Australian Fine Artist

Posts tagged ‘statements’

Business Studies Week 3 Semester 2

Our regular tutor has been away ill recently so we had a stand in for this session with a couple of interesting videos for us to watch and consider. It was a bit difficult to concentrate I must admit as the room was freezing and I spent a lot of time swapping hands over to get them warm! Never the less we persevered and I think, gained a lot from what we watched.

Video 1: Charles Saatchi

The name Saatchi is very well known in the advertising profession. As a graphic designer for over thirty years I have not only heard of them, but in my capacity in a bureau years ago, I indirectly worked for the Melbourne office as their artists came in with jobs to be processed and we handled their overflow work when the inhouse departments could not meet deadlines. I saw how the advertising business tended to burn out even very young artists during the 1990s as they often put in over twelve hour days on a regular basis, it was and still is a tough business.

Charles Saatchi decided to move his interests from the advertising industry focus to that of promoting and selling fine art about 20-30 years ago, around the same time as I was working. He put together an art prize in Britain by the look of the video, where a selection of artists competed to smaller and smaller groups until one was decided on by Saatchi himself for the opportunity to display at the Hermitage in Russia and other prizes to help boost their career and raise their profile.

The Saatchi Gallery itself looks a very imposing and grand building. It would rival any public museum or gallery in the world. Why Charles has decided to change his interest from advertising to fine art, in the form of contemporary art was not the focus of the video, rather the process the artists who were selected went through to go from one round to the next by interview and showing and explaining their work to a selection panel.

The final six were interviewed by Saatchi who would choose the artist he thought would have the skillset and ability to fulfil the obligations of the prize. The final six were mostly tertiary art graduates but there was also a member who was an experienced practising artist with no formal training. Painting and sculpture as well as video and mixed media were all considered. Past winners have gone on to be very well known all over the world and their prices have risen extraordinarily into the millions of dollars.

I found it interesting that one of the tasks set the competitors was a life drawing session. I have been taught and teach that basic drawing skills and the ability to observe and translate is very important no matter what form of art you are practising. I couldn’t believe how poor some of the drawing skills were in this group. Even in a contemporary art competition, which I think this was, basic traditional methods and skill sets were being looked for and expected. It was interesting that out of the six finalists, three were painters who could draw at least a bit.

This does not take away from the potential and innovation that was also being looked for from each artist, as well the ability to explain their process and motivation for each piece. Some of this was also lacking. Some found it very difficult to stand in front of their work and clearly explain what it was about. What were they trying to say or express, what gave them the idea?

We didn’t get to see who was the final winner and the process of and reason for the competition was to me, a bit contradictory. Was it like a game show similar to many on TV in the past decade, or was it a genuine attempt by Saatchi to encourage and promote art? I can not really give an answer to this. What it did show clearly to me was that no matter where or how we are going to show our art, compete with our art, or try to sell it, we must be prepared at some stage to explain why we do it.

As professionals in any business, continual training and improvement should be a part of our practice. All professionals have their basic training and make sure they keep their qualifications up to date, they have standards and rules of conduct. We should be prepared to understand the basics of our profession, be prepared to continually learn and aim to have a business that is always aiming for improvement. We should be able to stand in front of our art and know why we did it, what process we went through to create it and an idea of its value.

So was this about the “king maker” or showing up the need for us all to lift our game if we want to make it in a world that doesn’t owe us a living, hence, if we wish to be respected as a professional shouldn’t we make sure we train and act like one?

Video 2: The Great Contemporary Art Bubble

I had not heard of the “Great Art Bubble” but have been aware of the economies of Australia and countries overseas for a few decades as we have gone through recessions and growth to booms and back. Australia lags behind the rest of the world in how and when a recession or burst in economic bubbles occur. Sometimes it doesn’t affect us the same way, it may not be as harsh, or it may hit some parts of the economy more than others. Sooner or later though, it tends to affect us. What I have noticed in business in particular is that art departments are always a first up for cut backs in companies, and art in general as more of a luxury item rather than an essential is what people tend to stop buying.

It makes sense, if you are worried about meeting your obligations you are not likely to spend on art, go on expensive holidays, buy new cars or eat out in expensive restaurants. If your business is struggling are you still going to go out and fill the offices with expensive art?

This video brought to light the practices of collectors, brokers, auction houses etc to bathe in the good times by making sure that the artists which they backed and promoted had not only good prices, but increases in sales and sale prices that were to become unsustainable practice. Artists looked like they gained fame and money along with these businesses and groups with something like 800% increases in sometimes only a year but it really looked more like it was “about” the sellers and buyers and not the artist.

Art can be subverted. It can be all about ego, money, prestige, status. Raise an artist’s profile, make their work the stuff you just must have on your wall, make it what you have to collect and hang on your office building walls, make sure that this artist’s work continually keeps going up in price at auction and who gets hurt you may ask?

Consider this, how does the rest of the community get to see the art? The public galleries are pressured into hanging artists that are in demand. Who pays for this? It comes from the public purse.

As an artist, of course I want to see my work being promoted, I want to see it grow in value. The difference here is the following.

Who do I know? Quite often it is not the talent but the contacts that get the high profile and the money.

What am I willing to do to raise the profile of my art and become a “success”? Some artists buy back their own art to keep the prices up rather than have it passed in at auction.

Who am I willing to do business with? Am I willing to willing to join the bleeding edge for the sake of money? Galleries have a look they want to sell.

The methods of trading and secret deals that were exposed in this video were only what I have suspected of parts of the art market for many years. You can’t see some of the poor standards of art being hotly sold at huge prices without wondering, who did this person know to get that sold or hung? What has gone on that we don’t know about?

Of course all this speculation and unrealistic trading was hit by the inevitable 2008-9 GFC. Changes in the law in recent years may cut down some of the practices of the 1990s by auction houses, but the ego factor in parts of the arts market I feel may not go away, but just cool off for a while until the next big thing to push or promote for money.

The amount of artists, the quantity of “contemporary” art works that look similar was also addressed during this video. I have felt this when attending some exhibitions. I couldn’t tell one artist’s work from another.  I have failed to see significant effort to create an individual style or show any indication of formal training or understanding of traditional methods of creating artwork (EG: composition, materials, design, colour theory, understanding of tone, light, line, texture, final presentation).

Damien Hurst, who became very well known and wealthy from sales of his art through auction houses and purchasing by collectors at one stage experimented with going direct by holding his own show and auction. Contrary to the looming economic downturn predictions for the success or more likely failure, he made good sales for this event, but the inevitable downturn did come.

Even in Victoria there are galleries holding on to a lot of work and handling a lot of artists, with works hung for quite a while without selling. Several galleries have closed over the past few years and I have not seen good percentages of sales in many cases in the bottom and upper end of the market.

The video cited 2009 as a year where there were many failures to sell including works by very well known artists.

What people tend to forget is that what goes up, can easily go down, particularly in a speculative market. Even though people can buy what they want rather than what they need, when the money runs out, luxury items get put on the back burner. There isn’t enough wealth out there to support the amount of artists practising to bring in big money for all of us or even many of us… and do we really want to be involved in the suspect practices of certain groups? It takes the power out of your hands and the whole thing becomes speculative. It is ego run amok.

As the economic downturn hit, Hurst closed studios where he had assistants assembling his artworks, his mass produced process was taken back to production of paintings 100% completed by his hand, out of one studio, which to my thinking shows better integrity and quality than something he only finished off.

The movie Wall Street kept coming to mind during this video. Greed is good, the love of money, status and ego all went through my mind. Where in all of this was the art, the love of the process and production of work of integrity and quality? Of course I don’t want to live as a pauper, I want a comfortable lifestyle, I would also like to see my work recognised, sell and be known as a good if not great artist (preferably before I die) – but for the work, for the effort I put into making it the best I can produce and for the love I have in doing it, for being an artist of good and honest character. Something in stark contrast to a lot of what I was looking at today.

Business Studies Week 1 Semester 2

Presentation of Artist’s Statements

We were to have some of the last of the artist’s statements form students today, but they have not arrived in class again. I will not speculate on why and it is not my place to guess, but when grades are involved it is a shame to see this happen. However, I have done my work and that is all I really am concerned about for the moment unless someone asks me for some help, which I am always happy to give.

We quickly moved on to the other topics for the day.

Assessment Tasks

Concentrating more on the business side of our future or emerging arts practices, we will be tackling two assessment tasks for this semester. As we have until the end of the year to get these done, I don’t see a problem in achieving these.

  1. Prepare for sustainable professional practice
    Prepare a SWOT (Strengths, weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis for yourself in context of our perceived place int he arts industry
    Create an action plan outlining our progress towards realising an opportunity in the arts industry. This can be in a chart format. Due Date October 16.
  2. Present a body of own creative work
    Identify 2 niche markets for your practical work. This will be in the form of a presentation to the class (for each one) outlining the characteristics of the niche market and presenting your work in relation to that market. Notations to go to David via email. Due dates October 9, 16, 23.

Now that I know what is expected for the semester I was actually more relaxed as we got into the discussion for the class.

85% of art graduates do not end up in arts business according to some statistics, with many artists failing to earn enough to call a livable wage. As the government in a lot of cases is funding our education and helping us with financial support, they want to see more students working and earning a living that pays their way in their chosen field. it makes sense to me that if you are studying art you want either a job in the arts or to start your own business of some sort in the arts field. I am already working on my business plans and hopefully laying the ground work for a reputable business and professional name as a practising artist.

Studying more about how this can be achieved can only be beneficial. We were asked the following: where do you think are the areas of sustainable business practice in general? And what are products that have stood the test of time?

  • Teaching
  • Law
  • Medicine (doctors)
  • Trades (plumbers, electricians)
  • Farming
  • Dentistry
  • Coca Cola
  • Cadbury
  • Peters
  • Holden/Ford (although we recognised that this part of the market is sliding in Australia)

How are some brands long-lasting? Clever marketing based on people’s need for familiarity and nostalgia (what they grew up on) and consistent and repeated advertising which is targeted.

We then discussed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, starting with the base needs for life (shelter, food, water) to the top of the pyramid (self actualisation – exploration of the self, the mind and artistic expression). In general during a recession or social upheaval the needs go back down the pyramid and during affluent times tit goes back up to the top.

When selling, who are you aiming at?

  • Those who identify with your work and owning it (see their own story in it for example)
  • Those that love your art work for its content or style
  • Those that see owning your artwork as some sort of status symbol

Using the SWOT analysis system we see the following:

Strengths and Weaknesses = Internal Influences (designing art to suit the market – smaller and cheaper or wider range of pricing models)
Opportunities and Threats = External Influences (recessions, niche markets)

This is a good time to start noticing what lasts in business and which businesses tend to spring up quickly and then fail just as fast.

Start looking at marketing which means research. What is working, what is selling, where is it happening and with whom? what are you creating and what part of the market are you aiming at selling to? Are you suitable for that market? Can you produce a product at a price that fits the market I am aiming at? This can be an existing market or one that we create.

Then you need to decide what the measure of your success will be. Not everyone has the same ambitions and not everyone wants the same results from their ambitions. for example is it financial security or possibly improving society, or a combination of the two?


  • Look at the size of the market.
  • Look at market trends.
  • Look at diversity of your products (prints, cards, giftware, books, smaller works along with larger more expensive ones)
  • How are you going to market yourself? IE:
    Craft Markets (already researched these and not enough return for effort or profit margin)
    Mid range galleries (approached a few locally but they are swamped with artists from closed galleries at present)
    High end galleries (will do more work on these next year after more training and my first solo)
    Your own gallery or outlet (I have discussed this with my business partner and we are looking into this as a business option in our premises)
    Exhibitions (I have a list which I go over and revised yearly for entering)

What else can you do to support your arts practise? (IE earn whilst you continue to paint etc)

  • Arts Facilitating (teaching)
  • Behind the scenes work in galleries/museums
  • Alternative entertainment, theatre works etc
  • Council/shire/state/federal government arts officers
  • Grants (by applying for them)

Market Segmentation

As you decide on what you want to do, this also needs to be researched. It is basically broken down into four parts.

  1. Geographic: where you sell
  2. Demographic: Age, gender, financial standing, education, religion, income
  3. Psychological: trends and fashions at the time
  4. Usage Rate: turnover, how often you get repeat sales

This is a fair bit to think about, but it can become a natural part of your business. If you already go to art shows etc, all you need to do is expand the rings to take more note of what is going on around you, or ask some questions. Take the time to try out some new options and do some analysis afterwards to see if they are worth pursuing. Sometimes this is by doing, or trying it out, sometimes by asking established artists how things work, or a combination of these. It can be an evolutionary thing as the practise gets going, as mine has been over the past few years. I am only just getting it clear what two pronged avenue I will be following for the near future with my practice, and it may yet change as circumstances in the market place do.

We went on to go over what will be expected for our assessment tasks after this talk.

  1. What are my strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
    For Selling art
    For Teaching art
    What is my Action plan? (what is it, how am I going to do it, who is responsible for it?)
  2. Identify a niche market for your product. This has to be in two parts. Two streams of the business.
    Sales (regional and City)
    Education (Teaching from Studio, Demonstrations, Workshops, Lessons, Sessional Teacher, Teaching from Societies)
    We will be giving a presentation to the class who will fulfil the role of our target market of our business plans.

This was a very “full” session and loads of discussion and interaction went on. I felt it was also an important session as it is necessary to understand these issues for a successful business. Fail to plan and you plan to fail as they say. The key to winning (or success) is prior knowledge. Big businesses hire people as marketing managers to make sure that they understand their niche in the marketplace and can stay ahead of if not up to date with market trends. Coke remakes itself on a regular basis, as do many successful brands (look at Madonna for example, who has had a very successful career and there are many others)

Art in most cases relies on people wanting to spend “disposable income”, it is something you want not something you need. It is the identifying of the part of that income stream to enter into considering the artwork you produce and the professional and personal life you wish to have that takes planning and monitoring.

Business Studies Week 12

Presentation of Artist’s Statements

Today we were due to have more artist’s statements from fellow classmates. The ones booked for the day were not in class and they have now missed the opportunity to present for the semester. I don’t know what this means for their assessment, and frankly it isn’t my business as a fellow student to worry about. As a potential trainer I may have views but not for this blog.

Absence meant that the other subjects for the session were given more time, which was good for me as they were very interesting.

We talked about Benchmarking. This means comparing against the best, or setting standards. Something that my partner and I talk about a lot in reference to what I am producing in my arts practice and where it is going.

What are your expectations in the future for your practice?

  1. University
  2. Employment in the arts
  3. A business of your own
  4. Teaching

David has started the process of asking each of us where we are intending to take our art, what sort of job or business we are looking at entering or starting and how we intend to get there. IE: A business plan.

These are some of the results form questions asked of students so far.

Picture a good or ‘alright’ job. What does it entail?

  • Working with others
  • Being in the arts in some form
  • Supportive environment
  • On the job training
  • Good hours (9-5)
  • A degree of autonomy (no micromanaging)
  • Room for creative problem solving

So, how do you get there? what is the next step?

Identify a Critical path:

  • Get qualified for teaching if you wish to teach
  • Start interacting with schools you’d like to work in if teaching is your goal
  • Think about incursions – Volunteer as a visiting artist for example

Analysis (with teaching pathway as your goal)

  • Select topics for incursions in order to start liaising with preferred schools
  • Get contact name/s
  • Write a letter (not email) to introduce yourself and what you want to talk about. State when and how you will follow up for a meeting with a phone call. (EG I will call you on Monday 30th July at 4pm if that is convenient for you. If you would like me to call at another time suitable for you could you please contact me on this number and I will be happy to work in with your schedule) I am interested in a career in teaching art and would like the opportunity for a brief chat.
  • NOTE: For sponsors, people like a definite idea of how and where their money is going to be spent. Having a clear plan, professional manner and objectives shows management of your business and the potential of good use of their investment in you. This starts with the first contact.
  • Contacting a school early or mid semester show initiative and enthusiasm rather than sloppy planning.
  • Send out to various venues.
  • Keep track of where you send what and follow up on all of them.

Public Galleries VS Private Galleries

Public galleries are more about public service in contrast to commercial ones which are a business and the profitability of the business is the main objective IE: Sales. Positions in public galleries are mostly divided into the following descriptions:

  • Director
  • Assistant Director
  • Education Officer
  • Conservator
  • Curator
  • Marketing Manager
  • Exhibition Officer
  • Security
  • Registrar

Further education is required in most of these roles after the Diploma of Visual Art, with a degree course at a minimum. Conserving required chemistry, physics and other education as well as art history, very good eyesight, a steady hand and extreme eye for detail.

Solo Exhibiting

Holding your own one person shows requires the ability to business plan, promote and produce art unless you are willing to get people in to help you with these things. Not all artists can juggle the time to get all of the paperwork let alone the promoting and venue organisation. So why go solo?

  • Easier to keep to a theme or genre
  • The ability to attract a niche market with the expendable money
  • The ability to combine several of your interests into the one theme for unique artworks
  • The profits are all yours rather than shared
  • No possibility for conflicts or disagreements about how the event is run

It was suggested that for this it would be a good idea to get a list of good venues to display at, as well as the interest groups (EG: Model train clubs, steam train enthusiast clubs for train paintings) so that you have an already interested group attending the exhibition. This is why horse portrait artists advertise in racing, stud and general horse magazines, and dog painters in dog show and breeder publications.

These chats will be continued next semester, so the rest of us now have a chance to have a good think over the next few weeks about what we want to do, how we want to do it and how we are going to respond when we are asked. I look forward to trying to articulate the two pronged plan I have in my head for my business and how I hope to get there.

Meanwhile, I doodled in class today, and here is the drawing straight off the note book! I hope David is not insulted by the result! 😉

david salter