There are many things about my fellow humans that make no sense to me. This is one of them:
Riddle me this…. you’re a fan of an artist. You see that artist has taken the time and effort to make new pieces, and a local gallery has taken the time and effort to put together an exhibit to display these pieces for fans like you. Huge efforts and expenses are taken on with displaying the work and promotion and preparation so that this event can take place- just for fans like you. So opening night when you go to the show do you:
- A. Enjoy the artwork, have some free snacks, make a pleasant evening of it, and leave feeling you go to experience something fun, creative, and beautiful?
- B. Enjoy the artwork, have some free snacks, make a pleasant evening of it, and grab a couple of the pieces of artwork off the walls on your way out- stealing from the artist that you admire and the gallery that brought them to you?
If you chose option A, then you are a good, normal person and are liked and appreciated by the art community. If you chose option B… then you are a complete shit-stain, and I hope your friends beat you down when they find out what you did. Seriously… you fully suck.
Art theft happens all the time, and it makes me furious. I’ve had it happen to me at 2 different galleries because some of my pieces are small enough to easily slip into a purse or pocket. It’s happened to too many friends of mine who are artists or who own galleries. What I can’t wrap my brain around is why someone would take the time to go to a gallery opening of an artist they like, and then steal from them? Yes, art can be expensive… but I guarantee you the artist and the gallery don’t profit that much from art unless they’re dealing with the arty giants out there. Let me break down the grown up financials to you so that you understand where the term “starving artist” comes from…
Let’s say I have a little painting in a gallery and it’s priced at $1,000. Holy shit! That’s a lot of money! Who the hell am I to charge that much for 1 tiny painting?! Let’s do the math, and then you can see just who the hell I am. If that painting sells, the gallery get’s 50%. Yes… 50%. That is normal. They promote and get the people in the door to make the sale- so that’s their cut. I try to make it out to all my gallery shows, so let’s say my plane ticket and expenses comes to a low-ball price of $300 (this doesn’t include money lost on time off I’d have to take from the day job to go to the show). I’m now down to only making $200 on that $1,000 painting. My small paintings that run around $1,000 usually take me a couple weeks each to do… so if I worked 3-4 hours a night on the piece, that’s around 50 hours of work. If I only make $200 for that painting, I worked for $4 an hour on it. Did you get that? $4.00 an hour. (And that $4 an hour doesn’t even include the cost of the materials to make the piece and get it ready to present).
The gallery doesn’t do a whole lot better. They have their overhead (rent/utilities/maintenance/insurance/etc). They have staff to pay. They have to pay for promotion (ads in magazines, postcards, flyers, etc). They have the set up, all that free wine and cheese that people wolf down at the opening, they usually will provide a place for the visiting artists to stay, etc. After all their troubles and expenses, their profit isn’t much better.
So why do we all do it? Because we love it. Because it makes us happy. Because something in us makes us do it. And even though we’re almost always taking a loss, we still make our art and bring it to you because it makes you happy. The drive of visual communication is a powerful one, and I’ll do it without even questioning that measly $4 an hour. So when an artist does all this work for very little financial pay off, and then the work gets stolen… that breaks hearts. It’s like punching a toddler in the face as it runs towards you for a hug. To say it’s discouraging is an understatement.
This doesn’t just happen in the art world, though. It’s common in the music scene. My husband’s band has been robbed more times than I can remember. Once, on the 2nd night of a 3 week tour while he was on stage some stupid punk kids smashed out their tour van’s window and only had time to grab his bag… which contained all his spare cords, his laptop, all his clothing, phone/computer charger…. everything. He was left with his guitar, his wallet and the clothes on his back. Kids steal from the merch table. Kids steal gear. They steal anything that isn’t bolted down… and these are the kids that come to the shows because they are fans of the band!!! Band’s don’t make any money anymore. There are no longer record sales because downloading has taken over. There is no such thing as “label tour support” anymore because the labels are broke. They only money bands make is on tour- and after gas and vehicle rental and food and hotels and getting merch made and time off work and then splitting any profits between all the band members and paying the techs or merch slingers… it usually averages out to the same as my painting sales. A few bucks an hour. Only to get robbed by the “fans”. It’s disgusting. And for any of you little punk kids out there who have stolen anything from any band… you’re not “punk”. You’re a fucking tourist to the scene, and I hope your Discharge/Neurosis/Nausea shirt sets itself on fire in protest of you the next time you put it on.
In summary… artists in every field do not make art to get rich. That is a ridiculous concept because only a handful of artists every decade ever do get rich. They do it because they love it. They do it because you love it. And if you are a fan… act like one. If you want your favorite artist to keep showing their artwork or playing their music in your town- then make sure that they aren’t fucked under when they do! If you see someone being sketchy at a show and stealing or causing trouble- stop them! Or rat them out. There is no shame in ratting out shitbag behavior. Because whether you’re an artist or an admirer of art… we’re all in “the arts” together. And if it gets too difficult to bring the art to the people, then the only way the people will be able to see art is online or in magazines. And that’s lame. So let’s all participate. Be sure and share the link above on whatever forms of social media you play around on and try to get Miss Jenny Hart her artwork back.
Thank you for enduring my long winded soap-boxing.
In appreciation of art, the most beautiful FoxyGoat Lisa made an amazing portrait of me and sent me one of her beautiful necklaces. She is a wonderful (and amazingly witty) artist and lady… and I super love her.
Big love to all you bunnies, and have a great night!! xoxox