ART MARKET DEVELOPMENT discussion event held by TURNING POINT WEST MIDLANDS on 13 March 2012 at the School of Art, Birmingham City University
TPWM welcomed Paul Hobson the Director and Sophia Bardsley, Deputy Director of the Contemporary Arts Society (CAS)
Rotate - The CAS is currently showing work by artists based in the West Midlands in its London offices as part of its Rotate Exhibition programme.
Around 60 people attended, including many artists to hear about how the art market operates and to contribute to a lively debate.
TPWM's Co-ordinator began with an outline the West Midlands involvement with the art market to date: Art of Ideas (2010), Cultivate Report (2008) Visual (A&B), Brilliantly Birmingham (2010), The Best Years of Our Lives (2006).
1. What should artists expect?
Paul Hobson: work that is perceived by peers in the visual arts world i.e. academics, curators, institutional representatives to be significant and which is `critically engaged' is picked up on. For an artist to get to this stage their CV is expected to include:
- Residencies and projects
On leaving university artists need to demonstrate a commitment to a serious arts practice. Funding through a grant, a commissioned project, and/or an exhibition are an important endorsement of work.
Artists are also important in endorsing other artists and work. A successful artist with an exhibition can refer to other good artists. Artist communities have an important role in recommending artists and in creating opportunities. It is important to generate a context in which an artist’s work can exist – a community, a collective or an alliance of artists can stimulate and redefine this context. A strong collective can attract endorsement and recommendations from others.
An artist must cultivate visibility by having a website, keeping it updated with high quality images of recent work, and linking in with social media. Contact details must be easily accessible.
2. The Art Market System / 3. The Art Market in the West Midlands
Paul Hobson: Zoo Art Fair was an important platform for young innovative galleries and artists to show work at the same time as the Frieze Art Fair. Collectors and Curators alike could see an array of new work and be introduced to artists from across the country. In London now there is no such platform for artists that are unrepresented. However, the West Midlands has key national figures such as Jonathan Watkins, and we have Eastside Projects, and Curators to draw attention to artists within the region. The region is strong on artist collectives perhaps the best artists in the collectives could have a presence at Frieze Art Fair. The West Midlands has excellent proximity to London and the potential to develop networks abroad.
It was acknowledged that there are no commercial galleries in Birmingham and the West Midlands that sell critically engaged work. However it is hard for such galleries to make a living. The Ceri Hand Gallery has left Liverpool for London. Vane and Workplace in the North East do sell critically engaged work and take part in Art Fairs.
Ruth Claxton Associate Director of Eastside Projects said that it is easy to get stuck into a cycle whereby because an artist is unable to gain access to the market it means they don't have enough money to make ambitious new work. What was needed was someone to speak on the artists' behalf, if not a gallery then new models of artists' representation need to be found.
Paul Hobson said that often artist-led groups don’t know what to do with the opportunities out there: If someone wants to buy a work there is no price list or information. Artists need to price their work, artists and artist collectives need a model for selling and promotion as part of the space in which they operate.
Elly Clarke who has started her own gallery, Clarke Gallery in Berlin said that the funding model needs to be pitched to the people that can afford it. The “feel-good factor” needs to be incorporated into the buying of art – if people can go shopping for a £200 pair of shoes, they could be persuaded to spend an equivalent amount on original art.
The cities that are perceived to be doing well outside of London in the art world are Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Norwich (due to East International) and Nottingham. What most of them have in common is a proximity to affluence and a strong cultural infrastructure and all of these have benefitted from urban regeneration.
Paul Hobson said that here is a sense of there being a lot going on in the Midlands but that they are also aware there are of ‘cold spots’ that have been mapped where they know there is little affluence or likelihood of uptake.
CAS Resources - Online
CAS will launch its online information resources this April:
- How to collect with information on how the art market works
- Mentoring schemes for new galleries
- Artist-led spaces and help with Editions
TPWM will alert people through its E-mail News & Opportunities Bulletin and will include a link on its website.
Trevor Pitt , artist – curator of Pod Projects said that one of the region’s strengths was its independent spirit and it was important to find ways of supporting this and wondered why people don’t want to be gallerists in the region.
Artist David Bethell said that to find someone that can be a gallerist and mentor would need to have a lot of money behind them and that this was the key block.
Wendy Law queried whether it was a gallery that was needed and asked if there could be a post affiliated with say 2 to 3 institutions that worked for the benefit of the region as a whole.
Paul Hobson said that it is important to remember that institutions are self-interested and it would be vital for anyone hosted in a larger institution to always be involved regionally.
James Rock of Design Thinkers thought that a ‘Gallerista ‘need not be one person but artist groups could do these just as well. The vast majority of people do not engage with the art market but there is still a majority to sell work to and the established model could be ignored or subverted.
Paul Hobson said in reply that the artist is the least influential person in the art market process – they are just not in a position to determine their own importance.
Sarah Rowles, the director of Q-Art in London said that audiences and wealthy people are currently targeted but the same techniques could just as easily be applied to that vast majority that are out there.
Paul Hobson said that mapping exercises identify certain types of people and their behaviour as ‘cultural consumers’. ACE have published a report as part of ‘Audience Insights’ for example: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/media/uploads/pdf/arts_audience_insight_2011.pdf Audiences Central also did work on this and information can be found in the National Archives.
Jane McAllister, Careers Consultant at BIAD said that the art market model is very much ‘top down’ and should be ‘bottom up’.
Liz Hawley, Regional Coordinator of EMVAN (part of the Turning Point Network) said that a ‘bottom up’ model already exists in the form of the Own Art scheme which is an interest-free loan scheme which helps people to buy art at affordable prices and is focused on the non-engaged art buyer. David Bethell said that it was hard for artist spaces to sign up to and the registration fee is high.
Independent Curator Rachel Bradley said that there is crossover between the domestic market and the critically-engaged audience but there will always be tensions due to the critic-system due to provenance therefore it will always be ‘top down’.
Few people buy outside London or internationally. Artist David Bethell said that he had recently been to Mumbai and looked at the art market there and found that galleries were sustained through local markets.
Paul Hobson said that there is often a template for art collecting in other countries:
- The collector buys 20th Century art from artists from their own country
- They then buy contemporary art from their own country
- They consolidate and strengthen their collection by buying art by internationally known artists
Sarah Rowles of Q-Art said that in further and higher education there was a need to equip their students with an understanding of how the art market works. Art is seen as valueless by a lot of people. People coming out of art schools these days are peer-led and are finding ways to work outside traditional models. What happens to the institutions once a culture emerges outside of it?
Terence McDermott, Director of McDermott Galleries said that he didn’t think it was that difficult to sell art and that it was all out there for the taking; what it requires is coordination.
Please note: if your comments on the day have not been included in the above can you please email Penny.firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add.
TPWM is represented on the CAS Contemporary Art Development Group TP national working group and updates on developments and news will be made available on the TPWM website and through the e-Bulletin. http://www.tpwestmidlands.org.uk