BUILDING AN ART COLLECTING CULTURE

A Main Street Project

A couple of years ago, a student of mine, Alexa, painted a  wonderful, kind of crazy, large portrait of her best friend. Needless to say, the friend’s parents loved it and they asked her how much she wanted for it. When she told them 800.00 dollars, they said no. It hurts me to admit it but I wasn’t surprised. 

 Creativity and a sensibility for beauty are two of the most distinctive traits of our species. Albert Einstein once said  “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination” And our desire to possess beautiful things moves entire industries, it’s sometimes the reason why many people want to have money, so they can have beautiful things. The irony of it all is that despite creativity being a prime characteristic of humanity, most people are not very creative, not really. The job of an artists is in essence to create beauty, maybe not beauty in the same sense as pretty but in the sense of visual strength. like Kant said, “Art does not want the representation of a beautiful thing, but the representation of something beautiful  “ so, if beautiful things are part of the human desire, why are so many artists struggling to get by, it's a tough world for them. Over 68% of them are underpaid or do not generate an income worthy of the middle class. Most, have to have another job waiting tables or working behind a counter somewhere. Why? One would think that most creative people do very well for themselves. Even when they have jobs coming their way, one after the next, they are still not making much money.

Shortly after that couple didn’t want to pay Alexa what she asked for that painting, I met the friend’s mom. They really wanted that piece, and  they had the perfect wall for it in their brand new home she told me, but she was appalled at how much the young girl wanted for the painting. I know what you’re thinking, that’s a lot of money and maybe they couldn’t afford it, but that’s not the case; in fact, it's quite the opposite.

  For the longest time it had been upsetting to me how the largest percentage of artists out there go either unrewarded or underpaid. If the artist is someone you know, then she or he should give you a good price because you’re friends. If the artist is just starting, then she should give you a good deal because you’re doing her a favor. In the meanwhile I witness so many talented young people change their minds about studying art because the they were afraid of being broke.

 The way I see it, in essence there are two main problems. First, there isn’t enough awareness on the public side. If someone built their dream home, the one thing they’re most likely not to want to spend a lot of money is on a paintings, a photograph or much less a sculpture. Apparently they’re not aware of  the captivating power that a good piece of art inputs into a room.

 The second problem is that even when people love art and are willing to pay for it, there’s only so much wall space at any given house to display it, so they don’t want to keep buying it because the lack of space, and I understand their situation, when you visit the house of those rare ones, the collectors, the true art patrons, something odd immediately jumps at us: the oversaturated space, walls with way too many paintings or art pieces. It just looks awkward.

What to do about it? After all, a work of art is meant to be looked at, displayed, enjoyed. I got together with some people who are on the brokering end and decided to organize art exhibits. Not to promote the artists, not directly, instead to promote the collector’s collection. It’s not something new. It’s actually done all the time, but it’s done at a large scale with very famous, very expensive pieces. This is the same thing, just at a local level. It’s a job that requires the involvement of collectors, galleries and sometimes communities in general. It’s not easy because despite everybody’s willingness to get involved, galleries and artists themselves would much rather put the energy into something that can be sold instead of something that has already been sold, but we’re hoping that by promoting a collection will incentivize more art lovers to become collectors, and, with some luck, get others around them to start loving art. Hopefully, in time people would get to see the idea of becoming a collector a little bit more welcoming.

  

-Andy Schmidt