Disposable Art: What the People Want

The other day my wife came home from a slow day at the craft fair. During the down time she chatted with the artist next to her about social media strategies. He was mentioned wanting to sell some of his newer art; his problem is that these works are very laborious and unique so they end up being quite expensive. She responded with “We have learned, (and modeled our business after the fact) that people seem to want low cost disposable art.”

To which he responded,

“Ugggh disposable art sounds so terrible.”

… and I think that is a silly attitude.

The bottom line is that this is the world we live in. Most people do not want to buy $1000+ artwork and be tied to a single piece for the rest of their lives. We sell inexpensive prints for reasonable prices and we do fine from a commercial standpoint. In fact we do better annual sales than many studio artists who chase ‘White Walled” galleries.

Of course I have nothing AGAINST selling you a non-disposable piece of archival art valued in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars (call me) but I am not going to sit on a high horse and pretend that it is beneath me to sell something at an affordable price-point.

What is most interesting is that this comment stemmed from a conversation on posting your work to social media.

He was wondering how to post his work to the internet so that people can view his work for free, interact with it once, and then completely forget about it. What is more disposable than that?

There is a people centered argument too — being able to bring cutting-edge contemporary art to the proletariat. Why should only the wealthy consume original contemporary art? Why should the common man have to  resort to purchasing their art from a <shudder> big-box store?

Furthermore, I think it is important that we sit down and question the relevance of ‘limited editions’ and ‘archival quality’. To me these are out-dated concepts which are hard to justify in the age of the digital instant. Do we create limited edition archival prints because it is what is best for the art (or the client), or are we doing it because we want to feel special and unique? Most artists dream of their work being immortalized like Leonardo Da Vinci — so if we’re going to make art it needs to last forever, right?

But we don’t live in that age anymore. Art (and artists) have exploded exponentially in the last century. In the digital age we are competing not only for the patronage of our local rulers, but for the attention of the entire world. My wife and I would rather affect the lives of a large number of everyday people in the here and now than strive for the attention of a cultural elite on the off chance that someone, someday will remember our works.

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