Thunder Bay, like many other small cities, are more likely to have artists who are in tune with their community. Artists here are getting more support as a trend for buying original art from walls in galleries, coffee shops, and other spaces, is increasing. Despite the progress, the variety of opportunities that could be offered to artists in a town like Thunder Bay, is slowed by some old ideas that die hard.
The greatest misnomer that artists bear is that their art may be more valuable after they are dead. It’s a belief that someone, somewhere, at some future date, will come to appreciate an artist’s life’s work, because the chance of it being so in the present seems slim.
According to economists who study art, such as William D. Grampp (Pricing the Priceless), it’s 95 percent, or more, likely that any artist’s work will be thrown on the trash heap within fifty years after the artists’ death, whether or not they are famous during their lifetime. So much for being celebrated after death or the art being more valuable.
However, we live in the here and now, and if artists and collectors focus on the present, not some fantasy future of appreciation, then they can get a lot out of their art, they can appreciate it for what it does, and for the enjoyment it offers in the present. If you have a couch, you sit in it, and enjoy the comfort. You don’t stand around waiting for your couch to become history, a more valuable seat after you’re dead that other people will appreciate for its aesthetics, but not sit in, because they can’t touch it when it’s in a museum space. It’s crazy.
But this is what many artists do. This is what many are taught. And that the word “modern” is still the catch-all total aim for gallery artists, it presumes that the future is always better than the past or present. The game becomes one of constant catch-up. So many artists don’t follow their instincts, or try to figure out what artists have done traditionally for thousands of years that might have kept them gainfully employed. They follow the higher authorities of today, usually originating from critics and art professionals of New York City, who are backed up by millionaires and billionaires who can afford to invest in the high end stuff that the rest of us can’t afford or don’t have much interest in.
By following what is considered to be modern or “contemporary” as it is now called, what many fine artists (gallery artists) are trying to do is get into intellectual byzantium - the place where artist go after death - heaven for artists, something similar to making it into the history books. And it has nothing to do with status obtained from earning money either. It’s a battle for status and acceptance, hopefully by the right people, which money isn’t supposed to buy. It’s similar to the way a rock guitarist would like to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But for many visual artists, public appeal or basic functions is not what they’re looking for. Validation comes from erudite art professionals, not you, the public. So the aim for many artists, either taught or self-imposed, is not to service the public, the community, other’s beliefs, but to aim for this bizarre heaven.
If you want to help artists get a grip on reality, keep them rooted to the ground and community, there are methods; namely, buy the art you like. Or commission artists.
You may not realize it, but you already are. Every time your purchase a comic book, graphic novel, book of political cartoons, a children’s picture book or chapter book, a movie, video game, or even watch TV, you are investing in visual art. Thousands and thousands of artists are gainfully employed doing what artists have done for thousands of years, but now they have even more avenues other than hanging work in a gallery. Many are told or taught that popular art isn’t worthy, that the focus for artists should be on intellectual byzantium - heaven for artists. But why support this “death instinct” that we Westerners seem to have. Why not live for the day.