Friday, October 30, 2009

The value of a critic or gallery owner as arbiter of the marketplace

Fellow equine artist Juliet Harrison posted a question on Facebook asking for discussion about the value of a critic/gallery owner as arbiter of the marketplace, which prompted me to write this post.

After many years in the art business, I think critics and gallery owners look for what's new and different rather than what will appeal to people and make them want to live with that piece in their homes.  They look for the trendy, hoping they'll be at the forefront of something new that changes how we look at art, perhaps, rather than the classic style that is proven to stand the test of time.

Look at what's stood the test of time in equine art - Herring, Munnings, Remington, etc. They're not "edgy" or "hip" and I don't believe they were in their day. I don't know what critics back then said about their work, but today, they wouldn't get nearly the good press that some idiot doing a painting of Mary, mother of Jesus, covered in elephant dung, will get (and yes, that was a real so-called "artwork" that got lots of critical acclaim a few years ago. Yuck.) Yet Munnings, Herring and Remington's work holds up and holds value all these years later.

IMO, art critics' standards of art don't apply to the kind of art you might want to LIVE with rather than what you'd find in a museum.  And IMO, gallery owners know they will get more press by carrying edgy, risk-taking art rather than beautiful traditional art, so that's what I believe a lot of them look for.

We artists have to create what's in our hands, eyes and hearts. Our love of our subjects and our passion for our work will show and those with a grain of sense will buy it long before they'll buy some of that trendy stuff.

My horses aren't tightly detailed because I'm portraying a horse in motion.  You're not that likely to notice the vein on the inside of a real horse's forearm while he's working unless he's a race horse and every single vein is standing out on his body, so I don't sculpt a lot of those details.  That and various other things about my work makes people tell me my horses look like they can breathe, like they can trot right off their bases, and that's what I'm after in my work.  I want to create art people enjoy living with, work that tugs their heartstrings and moves them, work that evokes wonderful memories, and work that looks alive, not frozen in bronze.  That's one of the reasons I use patinas that are as close as possible to real horse coat colors rather than the traditional French brown patina.

My work is traditional, not "trendy," so hopefully it won't look dated in twenty years the way the trendy stuff will.  Remember some of the artworks or knick-knacks that were popular in the 1960s or 1970s or even the '80's?  Today they would look dated unless they were classic in style.  So the critics can keep their criticism and the galleries can keep their edgy art - I'll stick to doing the classical style work that makes my heart sing.  My passion shows in my work, and that's what appeals to collectors, IMO.


  1. You could have been writing about writers, books, publishers and reviewers. Art and books have a lot in common.

    Straight From Hel

  2. Yup, I could have - just haven't had time to go that direction.