State of the Arts

Victoria Ward

Art buyers are heroes. The revolution begins this Christmas.

Remember Thanksgiving? Now it seems that the American tradition (or as Harper’s Magazine calls it, the American Pamplona) of shopping sales for Christmas, with its dystopian title Black Friday has now finally come to Canada. On a recent trip to Toronto I found myself in Yorkville on said date. As I was leaving my appointment I noticed a large line up of people across the ostentatiously decorated street. It was a line up for the store Diesel where their overly priced jeans could be purchased for the price they actually should be. The line-up was full of hipster clad types with iphones et al waiting patiently for the store to let them in to buy jeans. Perhaps it is only at big box retail places things get ugly because the line ups are usually for essential household items working people can now no longer afford.

There was a time when hipsters only adhered to the buy independent rule and wouldn’t be caught dead in a multi-million dollar franchise owned by Adidas. Not anymore. Business and branding have won our little battle for people’s minds and hearts, or more accurately, wallets. Looking at that crowd I knew full well if they were to wander into a gallery with my work in it, they would be intrigued and interested and might even purchase something. My work seems to appeal to urbane sophisticates – I think it’s that rural/goth/dollhouse aspect thing. Although I am not certain since unlike Diesel, I don’t have a marketing department only my observations when I in fact make a sale.

shelter 7, ice huts falling into the soft earth, 13x10 inches, 400 clams. Art you can afford!
shelter 7, ice huts falling into the soft earth, 13×10 inches, 400 clams. Art you can afford!

And so the Christmas season is now upon us artists and artisans and we all hope and pray that people still believe in purchasing something unique that supports a local arts community. The funny thing about Christmas is that it moved from giving fun and lovely things to now purchasing desperately needed devices because without them, you will be left behind in our cultural rush to connectedness. In many ways I blame the current dead art market on Apple. For some reason people now see it as a completely plausible need to have a new ipad and iphone every year, taking away that several hundred dollar purchase that once went toward art. In fact their marketing even pushes this fact by making it seem that you don’t need an artist to give you something creative, you ARE creative and you can use this thing for your own art-ness.

As I have mentioned many times I love technology and use it all the time. This beloved little blog wouldn’t exist without it. I don’t have any bitter feelings toward people who actually believe an ipad makes them feel like they can play music or be a film maker. It’s great actually. This weekend we are having musicians over to our studio to make music. They come from all walks of life – a technical writer for example who has a lovely singing voice gets to sing her favourite Gillian Welch song. There is also a software/social media sales expert who can play every garage rock song imaginable. They are creative and they love to experience their creativity. Their home is full of art and music. These people believe that a professional artist should be supported because it is the artists who build the environment in which they can arouse their own courage to be creative.

If you look back at the providence of many works of art, you will find that much of it was purchased as gifts. The very act of creativity has held a sacred position in many cultures and, in fact transcends cultures. The Taj Mahal was but a gift /homage of love lost. The Thomson collection at the AGO is a gift. I have a good friend who paints portraits and they are often given as gifts to a loved one. Art holds a special place in the world of commerce; its value is derived from the devotion poured into it by an artist. The transaction is much more than just the sum of a need. A relationship begins for the receiver of the work, one that can become an obsession or a past time. But I have found over the years, once someone begins to purchase art or receive it as a gift, more often than not, they want to continue seeking out that ineffable connection between them and the source. One day they wake up and they have a wonderful art collection which they created, curated by their own taste, interest and creativity.

People who purchase art can never explain why they love it. It is a relationship between them and their works that is both intimate and indescribable. While I support non-object art making such as cerebral, installations and video, I will always believe that art collectors want something to hold and put in their home. In many ways the uphill battle today to keep this tradition alive is almost an adjunct to the current class warfare debate. Working people with incomes, not the one percent, buy contemporary art from living artists. Losing this sector of the economy will destroy the very idea of the individual art collector. It would be a tragedy I just don’t want to contemplate.

Art buyers are heroes! If you buy from an artist this Xmas let me know.
I will feature you and your purchase here!

If you love an artist or a crafts person, or you love their work purchase something from them this Christmas as a gift or even for yourself! Your act of bravery and support is one way of stopping the corporate juggernaut from steamrolling over all of us. Let me know, send a picture of your purchase and I will laud you right here in this blog. But local, buy independent isn’t just a meme or a bumper sticker it begins our revolution and takes our economy back to where it belongs: with you and me.

Here are some links to art sales on right now by other rural artists:

Hotspurstudio’s Affordable Art Sale

Gallery in the Attic, Peterborough

Blackbird Pottery, Haliburton

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