Letter: How to make artists poor and keep them there
To the editor:
It appears public gallery art auctions have raised their ugly heads once again in the Okanagan.
Why are they ugly? Because the math is as follows:
Patrons: Cheap art acquisitions at a fraction of the market value
Arts organization: net profit of event
Art market: Saturated with ‘cheap’ art.
Professional artists, those who make a living from their art and have a post-secondary degree in their field, according to Stats Canada, earn the least in terms of all professions in Canada.
The average income is around $20,000 per year.
There is nothing more destructive to artists and their market than art auctions.
Especially since most are structured so that collectors get art for cheap (often not even a minimum bid), organizations make money for their programs, yet the artist walks away with nothing, except a pat on the back, sometimes a tax receipt for the donation (which at an income of often below $20,000 per year doesn’t mean much), and the myth that this was an effective marketing tool for them.
It is easy to understand why some not-for-profits that are not arts oriented host these auctions, as they are likely ignorant of the fact that this is to the detriment of the artists and the arts in general.
They may think incorrectly that they are giving artists a venue to expose their work to an adoring public, who will then continue to scoop up their work by visiting galleries and studios to purchase at market value.
It really doesn’t work that way. Why would they, when collectors can continue, year after year, to collect artwork at discount prices, at often less than 20 cents on the dollar.
Our preference would be to see art auctions, lending of art and similar practices disappear.
We are challenging public art galleries in the Okanagan to champion artists and their profession by creating policy that rejects these practices as a way to sustain themselves.
All not-for-profit organizations, and especially arts organizations, need to send a message that through art auctions and similar events—artists are not only being treated unfairly, they are actually being exploited.
As well, artists need to step up to the plate and take responsibility.
This can only be achieved one way: Stop donating art!
And explain and educate these organizations as to why.
We have a form letter we send out when requests for art donations come to us. The letter is polite and explains the rationale for our firm ‘no.’
Let’s stop the ‘bottom feeder’ attitude and make the arts a viable profession.
Jock and Carmen Hildebrand,