I have visited far more art galleries than I could ever count. Some were stuffy with a privileged and arrogant attitude while others were celebratory and welcoming. Regardless of where or what kind of a gallery it was I always heard a friend or stranger express similar frustration.
“I’m tired of seeing art I love and knowing I will never be able to afford it.”
I get it. I have never been able to afford it either. The only art I ever purchased were prints made from artists I knew and wanted to support and 2 originals. Typically, I paid between $150-$250 for the prints of the originals and I knew that the artists would typically get only a small percentage. I lived and worked surrounded by wonderful art and sculpture – but only because they were gifted to me, loaned to my gallery/theatre or business for display, or exchanged for services such as building websites. Most people do not get such gifts.
Appreciating art and feeling unable to surround ourselves with it is a real pain point for many of us. It plays on class issues and accentuates social boundaries. There is an emotional cost for feeling left out and feeling unseen.
There is a profound and universal need for art in our lives that has been recognized since humanity began. People who have never experienced the invitation to feel a part of the world of art are frequently defensive and overly critical of art. You’ve heard them:
My kid could paint that.
What the hell is that supposed to look like?
I could buy a new car for the price of that crap!
As someone who has been in the art world for over 70 years, I get a sense of the emotional cost of living with those pain points when I think about what’s at stake for the people I want to serve. While I am all in for galleries that support and nurture artists and all in for artists making a good living, I am also all in for making art available to those who cannot afford it.
Technology and the internet have made this possible with printable art. It is radical. It is democratization. It has arrived at a time when we need art in our lives more than ever before.
I empathize with my customers. We’re in the same boat.
P.S – I have never been in a culture more artistically inviting than Cambodia. Most galleries and art shows welcome all with personal enthusiasm. Economic and social boundaries melt (if only for a short while) and art in all its forms is celebrated with energy and collective communion. Kudos to the art spaces in Cambodia.