As I get stuck into discussing yet another direct art sale, I continue to envision a world where artists get to have their work seen by those who would like to see it without paying $6000 (my most recent offer) to an intermediary to hang it in a gallery. Galleries feel like churches; operated thus, they have had their day as soon as people come to know…and trust…that they already have direct access to what they seek and start to confidently behave as if they do!
We have been told on so many levels of life that we need that intermediary, that representative to speak on our behalf, interpreting what we need to know and getting things done better than we would manage on our own; its been just the same with politics. From the artist point of view, it can feel baffling why more people don’t just tap out an email and say “Hey, is your artwork for sale” rather than hunt around the houses for some official place with high-street overheads to make that purchase…paying twice as much in the process. The concept of “church” has equally baffled me since I was a very small child; why do those people think they need to be in there to talk to God (and, by the way, I’m not analogising artists with God…but you see what I mean; we have done ourselves out of what is directly ours on so many levels of life). Really, whatever these entities are that we are trying to reach through some sort of mediation, they are all aspects of ourselves; we already have direct access to them, why wouldn’t we be complete and ready to go, straight out of the box without always need an adapter plug? If the artwork speaks to us, its is probably meant to hang on our wall (and far more likely to, quicker, at direct prices). If God speaks to us, it’s our higher aspect making direct communication through whatever everyday means are at our disposal and far more clearly heard without so many intermediaries. As for politics…don’t get me started. Why do we always seek an interpreter, a rep, a person doing what we do…less well?
Dealing through galleries has always felt like such hard work to me; like un-oiled cogs of different sizes trying so hard to work together…grinding and mechanical, making up unnecessary intermediary stages to justify the machine…and all for a large fee, a made-up excuse for money to change hands one extra time. Like some sort of mercury retrograde made manifest, it feels like a breakdown in communication since the customer never gets to meet the artist, to have that meaningful connection with the creator that, perhaps, enlightens them as to why it is that the particular artwork tugged at them so powerfully, energetically, without a single word being spoken. When one person’s brushstrokes light up a patch of unnoticed hillside in another person’s heart, it can feel like a holy experience and then to bring in some external salesperson to try and explain why that might have happened is a nonsense, like trying to describe the mystique of the Mona Lisa smile via a double glazing rep. The subtle interplay of synchronicities that connects two souls through art are lost and may never be found again; a whole deeper layer of why the person was drawn to this particular piece swept aside as incidental, left hanging like a thread or even turned sour by how much was ultimately paid for the piece on some gallerific-pricetag (I love inventing new words). The pressing ‘need’ to make money has overtaken logic at many stages of the game, which is what happens when we place money at the centre of everything by deciding its what makes the world go round. Maybe we need to choose a different axle for our wheel…
Sometimes we need the contrast to appreciate the fresh breeze blowing in; so here’s to that breeze arriving. Just like at the end of mercury retrograde, the feeling of going direct can feel like the arrival of spring as pieces slot into place and good feelings abound. That’s what it feels like when I deal direct with my clients; when person-to-person communication is initiated so that flexible conversation can ensue, without brittle business lines boxed up all around them and with the shared heart-space of resonance overseeing the space. That’s not to say I throw down my business hat and trample on it just because someone likes my art; there are far too many unscrupulous types that have tried to trick me out of artworks in return for fraudulent cheques and other common art-scams so there are sensible procedures to be adhered to in order to keep things polite and easy for everyone concerned. Yet this process means I can remain primarily what I am (and what my painting is meant to be)…one soul interacting with another soul…bridging us through one short leap of art. It feels neater, less convoluted, more honest and considerably more empowering; it feels like it is built on solid foundations of integrity and no one is having to sweep unnecessary overheads under any one else’s carpet. The feeling is so “clear” and “uplifting” that I somehow suspect this is the way the world is trending (the internet has made it so much more readily available) and I look forward to seeing how it evolves across many walks of life, decalcifying so many of the ways we do things (topic of my recent post) from the limescale build-up of all the unnecessary processes that have encrusted around them.
Events that led to the topic of this week’s post…
This latest gallery to approach me was in a very smart district of NY and yet was just another vanity gallery (like the one in London that kept approaching me a couple of years ago, which was a big learning curve in my art-journey). Very slick, at some level quite tempting yet I was left asking what justifies their existence, what keeps this kind of business well-fed. Of course, not all “physical” galleries charge huge upfront representation fees but they all take a hefty cut, which has been one of the biggest sticking points of my art-business, making a lame duck of my viable costs and the flow of my sales (by pushing what I produce way up into the luxury item category) before I ever really got started when all I really want to do is get loads of art out there on walls. So why do they appeal, why do we feel we need them, why do some people only want to purchase from them and shy away from dealing wth the artist direct; when did we stop wanting to have direct contact with each other, leaving so many loop-holes for people with other agendas to step in to the gap? Our whole system is built upon layers and layers of representation until we hardly know who we are dealing with; when did we become so separate that we needed so many floors between the workshop of life in the basement and the “guy” in the swivel chair at the top?
Well I happened to watch “Spotlight”; a hard-hitting film about abuses within the church, on Saturday night, which was very on-theme with some reading I had been doing lately (I recommend Barbara Hand Clow’s first novel “Revelations of the Ruby Crystal” for the kind of fiction that provokes deep contemplation about the human condition and places where we have got our wheels stuck in the mud). It strikes me that the thing that all the least innocuous kind of intermediaries prey upon is that not-so-confident aspect of us that doesn’t feel seen, worthy or powerful enough to make things happen and which grabs onto their attention, like a weak-kneed moment of “oh, I’ve been picked, someone finally noticed me” before we sign up. Whether a priest or some other predator picking-out a child for “special” attention or an apparently too-good-to-be-true opportunity coming your way…for a price; if you are feeling, in any way, smaller than you ought to inside, you are wide open to being taken advantage of when that intermediary shines their light on you. Really we are all our own light and we don’t need that outside entity to be that for us…whatever their reason for offering to do so. I want to add that not all middle people are offering their service for malevolent purposes and some truly add considerable value to the process; we just need to check this out for ourselves because we seem to have unquestioningly built our entire culture in such a way that we keep on passing our sovereignty down the line…handing ourselves on to other people who say they act as us but don’t necessarily serve our best interests. Over the last era of human history, not going direct has become our default position and it will take some major restructuring and question-asking to get to the point where we dismantle that automatic mindset enough to leave only what best serves us all (that’s both sides of the mediation!) in place. The root question, in all cases, is the same: why do we feel we need so many stages in between? Its yet another separation mindset and its long overdue for review.
When you believe you are enough…just as you are….you are not open to being dazzled and beguiled by someone offering to fill your gaps and shortfalls, which makes for a very different situation; one where you are inherently at liberty to pursuit what feels right to you in any given situation. When you do this, its like so many conditional ropes holding you down fall away and new, far more expansive situations start to present themselves. It took opening up my full commitment to selling art direct (rather than keeping one foot in each camp), putting all of my energy into it, believing I could do this and that I didn’t need that glossy high-street intermediary for things to start shifting…which they have, to the point I have no high street galleries at all this Christmas, for the first time in a decade. I have made more sales in one month than in the whole previous year including my first work shipped to Australia, which negates the supposed push-over point of a prime-location gallery since wherever you happen to be is prime location when you set up shop from yourself. Yes, its slow (though not as slow as putting all my eggs in one physical basket and hoping someone happens to go in there…) and yet it feels lighter and more honest somehow; more authentic through and through. I am getting a real kick out of the business side of art for the first time as I deal with real people, not outlets; and its me that gets to have the conversations, to receive the wonderful feedback, to hear the anecdotes of what my artwork meant to somebody, which delivers a package of joy that feeds straight back into my next work in a way that I can sense building momentum. I can’t help equating it with the concept of a torus; a system that feeds itself as it feeds others, generating energy for everyone all down the line. It feels like an optimistic start to 2017 even before the ‘old’ year ends.
This isn’t just about art, as you can gather; we all get to explore this new possibility across all walks of life as soon as we ask the questions why do we need the middle-man in anything. Whether its chatting to God, selling your house or debating whether to sign to a record label, at least check it out; don’t assume that we do. Only fear takes us back into these tight-little spaces where we don’t feel in control of our own destiny ‘unless’ we jump through various hoops that have been laid out for us like a complicated assault course we must negotiate before we ‘make it’, get noticed or whatever that thing is that we crave. The first thing is to remove the hoops and walk forward the way that feels best to our intuition, one step after another.