This article has been seen on the internet for years and I am thrilled to come across it again. I am sharing it because I believe it is very important (especially for other artists).
MORATORIUM SHOULD BE CALLED ON ART AUCTIONS FOR CHARITIES
from A PICTURE’S WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS by Elizabeth Lowry
Last month, an art auction raised more than $23,000 for Wilson, Arts Integration Elementary School. More than $13,000 of that money came from the auction of art. The walls were crammed with art generously donated by artists and collectors. Throughout the evening, party-goers wrote bids on slips of paper and tucked them into envelopes. The works ranged from pieces of pottery to a Mike Larsen painting. While the event raised money for a worthy cause, the problem with this auction, and many others like it is that the works often sell for much less than they are really worth. The whole idea behind an auction is that buyers are trying to get a deal.
When people walk into an art auction, they don’t expect to pay full price for any particular work. For the fund-raisers, this doesn’t really matter. If all of the works are donated, whatever money they bring in is money in the bank. I donated a photograph — a landscape from Bandolier National Monument in New Mexico — to the Wilson event. The piece sold for a good price, and I was thrilled. The money went to an arts-related cause. But for more established artists who command much higher prices for their works, auctions can be detrimental to the value of their works. For instance, if a painter sells her works in galleries for about $1,000, she may have an agreement with the galleries that she will not sell her works for less than gallery prices. Then, if she donates a piece to an art auction and the piece sells for $500, the value of her work can be brought down. Plus, the gallery could become irritated and cancel the agreement.
Collectors also suffer when the value of art depreciates — or never appreciates. Why should they invest money in Oklahoma art if the value of it doesn’t increase over the years?
Few artists are able to work full time at their art. They often rely on part-time or full-time jobs to pay the bills. Asking an artist to donate a work to an auction is like asking a teacher to teach for free for a month. While a work of art may look like it was simple to make, much thought, planning and talent go into these creations. The sale of one piece at gallery price may mean the artist can make studio rent or a couple of car payments. Plus, the materials required to make a piece can be costly.
Occasionally, an artist won’t donate his or her best work for an event. Given the choice between selling a work in a gallery or giving it away for free, an artist may opt to sell it and choose a lesser-quality piece for the event. The result is that Oklahomans don’t always see the best that Oklahoma artists have to offer. This isn’t to say that fund-raisers shouldn’t ask artists to donate works. But artists should feel free to say no, particularly if the cause doesn’t directly benefit the arts. A health-related nonprofit that raises money has a large pool of donors, including doctors, hospitals and insurance companies. When that nonprofit hosts an art auction, it draws from the small pool of art buyers, which drains the pool for arts organizations. The largest art auction in Oklahoma is the “12 x 12” show presented each fall by the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition. At least the proceeds from that event go to grants given directly to artists. The money raised at the Wilson event will educate future artists.
Two things should happen: Non-arts-related organizations should think twice before sponsoring art auctions, an arts-related organizations should consider sales instead of auctions.
City Arts Center raises money each year by selling — not auctioning — art through Cafe’ City Arts. This past February, Cafe’ City Arts sold about $27,000 worth of art by 25 Oklahoma artists. City Arts keeps 50 percent of the sales and returns 50 percent to the artists.
The event led by exhibits director Troy Wilson, was successful because Wilson encouraged artists to sell their works at their gallery prices. Yet all of the pieces were affordable.
Historically, Oklahomans have been reluctant to buy art by fellow Oklahomans. Art events give collectors the option to see and buy Oklahoma art in Oklahoma. Nonprofit organizations need to boost the prices of art in Oklahoma, not depreciate them. Let’s end charity art auctions and start selling Oklahoma art at respectable prices.