Saturday, May 26, 2012

Friends in Overalls

"I have friends in overalls whose friendship I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world." Thomas Alva Edison

This may seem odd for an artist to quote since the overalls typically don't have the ability to invest in art. That also seems to be odd as it might imply that I wouldn't want to be friends of my clients - not so. At least, depending on the client - not so. I would love to have friends who appreciate and collect art.

I believe this quote is meaningful due to my career as an architect. Not only were most of my clients not likely to be friends - some are - but, even though they were spending millions on a building they almost always wanted to cut corners on the design. The design, the one characteristic that gave their efforts greater long term value. Also a very small percentage of the budget. They were the ones most likely to also want to cut professional fees, even if it meant just disappearing when final payment was due. These are not they with whom you would seek friendship.

School of Business and
Economics. Weber State U

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Food for Thought - What is selling in art...

On the Linked In group Museums and Galleries the question was posted "Is anyone selling art out there". Great question as from most artist's point of view the answer would be no. At least at a price point that you could live on. I have to admit that I am working from the limited perspective of an artist working in central Utah, and haven't been seen outside of the state yet. 
One, actually in two parts, posting by an artist out of Phoenix, AZ by the name of Kevin Geary gave cause to pause and consider:

"Do the work you love. You'll go nuts trying to do work you hate doing, just to make money. 

Secondly, in this market, it's difficult to sell work to the middle (that's true almost anywhere). Today, works will sell under 500 (dollars, euros, pounds) but anything between 500 and 50,000 is a hard sell. And the 500-5,000 market is largely dead. It's actually just as easy to sell a work for $50,000+ as it is to sell one for $5,000. The people who can afford $50,000 will buy, because they perceive such a price as the bottom rung of "investment level art". in other words, the very rich are buying, but the middle classes are not. The trick is to find, cultivate and find the rich who are buying, and have the courage to ask a high price (when your rent's due and you can't put food on the table or pay your bills!) But the sad truth is that people with a lot of money understand a high price and prefer it. If you say to a very wealthy person, this is $5,000, he or she will either say "I can't afford it!" (they can, but they think it's not worth buying at such a low price) or else they'll ask you to lower the price, or offer you 50% of the asking price. Ask for 50,000 or 100,000 with a straight face and the rich person will feel that a) you value yourself and your art, and b) they consider that the price is worth it! Years ago, a friend who was very wealthy told me that it was easier to get people to write a check for $1,000,000 for a fundraiser for a museum than to ask for $100,000. She said that $1,000,000 seemed like a serious request, but at $100,000 all her rich friends would claim that they didn't have the money, because of the 'stock market' or the "economy". She was adamant that high prices are respected by the wealthy but low prices are considered unworthy. This is true in almost all luxury goods markets (art is a luxury, after all).No-one would buy a Rolls Royce for a Toyota price. They'd think something was wrong with it. That's what we, as artists, have to recognise in this economy (it was the same in the Great Depression) and during the First World War when prices were "depressed". Of course you have to be able to connect with very wealthy people, but that's a whole different story.... Sell really cheap, (like .99 cents downloadable images or songs or "apps" or sell for under 500, or sell for tens or hundreds of thousands. Ther'e no happy "middle ground" anymore in this world or economy.

However, having said that, the sad fact is that all the "middle" people (people who used to buy art for between $1,000-$10,000)have essentially disappeared from the market. I know, because I used to do portrait commissions for years (very successfully, too), but the people (doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc), who used to have no problem spending $5000 -10,000 for portrait commissions of their families simply no longer have the disposable income (or feel they don't). So, one can sell small works for small sums, either through galleries or yourself, but you won't make a great living. 

A long time ago I saw Aristotle Onassis being interviewed. He said there were three secrets to success. Follow them, and you'd be successful. Fail to follow them and you'd fail. The three secrets were these: 
ONE: When you move to a city, get yourself an address in the best part of town, even if it's the size of a "broom cupboard".So, when people ask where you live and you give them your address they immediately think you're successful because of "where you live" 
TWO: Find out where all the rich and powerful people go for lunch or dinner. There's always one place where the rich and powerful go. Go there every day and even if you sit at the bar and can only afford one glass of wine, do so. The rich and powerful will see you every day, and get curious or want to know you. Then they'll come up and start to say hello and you then make useful connections, That will be the kind you need when you want to sell, get support or borrow from to start your venture. 
THREE: When you borrow money (from a bank, or an investor) ALWAYS ask for THREE times more than you need! The reason is that nearly everyone underestimates what they need when starting a business, and no-one will give you all that you need, but they will offer you half or maybe two-thirds of what you ask for. That will ensure that you have enough to get through the inevitable problems of the first year of business. 

I would add one other thing. A great friend of mine (now deceased) who was a hugely successful artist in the UK but came over to the US, especially Texas, regularly and secured art commissions for insanely expensive prices back in the 1970s and early 80s, told me that "Americans will never buy from you if you're cheap, and they'll always rise to a challenge!" He used to tell curious rich people who asked him what he did, that he was far too busy to accept new work (even when he was broke). When they said that they were interested in commissioning a work regardless, he'd say "you can't afford it!" that made them so mad they'd say they could afford anything! He'd then hand them a folded paper with his prices and tell them that they should read it when they got back to the office and not to bother him unless they were serious and could call the number on the paper. Well, they always did. And he made so much money it was insane. But that takes a lot of guts to do. I cannot say I've done it, Although a couple of times when I have, it's been very successful. Strangely, this works with collectors who are billionaires and want to buy art from dealers like Gagosian. If you have millions you cannot just go in to Gagosian off the street and say you want to buy the Koons he has in the gallery. He will tell you it's not available! Then you have two alternatives; you either pay an art consulatnt who is known to Gagosian, who buys the work for you, and maybe after buying two or three, through the consulatant, you might be allowed to buy directly from the gallery; or, you go to Christie's or Sotheby's and bid on a work by Koons (along with all the other "refusnik" Russian billionaires at the auction) and drive up the price to crazy levels for the artist. Guess what? Gagosian is also at the sale, and maybe he approaches you afterwards and says, "Come round and see me. I may have something for you". It's all a big game!"

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Of Other Artists

My intention is to not only showcase my own work, which I have so far neglected, but also that of other artists and composers.

This item is reblogged from Truffle HuntingFine Art Experiences of Quality and 

By Mario M. Muller

Richard Diebenkorn, Iconoclast

May 4, 2012
Let’s cut to the chase. Richard Diebenkorn is an artist of supreme soulful significance. Any opportunity to submerge oneself in his luxuriating hues and intelligent compositions should be immediately embraced. 

Richard Diebenkorn Ocean Park #79, 1975 Oil on canvas 93 x 81 in. (236.2 x 205.7 cm) Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and with funds contributed by private donors, 1977
©The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn Image courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art
My appreciation of Diebenkorn’s entire oeuvre is indisputable. Long before Gerhard Richter, he practiced a harmonious both/and paradigm between abstraction and interprative realism. He proved that geometric compositional distillation and expressive mark-making were symbiotic. This interdependence remains difficult for many to embrace. Briefly, and in non-sequential order, here are several musings on Diebenkorn.

Richard Diebenkorn Cigar Box Lid #4, 1976 Oil on wood 8 3/8 x 7 1/8 in. and Ocean Park #105, 1978 Oil and charcoal on canvas 100 1/8 x 93 1/8 in.
Scale. Diebenkorn is equally facile in small, medium and grand scale painting and drawing. The exhibit contains numerous examples of painted Cigar Box tops that carry the same heroic weight as their 100 by 93 inch counterparts. Gestures physically made with fingertips and wrist have the bravado as brushstrokes executed with elbow and shoulder. And conversely, large brushstrokes carry the same delicacy and nuance as their miniature cousins.
Intentionality. Diebenkorn exerts enormous control over every aesthetic decision. There are drips and stains and bleedthroughs but each seems intentional and executed to a greater purpose. This dialogue with accident and the painting’s trajectory of push and pull is inspiring to study in one painting let alone 75!

Richard Diebenkorn Ocean Park #43, 1971 Oil and charcoal on canvas 93 x 81 in. (236.2 x 205.7 cm) Collection of Gretchen and John Berggruen, San Francisco
©The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn Image courtesy the Estate of Richard Diebenkorn
Optical Pleasure. Dienbenkon’s color palette is unapologetically beautiful. Lush and vibrant, underpainting permeates every endeavor. This optical mixing of colors through layering and glazing techniques presents an art that is collaborative with every viewer’s optical capacity.
Light and Shadow. Figure and Ground. Line and Volume. These, and countless other polarities, are constantly dancing, switching and folding unto each other. Diebenkorn thusly acts as a choreographer and the picture plane is the proscenium stage on which this narrative boogie woogie reveals itself.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Phillip Glass

My first introduction to "postmodernism" in contemporary music was when I picked up a cassette tape of "Mishima" a soundtrack for the Japanese movie by Glass. I've been hooked ever since.
It seems like almost no one in the music world likes the term minimalist - and probably for good cause as the compositional form has evolved, become more structured and more embracing. I tend to consider all contemporary composers that are using Minimalist constructions or have evolved further as Post Minimalism for lack of a better term. The following bio is from Phillip's own FB page.

 * * * * Philip Glass * * * * *

Philip Glass [ born January 31, 1937 ] is an American composer. His music is frequently described as minimalist, though he prefers to describe himself as a composer of ” music with repetitive structures “. He is considered one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, and is described by his biographer, Tim Page, as ” the first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film and in popular music — simultaneously “.
Glass is extremely prolific and counts many artists, writers, musicians and directors among his friends, such as Richard Serra, Chuck Close, Doris Lessing, the late Allen Ginsberg, Robert Wilson, Godfrey Reggio, Ravi Shankar, David Bowie, and the conductor Dennis Russell Davies, who all collaborated with him. He is Buddhist and a strong supporter of the Tibetan cause.
In 1987 he co-founded the Tibet House with Columbia University professor Robert Thurman and the actor Richard Gere. He has composed some remarkable scores for a number of films including the ” Qatsi ” trilogy by director Godfrey Reggio [ " Koyaanisqatsi " ~ " Powaqqasti " and " Naqoyqatsi" ] Paul Schrader’s Mishima:
A Life in Four Chapters, Martin Scorsese’s ” Kundun ” ~ Peter Weir’s ” The Truman Show ” and Stephen Daldry’s ” The Hours ” in addition to a number of operas [ " Einstein on the Beach " and " Satyagraha " ] and the quintessention of the minimalist tradition with ” Music in Twelve Parts “

The following is an excerpt from "Mishima, A Life in Four Chapters" 1987. The one that hooked me:
Glass is a prolific composer: he has written works for the musical group which he founded, the Philip Glass Ensemble (with which he still performs on keyboards), as well as operas, musical theatre works, ten symphonies, eleven concertos, solo works, chamber music including string quartets and instrumental sonatas, and film scores. Three of his film scores have been nominated for Academy Awards.

Now - forward a couple of decades to the Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2000, premiered by Dennis Russell Davies as conductor and soloist). Part of the second movement is in this video. It's difficult to find a good clip of Philip's music that isn't too long (my opinion) for a blog. But this is definitely worth the time to listen. I would recommend that the listener look up his symphonic and operatic works. Amazing music. This recording was made, again by Davies, in 2008.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Kronos Quartet & Tanya Tagaq - A String Quartet In Her Throat

Kronos Quartet - Always going where no other quartet has gone before.

OK, so the heading may sound a little corny... but I love to watch artist create and the processes they use. This is beautifully done in this video.

Photo of my mother on her 95th birthday
10 April 2012 - Boise, ID
A NYC Taxi driver wrote:

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked.. 'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard
box filled with photos and glassware.

'Would you carry my bag out to the car?' she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I told her.. 'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.'

'Oh, you're such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, 'Could you drive
through downtown?'

'It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly..

'Oh, I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I don't have any family left,' she continued in a soft voice..'The doctor says I don't have very long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

'What route would you like me to take?' I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm tired.Let's go now'.
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move.
They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

'How much do I owe you?' She asked, reaching into her purse.

'Nothing,' I said

'You have to make a living,' she answered.

'There are other passengers,' I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug.She held onto me tightly.

'You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said. 'Thank you.'

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut.It was the sound of the closing of a life..

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day,I could hardly talk.What if that woman had gotten an angry driver,or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.

But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

 Kahayne Henry

Thursday, May 3, 2012

To out of touch right now....

I've been so involved in my studio construction project that I haven't been paying enough attention to my friends and supporters.  Since tearing out a window and deck railing, I really need to thank my wife for her patience and support. No photos yet as it is just a construction (and destruction) mess.