Collecting Collectors

beethoven memorial, photograph

“You can either buy clothes or buy pictures.”

– Gertrude Stein

All artists love art collectors – it’s just so darn hard to find them!

I’ve been reading an interesting book by Brooks Jensen (editor of Lenswork Quarterly) called Single Exposures: Random Observations on Photography, Art & Creativity in which he presents some interesting views about pricing your artwork and getting it out in the market. He suggests offering your art in some form that the average person can actually collect, ie afford. Everyone is a collector of something (books, CDs, paint supplies, etc.) but most of these items are far less expensive than the $500, $1000 or more pieces of art most of us put out there in the hopes of landing the big kahuna collector. Maybe we’re thinking of collectors in the wrong way.

This is an interesting concept that I’m going to explore more in my own work. I’ve always avoided making cards out of my work, for example, because it seemed to trivialize the artistic integrity of the pieces and it also seemed that without a major distribution channel I’d never sell enough to make any money anyway. It’s hard to think of a card as a work of art.

But is there an alternative that is clearly still a real piece of art but is affordable enough that the average person might be interested? Something that people might actually become repeat buyers, real collectors? Do you do anything in your art practice to make your work financially accessible to the average person, or is this not even a priority for you?

Do artists have any social responsibility to make their work affordable? Is it actually in our own self interest to do so? Are we preserving some insane and artificial valuation scheme that has been forced upon us by galleries, museums, etc.?