It’s Only a Matter of Time

January 13, 2010

Dusk 16 Oil on Canvas 12" x 16"

Three weeks ago my artwork was featured in our local paper. The article appeared in a segment called “Meet the Artist”. It was a nice little article with photos of a few of my paintings. My wife, Helen,  remarked, “It’s about time.” I replied “No. It’s only a matter of time.” Helen knew what I meant.

Two weeks and two days after the article appeared in the paper, it happened. I received the first request for my art. A local charity e-mailed (how personal) to “invite” me to participate in an upcoming fundraiser.  A silent auction with all proceeds going to their cause. It was only a matter of time.

Oh, how flattering.

The charity is very worthwhile. In fact, their cause hits close to home. I would love to help support the cause.  I am not opposed to utilizing my labor to help support the cause. I am not opposed to allowing the charity to sell my work and keep a percentage of the proceeds to support the cause. If it can be done in a way that supports my artwork.

A silent auction begins by debasing all artwork. At the start of the silent auction, the artwork is worth nothing. Zilch. Zip. Nada. This is bad enough with a product which is mass produced. But in the case of original artwork, this is a rotten situation. In silent auctions which I have attended, I have never witnessed original artwork purchased for anywhere near its value (that is the price for which the artwork would sell at any  gallery or art fair). And why should it?  The organizations receive original artwork from 40 artists and have 40-50 couples in attendance at the auction (are these people purchasing artwork or door prizes). Few, if any, of these couples are necessarily looking to purchase any artwork, but feel compelled to purchase a little something to help the charity. They are often at the event to network and, after all, it’s a tax deductible donation. If a piece that they might be interested in has a few other folks bidding on the art, well, they’ll just place an opening bid on some other orphaned piece of art. There is no need to up the bids to anywhere near the suggested price of the artwork. They really weren’t looking to purchase any artwork anyway. Or, they would prefer to brag about the terrific value they got at the auction, that is, of course, assuming they even make a personal connection with the artwork purchased.

Most folks would say that I don’t get it. Why should I care how much the charity makes on the sale of my artwork? The organization gets all the money anyway.

I do care. I have spent alot of time and effort to learn my craft, create, promote and market my works. Over the years, my works have appreciated in value. I am able to sell a painting for more today than I did ten years ago. My work has earned that. People purchase my artwork directly through my studio, at art fairs and at exhibitions. I have people that have purchased multiple pieces of my artwork. Sometimes these folks have had to save up money and adjust their budgets in order to purchase an original painting from me. How do I defend my pricing structure to someone that attended such an event and now expects to pay the “discounted” price for another of my artworks? What do I say to my patrons should they find out that a similar piece of my artwork was purchased for a fraction of its value at a silent auction? How do I live with myself knowing that I let this situation occur?

Maybe fewer silent auctions involving original artwork would help. Maybe the charity could start the auction at a minimum opening bid (perhaps the wholesale value as set by the artist). Maybe the charity could host the event as an art sale so that the consigned artwork could be purchased at a fair price by someone who really makes a connection with the artwork. The purchaser would support the pricing structure of my artwork, support the charity (the charity might actually realize a greater level of donations), gain a tax deduction worth the full value spent to acquire the artwork and be able to acquire artwork which they could be proud to own and display.  Any of these strategies by charities would be more supportive of  my artwork and enable me to consider supporting their charity efforts with my artwork.

Hopefully,  it’s only a matter of time.

Dusk 17 Oil on Canvas 11" x 14"

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