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IS ART WORTH THAT MUCH ?

If artists are unhappy with the high prices paid for works of art and the exclusiveness that this engenders then, as creators, they might explore some different types of art practice. Currently an artist’s success is measured by the prices that they can command for a piece of unique artwork. This is, in turn, commensurate on the credence given to the work and the status of the gallery that handles it. Their value is created by the quality of clients the gallery can attract and the ‘buzz’ it can generate for the work. From these signs the collector judges the price they are willing to pay and the possible potential value of the work when they come to sell. The whole process is heavily dependent upon ‘art word hype’ which gives publicity to the work and creates it’s financial worth.

If artists are to change this system, and they can, then they have to explore different ways of making work and find alternative models of success. I would suggest that their practice should be based around the creation of ‘multiples’ or a series of identical art objects. By abandoning the creation of the unique for the production of many art objects artists have to find ways of giving each piece the same high aesthetic qualities. Practices such as photography, video, sound recording, printmaking, casting and moulding all present these possibilities. But so too does the use of digital technologies such as laser cutting and engraving, CNC, 3D printing, digital weave, knit and embroidery as well as digital printing on fabric and various other substrates. Digital prints for instance, each have the same quality, there is no original and no copy, all outputs have an equal claim on being original. 

By making these prints in a reasonably sized edition of say 250 units the artist is able to sell their work at a low price that hopefully many can afford. A simply multiplication sum illustrates this scenario. If a work is priced at £150 and the artists is able to sell an edition of 250 the body of work is worth a total of £37,500. The success of this piece then becomes dependent upon attracting sufficient numbers of buyers rather than finding ‘the rich collector. In this way each work would generate a reasonable return and allow the practitioner to create a sustainable lifestyle. But more importantly, in this way their work would become ‘popular’ rather than ‘exclusive’, collected by people who enjoy it rather than its financial value.