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Monday Morning Roundup


by Stephen Becker 2 Feb 2009

THE ART OF THE DEAL: The idea of artists bartering their work is one that has gained steam of late. This fall, The New York Times wrote about a couple of art directors who set up a Web site (wantsforsale.com) that sells pictures of the things they want for the price of the thing in […]

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THE ART OF THE DEAL: The idea of artists bartering their work is one that has gained steam of late. This fall, The New York Times wrote about a couple of art directors who set up a Web site (wantsforsale.com) that sells pictures of the things they want for the price of the thing in the picture. So, for example, if they want a pizza, they artistically render a pizza and sell the picture for whatever a pizza costs. If it’s a trip to Vegas, they conceive that in some form and sell the results for what that would cost. (Here’s a gallery of paintings that people actually bought.) It sort of turns the whole concept of the value of things on its head. It stands to reason that it costs the artists about the same in materials to create each piece, yet the value they place on their work is relative to what you see.

Now a group in Philadelphia is taking the concept in another direction. At a show over the weekend, the artists essentially traded their work for something they needed. For example, if the artist needed her car repaired, the price tag on the art said “car repair,” and the buyer could either fork over the cost of said car repair or do the repairs himself if he were a mechanic.

“Bartering is an age-old idea that works,” Antonio Puri, the shows co-curator, told Philadelphia’s The Bulletin. “It allows people from different trades to share what they have and in exchange get something from others that they didn’t have. It leads to endless possibilities and solutions.”

One the one hand, the idea has a certain practicality to it. Artwork is one of the toughest things to assign a value to, mostly due to the fact that each item is unique. Also, personal tastes play so much into assigning the value – all it takes is for one person to really love the piece for it to suddenly be worth a lot. So in bartering, the guesswork is taken out of the equation and the artist is assured of getting exactly what he or she needs if the transaction goes through.

On the other hand, should artists really be subjected to this currency-less system? None of us would ever walk into a grocery story and bargain for our groceries, much less suggest a trade of something that isn’t cash. Yet a large slice of society feels like they – not the artist- have the right to arbitrarily assign their own values to works of art. (These are the same people who see no problem in pirating movies off the Internet or reprinting copyrighted material for their own use.)

I suppose in this instance, since it was the artists’ idea to format the show this way (and probably draw more publicity because of the unique setting) that it shouldn’t bother me. And who knows, with the way the economy is going, this may be a more sure-fire way of making sure your needs are met than trading dollars back and forth. Sort of removes the middleman.

UPS AND DOWNS AT THE SYMPHONY: Both of the lead conductors at the Fort Worth Symphony and Dallas Symphony Orchestra were out of town for the weekend, so each organization imported new talent to lead the musicians. The results were not universally applauded, though. Writing in The Dallas Morning News, Scott Cantrell felt that Swiss conductor Matthias Bamert’s reading of the FWSO’s all-Beethoven program was “a letdown.”

Beethoven’s music is often about pushing boundaries–of form, expression, even purely technical possibilities,” he wrote. “When a Beethoven performance sounds comfortable, as Friday’s did, or on auto-pilot, something’s gone wrong.”

Things worked out better with the DSO, who invited Hungarian conductor Gilbert Varga to lead a program of music from his homeland. Cantrell writes that, “From almost breathless exhilaration to playful piquancy, Varga certainly explored the dances’ varieties of tempo, texture and mood. The orchestra played as if having the time of its life.

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  • I would suggest an easier better way for artists to sell their work. Take smaller works to a Kinko’s and get color copies – sell each copy for a couple of dollars – about the price of an old 45.
    Mass producing art is part of the art revolution.
    When NYC becomes the ivory tower of art, it’s time to become innovative and revolutionary.