Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Bringing Art Back to "Everyday" People.

Through the process of organizing Baang and Burne Contemporary’s first event, I’ve been asked time and time again ‘So who are Baang and Burne?’ To answer simply—they don’t exist. Instead our gallery takes its name from a cold-war era espionage term for covert demolition and sabotage operations. We altered the spelling slightly to make a tongue in cheek reference to Big-name art galleries that take their names from their celebrity directors. When I came across the term ‘Bang and Burn’ it seemed perfect considering that our whole approach is about doing away with all the barriers that come built-in to the traditional art buying experience.

So let’s take a moment to talk about the biggest barrier shall we?

I’ve been on the ‘inside’ of the art world for quite some time, but not so long that I’ve forgotten how confusing and intimidating it can be to shop for art. I’m not too proud to admit that there was a time not so long ago that even I was afraid to go into certain galleries in New York City. Let’s face it folks—the art snob intimidation factor at many galleries is quite high. I was reading an article not to long ago where even world famous/fabulous fashion designer Marc Jacobs was too intimidated to go shopping for art.
If Marc Jacobs found the experience of shopping for art intimidating, how on earth can a non-art, non-millionaire “everyday” person be expected to enjoy the experience? And buying art should be an enjoyable experience, no? I refuse to believe that the fun only begins when you unwrap and install it in your home. The buying is an important part of the process. When asked, most people would say that the main reason they don’t buy art is because if the price. In reality, I think at least 50% of the problem is the actual process.

The traditional model of selling art in galleries has removed people from the experience of art, let alone the experience of buying it. Aside from those people who are especially motivated to take a drawing class or enjoy painting as a weekend hobby, very few people feel connected to art in the same immediate way that they feel connected to music for instance. The whole experience of viewing, understanding, buying, and just interacting with art and the very real people who make art has become almost completely alien. And this alienation has become the norm. Am I the only one that finds this fact tragic?

So I'm just throwing this out there:

What can be done to make the art buying experience less foreign?
What should be done to make art more accessible to would-be collectors?

What can be done to demystify the art buying process?

What can be done to make the entire idea of “art” less foreign to the “everyday” people of the world?

Who the hell are “everyday" people anyway?


Sara said...

very interesting!!

it was really fun to go to the galleries with you guys in NY, something I probably never would have done without a chaperon.

Maybe there should be art chaperons who can take people around to galleries, answer their questions about buying art (even though it wasnt a buying trip, I learned a lot), and in general make theme feel a lot more comfortable with the whole thing.

the fly in the web said...

Everyday people...people like us, who don't have any 'status' in the art buying world.

We're not rich, we don't represent a foundation, we don't have grants to distribute.

But we have eyes!
We were lucky enough to come from families to whom art was have been taken to the public have been able to study.

But going to a gallery!

We aren't the most stylish of people, nor the most young and beautiful, but we do have our own money to spend.

All too often the first contact is with someone who is obviously assessing our disposal income and finding it inadequate to the pretensions of the gallery...not a good way to get into the mood to look at what the gallery has to offer.

That public money subsidises ideas like your Baang and in a non threatening atmosphere... and, most importantly, advertises them outside its own world of contacts.
Let people meet artists, discuss what they are doing and pull down these barriers which remove art from the experience of 'everyday' people.

Madame K said...

Sara, I'm glad you had a good time. I had a ton of fun too!

My next business: "NYC Art Escorts"...oh wait, that sounds dirty!

Lisa Wines said...

In between corporate jobs more than ten years ago, I managed my friend's contemporary art gallery in Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix, AZ. It was a high-end mall, full of stores that intimidated me just to enter. One day, a guy in jeans and a t-shirt walked into the gallery spitting mad. He was in Phx on a biz trip, staying at the Ritz Carlton across the street and realized he forgot to pack a belt. He walked into a small men's clothing store across from the gallery and first started to be uncomfortable when the sales person hovered over him everywhere he went. Then, when he finally picked a belt, the sales person looked doubtful and said, "Sir, do you realize this belt costs $200?" The guy got so mad he left the store, walked into my gallery, told me the story and said he was going to spend money with me instead - he bought a $1500 articulated sterling skeleton pin made by art jeweler Kit Carson.

Basically, I decided to treat customers in the gallery like I wanted to be treated. I love to look at and breathe in art. But I can't really afford it. But SOME DAY I might and if I am welcomed and informed by one gallery, I would go back there to buy if I suddenly inherited a fortune. :-) So...I always smiled and welcomed customers and said, "Take your time and enjoy the art and if you have any questions just ask." Then I left them alone. If I saw them spending a long time at a certain piece, I might say, "There's an interesting story behind that painting." And tell them a REAL story - not just a marketing ploy. To me, art can stand alone, but I can become more emotionally connected to it if I know more about it in context. Each piece has its own unique story. Who the artist is, how when and why they made it, etc.

So, I worked in an intimidating mall and a high-end contemporary gallery. I dressed to match that atmosphere but my face and smile and conversation were always respectful, warm, welcoming, informative and egalitarian. NEVER lecturing or condescending.

Lisa Wines said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Madame K said...

Lisa- In this economy, I think stories about snobby sales people are becoming less and less common. (I would HOPE so anyway.)

Something you said in your comment brought up yet another question for me:

What can be done to help "everyday" people understand that they don't actually need to suddenly inherit a fortune to be able to own an original work of art?

In most people's minds the logic goes: art = too expensive for me.

Which is too bad since you can find art you love at almost any price point. I bought an amazing little painting for $30 a few months ago.

Sarah said...

I think part of the problem is the thinking 'if it isn't expensive it must be crap' and if it is expensive I can't afford it.

How to get round that one, I've no idea. Also, we get told that art is about personal appreciation but at the back of our minds we just think that's a sop for 'can't tell a good painting from a bad one'.

It's a lack of confidence to some extent, and much easier to buy a print from Ikea.

Madame K said...

...the punchline being that Ikea art is actually kinda expensive for what it is!

In actuality I don't think the issue is the price. People have no problem spending $1000 on a flatscreen TV---because they appreciate the use they get from it.

I think artists have to work harder to make people understand the "use" of beauty.


the fly in the web said...

I left a comment...but it didn't get through, I suppose

Madame K said...

blogger comments went haywire yesterday---should be fixed now.

Now, back to your regularly schedule program.