should thank them for sure. But they got to walk out with
art, didn't they? Their pictures and names are in the paper; they
had a fun party and they support organizations that help those in
Plus, they walked out with art.
The sticking point in the scenario is that they didn't support
the gallery or the artist, but this organization instead. There
is nothing wrong with any of this, but what about the people who
truly did the giving? Why are we not thanking the artists?
Artists are the ones paying for the studios and the supplies, for
the photography and slides and framing. Artists are donating their
livelihood to those in need of health care while often having
no health insurance of their own. It's a matter of course.
Often, in fact, the only thing that artists really have is art.
They probably have clunker cars, no mortgage, can't afford children
or vacations and I could go on ...
But art they have, so will they please give it?
Without the artists, none of these events would be possible. But
it's so odd how the writers never congratulate them as if
the artwork just appears out of nowhere. The writers align themselves
with the money instead.
Collectors not only have the opportunity to help noble causes while
gracing their walls but to do so at a discount. As it is, bids begin
below market value, but those in the know only have to wait till
the next day to apprise themselves of art at bargain-basement prices
that dealers and artists did not set.
When such practices become the norm it's no wonder that art made
by mid-career artists can be had for a couple hundred dollars. Why
pay more? It's no secret that the cheapest art market in the country
is right here in Portland. These practices are obviously not all
to blame but they can't be helping.
Meanwhile, various organizations (and potential collectors) are
calling up my friends and me, sending forms, e-mailing, etc., for
information on my art or the art of people I've shown at my gallery.
Where are they the rest of the year? Where is their interest in
my work or gallery? I never see any of them around. They don't come
into Lovelake or other small-time (but numerous) art hangouts around
town. Where is their interest in art and artists the rest of the
When I lived in New York City, I donated two pieces to one such
organization and never even heard back from them. Did the work sell?
Who bought it? Is it in some executive's office? I never found out
two works I spent weeks and weeks on. But it was take the
goods and run never any interest in what I was doing otherwise.
Artists will always donate work, no matter what, for a multitude
of reasons. They have every reason to relate to those who live at-risk
and who benefit from these organizations. They often work in isolation
and need to feel effective and a part of something greater. Money
and fame might always elude them. Their generosity should be noted,
along with artistic achievements.