Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Long Hard Slog : A Survey

Walking through Chelsea a while ago I ran into an emerging artist who is among the most successful of artists his age I know, and I asked how his last New York exhibition went. Mind you, here's someone with multiple galleries around the world, multiple books celebrating his truly fabulous work, and a long history of having a long waiting list. He told me that only one piece sold in his last exhibition. He was direct and open about it, but he was also open and direct about his hopes things would pick up soon as well.

Word from the fairs in
London and Paris that just closed was that the emerging art market is picking back up there a bit, and spirits are higher compared with last year. As a result, most New York galleries I know are feeling a bit more optimistic about Miami as well.

Still, just about anyone you talk to from out of town will tell you that compared to other cities, New York still feels quite gloomy. Now I've always thought it a bit incongruous for Gotham to get too giddy about anything for too long ( ya help us out here all the same?), but I'm not convinced it's not just the crappy weather we're having that's leading folks to this conclusion. Then again, perhaps the recession truly is hitting harder here than elsewhere.

How the galleries here are doing is easy enough to measure by how many end up closing (so far, it hasn't been the expected blood bath and, in fact, as
Jerry Saltz reports, in some quarters things are booming), but it's a bit tougher to measure how the economy is impacting artists. Some very strong artists with strong markets have seen their galleries close and are scrambling to get new ones. Still some new artists on the scene are seeing their first solo shows sell strong. With each gallery representing multiple artists, it's just more difficult to get a grasp on the overall true picture.

Enter Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC) [link via the Chronicle of Artistic Failure in America] who have posted an online survey to help gather exactly such data:
Welcome to the Artists and the Economic Recession Survey

Is the recession over for you, or still going strong? As an artist, the conditions you face in this current economic climate should be heard and addressed. The Artists and the Economic Recession Survey invites you to share your experience. This survey is being conducted by Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC), a ten-year national initiative to improve conditions for artists, and supervised by Helicon Collaborative and Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

There is strength in numbers.

LINC has been working with organizations around the country to distribute the survey…but we want to make sure we reach the widest range of artist voices possible, especially artists who may not be part of formal organizational networks. Reaching as many artists as possible improves the quality of this important research, and better equips everyone who advocates for artists and the arts.

In addition to completing the survey yourself, could you forward this to every artist you know?

Completing the survey takes about 15 minutes, and it is offered in both English and Spanish. All responses will be completely anonymous. If you have already taken the survey, please do not take it again. If you complete the survey, you will have the opportunity to enter a drawing for one of four $100 prizes.
Here's hoping that by the time their results are published, they will feel more nostalgic than anything else.

Labels: artist survey


Blogger Tom Hering said...

"... here's someone with multiple galleries around the world, multiple books celebrating his truly fabulous work, and a long history of having a long waiting list."

This is emerging? What does it take to arrive?

10/29/2009 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

A market that's not so impacting by the recession?

10/29/2009 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Several years ago, I worked with a newly minted dealer from out of town. He'd made a small fortune in another field and was eagerly putting together a gallery so that he could pursue his passion for art. The first show sold surprisingly well. The second show, not so much. The third show, not at all. He then told me he would be closing the gallery.

I was stunned. "This is business. I've got to show a profit," he said.

"By that standard, I should have quit six months out of art school," I countered. "I've been doing this for 25 and only now am I able to support myself from the sale of my work." [The market was still booming at that point.]

That little exchange underscored what sets apart serious artists and dealers from the rest of income-earning humanity: Love comes first, then profit. It's our greatest weakness. And strength.

10/29/2009 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

yes, English is my first language...that, er, should be "A market that's not so impacted by the recession?"

10/29/2009 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Julie Sadler said...

I just finished up my first professional solo show. It went VERY well, and sales way exceeded expectations of both me and the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts. In fact, I was even more amazed when they told me I had one of their most profitable shows.
I am an emerging artist (yes, at 50 I am a late bloomer!) and my customers are definitely new to collecting art. Strange, that sales would go so well in rural upstate NY. This is a pretty depressed area.
Just the same, I'll take it!

10/29/2009 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

So "emerging" means you're not selling on a regular basis yet? (Just trying to understand the term. Thanks in advance.)

10/29/2009 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

No, that was a joke. "Emerging" to me means not yet mid-career...which is a judgment call, but I've known this artist quite some time and so still think of him as a youngster.

10/29/2009 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Long Hard Slog Indeed. There are huge structural problems with the USA economy courtesey of washington dc and wall street, it took 30 yrs to get here. We all know something is wrong, we can feel it in our bones. It will take years to fix and much more pain. Artist will still cary on and great art will be made.

10/29/2009 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Not to be a downer, but apropos of long hard slogs, I'm wondering what the average life expectancy is for artists. Does anyone know if there are statistics?

With some exceptions, like Louise Bourgeois, Nancy Spero and Leon Golub (and,of course, Picasso, who had every need catered), I wonder if it's shorter than average. While we do have a more creative life, we also work longer and harder physically--particularly if there's another income-producing job involved--and we never get to retire. Most artists have little savings or retirement benefits. And the materials we use in artmaking are not always the healthiest, even with precautions.

And just to really put a damper on the topic, I'm wondering if there are any statistics to indicate income levels in artists of "retirement" age--say 65 or older. I'm guessing the numbers are low on both counts.

10/29/2009 01:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait, if you've known the artist in question for quite some time, doesn't that imply increased age rather than youth?

Also, who knows how long we're going to live? I could be mid-career right now, or even late-career. Or my career could go nowhere until after I'm dead. Would that make me pre-career?

I know I'm nit-picking, but we need some new terms to define career levels. What about some easily understandable terms, like "not famous," "respected but still day-job-having," "full-time artist but still eating only ramen noodles with no health insurance."
Or "represented" vs. "non-represented."
NYFA-certified (granted).
Creative Capitalized.
Guggenheimed, MacArthurized, Krasnered & Pollocked.
And my favorite, Millaid.


10/29/2009 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...


Please identify yourself so that we may applaud you, quote you, and grant you high pundit status.

10/29/2009 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Not exactly what Joanne is asking for, but will definitely find it of interest. I know I did.

10/29/2009 04:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are his initals BF?

10/29/2009 04:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Taken from:

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the average yearly earnings of fine artists as $48,300 in 2008.

However, income from art is notoriously unsteady. One year you may sell several pieces, but the next year, you may not sell any. Until you’re established, most of your income will come from a day job.


10/29/2009 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

Re: lighten up...

Art Women: A Guide
A Guide to Museum Women

Essay by Polly Frost
Posted: October 28, 2009

10/29/2009 09:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


That was me. Let the applause begin. I love high pundit status. Sometimes I just don't like the idea of having every comment I make forever stored on the internets. But, on the other hand, do none of you read the letters to the editor in the NY Times? Jeez Louise, nobody in the art/blogosphere noticed I had the lead letter last friday.

And yes, I'm completely contradictory.


10/29/2009 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger nathaniel said...

Oriane / Anon. Ha, I laughed out loud from your new terms. Then did a retake of where I would fit into them, and realized that my career is not going as well as I thought... FIRMLY emerging then!


10/30/2009 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

i noticed that you had a letter Orianne. I chose not to comment, although I remeber I did not disagree. But I forgot what your letter was in refference to, i'm much more excited about haloween, the one night I can be myself.

10/30/2009 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger Dalen said...

I took the survey, and felt a bit depressed afterwards. Glad to have the day job, but realizing I'm going to working one for a long, long time. Does that make me a pre-emerging night artist?

Oriane, I read your letter (after you pointed it out). I remember reading the original article you addressed. I too like art that has something for the mind and the senses. Sort of like a person who is both intelligent and good-looking.

10/30/2009 05:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Kim Matthews said...

Joanne, it seems to me that artists live longer than average unless they're junkies or drunks like Pollock and Basquiat. It will be interesting to find out for sure.
Yes, it's a lot of hard work and sometimes health and money problems, but having a well exercised, creative mind staves off dementia.

And I think that "retirement" for artists means the week before they disincarnate, like sculptor Ruth Duckworth, who died last week. That said, I think that women artists, like women in general, also tend to live longer than men.

10/31/2009 01:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

being "guggenheimed" or "krasner-pollocked" or anything else on that list short of a MacArthur* does not, sadly, seem to guarantee much of anything.

I know more Guggenheim fellows than i can count who are currently earning nothing from their work. None of those honors (and they are indeed honors) are life changing or career changing events.

*if you get a MacArthur grant you've already made it big time anyway.

11/02/2009 01:43:00 PM  

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