By Eric Ahlberg
The purpose of this set of articles is to encourage dialog about the role of artists in our community, and to examine how they make their livelihood.
Some definitions are in order:
Venice Artwalk is the center of the Venice Family Clinic’s annual fundraising.
Venice Artblock is an alternative Artwalk which was organized by artists who felt left out of the VFC Artwalk. They open their studios on the same day as the Artwalk, and they are planning their own Artwalk on a different day.
Venice Artcrawl is a open Artwalk-like event held every three months, on a Thursday night, mostly, near the Boardwalk. The venues of Artcrawl are mostly self produced by artists and gallery and other business owners. The overall producer/sponsor is the Venice Chamber of Commerce.
“If you want to make a small fortune in Art, start with a large fortune” – anonymous.
Artwalk is a fundraiser for the Venice Family Clinic, which everyone loves and which provides it services to needy people in our community, including artists. While the measure of the success of the Artwalk is in the funds raised to support it, some believe that it has become fully funded, due to it’s grand humanitarian work, which we praise.
Artwalks provide a wonderful theme for fundraising campaigns, but many Venice Artists feel excluded from a brand “Venice Artist” which they feel they are a part of. Community members also wonder why their honored community artists are not included. As one artist put it: “I get tired of all the organizations slapping Art on their events. If they want to capitalize now on that Venice Art Brand hipster cool happening right now, they gotta get out of their studios, going to what’s going on. If they’re alienating their base that’s been donating to their cause for the last 20 years, that can’t be good, if a whole neighborhood angry at them. It’s a business, charitable contribution or not. Businesses do business with charities because it brings them business as well as promotes a good cause.”
“Never leave Art to the professionals” – anon
There have always been issues with who’s in and who’s out of the map and some pride goes with being chosen for the silent auction. I walked through about 2:30 and there were a lot of artwork without bids. Is the gestalt here that the lowbrow prices, I’m talking less than $1000, don’t sell well and don’t make that much money? High end art depends on a seductive exclusivity, the Artist is branded, the piece certified, the viewing private, the price is 5 figures and up.
The role of the art dealer is to maintain this act. The concept, the beauty and fineness of workmanship drive the collector; however, idiots with lots of money are also useful to the dealers. “Fine Art” is the brand that they own, their prices are six figures. The middle artists hang in the restaurants, renting small galleries, spending thousands of dollars to mount and publicize a show, but not necessarily making great sales.
“Galleries are where art goes to die.” – Banksy, Exit through the Gift Shop.
Consider the Volume Discount Boardwalk Artists, crafting their $10 and $20 dollar offerings for cheap tourists. Consider that to the young ambitious artist, exposure is everything, and the exposure that the Venice Beach Boardwalk provides them benefits them greatly. They can sell $100-$800 dollar works, they can get $1000 commissions, on weekdays, in the early evenings, when the tourists are gone and thelocals are out for a walk. Galleries and studios may not be able to match that. Does gentrification bring in better art collectors?
By Eric Ahlberg