As I mentioned before, I have a print, ‘I can’t afford Campbells by Austerity Warhol’, in the Open Contemporary exhibition at Stockport. On Friday evening it was the official opening so the Management and I put on our glad rags – at least I replaced my shorts with a proper pair of trousers! Here is the masterpiece on display!
You’ll want to see the winner, won’t you. Well, the winner was … (drum roll) … a cabbage! Yes, a cabbage as in the Double or Drop game on Crackerjack! (Sorry, I’m showing my age.)
It’s technical draughtsmanship was excellent, I’ll agree, but a winning piece of art? I remember after every monthly competition at our local photographic club I invariably declared ‘It’s subjective, isn’t it’ as I clearly had not seen the same photographs as the judge had seen. As regards the cabbage, even real artists (note the flat cap) had to discuss it.
I mentioned that Jen Orpin had a work in the Python exhibition. I’m pleased to say she had a couple of pieces at Stockport too.
One aspect of the exhibition I found interesting was the prices. I’ve discussed prices before. My print was very much at the bottom end of the price range at £60. I’d sooner sell three prints at £50 than one print at £100. However, there were some interesting prices. One piece I liked was a pencil drawing called ‘Time’ by Gail Vanessa O’Brien.
As well as being technically superb, it was also an excellent work of art – not like the cabbage! I thought the £135 asking price was very reasonable. However, the piece immediately above, in oil pastels was priced at £150. I didn’t think they were comparable. But as I said, it’s all subjective.
The other pieces where price was relevant were three very similar prints, two by Julie Robinson-Southward and one by Carolyn Murphy.
They were all priced at £120. I can’t remember the exact edition numbers but the left hand one, a drypoint, I think was one of four, the middle one, an etching and aquatint, was from an edition of about twenty, and the etching on the right, the one by Carolyn Murphy, was, I think, nominally from an edition of a hundred. While I suspect Carolyn has yet to print most of the other ninety nine, I do feel that the edition size should be reflected in the price asked.
On the subject of art and money I came across an article by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan on Gizmodo called “What Does It Take to Sell the Most Expensive Photograph in History?” The whole article is an interesting read but I particularly liked the first two paragraphs:
“Art is expensive. Actually, no: High art is expensive. It’s one of the most unregulated, manipulated markets in the world, with an extreme minority of artists in the upper stratosphere and a vast majority of unknowns on the ground floor. We recently looked at the ten most expensive photographs ever sold, and three of them are by the same artist: Andreas Gursky, who opened a new exhibition in Japan this month. So now seems like a good time to ask: How did “Gurskymania” become a thing?
“Both Priceonomics and Quartz have taken a look at the math of the art market, and the reality is shocking when laid out by economists. The very basic gist of it? Because the only real value system at work in the art world is subjective, it’s up to the art galleries to manipulate the cost of their artists’ work. They do this in two complex ways: By setting prices that walk a careful line between too cheap (sending a message that the artist isn’t worth much) and too expensive (sending a message that the artist is overhyped), and by controlling who buys it (saying yes to prestigious collectors and no to everyone else). In essence, it’s a completely opaque and entirely fabricated piece of brand manipulation, carried out over the course of decades.”