Tuesday, June 28, 2005

“Mystery Art Theater 3000”

If All The Vermeers of New York was video art, I admit I’d probably display it in a cardboard box in my attic. But while I don’t have the same issues with display as video artists do, it is part of the process of making and selling art of any medium.

Like most things in art, there are no set rules when it comes to presentation, but there is a lot of custom and some expectations. As undergraduates we learn words like “archival,” “museum-quality,” “permanent/fugitive,” etc. There are thousands of artists over thousands of years for us to learn from. Professional artists today can ignore these things, but it is necessary to be aware of them.

Collectors also have expectations when they purchase art, although these may vary depending on the person and the medium. In my glass, for example, I must be concerned with the “fit” of colors to the clear glass- I’ve had to write to a gallery and offer to exchange glasses they’d bought because a few months after I made them, I learned that the yellow didn’t fit, potentially causing hairline cracks in the glass. In this situation, while it was an honest mistake on my part, I took full responsibility. The main issue when dealing with a situation like this is reputation. When I sell a piece, if I am aware of any potential problems down the line, I disclose this to the buyer beforehand. I had a friend commission a painting on which I tried an experimental technique, so I felt it only right to warn him of possible implications years, or even decades from now. (See image below: "Golden Ratio," 2001, oil on canvas with paper and ink.)

The same logic applies to display issues. If a work needs special, non-intuitive care in display, most artists will be sure to explain this to a collector or gallery. Most of my paintings are self-explanatory, but sometimes glass is not: for example, hand-blown glass is soft, and not meant for the dishwasher. It’s best to make people aware of things like this before they come back to your studio wanting a refund!

In all, artists are the most familiar with their techniques and processes. They are the most capable party to deal with individual collectors and work out details of display and care. As such, they need to address anything they are aware of, whether it is during the making of the piece or after.

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