During Christmas of 2012, Icelandic artist Erling Klingenberg posted this little gem that has stuck with me throughout the year, that the sale of artwork becomes an answer to the crass prevailing culture of corporate consumerism:
"Who do you really love? Don't buy them something cheap and nasty. An
iPhone? Chinese garbage hewn from the gnarled fingers of free-range
prison workers. A Vuitton bobble? Silk over your eyes from a
profiteering megalith company spinning a yarn about heritage and
craftsmanship. Nonsense. They want your money, that's it. They don't
give a shit about you.
But I do.
That is why for Xmas 2012 buy a work of art from your favorite
starving artist, or from any of the countless others that dedicate
their work to intriguing, posing questions and entertaining you.
Remember: If it comes in plastic or a printed box, you don't need it.
Art, you need that.
In order to fulfill your requirements and better serve your needs, you
are hereby not allowed to purchase any more crap, ever."
There has been much talk about the ethical nature of art auctions, and the increasing pressures placed upon artists to donate out of their own pockets to support non-profits, volunteer organizations, and charities. Artist-run centres are no stranger to the auction of artworks! Artists by their nature, are generous and giving individuals, I speak specifically about the arts community here in Calgary, and in general about artists I have met nationally and internationally! I won't parrot those critiques here, but perhaps suggest that something positive to can come from such auction activities in a respectful and acknowledged manner that recognizes not only the objective value of artists works, but the value of buying art from artists locally!
For several years now we at TRUCK have tried to steer clear of the auction of donated artworks. Unfortunately, given the pressures from funders to engage in community derived fundraising efforts, and the limited resources available to us as organizations, the art auction remains one of the more feasible models for raising funds. After a hiatus of 3 years (the Last one was held Dec 3, 2010) from the art auction this year TRUCK will be hosting a 50/50 auction fundraiser, where we split the proceeds evenly with the artists who's works are for sale. Taking this as an opportunity to put some money into both the pockets of the artists themselves, and to support our fundraising efforts.
In addition to the splitting of fees, we are encouraging artists to place as their minimum bid what they feel is the true value of the work - so as not to undersell themselves. Past auction have been mainly about artists buying from other artists, and subsequently prices have been offered at obscenely bargain levels. Our goal with this event is to have works go for what the artists themselves feel is worthwhile, out of respect and with a sincere desire to garner some support for individual artists. So if the prices seem a bit high, the reality is that they are only a fraction of the value of the work. Far from being an absolute solution to the critiques of art auctions, this event is a negotiated middle ground. Essentially, with the artist-run centre taking on an uncharacteristically commercial role.
Unfortunately unlike commercial galleries, artist-run centres do not have networks of art buyers, or connections to markets, given our normally noncommercial nature. So our occasional sortie into the role of commercial broker hardly compares to the resources available from those spaces. Indeed, commercial galleries benefit tremendously from the programming of artist-run spaces, with little to no return to those spaces. Artist-run centres have helped commercial markets in Canada far beyond any harm they could possibly do in the landscape of arts commerce in Canada. Within TRUCK's own history emerging artists have enjoyed tremendous commercial success as a result of their first solo exhibitions in our space.
So this year, in time for the holidays, support your local artists! Support your local artist-run centres! Rethink those fashionable gifts with limited lifespans, and buy some art for those you love!