Art isn’t a widget.
Brian Geddes
242

I’ve been a musician, glass blower, and a programmer…

Few people know the difference between good art and great art. There is a glut on the market of good art. There is a scarcity of great art.

As a musician, I always got offered “free beer” to play. My last gig paid me $22 and I was pretty well established at the time. There was always another guy willing to play for free beer and exposure.

To my mind, this isn’t much different than say… Professional Sports. Guys in MLB make millions, while the next level down pays them peanuts. It’s like buying a lottery ticket. There’s always someone who wants to be the next big thing.

As a glass blower, I could make good bank on mass produced items like ornaments and vases, but could never get a fraction of what it cost to make “art”. Art was subjective. When people buy a Dale Chihuly, they’re buying the name as much as anything else. They layman does not have your trained eye, and reputation matters far more than his glass balls vs. mine. He also has a net worth of $10 Million… His lottery ticket paid off, mine didn’t. Good for you Dale.

The price expected for art HAS been inflated by the idea that it’s an “investment”, what are your customers investing in? Is it worth $185 for a painting that just pleases you? Everyone makes that valuation differently.

Again, you’re expecting the layman, who does not have you knowledge, to make a very critical decision about what constitutes “art” that is worth paying top dollar for. Why is a Rothko painting of three colored stripes worth $75 Million? Do you think the guy who paid that did it because he had a spare $75 Million laying around and it would look good over his couch? Do you expect Joe Everyman to get that? If you’re not Mark Rothko, how does Joe know why your three stripes are art and the college kid/bored housewife two booths over isn’t?

If you’re not a car person, you may not “get” why a Ferarri costs $300K. Especially if it’s badged with “Al’s Auto Customs” instead of a little horsey logo. You’re going to have trouble selling those perfect replicas of a Ferarri at $300K while Ferarri is able to say “This is a limited color so we’re charging $100K more” and be sold out in minutes.

As a programmer, my work is immediately quantifiable. I produce a product that always makes my employers more than they pay me. I’m at a point in my career when I can say “If you want to make a million bucks next year, pay me $X.”

I’ve also done contract work as a programmer, an everyone thought it was too expensive. They wanted perfect, bug-free programs that did whatever they could dream of for $1,000. And yeah… I heard “I could do it in Excel in no time” far more than I cared to. Or they go “This company will build me a website for $300! Why can’t you create me a flash animation of my products flying in from the side of the screen, and Android app, and an Amazon.com storefront for that amount?” It’s the programmers version of “I saw a painting like that at Goodwill for $19.”

Most people don’t buy Shun knives. They don’t wear bespoke suits. They don’t drive impeccably designed cars. They buy their shoes at Payless. They like Coldplay and voted for the Nazis. Art has a very small customer base, a much smaller educated customer base, and a ton of people producing art that runs the gamut from good to great, all sold at bespoke prices.

It’s also the lot for any desirable profession… If it looks fun and profitable to be a _____, you’ll have a glut of people looking for that opportunity.

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