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Friday, May 10, 2019

The Problem of an Artists Inventory

What do you do with too much art? 

I've been creating for so many years now, that I constantly run into serious space issues in my studio. Our home is not small, but it is a simple fact that there is art everywhere. Art that sometimes gets damaged, art that gets lost because it gets placed where it shouldn't. 

So what do artists do when there are storage problems, especially those of who work in very small spaces? What do you do with the work when its not selling? What do you do with it when it stacks up to the point where one piece of art is destroying another because its all pressing in on each other? You've given it away, you've shoved art in friends faces to the point where people run and hide when they see you on the street because you might shove more art at them. And if you do successfully give away a great deal of it then where does it put you in terms of the value of your art?

What do you do until your work comes into demand? Is there a strategy that ends up serving you as an artist or is it all just a crap shoot where the successful never have these problems?

First I think we need to examine what makes an artist collectible? I doubt there is a formula to success. But there do seem to be commonalities in artists whose work is in demand. 

  • ORIGINALITY: This seems to be the highest factor. People love the chance to own something totally unique. An artist who makes one painting a year and then tries to sell a thousand prints of it is most likely not going to go far unless the print is totally emblematic of something important such as the artist who created the French Solidarity symbol created after Charlie Hebdo attacks. The Eiffel Tower shaped like a peace symbol was everyplace in the weeks following the attacks. 
  • PERSONALITY: This is also crucial. People love or hate the artist persona. The more colorful the personality the more collectible that artists work can become. 
  • MYSTERY: This can be an indicator of collectibility. The recluse such as Chicago artist Lee Godie or the super secretive Banksy can send the artists work skyrocketing in popularity and demand. 
  • TECHNIQUE: Art technique especially a new and unknown technique of style or movement such as the Dada or Impressionist eras indicated.
None of these things can be mimicked. They are only accomplished by dedication to the craft. Sure you can develop your own independent personality, but in some way that personality must be tied directly to the art you create. 

At the same time you cannot focus on all of these things at the same time to strengthen them. I think they must come naturally from within as you become a better artist or else others will know its just a mask your wearing. 

So where does that leave us? If your an unknown how does it solve the problem of inventory control? 

Well lets shift for a moment and look at our art as inventory. Inventory has a dollar value. Every piece you create can be broken down into its dollar value and that value is based on the popularity of the artist. But even the most rudimentary art from the rawest most unskilled artist still has a value. Its may be in penny's versus C-Notes but again there is still some amount of value.

So how can you make that value work for you? Lets list it in order of lowest benefits to highest. Keep in mind that you are basically passing out cash to them in the form of art.

  • FRIENDS: Giving it away to friends is one way but very limited. They accept out of love, but rarely buy out of a sense of collecting your work.
  • COLLEAGUES: Giving it away to colleagues is another. These are acquaintances which you may not count as friends but still have relationships with. Examples are doctors, lawyers, professionals, etc. The value bar raises slightly above friends because these are potential buyers who don't buy out of love for you, but out of some amount of art sense.
  • CHARITIES: Giving it away to charities definitely boosts the value up a notch because now you are creating good will in the community but you are getting your art exposed to more people. The drawbacks are that charities tend to take advantage of artists so its crucial to stand your ground on getting the benefits you need and deserve for your work.
  • GRAND GESTURES: Now we get into a higher value category. You are basically finding a cause worthy enough to benefit from a large chunk of your inventory. This one is difficult because its not easy to find a cause worth working with. It takes research and diligence to find just the right one.  
  • THE SURPRISE: This involves gifting a person of high caliber with a piece of art. The problem is to not reach too high. The higher you reach the more likely that the person you are giving to already receives a lot of gifts and is therefore most likely to not appreciate or show it to others. There are also political considerations to this because some political positions do not allow gifts in any form. You do not want this to look like a bribe, but a genuine from the heart gift. The other problem with this is that it can be difficult to find a way to gift the person. Just sending through mail is cold. But the more important the individual is, the harder it will be to find an inroad towards gifting them. Be sincere! Genuinely want the person to have the piece of art. 
  • OPENINGS: Now this a category I like but again takes some research. Finding a new business which is opening and gifting them with a piece of art can be amazingly beneficial. Be cautious though. Gifting a piece of art to say a new gallery or museum will again look like your pandering rather than sincere. Giving to a new hospital or a new legal firm though has benefits.
So now we have a few ways to dispose of inventory and still get the benefits of the value of the art. I am sure there are many more. The goal is to be creative and do some brainstorming. 

In the end the art does you no good gathering dust on a shelf. You can always make more, so don't be stingy. Get it out there any way you can while working on making yourself a better artist. And don't be afraid to ask friends and colleagues for ideas. Someone may know a route you can take that you haven't thought of yet. In fact one of my reasons for writing this article is that maybe someone out there might have an idea of value to share back.

Eventually inventory will flow and then you'll be reading articles about how artists can't work enough hours to keep inventory in stock and how even though they worked an 80 hour work week their shelves are still bare. There are pros and cons to every situation. We just have to be enough of a creative artist to figure out solutions at each stage of the game.


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