Paul Cezanne’s painting “The Card Players”, is the most expensive painting in the world and was sold to a royal family in 2011 for $250 million.
If a single painting can be sold for hundreds of millions of dollars, why then, is the phrase “starving artist” so well known? Why aren’t parents encouraging their children to be doctors, lawyers, and artists?
Artists’ career opportunities tend to be quite extreme. One possibility is that the artist will become outrageously famous and his or her work will be studied, analyzed, reprinted, and talked about for ages to come. Then exists another, far more common possibility, in which an artist will spend a ridiculous amount of time creating something that most people will never look at or think about, and certainly will not spend money on.
In pondering the massive gap between “successful” and “unsuccessful” artists, let us first take a look at the people who purchase art.
People don’t spend money on art because they don’t need to. Doctors and lawyers make good money not because people want to use their services, but because they must. Necessities such as food, shelter, clothing and transportation are, on the surface, more important and more urgent than art.
Obviously, there are very few people in the world who are willing to spend nine figures on wall décor. But a person willing to do this will already have all their needs met, and will use the pocket change they have lying around to buy a priceless piece of art.
It is common for regular people to go to Wal-Mart or Hobby Lobby to purchase a $10 pre-framed print or painting. These are great because they make you home look nice for a cheap price. But when you fill your home with art manufactured by a corporation, you’re missing the whole point of art.
Art can be used to communicate a concept, to bring light to an issue, or to reflect the emotions and thoughts of the artist. When a piece of work is finally completed, the artist feels a great sense of release; like what they were failing to say with words has finally been communicated through art.
Imagine the enthusiasm an architect would feel when, after he spent years drawing his first floor plan of a house, the house is finally moved from a concept to a tangible object. A bystander may see the house and think “that’s a nice house”, but to that architect, it is much more than a nice house. It is all his hard work represented in a single entity.
All artists want people to be moved by their work. Since they put so much of their own emotion into their work, they would only hope that it would evoke emotion in others. Through my art, I want to challenge people to think about things in a different way. For me, it’s not about creating something pretty, so if someone tells me my art is “nice” and doesn’t want to analyze it more than that, I am almost insulted.
There is a massive difference between liking someone’s art and wanting to give something in return for it. Just the fact that someone is willing to give something up in order to have your work is an amazing feeling.
There is a band called Hellogoodbye which I used to listen to frequently in high school. They produced on album in particular, called “Would It Kill You?”, that was very special to me. I got the album from a friend and it quickly became a sort of anthem for my last year of high school. Forrest Kline is the front man and only consistent member of the group. He recently posted on Hellogoodbye’s Facebook page that he was moving out of his house, where he wrote and recorded “Would It Kill You?”, along with another album. He wrote that he was going to leave his records in a secretive place in his house, which the next owner would eventually find. He asked his Facebook fans to write what the music meant to them, as he would include it in with the albums.
I wrote a very long comment about how deeply this man’s music had affected me. After writing this, I realized that I no owned a copy of “Would it Kill You?”. I wanted to get the music, and sadly, my first thought was to go to a site and download it, illegally, for free. But then I thought to myself “is all this man’s passion not worth my $9?” Even though I had just expressed my appreciation for Forrest Kline and his music, I still did not want to give anything in return for it?
The fact of the matter is, through his art, this man gave me many happy memories. His music was certainly worth $9, and actually, much more.
It is incredibly important for artists to get paid for their work, not because they are greedy or money hungry, but because of the message it sends. Buying someone’s work rather than just admiring it says to an artist that their work has value.
Obviously, most people cannot spend thousands of dollars on art, but if you come across an artist with work that inspires you, consider purchasing it rather than just complimenting it. It will give that artist a lot of encouragement to know that someone actually wants his work, and it will add a more personal touch to your home than the millionth print of “Starry Night”.