As a former marketing executive, it’s no surprise that I have a profound interest in the business aspect of the art world. Seeing works by contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Richard Prince sell for tens of millions of dollars truly astounds me. What amazes me most about these artists, however, is neither the subjects they investigate nor the aesthetics of their pieces, but rather the ways by which they go about engaging in various forms of marketing and self-promotion. Their outlandishly banal and exceedingly garish works, along with their occasional (mis)appropriated images, could easily be mistaken as the work of idiot or genius.
With “money” playing such an integral role in the world of art, it’s surprising that so few artists have chosen to comment on this subject in their work. While pieces like John Baldessari’s 1966-68 painting titled Quality Material references the act of making “good” artwork, artists seem to refrain from discussing monetary figures in their work. For my thesis project, which I plan to title “The Bottom Line,” I intend to show my audience what it takes to create and sell an entire body of artwork, and exactly how much money I take home in the process. The piece will use receipts, photographs, etc. to show everything from the purchasing of materials to the sale of the last piece. I will first have an initial show, where my objective will be to make as much money as possible through the sale of my artwork. I will start out by trying to find a gallery to show my artwork and finish by selling any unsold artwork by whatever means necessary. The thesis show will then show the evidence of my journey.
As for the artwork, I have chosen to create pieces that I believe will have the best potential to sell and will gross the most income. My canvases are 22”X30” museum quality pieces – large enough to command high prices but not too large that people will not want to purchase them. The themes in my pieces are safe. They include images of Boston and Boston area landmarks, but they are abstract enough that the themes do not necessarily become the foci of the piece. Also, in an effort to target a possible higher income demographic of potential buyers, I have chosen to include images of Harvard, Tufts and MIT in some pieces.
Though I embrace the idea of “art as commodity,” I also have a rather cynical view of the art market. While artists such as Kara Walker, Barbara Kruger and many others seem to produce artworks with much more thoughtful and inspiring themes than say Hirst and Koons, the market value of Walker’s and Kruger’s works pales in comparison. Along with depicting my fascination of the art market and exposing my audience to the grass roots efforts of an artist attempting to get his first “real” gallery show and sell his work, I hope that my thesis project can also serve as a commentary on the absurdity and baseless ness that is all too common in the upper echelons of today’s contemporary art world.
Evidence of making: