Questions 1 and 2:
Do I try to sell collectors "my art"?
No. Mainly because I don't sell "art". I sell artworks which may or may not be eligible to hold within them the mystery that is "art".
Do I give them (consumers) enough information that they want to own the piece?
I would feel like a shit if I ever discovered that at any time during the past 50 + years of my career one of my collectors had bought an artwork of mine because I had "led him/her into doing so".
Buyers of my artworks CHOOSE to buy my work. They tell me they want it. I don't manipulate the conversation to get them to "own"' anything! Why should I?
In our times, we are too much like commodity salesmen trying to get rid of old stock. Do I try to sell my work? Other than display it and give the general parameters of title, dimensions and medium, I tend to shut up and stay away from the whole promotion and marketing formats of the day.
Too often, we appear to be more hyped up on being seen to be artists than we are at presenting thought-filled and deep meanderings into the sensual world of our artwork making. Basically, today, we are become more distractions than lures into the visual language world we are engaged in. We often sound more like shills and hucksters.
I don't give out information focused on getting someone to "own a piece". (!!!) Whether buyers fit one or the other of consumer, investor or collector is not the point. I've sketched or painted or sculpted whatever I have and now I display it. I've done my bit. And though I will warmly welcome and speak with a visitor to one of my displays, I generally prefer to offer them free reign as to observation, appreciation (or not) and even interpretation. This is their moment to reach out and be moved (or not) by the work I have created. It's as simple as that. Sometimes they buy. Sometimes they don't. But in the end, they must make that choice and not me (or my pushing them to do so).
Oddly, communication freedom is what the commercial side of the visual arts is about since, at the core, it is a sensual, not a commodity-based exercise.
Artwork, ready to leave a studio to be exhibited, to stand on its own to speak, must be "freed up" to do so, this - despite contemporary notions which deem it necessary in our times to "prepare" audiences for the upcoming revelations of our work............................................. (!!!) Such a notion says 2 things to me:
1- We don’t trust our potential clients to be smart enough to “get” our stuff, and....
2- We don’t trust the quality of our work.
So where lies the real problem?
For all intents and purposes, artworks can legitimately be coddled during the extensive developmental stages within a studio. But once completed, and existing outside the atelier environment, created objects must be weaned - must become independent of our overprotective attentions. Why so? At this stage of the game, the lasting value of an artwork no longer depends on excessive pampering by its creator. Rather, it must gamble on the attentions, or lack thereof, of viewers being open to an artwork’s ability to communicate and the viewer's ability to connect.
Artworks are like children. They must eventually grow up and learn to fly on their own, without parental interference. So should our studio progeny. Despite contemporary practices, If I have to "sell" the virtues of my created spawn, what I actually end up doing is neutering it from the get-go. I am telling the world that I am not sure that my work can stand on its own... And the more intense I sound on the subject the more desperate I appear to be and the weaker my work seems.
Essentially, artworks, have an innate right to exist independently of us in order for the art "within the artwork” to appear and to have its say... (again, oftentimes we forget that art is not necessarily in all or even anything we create. If we are lucky it occasionally does thrill a viewer by its presence.
Where am I going with all of this?
Creating is a 3 fold experiment in processing. The first element involves a creator who generally retires from the fray in order to muse within a studio environment - this to give birth to a concrete representation of a concept, a thought, an observation, a feeling whose forever quest is to eventually be conveyed and shared with others (unless the creation process is a therapeutic one).
The second step in the process of transmitting artwork to an audience involves a right of passage, or the debutante ball aspect of the coming out of an artwork. This is not a new concept, whether this relates to individuals or individual artworks.
In ancient Greece, there were “symposia” - banquets to honour the transition of a boy to manhood. A similar event, called a “convivium”, was held in ancient Rome to recognize a young man’s coming of age. Many other cultures, over time, have had similar happenings, some religious some cultural, which opened the doors to adulthood for the all too ready young.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, debutante balls were common in Europe. Not to be left behind, the West had its own “Promenades” - soon to be known as “proms” - as first highlighted in the Harvard Crimson newspaper in 1879.
All such events are comparable to the final stage of presentation, display and introduction of our artworks to the world. As newly minted adult creations, the first responsibility of these recently “mature” artworks, (as independent “beings”), is to prove themselves worthy of the wider worlds recognition, acceptance and/or rejection of their claim to excellence.
The third and final element in this sharing experience is the very fact that an artwork must be allowed its own space to breathe within a communication environment. From the first moment of its presentation and display before the eyes of the world, an artwork must be free to express itself - and this through an excellence of rendition put forth by the quality of compositional elements “playing nicely together”.
So, is my artwork art?
All in all, and despite our intentions, talents and expertise as creators, the decision that “art” actually resides within a specific creation is the purview of a viewer, not ours. Obviously, artworks are things, buyable, tradable objects. Art is not a thing. it is a mystery which is only seen (felt) through the eyes and heart of a viewer, open to receiving the enigmatic experience of “soul” within an artwork. It is that which elicits awe and "unbelievability" from viewers.
Essentially, every artwork made, manufactured, sketched, painted, sculpted, composed or written has been created with one intent and one intent only in mind of its maker: to give the constructed end product a "life" - its own life. And so, why would anyone considering themselves to be an artist ever subscribe to the need to hawk their wares through opaque artist’s statements and sales pitches that sound and feel more like door to door salesmen spiels?
Is it that our contemporary tactics fit the times?
Yes. A good example of this is that parents today do not shy away from showing up at colleges to give hell to profs who don’t give their 23 year old babies an A+ in whatever. That’s what’s called a bastardization of upbringing. Do we practice this type of gobbledygook reality in the visual arts? Sadly, yes. More often than not the arts (especially the visual arts) reflect the era in which we live. Just read some of the artist statements available on line which describe the "non-sense" we throw out as sophisticated parlance which, in effect, seem to tell our potential collectors that we don't see them as bright enough to understand our worldly-wise work. Is this true? Possibly not. But it sure sounds like we’re going in that direction...
So the answer to the title question is?...
Once an artwork is completed and, by our own admission, ready to stand on its own, we’ve only got 5 simple things to do to show our trust in both our latest all grown up hatchlings and our client base:
1) Take 2 steps back from the work once it is completed,
2) smile proudly,
3) let the work speak for itself,
4) shut the hell up... and,
5) for god's sake, let the viewer discover the art (soul) emanating from the depths of our artwork. If they don't/can't, we'll know soon enough that this particular artwork will at least make a good paint-over canvas for a future kick at the can.
Bernard Poulin. . .