Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Reflections on the art market

I've just realised how bad the art scene is in Cardiff. I was planning to visit a few galleries and as I went through them in my mind, I realised how many of them are not there any more!

One of the longer-established galleries has laid off its only full-time employee and cut its opening hours to just 3 days a week. Another gallery in the city centre opened for a few months and then closed. Another in the Bay - that was only open for about a year - has recently closed, though they are planning to relocate and reopen. We'll see.

I'm sure there are lots of reasons for these closures, but the bottom-line has to be that the bottom-line isn't adding up. Each of them seemed to have no shortage of artists wanting to show in them, but a severe shortage of people going to view the exhibitions and buy works of art. The 'credit crunch' has abviously exacerbated the situation, but it was a trend long before that.

I've been looking at some research carried out by the Arts Council, regarding the visual arts and crafts. It dates back to 2005 / 2006 and it indicates that the trends were already there.

The key findings were:

Those who engage with the visual arts are typically white, well educated and of high social status;

There is a strong regional effect in the case of art exhibitions, museums, galleries etc. - those living outside London are a lot less likely to attend.

The visual arts venues are not seen to be relevant or accessible to a majority of the population. This is backed up by findings which showed that a large number of people believe that the arts are ‘not for people like me’.

The conclusion is that:

"A range of different strategies are therefore required if we are to overcome both the practical and psychological barriers to engagement with the visual arts."

My aim is to make a living as an artist. I've identified a number of ways of doing this and I'm in the process of developing strategies and frameworks for making these work in practice and on a sustainable basis. This means developing new models and methods - which I hope will be useful to me and to other artists that I want to help and support.

The old way of doing things - particularly the gallery system - is no longer working so it's futile to continue putting time and energy into it. A lot of creative thinking, energy and effort needs to go into developing new ways of doing things that are better suited to the current zetgeist ("the spirit of the time; the taste and outlook characteristic of a period or generation").

This is some of what's bubbling away in the background as I wait for a number of things to click into place.

This reminds me of a letter writer in the South Wales Echo a few short years ago criticising Cardiff City Council's shameless attempt to win the 2008 City of Culture award.
She reminded us that, while Cardiff has a culture, it's not particularly cultured!
Anonymous ... I think there's a lot of truth in that! Good comment!
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