The Experimental Art Market

I’ve been considering the value of my art for a while now. I’ve been thinking about who buys art and how to communicate with buyers, whilst also deciding whether the buyer themselves is relevant in the process.

In August I created What is it Worth? which is currently hanging at Workers Gallery in Ynyshir. Here I am asking potential buyers to name their price and decide for themselves what my art is worth. I’m deliberately allowing viewers to name their price in order to allow the market to dictate worth. I have no idea if there are any bids or offers for this piece yet. Perhaps I’m priceless, or perhaps I’m worthless. The goal is to engage potential buyers in the process of valuing art and discovering what is a realistic value in the current economic climate.

At the opposite end of this experimental art market is the Venice Vending Machine project . I’ve been involved with Venice Vending Machine since its first inception back in 2011. All art vends at the same price, and through dialogue with the curator art buyers are rewarded with a tiny piece of art no bigger than a few inches in diameter. Art is dispensed at random, which brings a sense of equality amongst the participating artists. Gone are any high art ‘elitist’ notions. The playing field is totally levelled and everyone participating is equally valued.

This Vending Machine has travelled all over the world and the latest iteration of the project will be at Hamilton House, Bristol, towards the end of November. Artists are asked to consider what market and value mean to them. Entry into the Vending Machine is free so submit your art HERE.

The traditional art market has always been a game of chance. The buyer, the artist, and the gallery all have to match at exactly the right time to make a sale. Both the Venice Vending Machine, and What is it Worth? are subverting these traditional routes. I’m changing the dice and altering the rules of engagement to bring the value of what I create more in line with what real people in the real world can afford. That’s definitely worth something to me as an artist, I just hope the buyer agrees.

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The Secret Art Sale 2019

I’m really pleased to announce that this weekend I’ll be showing at this year’s Secret Art Sale in Twickenham. It’s an annual show run by, and raising money for, The Environment Trust. This amazing organisation is a nature and heritage conservation charity based in the south east of Britain.

Now in it’s fourth year, this is an exhibition with a twist. All artworks are for sale and are only £40 each. All the money goes directly to the charity and the artist receives nothing. So you can imagine having a quiet time at the show and seeing something you like and getting it for cheap? Well sort of. In reality, it ends up a little less relaxed and a little more frenetic.

The show has been attracting some big names since its inception and this year is no exception. Celebrities and renowned artists show side by side with locals and students. The art is sold anonymously and you only find out who the artist is after purchase. This means you can bag something potentially worth thousands for only pennies. In previous years there have been queues of buyers waiting to get in. This year’s names include  Emma Thompson, Roger McGough, Ken Howard, Peter Davison, and Quentin Blake.

In 2016, in the first ever Secret Art Sale, one of my sketches ended up shown next to Mr Blake’s work. I’m not sure where my art will be this year and I definitely can’t tell you what art I submitted. You’ll have to flick through the catalogue of artworks yourself HERE and try and match what you see to the artists’ biographies HERE.

If you’re in the Twickenham area this weekend then it’s worth having a look. Best arrive early though. The queues of collectors and lucky visitors might beat you to a Melanie Honebone picture before you blink!

Obviously I can’t show you the art I’ve submitted so instead here’s a screengrab of four pieces from the Secret Art Sale catalogue. I think I’ve guessed two of the artists featured here but I’m not sure I should tell you…
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Market Value

Last month I carried out a residency at the Workers Gallery in Ynyshir. I asked the question What is it Worth? to try and place a value on my art and the worth of artists. You can read more about that HERE.

Now this artwork is on sale at the gallery for an unspecified amount. This isn’t one of those ‘Price on Application’ deals that is designed to make you feel small. Really, I haven’t put a price on the artwork because I want you to decide on how much you would buy it for.

Let me explain…

Many years ago I asked a gallery if I could exhibit with them. They agreed but there was a very strange clause in the contract. This was a provision that the price set for the art would not change if this art was shown in a different gallery at a later date. I’m not entirely sure what their reasoning was. Perhaps they were thinking that to show the art cheaper elsewhere at a later date would undercut their business. I figured this price rigging was just unfair because different areas of the world have different markets. A pint of milk isn’t even the same price across one town so why should my art be any different? Needless to say, I walked away from the contract.

It got me thinking about fairness and cost. I know what I believe to be a fair price for work done. Minimum wage x hours taken + cost of materials = the very least you should get; but this doesn’t always equate to a realistic price for the buyer. A month making one piece should equal a month’s wages for me, but is there anyone out there prepared to give me a month of their wages in return?

Just who is your buyer and how will you match your craft to their walls? How do you make sure that nobody along the way is exploited? I’ve been to galleries so many times with the aim to buy and the price just isn’t quite right. Is it worse to walk away or to haggle? What makes me a good and fair buyer? I’m not sure if anyone knows the answers to any of these questions because the economics of art is so complicated. Here is an unregulated and unchecked industry run by lots of independent businesses. It’s a fluid landscape full of options and opportunities. Everyone looking to match up location of gallery, a buyer, and a good price, with the subjective craft and skill of the artist. Nobody seems to know the answer as to how they can make this happen so that everyone profits.

So, I am asking visitors to the Workers Gallery to offer a price for my art that they are willing to pay. It’s on the walls now and the price you pay is up to you. Just contact the gallery staff and tell them how much you want to buy it for. Naturally, whoever offers the highest price gets the art. It’s A2 sized, ready framed, and you can read a full artist’s description of how it was made HERE.

I don’t know how long this will be hanging around for. It might be after a few weeks nobody has made an offer beyond a few pennies, in which case this is what my craft is worth. Or it might be that between now and Christmas a steady trickle of offers drives the price up beyond my wildest dreams…

Over to you. What am I worth?
Visit Workers Gallery now at 99 Ynyshir Road, Ynyshir, CF39 0EN

 

What is ‘What is it Worth?’ worth?

Yesterday I was in residence at the Workers Gallery and Workshops over in the Rhondda Valleys. I created a brand new piece of artwork in the space of five hours… or perhaps I did it over the course of a few decades. Hang on, I’ll start again…

I started creating collages out of my own photographs back in 2010. Some of these pieces travelled the globe, others stayed closer to home. Some of these collages were only 2.5″ x 2.5″. Others were a little bigger and each took days, sometimes weeks, to make. Source photographs came from hundreds of miles of journeys over the course of several years. Most of the collages I made formed the bulk of my creative output between 2011 and 2014.

I have looked at these images so often they mean almost nothing to me any more. I have analysed, chopped, glued, framed, and exhibited to the point where I remember every tiny detail in my mind’s eye. I haven’t needed to take these out of storage for a good long while now. I no longer need them in my life let alone taking up space in my studio.

So yesterday I took elements from every artwork in this back catalogue and created something new on A2 sized paper. What is it Worth? is the result of years of mental, emotional, and physical journeys. This piece contains my personal history as much as it contains my professional one.

It will go on sale soon (more about that nearer the time) but at what price? I know what this piece is worth to me but am unsure what value a buyer would place on this. Either this is 5 hours work and has little value, or it is hundreds and hundreds of hours of craft and is almost priceless. 

What is What is it Worth? worth?

What is it Worth?

What is it Worth?

My studio is full of boxes of old collages. Some I made almost a decade ago based on photographs I took back in 2006. Others are just a few years old. All of these artworks have travelled but none of them have sold. Here I see a piece which hung for a while in Rio de Janeiro, there is a piece which featured on TV in the United States. All of this art is worth something in terms of memory and experience but is it worth anything in terms of money?

Of course there are pieces I made from this period that sold and these are worth value, if not to me then to the people who now own them. What of the rest? Despite numerous shows across the globe these pieces remain destined to return to my studio. Are they priceless or worthless? I’m not sure, but they’re definitely purposeless to me.

Until now…

On August 24th at Workers Gallery I’ll be remodelling this back catalogue. Evolution is the key to good practice and revisiting myself is the key to learning. I will repurpose these collages by ripping, cutting,and rebuilding them into one much larger piece of new art. Every small memory of creation will be reworked into the present.

As I destroy the old to form the new, I’ll tell you all about my memories and experiences of the fragments I’ll be working with. I’ll tell you of train journeys to Bangor, customs delays in Croatia, Welsh sheep in Brazil, and dolls heads in Colombia. I’ll ask you to help me place some of the pieces of this new collage and decide how the present should be composed. Will the final artwork be worth anything? I don’t know. If its only purpose is to form new memories and experiences at Workers Gallery then that has to make my art priceless.
Join me 11am – 4:30pm
Workers Gallery
Ynyshir
CF39 0EN
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A Dark Mirror

I’ve been very quiet this last month busy in the studio making things happen. Usually when a new collection emerges there’s a daily blow by blow account here to describe the process, but this time it’s a very different story.

I haven’t deliberately been aloof. I’ve been so busy making the art I’ve been too preoccupied to talk about it with anyone. I’m moving more and more away from paper and photography and more into three dimensional artworks. Finally, I think I’ve found a way to merge my existing uncanny 2D practice into a 3D clay form. I’ve actually been working with clay since I was about 7 years old, but have never felt my ideas had any substance until now. I feel like I’ve got the confidence to reveal more about this new collection; my Future Fossils.

What will happen in the future? What will archaeologists find in 20,000 years time? What legacy will be left in our layer of rock? Can it be beautiful? I imagine I could time travel to the future and see the remains of a lost civilisation, our civilisation, embedded in rock. Just how lost are we?

These Future Fossils are a dark mirror to our current state of being. The faces reflected back at us, embedded in the rock face, a reminder of the pursuit of 21st century living. Is this a wasted resource or a natural evolution? Do you see entrapment or liberation? Is this beauty or something more sinister and grotesque?

I am not sure how to write about how I feel as these Future Fossils emerge. Am I complicit in the legacy we leave? Of course. But I am only one small person; flotsam in an ocean of people floating inexorably into the future. I’ll be photographing more from this emerging collection and sharing them here over the coming few weeks. I’ll also be trying to collate my written ideas into a more tangible form.

I’m hoping this collection will make its debut at the Worker’s Gallery later this month. I’ll be there on 24th August as part of a residency programme and will have some of these pieces with me. Come along and tell me what you think. I’ll be revealing more about that residency soon.

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Future Fossils

What will happen in the future? What will archaeologists find in 20,000 years time? What legacy will be left in our layer of rock? Can it be beautiful?

This is a really exciting direction for me. I’m pretty much merging the work I did with Headstones with my Automata series to develop a new body of work called Future Fossils. This is very much a work in progress at the moment as I explore further how clay and stone can work together. Bringing in an element of doll parts makes the creation an interesting process. The results are as uncanny as they are beautiful. So far I’m only using faces since this continues with the themes I’ve been working with since the start of the year. I’m not ruling out moving onto other areas of the body and thinking how skeletal fossils of dinosaurs can influence my work with other limbs.

I’m hoping to have the first pieces of this series complete for late August when I’ll be in residence at the Workers Gallery. More on that soon. I’ll also be telling you all about my entry into this year’s Secret Art Sale at The Exchange in Twickenham which will take place at the end of September.

Meanwhile though, I have to get back to the studio and see what emerges from the clay…

Detail from the 'Future Fossils' series