Etiquette for Artful Living


Dear Babs, In my art practice, I gravitate toward using ephemeral media and creating installations. Sometimes my work deals with “difficult” subject matter. Do most gallery owners steer clear of those qualities in art because it is challenging to sell? Is the only route to showing and selling work to go with nonprofit or alternative spaces?
—Beth Jackson, Los Angeles

Dear Beth, What an excellent question. First off, if you do resort to only nonprofit or alternative spaces, forget about selling your work. Those spaces might show your work, which is great for exposure. But ultimately nonprofits, well, are nonprofits, so they are not making money off of your work (ostensibly).

Back to the subject matter of work that is difficult to sell. If you find a gallery that believes in you and your work, then half of the battle is over. They will work with whatever you do with your art, whether it be video, sperm on canvas, crayon on cardboard, installations made out of trash… But here’s a little secret. They won’t do that for very long, as no gallery keeps any artist on if they aren’t making them money; I don’t care if you’re Jeff Koons. Your work must sell or you are out the door.

So, you begin to make work along with the work that isn’t marketable. Haven’t you wondered about the artists that only do performance art? All of the sudden they are painters! All of the sudden they are selling the documentations of their performances. Suddenly the performance props are made out of bronze and gold, er uh, or wax (Matthew Barney anyone?).
So, we’re glad to hear you are making art from the heart, but sorry, not for long if you wanna be a star. Start picking up that brush or molding that prop. Bottom line, your work has to be marketable in some form or fashion. This is an industry Beth.


Dear Babs, What makes art fine?
 —Joe Eisenmen, Chicago

Dear Joe, See above answer.

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