Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dumbest Thing I've Done

pencil drawing

selling 70 artworks in one night is the dumbest thing i've done. you might think to yourself: wow, 70 paintings in one night, that's pretty good. no it wasn't. noticing that self-representing artists didn't seem to do so well on ebay, i thought that people had to really see fine art in front of them, and appreciate the quality before it sold well. also i had read an article on selling well online, saying that 1 penny auctions did much better and therefore attracted more bids. whereas those with a high reserve did not fare so well.

so a couple of years ago i did an ebay style auction but in a physical gallery, and started the bidding at...yeah you've guessed it...1 penny. big mistake. it cost me about £1000 to stage the event including framing, hiring of the gallery space, printing and sending out flyers etc. and after selling 70 paintngs, i made roughly ...£1000. not a good night. it's a cliche when they say artists don't have the best business sense in the world, i had no business sense.

oil on canvas
some friends told me i was mad, that i should put a reserve on things, but then it would be like any other art auction. this was going to be different. such amazing works starting off at 1 penny! unheard of. of course i have a biased viewpoint. the idea was to get more people through the door, who might not normally come to an art auction,


the worst part of it was i trusted people to bid what they thought the works were worth rather than trying to get them for as cheap as possible. i was right there watching after all. imagine spending hours and hours of time on a pencil drawing, then spending £55 on a frame for it, and then imagine watching someone bid £5 and winning it. that's what happened to the pencil drawing of the melon and frog at the top of this post.

oil on canvas
not having a huge mailing list of potential buyers i tried to get some publicity in the local press. i wasn't looking for a major picture spread, not even a little picture spread. all i wanted was to get a little mention in the what's on this weekend section, but it never happened. my reporter contact let me down. instead of taking 10 mins to send out to his contacts (he had all the info about the show) he contacted another reporter friend who phoned me when i happened to be sleeping and never left a message on the answerphone. they obviously didn't really want to do it. what kind of reporter doesn't leave a message? i had to sleep sometime and although i was only getting about 3 hours a night in the run up to the show, it was better sleep than this disturbed pattern. result: i don't trust reporters now. i was actually helping him move furniture about 3 days before my show, expecting a little help in return, but what are you gonna do?

another thing that hurt was overhearing an extended family member saying i'm not bidding that, that's too much. the worst part was that i knew they had money, what they were considering too much was just covering the frame, and i also knew that they had invested in (crappy) art in the hope that it would rise in value. one consolation i can think of is that they don't know anything about painting technique.

oil on linen
do you have any super abilities? i have the ability to devalue canvas by applying paint to it. think i'm joking? look at the image above. it was painted on a stretched and primed linen canvas that is 100cm x 80cm. to buy that blank could cost you up to £80. final bid at auction was £30. not counting the weeks of work in that, you'd have thought that the stretcher and linen would go for more. i had sold a couple of A3 prints for more than that. oh, well.

all in all i sold half of ten years work for basically no money. what's the dumbest thing you have done?

2 comments:

Lever said...

I so sympathise with that. I think a comparable piece of my own idiocy was to sell a bunch of records when I was hard up. They went to my local Rock Box in Camberley and I pretty much got a quid for every piece of vinyl... I think I got 70 or 80 quid. The problem was that there were tons of rare Depeche Mode collectibles in there... 12" pic discs, 12" coloured vinyl, a 12" German Import on Marble vinyl, some French 12" 4 track EPs, a copy of the "And She Was" pic disc by Talking Heads... I dare not think what else was in there lest I hate myself for flogging off things I didn't really wanna sell in the first place.

But your pics are nice. were. Though at least you now have room to replace them with more new ones...? :)

Richamation said...

I remember that very auction, eboy... Unfortunately I was too naive in my youth and slightly terrified of a bearded stranger inviting me to an auction, of all places. Sounds like your getting a little disconcerted. Keep positive and embrace your freedom! See you soon.