Dilemma: Selling or Not Your Art

Happy Labor Day!

We do not question if workers in factory need to be reimbursed for their work.   For some workers their work represents just manual labor, but for others, results of their work represent pure art.  They take pride in what they do and joyfully use their creative talents.  They might  manufacture a car that for some collectors in future would represent a piece of art.  A hairdresser can consider creating a new hairstyle a work of art born from her creative genius. A baker can consider his/her cake an eatable piece of art.

I bet that Santiago Calatrava, the Spanish architect who designed the graceful Quadracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum (www.mam.org) did not have a problem receiving monetary reward for his services.

People usually do not feel humiliated when they are reimbursed for their for profit or  non-for profit work.  In any case, they usually get reimbursed for their work, talent, time, service, etc.   They do not feel that they undermined their hairstyling, baking, manufacturing, designing, consulting, social service, etc. talents because they put price on their labor/service.

So why some artists like Spyros (please, forgive me for using you as an example) who confesses in his last post “usually feels somewhat embarrased guilty about selling his  work” ?

I had many arguments with a lot of visual artists about the same dilemma: selling or not selling artwork.   I think that answer is simple.

First of all, it is a very personal decision.  Nobody has to sell his/her artwork. One can make art for his/her own satisfaction and hide it from others. The others can show their artworks at “not for sales” exhibits or donate their art, or just ask potential customers to pay as much as they wish for their art.   Would that be less “humiliating” then honestly valuating artist hard work and trying to make decent living while using artistic talents and pouring your souls in artworks?

Why not recovering your fixed and variable costs of producing artwork, adding some $ for profit, etc. that could finance your lifestyle or pay for further improvement of your artistic skills?  There is nothing shameful in doing what you love, use your unique talent for that and  enrich other people’s lives with your fine art or product (yes art is a product of your work).    It is not shameful to be reimbursed for any kind of work.  Artists choose any of the numerous  methods to figure retail prices (or wholesale price ) like the “Ad Hoc Method;  Going Rate: Rules of Thumb;  or Cost-plus methods.”

It would be wonderful if all artists have other sources of income and just create art “for love of it.”  However, we need to stop thinking that it is somehow offensive to put a price on art.  I visited The Hilligoss Galleries in Chicago few weeks ago.  Some paintings cost there more then $100,000. I do not believe that their painters feel offended when they look at those numbers.

Artists work very, very hard. They deserve to be rewarded for that hard work.

–Tina Skobic

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