Populism and Spectacle - its connection with Art?

The-Giants-Perth-International-Arts-Festival
Temporal public art, art as "spectacle" and a growing appreciation of Art. Much to celebrate and behold, but does it build awareness and appreciation of the work of artists more broadly? Read More...

End of 2014 Gallerist Musings

Toyota-car-launch-at-the-channon-gallery
2014 - The year that was! It was a huge year for the gallery with lots of shows and some new insights on advocating for the Arts and Artists outside of cities. Read More...

Art Galleries Outside Cities

Musings on regional galleries and advocating for the Arts and Artists outside of major cultural centres - the cities. Read More...

An Observation of Observations

Musings on the accomplished and sublime work of artist, Stuart Cussons. Read More...

Art Beyond Cities

Opinion piece on regional arts - particularly the visual arts - and the world beyond the city arts 'epi-centre'. Read More...

Brief Musings on our First Year

Lindsay-Hunt-art

Another ‘word’ from the Company Secretary.
(Image: “The Company Secretary”, Lindsay Hunt)

Almost one...

Gentle reader! Thank you for reading this.

As we approach our first birthday, I sit here somewhat amazed that we have come so far, with so many wonderful people; both artists and people who appreciate them.
Much water has flowed under the metaphoric bridge since we officially opened in July of last year and we look back in happy amazement at where we started, and how far we have come.

At our start, we were focussed on providing a venue where excellent artists could exhibit, and where their admirers could find their work. We still adamantly are!

In a less than guaranteed economic and political environment, many folk (I’m sure), viewed our venture as quixotic at best. The first few months were characterised by irrepressible enthusiasm in the face of less than ideal circumstances; some say it still is!

We have been utterly privileged to meet an astonishing array of diverse folk; both artists and people who love their work; THANK YOU! It is this very thing that gives us succor and the strength to continue.

Thanks are due as well to those of you who have taken the time to comment and constructively criticise us and offer input ... we are all learning to improve, no?

So, in order to celebrate our mutual adventures, we sincerely invite all of you to join us and our astonishing artists on Sunday July 8, at 3pm, to share our first birthday!
Please respond by RSVPing to:

Info@thechannongallery.com

To secure your place at this happy event.

Allow me to thank you all and our artists, for without you, we are nothing...

Live long & prosper!

Risk and Respite

Lindsay-Hunt-art

And now, another ‘word’ from the Company Secretary.
(Image: “The Company Secretary”, Lindsay Hunt)

Many people wonder and ask us what we do and indeed, why we do it.
What we mainly understand about the question is “Why are you doing this?”
After many months, we realise that the unpacking of this question falls into a few discreet camps.

At the outset, many well meaning folk, metaphorically have put their arms around us and asked:
“Why are you opening a fine art gallery, in the middle of winter (2011), in the middle of a recession, and in the middle of nowhere?”.

Valid questions indeed.

The simple, and possibly naive answer, is simply: “because we believe in what we are doing”. We sincerely wish to provide a venue where artists can demonstrate their gifts and where appreciative collectors will support them.

Happily, many supportive folk agree; and we thank them effusively.

And to our delight, we have experienced a dizzying array of talent. Where seven or eight months ago, we were scratching our heads to find artists, we now have to politely decline some approaches.

Much to our, and sometimes, our patrons’ surprise, we deliver shows that are far from primarily commercial, especially in this region. Denise N. Rall’s recent sumptuous costume/textile exhibition, Ross McMaster’s confronting paintings, and others, have challenged what a gallery in northern NSW is about and can be.
Lest you misunderstand us, we do have a extensive array of “accessible” works that continue to delight our customers locally, interstate, and overseas.

Finally, it was with some distress and surprise that some parties approached us recently, with more than a modicum of shauenfreuder, regarding the imminent (but happily, not realised) closure of an important gallery in the region.

The implicit argument went something like: “Won’t that be good? Now folks will go to you!”

No, and no again.

The art world relies on mindshare.
Especially here.
The more activity, more galleries, artists and government spruking regarding what we all do, the better.
If one of us dies; we all die a little death.
We emphatically want people to come to this region and savour the profound talent that exists here. We must all pull together!

The popular mythology and rhetoric goes:
We live in the most artistically rich region in Australia.

We most likely do.

So, let us actually shout this to all on the planet, share our collective (small) victories and appreciate and support endeavours that provide a platform for an arts community to not only survive, but flourish!

We’ll be in it!

Live long and prosper.

"I could do that"

Lindsay-Hunt-art
(Image: “The Company Secretary”, Lindsay Hunt)

So, yet again, a new year is upon us!

As I recover from the “Christ Mass”/ Hanukkah / Sun God period of excessive excess and self-congratulation, my alcohol addled mind wanders to things of greater import.

Just the other day, a certain person of indeterminate gender and age, sashayed in with an attitude that betrayed their mindset and indignantly announced that: “I could paint that”, quickly followed by the confident assertion that “It’s not worth XXX dollars”, as he/she swiftly and dismissively turned to walk away rather resplendent in their confident assertion.

It was something that I had witnessed many times, over many years, in many galleries.

It is that poignant yet depressing moment where folk who simply do not understand art and indeed artists - who are happy to reveal their ignorance and indeed, arrogance. In equal measure, if I am permitted to say.

Please compare and contrast the dizzying elation of the knowing person entering the gallery recently who with both confidence and conviction walked into the space and within short measure, confidently selected seven pieces that were to be dispatched to their overseas premises. Or indeed, the lovely fellow who wandered in after perusing our website, spent 90 minutes agonising over the two pieces, (from a selection of four), and confidently walked away with two! (That which will invariably enrich his life for years to come … see my previous posts ...).

Tonight, a dear friend of mine Facetimed me (look it up – Google is your friend!), and relayed his exploits in Paris and its multitude of galleries and museums. I somehow doubt that most Europeans would have the temerity and breathtaking ignorance to proclaim that both:

“I could do that” and even the more disrespectful, “ It’s not worth X dollars”.

The fundamental issue is this...

Art, its progenitors and practitioners are to be accorded the respect and understanding that any specialist should receive.

How would one approach the empty canvas or page; the blob of clay; the pieces of glass; the glob of molten-something to produce an original outcome ... something with meaning ... a sub-text ... a visual gag ... a visual angst ... a visual beauty? How?

I cannot believe that the same folk would dare to assert that they could practice law / architecture / dance (insert discipline of your choice) with the same dismissive regard that they happily and flippantly disregard Artists. Art is something that is rare, precious, and transformative.

We may be wage slaves in jobs we despise, yet endure because we have to. We may be executives with position and power with a financial recompense to make most of us blush. We may be unemployed, on the boundaries of society ... but we all take succour, hope and inspiration from those who articulate the beauty and desperation that we may not be able to articulate.

These are the Artists who we admire ... and simply cannot be.

I raise my glass to them.

We raise our glasses to them!

To the detractors; the imitators and the disingenuous, we do wish them well - but we also wish them knowledge, insight, expression and dexterity to produce their own art - something to be proud of and something to share with others.

That would be a wondrous and beautiful thing.

Live long and prosper …


The Cost of Everything ... and the Value of Nothing

Lindsay-Hunt-art

And now, another rather long-winded ‘word’ from the Company Secretary.
(Image: “The Company Secretary”, Lindsay Hunt)

I write this, in a state of shock, after learning of Christopher Hitchens’ inevitable demise.

His death has underscored a number of existential issues that have danced wildly in my head the past few weeks; not the least-most, art, and its value. And although I am nowhere near as an accomplished writer as the venerable Mr Hitchens, I shall attempt to explore this subject in some depth.

By value, I do not mean some wildly abstracted (yet valid) proposition that art brings joy, contemplation, and even decoration to one’s life. No, I refer to the land-mine issue of how art is “valued” (in a financial sense), and what it is worth - slightly different issues, gentle reader.

If we restrain the discussion to the question of “how is art valued”, to one of proper & fair remuneration to the artist, this alone raises even more questions regarding the role of galleries, what patrons will be prepared to pay, and the inevitable position of the artist themselves.

Have you ever been to a gallery and witnessed a piece that was, to your mind, mediocre at best, yet commanded a price that made you wince? Indeed, has the reverse happened to you? Is there an instance where you stood before a work that beguiled you so; and whereupon glancing at the price, your blood quickened as you raced for your coins? (Lest any other appreciative eye steal it from beneath your very gaze?). Of course!

This is a most vexing issue for all in this small industry, (yes Virginia, it IS an industry, and has been for centuries). It raises fundamental issues about what an artist does, what it costs to do it, and how much a buyer is prepared to pay. Is the production of “Art”, “work” in the popularly understood meaning of that word? Yes and no. Yes, it is work in the sense that an individual toils, physically, intellectually, and emotionally to produce an object, or at least an idea, that then has its own life, independent of the artist. So, in a traditional deterministic market sense (and indeed, a Marxist sense), yes, the production of art is work. That said, many folk including artists, dealers, and ourselves, would argue that it is more than mere work (in its utilitarian sense). It is the packaging and transmission of some of the artist’s “soul”. It, like virtually no other human activity serves the seemingly contradictory Gods of “creation” and “re-creation”, in their now unfashionably Marxist sense.

Art is a product, to be sure, and like all products, occupies a dizzying galaxy of price points. However, the old axiom of “you always get what you pay for” doesn’t always apply in the art world. Sometimes you get more, sometimes you get less, often, you get a fair deal. But before we examine that, let’s look at what it means to be an artist. Readers will forgive the simplification, (sorry, I’m writing a blog, NOT a PhD.), but artists fall primarily into two distinct camps:

1. I’m interested in art and I enjoy painting, and have produced work over a period of time, but I’m no fool, I’ve got a “real” job as well.
2. I can’t help myself. Art is my life, it is who I am, and without the ability to do it, I’ll die.

Artists in camp #1 occupy an interesting position. They do art because they like to do so, but for reasons self-determined (perhaps valid & invalid), they have relegated their art to the status of “serious hobby”. They may feel rightly or wrongly, that their art isn’t good enough, or serious enough, or doesn’t have a real possibility of sustaining them financially.

Many times they are right, and sadly, sometimes they are dead wrong.

Camp #2 do art full time and it is their life. They are fascinating creatures that are broadly split into two sub-camps: “The Professional Artist” and “This is my life”. Of course, there is a broad shade of grey that traverses these two positions, indeed, many times the artist will occupy both ends of this camp. Allow me to explain.

It goes without saying that most artists in camp #2 are dedicated to their art. They view it as something innate to their being, way more than a job or vocation. They wake each day with the excitement and dread of a blank canvass/stone/metal/page (insert your medium of choice here). For them, making art is a fundamental challenge that goes beyond mere production; it is the naked revelation of self. These people have devoted their lives to their art (yes it sounds corny I know, but for most of them, this is absolutely true). For these folk, art is not an occupation, a 9 to 5 activity, something to fill in the time and generate an income. It is so much more than this. Some of the more professional (read ambitious) of them may be chasing every art prize, schmoozing with dealers and collectors, and planning their next assault on the Tate. Others may be ensconced in their dimly-lit studio producing stunning work, most of it not ever seeing the light of day, let alone a gallery wall or a collector’s house. Regardless of the wide range of self-perception and self-promotion that exists amongst these artists, all in camp #2 have one thing in common, they live for their art, whether you like it or not.

Ok then, how do we value art?
Perhaps we should consider how we should NOT value art first, and then move on.
So, pretend for a moment that we are economic reductionists, let’s look at what it costs to make art in the real physical world and for the moment, forget all the airy-fairy abstractions regarding dignity and creativity. (Oh, by the way, please, no emails/letters/firebombs protesting my generalisations please, remember, it’s a blog and I’m a writer exploring ideas, not an accountant covering all financial contingencies!).

An artist (painter in this instance) has an idea for painting.
It is of small to immense size.
It will take a few days/weeks/months to execute .
It will require materials.
It will demand creativity & patience (whoops, no cell on the spreadsheet for that!).

So, materials and time (labour), are the very baseline we start with.
Our furrowed brow accountant pronounces that the manufactured cost of the work lies somewhere between $300 and somewhere significantly beyond this, (depending on the variables above).

Let’s ask a qualified tradesperson about their hourly rate; a QC, a professor, a drug dealer. And that’s just for the execution of their respective duties. If we include the time and effort involved in the task of conceptualization, we add another significant cost to the equation.

So, ignoring “skill”, “beauty”, or any other non-empirical consideration, we have a price, (for produced cost – let alone final sale).
But is this any way to value art?

As sober as this may appear to some readers (God help us all), would this not be absurd applied to a Caravaggio, Dali, Smart, or Hirst? (OK,OK, I’ll give you Hirst - sorry Damien!).
“Gee, that DaVinci is bloody small! ‘Mustn’a cost him much to slap-up Ol’ Mona eh?!”
Indeed ....

Yes, I’m being facetious, but I want to make the point that the vast majority of the artists, in this country at least, are living so far below the average wage, it’s not funny. Yes, there are a few spectacular exceptions, and we eagerly await the day when most artists achieve the financial success of exemplars such as William Robinson. (Don’t hold your breath).

A number of things continue to irritate and fascinate me in equal measure. After years tromping around the periphery of the art world, I find myself very much “in it”, and the veils are lifting at a frightening rate. It continues to amaze me that some folk who claim to represent the artist’s best interests are actively pursuing the opposite. Instances where certain artists have been paid ONE SIXTH of a sale price abound. Even more sadly, accomplished artists, who may be new and emerging, are sometimes given no guidance as to pricing, allowing them to undervalue their work encouraging the cheapening of the gallery, the industry and the expectations of buyers/collectors. At the other end, please don’t get me started about folk who think galleries are the aesthetic equivalent of “The Good Guys” and the artworks are white goods waiting for discounts to fall upon the canny shopper. Classy; and respectful.

Oh, and we didn’t even get around to talent and the transcendent nature of some art, that would be the “worth” thing I mentioned before - another blog kids.

The creation of art, and the disposition of the unique creatures that do it well is a rare and valuable thing. It deserves respectful consideration and should be accorded a price commensurate with its lasting effect. Good art lingers longer than a case of Grange or a nice European car; but often costs considerably less.
What price lasting joy?

Artists and their work (the good ones!), are worth more than we think and care to give credit to.

Live long & prosper ...